Together

View from National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD
Looking out at the overcast skies from the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

How time flies.

Now that my boyfriend’s back in Taiwan, it’s hard to believe that he was here at all.

Hsuan arrived a day after my second treatment. I had set my alarm for 2 a.m. to go with my dad to pick him up at the BWI Amtrak station. Fighting both sleep and nausea and against my dad’s wishes (I withheld telling him I felt nauseated), I stayed up until we finally could leave the house at 3:30 after the train had encountered a delay.

The High Line in NYC.

In a way, this set the theme for the seven days Hsuan was here: a tough balance between making sure my parents and I were good hosts, and shielding myself from overexposure as we carefully watched how I was reacting to the chemo. After all, my Hopkins oncologist told us to expect an even worse reaction, and yet, I miraculously fared much better. Unlike the bed-ridden days following my first treatment, I mustered enough energy not only to accompany him around, but also to drive. And as anyone who lives or has lived in the suburbs would know, a lot of driving is necessary to do much of anything.

I truly believe his presence had almost everything to do with how relatively well I’ve been responding to chemo. Over the course of the week, mostly with my parents’ unconditional love and support, Hsuan and I visited Baltimore, DC, NYC, and various spots in Maryland.

While in DC, Hsuan and my parents were finally able to meet Jason, whose friendship at Georgetown I have been so very lucky to have. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at Fiola Mare after a short but sweet afternoon exploring the city. Jason gave me a card signed by the people in my program, as well as a glittery bag of gifts. To set the record straight, he had helped me send out an email informing my peers about my condition/whereabouts. Otherwise, I would rather not announce such news to my Facebook friends or otherwise post any public announcement besides blogging here for those who bother to keep up. Thank you, again, by the way.

In terms of holidays, Hsuan’s timing also was quite impeccable, not only coming just after Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year (second day of the new year, ahem), but also being here for our six-month anniversary, for which I planned an afternoon painting session at Pinot’s Palette in Ellicott City. It having been a Wednesday, we ended up having the whole studio to ourselves to create our couple’s paintings.

All in all, spending such short periods of time with a partner due to distance is, as readers know, not new for me—and likely not new to many people nowadays. But what has been new is having my parents meet a guy who genuinely cares about me and shows it. Sure, long-distance relationships are trying, the challenges are multiplied, and I admit that I can’t see a future for those in such relationships without serious plans to be together in the same city eventually, let alone time zone. Despite all this, I like to think that those who do commit to someone whom they can’t see regularly is a commendable and worthy leap of faith that forces them to think more seriously about each other and the relationship. Of course, there are plenty who instead use the distance as a valid excuse to think that such a relationship could never happen, only staying in touch when it’s convenient to meet up someday in the future.

Yet, when it comes to someone as genuine, optimistic, and hopeful as Hsuan, I experience the former. We are 13 hours apart, living in the suburbs of relatively small cities on opposite sides of the world, possessing quite different views of the world around us, and bringing unique life experiences that lead to not a few misunderstandings. All these would be reasons for a more sane person to pass on what I consider a very worthy adventure beyond what’s familiar and comfortable. Whatever discomfort I do experience is insignificant when Hsuan tells me how much he loves me and books two flights to see me within a month or so. (I literally cried with joy when he told me he would come in February). To know that someone so far away whom I met only half a year ago can make such a commitment so soon and have this much faith in us—I can’t feel anything but happy and beyond grateful. To be sure, especially early on, I had my doubts. I would get caught up in negative thoughts that arose out of fear and perhaps common sense, but as I came to embrace what we could offer to each other, albeit limited with the distance, I became more content and more thankful.

Case in point: Happiness comes when you take life most simply. For me, when happiness and love are intertwined and the complexities minimized, it creates the ultimate antidote.

So despite the somewhat sluggish pace shrouded in caution this past week, I am glad Hsuan was able to see so much more of my life. Naturally, I’m anticipating the nerves when I eventually meet his family, but until then, I’ll be waiting for when we’re together again in March.