The First Encounter: The Distance Relationship

I wanted to share something incredibly personal with you all. Some of you may have watched the “Mattias & Leonie :: A Long Distance Relationship” video that Mattias created and shared with the YouTube community… I love it with all of my heart despite the fact that there are so many facepalm worthy moments of me on webcam, but generally, it was such a beautiful gesture by Mattias and I love reading the comments that people write, especially the ones where they share their stories and experiences.

Being in any relationship (long-distance or not) starts off with an encounter. Whether that encounter is by chance or not, it paves the path for a journey that will eventuate into either something heartbreakingly great or something heartbreakingly melancholic. Achieving something great is only a possibility if you fuel it with the fundamental basics of any relationship: trust, understanding and unconditional love.

Relationships are never easy and I wanted to share with you the chance encounter that eventuated into something incredibly special. I wanted to share the hardships, the tears, the insecurities and doubts that come with any relationship and to show you that the journey to greatness isn’t a smooth-sailing fairytale. There isn’t always a happy ending- because that’s the difference between life and story books. Life continues after stories end. That’s why it’s important to value the greatest of times, but also the worst.

So this is how it all began… 

Sunday 30th September 2012
10:04pm

I am so desperately trying to get rid of this feeling, but it’s lingering, spreading. I feel like I’m going insane. I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t be happy. Not now. I don’t know how to overcome this overwhelming sadness. I don’t know how to rid of myself of this empty feeling. It hurts. I want to end it, but that would be selfish of me. Why do I feel so alone?

Monday 1st October 2012
1:08am

I just want to end it now. I’ve cried so much that my eyes have formed a strange shape, swollen into puffy disgust.
I feel myself descending into madness and it’s a hole that I can’t climb out of.
Je suis sans espoir. J’ai perdu moi-même. Chagrin d’amour.
I can’t breathe, as every breath is just evidence that I am alive and so distraught. I feel giddy with despair.

I feel sick.

It was 3am, 17th of October 2012. I had insomniatic eyes, a wounded heart and my laptop at my disposal.

It was 15 days after my 20th birthday; 15 days after the sickening spiral of depression that sunk me into a fit of existential anxiety. My soul was defeated and my life purposeless. I had trouble with being lonely but revelled in the comfort of being alone.

After-midnight internet browsing is always full of mystery finds thanks to our mindless, sleepless wandering. I like to call it wandering without cause. I was too tired to fall asleep, my eyes burning through the sockets of heavy, burdened lids.

I came upon a recommended YouTube video; a Halo Reach commentary by some uploader called h0lmb0m. He had a distinct accent- one which I couldn’t exactly guess.

One video led to another and I realized that I had a silly smile plastered to what would normally be my sunken, deflated face. With a bit of professional internet stalking, I learnt that he was from Sweden. I decided on a whim that I would follow him on Twitter and let him know how amazing he was- that even though I was suffering from tumultuous sadness- that this person, this Mattias Holmbom (@h0lmb0m), managed to make me forget all my problems even just for a moment. Little had I known that a single tweet would set my life in to motion for the dreams and aspirations that I hadn’t even known I wanted until this miraculous Swedish guy came into my life.

Like the generously kind guy that everyone knew h0lmb0m to be, he replied to my tweet. I still remember the hipster-esque profile picture of his as it was one that I would be looking at for months to come…

From there on in, my insomniatic eyes were dedicated to endless Skype chats, tap-tapping away on my laptop as we shared secrets of our past and not once judging the other. It was surreal in so many ways and I felt myself being intrigued and fascinated; and all through text. It’s a powerful thing, I believe, to fall for someone purely in conversations through text. Some people may think that there is an absence of intimacy- but to me, I think that intimacy is heightened. There is nothing else to distract from two people, baring their souls and telling their story as it is. No red-faced embarrassment or wandering eyes, no distractions. It is, simply, what it is.

[21/10/2012 4:35:26 AM] h0lmb0m: Like, if you lived closer to me. I would’ve asked you out on a date 5minutes after you tweeted me.
[21/10/2012 4:35:58 AM] h0lmb0m: I’m done with the internet and texting :3
[21/10/2012 4:36:45 AM] Leonie Sii: Hehe well whatever is meant to be will be :3
[21/10/2012 4:37:15 AM] Leonie Sii: And besides, I’m nothing special anywayss
[21/10/2012 4:37:30 AM] h0lmb0m: You are though.

We played a few games of Halo together and though I am a rather timid person in verbal conversation, I found it strangely easy to talk to him over the Xbox. It was as though he was a friend that I had known for a lifetime. He showed me how fun playing Halo could be and that I don’t have to have my competitive face on, because for the longest time, my experience of Halo had always been one of pressure, stress and unadulterated rage (mixed with a few laughs here and there). I slowly learnt not to take myself too seriously and it was all thanks to h0lmb0m.

As we played online, I would stalk his few Facebook photos to create a visual of him in my mind. He had a very boyish look- a hint of innocence but a whole lot of cheek. He was in all respects, very Swedish looking with his pale face, blond hair and greyish-greenish-everything-but-brown eyes.

He would teach me bits of Swedish; how jag älskar dig means much more than the simple I love you that’s thrown around in English conversation.

[25/10/2012 4:03:24 AM] h0lmb0m: Yeah so if someone ever tells you “Jag älskar dig” you better appreciate it!

Eventually he bought a webcam and almost every night I would stare with wonder at his boyish charms. I read to him my most private and intimate diary entries; the entries where I was in hopeless despair wishing that the Earth would open up and swallow me whole. We knew the worst and best parts of each other. We knew each other’s regrets and mistakes and the things that made us become who we are.

[6/11/2012 12:36:11 PM] Leonie Sii: i just woke up feeling a little sadface
[6/11/2012 12:36:41 PM] h0lmb0m: Wanna talk about it?
[6/11/2012 12:36:52 PM] h0lmb0m: I’m here you know, always.

There wasn’t a distinct moment in time when we decided that there was something more between us. It just slipped into this understanding; an acknowledgement that what we had was something special. There wasn’t a cringe-worthy moment where, “hey, do you wanna go out?”  or, “do you wanna be my boyfriend?” were exchanged. For one, it’s impossible to go out on a date in cyberspace unless you’re obliged to go on dinner dates on Habbo Hotel, Runescape or- God forbid, Minecraft (how utterly romantic, running away from creepers when you’re trying to get to third base). We did, however, watch endless movies while Skyping with each other.

Falling into this rhythm of romance or being together (or whatever you want to call it) wasn’t forced upon us, but it came naturally- and I think that’s how the most valuable relationships in our lives begin. I think the dependency on being able to communicate void of us physically being in the same space quickened the pace of the relationship- something which I don’t think many people can achieve when they begin “dating” someone.

[23/06/2013 2:26:41 AM] Leonie Sii: your mum sounds like an amazing person. i like her.
[23/06/2013 2:26:56 AM] h0lmbom: would be fun to talk to her huh
[23/06/2013 2:27:00 AM] Leonie Sii: mmhm
[23/06/2013 2:27:02 AM] h0lmb0m: i would love to introduce you to her
[23/06/2013 2:27:09 AM] h0lmb0m: i would be so proud

It isn’t as though all my insecurities and issues were fixed. If anything, the relationship that eventuated over the next few months of our Skype conversations became riddled with complications; the how and the when, the what-if’s and the doubts. I was still dealing with my own personal issues, trying to overcome the self-loath that had been embedded in the intricacies of my very being since the latter half of high school. Now I also had to deal with the difficulties of falling for a guy on the other side of the planet and on the opposite hemisphere.

15,308 kilometres away. 9,512 miles.

I also dutifully noted with my naturally envious and jealous heart how beautiful and pretty Swedish girls truly are (again, professional internet stalking). I couldn’t fathom why anyone, especially someone in close proximity to what most civilized societies would agree to be the “hottest girls in the world”, would settle for some introverted, emotional Malaysian/Chinese/Australian girl on the other side of the world.

[3/12/2012 1:14:48 AM] Leonie Sii: she’s pretty
[3/12/2012 1:15:06 AM] h0lmbom: so are you
[3/12/2012 1:15:33 AM] Leonie Sii: if you think so
[3/12/2012 1:15:53 AM] Leonie Sii: I don’t know, I need to like, punch myself for a bit

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, and the more that I think about it now, the more I realize how truly amazing Mattias is. I don’t think any other person would have the perseverance to sit there on Skype every day and listen to me complain and doubt everything. Not only did he put up with my negative crazy, but he also sat through my insane obsession with Eurovision and recommended watching the Swedish pre-selection Melodifestivalen with him. Let’s be honest, I don’t think any guy would ever voluntarily sit and watch Eurovision with me without some sort of compensation. And he knows who Alexander Rybak is!!!

Maybe that’s when you know you’ve found someone special. No- I don’t mean when they’re willing to watch Melodifestivalen and Eurovision with you. I mean someone who- when even at your worst, is still there unconditionally. They don’t have anything to gain, but they’re willing to stick out the tough times just to see the great times.

I guess the moment that I realized that there was a possibility that everything could truly, really work out between Mattias and I was when he told me that he had bought his plane tickets to come to Sydney.

Pause.

Silence.

A little bit of unbelief-laughter.

It. Was. Actually. Happening.

In between his announcement and his arrival, I went through a plethora of emotions. At first I was completely ecstatic and could not wait to finally get to meet h0lmb0m in the flesh! There were complications I had to deal with (like convincing my parents to let a random guy I met on the internet to stay at our house for a month… yeah, let me see you try and convince your parents the same).

 

As time passed and we spent a month devoid of Skype (he went to Italy for week and I went to Singapore/Malaysia for a month), I became anxious and sick to my stomach. It didn’t help that I literally was sick- blessed I am with a sucky immune system. But I remember I told him that when we met at the airport, I wanted us to act normal. What did normal even mean? I had no idea. I mean, I had watched plenty of LDR “Meetings for The First Time” videos on YouTube- oh, the tears and the hugs, the kissing and the… geez, I literally face-palm every time. I’m a romantic at heart; but for some reason the thought of airport meetings made me sick to the stomach. I went through a phase when I thought that maybe I just simply wasn’t ready to meet Mattias and that maybe we would be better off as friends…

Fast forward to the 25th of July, 2013- the day Mattias landed in Sydney and we met for the first time. I won’t lie. I was horrendously sick with a cold, yet there I was at the airport waiting by the gate for a blond hair, Swedish guy… he missed me completely so I had to run up to him and tap him on the shoulder- to which he replied by giving me the biggest bear hug. And all I could think was, act normal!!!

I won’t bore you with our daily activities over the month; but I will say this… being in a relationship in the flesh is incredibly gratifying. It helped put everything into perspective and even though I was sick, I was actually happy for the first time in a very long time. I mean, I even had a climate change debate for university smack-bang in the middle of his time in Sydney- but I didn’t care! Well, I mean, I cared, but my perspective on life had broadened to such an extent that my anxiety over public speaking was like a little ant crawling on my shoe (excuse the really bad metaphor). I finally found qualitative happiness- a happiness that only comes around every so often.

That’s the thing about being in a relationship- long distance or not. There will always be moments where everything seems impossible. I’ll be truly honest- I really detest the label of “long distance relationships”. I find that LDR communities, and really, society for that matter, puts so much emphasis in coining the term “long-distance relationship”… and I wonder why, if that is the case, why don’t we label short-distance relationships as such? A relationship is a relationship; no matter the distance there is still the foundation that helps build a relationship: trust, understanding and unconditional love.

If there is anything that I have learnt from this experience thus far, it is that the whole distance thing to me is insignificant compared to a lot of other things. However, it has taught me to value our relationship more for what it is. Come the time when Mattias and I will once again see each other in the flesh, face-to-face, hand-to-hand and skin-to-skin, I will value each and every second.

I see this as an adventure. I see distance as a second-home; because that’s how it really is. I have a home in Sweden now and I haven’t even set my foot there. Likewise, Mattias has a home in Australia amongst the deathly poisonous spiders and snakes. Being in a “distance” relationship isn’t a hindrance or a negative aspect of our relationship, but I don’t want to label it as such. It’s a relationship that will take us to new and exciting places, where we get to experience new cultures and learn new languages. There are still many hurdles for us to jump over when we look ahead to the future; things like visa’s and residential permits, but for now I put my trust in our unconditional relationship and the thrill of things to come.

So thank you, h0lmb0m for bringing a smile to my face one night and setting everything into motion. It’s people like you who make the world a better place and potentially save someone’s life. I think everyone who does that in life- makes content or has the desire to make people laugh and smile, deserves an abundance of gratitude. Maybe we can all take a few seconds in our lives to compose a tweet or send a text message to someone to tell them that they’re amazing, and who knows what will come next? At least we’re radiating positivity out there.

I’ve written my story to hopefully inspire others who may have stumbled across their special person but can’t, at this moment in time, be in a physical space with them. If it’s meant to be and if you’re willing to work hard for it (airfares aren’t always cheap!) then everything will eventually fall into place. Don’t be hindered by the what-if’s. Stop doubting and start living it. There will always be complications and not everything is always 100% smooth sailing, but if you genuinely enjoy the company of that special someone then sometimes you have to take the bad times with the good.

One last thing; it’s so incredibly easy these days for people to fall in love over the internet. I hope you’re all very careful and that the other person who you’re talking to and potentially falling in love with is a true and genuine person. I know what it’s like to be a teenager in love- it’s thrilling! But at the same time, you’re still growing up and finding your place in the world and unfortunately some people take advantage of that. Who I am now, as a 21 year old, is definitely not the same person as my 16 year old self.

So fall in love- be reckless and infatuated, intrigued and fascinated, but remember to guard your heart and wait for the unconditional to be your conditional.

Tack så mycket för att läsa.