Before I left Australia I asked my girlfriend, Bec, if she would be interested in writing a series of blog articles throughout the Vertical Year. To tell her side of the story. To tell the story of the person still at home, working a 9-5 while their partner is off pursuing their dream. Her initial reaction was one of hesitation and understandably so. I was asking her to expose herself, her feelings and our relationship to the internet.
In the lead up to my departure we both lost count of the number of people who asked how we were going to survive, or who said that they couldn’t do what we were about to do. Since leaving Bec has continued to hear this on a regular basis. However, simmering to the surface were comments of how impressed people were with how we are doing, or how they felt inspired. I believe it was around this time that Bec started to understand why I thought it was important for her to tell her story.
Relationships are complex and hard work. In my opinion they are one factor which often stops us from pursuing our dreams.
On our first date I was very upfront with Bec about being a climber, as opposed to someone who climbs. I explained how my passion for climbing had a heavy influence on my lifestyle. It took up my time, I would often be hanging out with other climbers, some of which are female, and I travel overseas every year to climb.
I then spoke about how I was not looking for a partner who would ask me to sacrifice my dreams, but who is willing to support me achieve them and I can support them achieve theirs. Thankfully, Bec was onboard and that is exactly what we have been doing ever since.
Ours is a relationship built on love, respect and support. That is as much on me as it is on her and I support her in every aspect of her life to the best of my abilities. Our relationship is not on hold for 2018 and now, four months in it is only growing in strength. That doesn’t mean it has been easy though. It is the toughest aspect of this journey.
Bec flies in to Peru on August 18, 201 days since our last kiss at the departure gate of Brisbane International Terminal. We will spend an amazing month together before I continue onto California and we most likely will not see each other again until I return to Brisbane during the first week of 2019.
This is Bec’s story. Her words. I hope that it serves as inspiration for other couples out there who may find themselves in a similar situation at some point in the future or are currently struggling to deal with what lies in front of them.
To Bec – you are my rock and this trip would not be the half of what it is without you. I love you.
Supporting a Dream - Long Distance Love
Disclaimer if you are wanting to get the latest beta on the best ice-climbs to send in the Rockies or tips for mountaineering in the Peruvian Andes then I am sorry to say that this blog is really going to disappoint you. Instead this blog is written by me – Bec Perkins. The girlfriend back in Brisbane who is supporting this amazing man - Josh Worley - to live his dream.
For those of you who have been following the Vertical Year journey you will know that the underlining message is to inspire you to chase your wildest dreams, whatever they may be. But what does it mean if your dream is to pursue a project overseas for a long period of time in environments where your loved ones cannot be with you?
How do you talk about this dream with your partner or family if it means you are contemplating moving away? How do you find the line between crazy idea and awesome idea? How do you know if your partner is going to support you or panic at the idea and potentially give you an ultimatum? How do you do the ‘long distance relationship thing’ or even talk about that as an option? In the spirit of the Vertical Year ethos of chasing dreams, I want to share my insights with you behind the magic of supporting someone to pursue their dreams.
Firstly, I just want to put it out there that I am no relationship coach or expert in this area. All I am is a loving girlfriend who is supporting an inspiring man to live his dream whist doing a twelve-month long-distance relationship. If this blog can open the communication channels and inspire you to have the difficult conversations potentially about following your dreams which may disrupt the way things currently are, then this blog has certainly been beneficial.
In addition, if this blog can make another fellow long-distance relationship feel supported then that is an amazing bonus. I encourage you to think about your own situation when reading this and when I talk about the Vertical Year; insert FIFO or shift work or army reserve or holiday - whatever is relevant to you.
So here comes the truth bomb – Despite the big lead up to Josh’s departure I was not at all prepared for the first few weeks of adjusting to a new life without my best friend by my side. It was like ripping off a really big band-aid, however the sting hung around. My heart literarily hurt (not just from the increase in red wine consumption) and I was in this confusing world where I felt like I had gone through a break up because someone has physically left my world, yet we were still together.
So, what did I do? – I cried, and I was kind to myself. I allowed myself to feel all the feelings without judgment. Being a strong and independent woman (or man) is not about hiding the way you feel. In my eyes it is about embracing how you feel and then picking yourself up to proactively move forward. So that is exactly what I have done with Josh’s unconditional support from afar. I am learning to just embrace the ‘sad I miss you’ feelings. Why? Because they are good. They exist for the right reasons.
Like any big decisions in life we tend to have plans and strategies in place to make them as likely as possible to succeed. A relationship is no different especially when you are going to be putting it through an inevitable change. It is vitally important to have a variety of well thought-out strategies in place.
We live in a modern world where seeing a loved one’s face is as easy as dialling a phone. Skype dates are therefore an easy strategy to adopt. There are no words to describe the feeling of seeing a face that you love so much just smile on the end of a screen. I smile now just thinking about that. Joshy and I often comment on how grateful we are to live in modern times where this type of technology is available.
Due to the type of project the Vertical Year is we cannot have any type of routine. As a result, if it has been a week or more of Josh being in and out of reception and we are really due for a conversation and not just a Facebook messenger ‘are you alive update?’ we prioritise a face to face Skype date.
However, modern technology isn’t as reliable as we let ourselves believe.
When Joshy moved to South America I had to adjust my expectations on how often we could speak. Currently he will go out trekking or climbing for a week or more at a time with no reception. Going from living with Josh, to being able to Skype daily, which was the case when he was in Canada to this new situation was a shock.
One night I finally got a skype call from him after a week or more of nothing and the truth is… it was horrible! I had just been to a wedding (one of his best friends) and was feeling fragile because I felt like my life was missing all the love and romance that a wedding has. And as if to rub salt into the wound, the Wi-Fi connection was awful.
I was pouring my heart out to Joshy with tears rolling down my cheeks when he said… “sorry I missed all of that, what were you saying darling? You have to laugh! We ended up just staring at each other breaking out in laughter. Sometimes it is so tricky trying to just have a simple conversation.
The point is that sometimes Skype may not be the best option, so finding other strategies is really important. Like any investment, you run a high risk of failure if all your eggs are in one basket.
One such strategy that is working for us involves writing long letters (via email) that articulate honest feelings, an overview of our different worlds and heaps of questions about anything and everything.
Another strategy I find beneficial is sending random photos. These may be of weekend activities, delicious foods, milestone moments, photos of his friends when I am with them or sweaty bootcamp selfies. Anything at all to help connect each other into one world. The photos of each other’s life give us talking points for when we finally do get the chance to chat in real time.
Overall our backbone of strength despite all these challenges is undoubtedly good communication skills. You might think this sounds funny given the difficulty we have in being able to find opportunities to communicate but one of the many things I have learned over the past four months is that communication comes in many ways not just via a face to face conversation.
When we do get the opportunity to talk or when we write to one another we are both authentically open and honest about how we are feeling and what we are needing. By talking about what we need enables the other person to provide support without playing guessing games. Given our constrains we simply cannot afford to not be open with each other and besides; when you love someone, you want to do all you can to make the others happiness a priority thus leaving them at the end of the conversation feeling happy, loved and supported.
At times we must talk about tricky things or ask difficult questions. In many cases the easy option would be to avoid it and carry on, but we respect our relationship and each other too much to do that. Talking about the tough stuff creates an incredible trust and bond between one another – even from other sides of the world. By talking through it together you connect better, understand where each other are, and can move forward as a team. This enables us to both to feel equally loved and supported which is incredibly powerful.
In addition to having strategies which assist us in staying connected, I believe you need to have strategies in place for yourself. These are not there to ‘fill a void’ but rather to bring fulfillment to your life in other ways. Think of it as making a different type of deposit into your ‘Happiness Bank Account.’
For me this includes daily exercise, outdoor adventures, a job I am passionate about, a very large support network of amazing friends and family, a body length pillow to snuggle and a photo wall of happiness… just to name a few. I challenge you to stop and think about what makes YOU happy? Once you know what brings you fulfillment, laughter, relaxation, contentment and clarity you can work on adding these things into your life every day. They don’t take away the pain of missing your partner, however they do make you happy which makes dealing with the tougher moments easier.
From day dot Josh and I have always talked about our relationship consisting of two individuals who enhance each other’s life. We have our dreams and goals that we are working towards together (even now despite being in different time zones), however we are also two individuals and together we will support one another to chase our own dreams and push each other further.
We never went into this adventure thinking it would be easy, though the big picture makes it all worthwhile. Seeing someone achieve a dream, feeling the pinnacle of proudness and knowing that you have a small part to play in their success is amazing and I would not have it any other way.
We are now three months out from seeing each other in South America. I have butterflies already thinking about the moment when I can jump into his arms at the airport. By then we would have done seven months straight of long distance.
We have given each other the ultimate gift this year. The ability to grow, to chase our dreams, to kick butt and to be loved and supported every step of the way. Josh has given me the gift of independence, a year to find out what I enjoy doing for me. A year of unforgettable memories with my friends and family and a year for us to work together to strengthen our relationship like I never thought possible. Together as a team – we got this! And you do too!
Any questions, comments or suggestions on other topics you would like to hear from my perspective please send them through here. Be sure to follow the Vertical Year on Facebook and Instagram and donate here to support ReachOut and the Climate Council.
To everyone supporting both Josh and I, thank you!