by August Wainwright on December 14, 2012
The surface of this planet is roughly 24,880 miles around, give or take about 20 miles. That’s about 40,000 kilometers for all you geniuses who use the metric system (I’ve been seriously advocating for that switch for years).
Earlier this year, I married the love of my life. We had fought and fumbled and fucked things up for a span of five years and thousands of miles, but we finally made things right.
Cheesy cliches make my skin crawl, but I consider myself to be one of the luckiest men alive, one of the few who get to walk this world hand in hand with the person that makes the word “alive” mean exactly what it should. The ring on my finger is my religion and that tiny little woman is all the faith I’ll ever need.
That being said, I share my wife. I share her with a giant asshole named the US Armed Forces. A few short weeks after we were married, she left on her first deployment. It took her roughly 7600 miles away from me – 1/3rd of the way around the world.
We approached the separation the best we knew how. Neither of us expected “easy“, but we discussed things that we believed would help things progress as easily as possible. One of the main subjects we agreed on is that over-communication was a bad idea; just because you have the ability to call or email or Skype another human being everyday, doesn’t mean you should. Get over yourself.
Both of us were secure in the idea that for the next few months we had individual lives to lead, that we were each others’ best friend and partner, and that talking did not mean the same thing as communicating.
As easy as those plans were to make, it was even easier to stand back as life balled them up and threw them directly in our faces! Home sickness, crappy work situations (on both ends), fights and arguments, needs and desires, more fights and more arguments, future career plans, future family plans, the future in general… and of all things, we talked too much and communicated too little.
Times were rough. Shit happened. Admittedly, we were a little naive. But a great writer once said “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger in the broken places…” and out of the rough times were opportunities to grow.
Along the way, I found something that had been missing for me. Years ago, I left college before finishing a degree I had no intention in using in the first place. I didn’t challenge myself, was unbelievably bored, and piling up debt in a broken education pipeline, so I left. I took a job with a local company. In two years, I tripled their revenue. Then I quickly learned how the “corporate” environment can work when I realized the owner had no intention of taking care of me, or any other employee for that matter.
So I left with one of the managers and we started a rival company. Things went well, and are still doing well there. After two years of growing that business, I branched off and started an online advertising company that helped businesses in the profession we were operating in reach more customers. I owned two business… and I hated working for either of them. Waking up to those days felt like having my fingernails torn out.
On her deployment, my wife was in a closed-loop environment. She lived with, worked with, spoke with, hung out with, and learned from the same people on a daily basis. It was difficult for our two separate worlds to intersect. That was something we both fully expected and accepted.
Half way through the deployment, we had a few interesting conversations. We learned a little about each other, and I decided to write her a disturbingly awful 6000 word short story. It was meant to be something the two of us could share in, however brief it lasted. She received it in the mail a week later, immediately read it, and called to demand more. So I obliged. I wrote more stories; I wrote longer stories. I wrote about things that the two of us were interested in and that we could discuss, things that peaked our interests and turned us on. I wrote for her; I wrote for us.
One day, while writing another story, I noticed that I had no idea what time of day it was. The word count on the document had climbed past 10000. I loved what I was doing. I was disappearing into worlds where the two of us weren’t 7600 miles away from each other. Words and feelings and visions and places spilled out of me as I wrote. For what seemed to be the first time in my life, I was doing something because I wanted to, not just because I could.
Successful people trumpet the idea that a big part of their success lies in the fact that they love what they do; they really don’t feel like what they do is work at all. I owned two companies and never once felt successful. The day I recognized that was the day I became a writer.
The reality that I essentially have one reader… that I’m an amateur… doesn’t matter to me at all. I have no delusions of grandeur (full disclosure: I have plenty of delusions of grandeur). I don’t assume that any of this will be easy; I don’t want it to be easy. I want to struggle, I want to hurt… I need to feel the pain of the procedure.
But I’m a quarter of the way through my first full length novel and, regardless of whether it is well received or not, I have something to say. I have things to discuss and philosophies to pass on. I have a voice for my words. I have a passion for what I’m creating. And I have an incredible woman that looks at me and is proud of what she sees.
7600 miles is a huge distance. Neither of us want to do it again. But it might have been worth it.