I didn’t know how to answer the question, because I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I’ve been working on a draft of a blog post all year trying to find the words, but considering I’ve never done Remote Year without a boyfriend, it’s been pretty much impossible to explain how my experience has been different than everyone else’s. After my most recent attempt at the post a month ago, the only thing it says is, “This program isn’t built for couples.”
… Apparently, I was onto something, because I’m now spending the last segment of my Remote Year literally as “Just Zo” instead of as a couple.
The whole reason I came on this program was to grow — professionally, sure, but mostly personally — and as it turns out that is really, really hard to do when you’re doing it with another person. Not only does being in a relationship take up a pretty significant amount of time that could otherwise be put toward more “growth inducing” things (like going on solo trips, hanging out with locals and generally focusing on figuring your own shit out), but how are you supposed to really *~*FiNd YoUrSeLf*~* when you’re constantly trying to be there for someone else, too?
Spoiler alert: You can’t. Or at least, I couldn’t.
The harsh reality (that I’ve tried to fight all year) is that Remote Year is a completely different experience as a couple. Simply put, you don’t have to try as hard. When you’ve got a built-in partner in crime, you don’t have to reach out to a group of 65 people every time you want some company. There’s always someone to go to dinner with, to walk to work with, to help you figure out how to use the washing machine when the directions are in Serbian… There’s always just someone there. And even though I really did make a serious effort 99% of the time, I can’t deny the fact that if I didn’t feel like texting someone to go to dinner I simply didn’t, because I knew I wouldn’t ever have to eat alone. And ultimately the whole situation created an unspoken divide between me, the girl with a boyfriend, and everyone else on the program. They may not have felt it, but I definitely did.
So this week, in addition to transitioning to a new continent (Hola from Argentina!), I’ve had to transition into remote life on my own. And honestly? It feels like I’m starting completely over, which has been really, really hard.
I was under the false impression that moving to South America would be the smoothest shift of the year. It’s the final continent, there’s only a one hour time difference from New York, and it’s incredibly close to home. I mean, it even has “America” in the name. But unlike the other places I’ve lived this year, English speakers are few and far between… I definitely didn’t realize how blessed we were in Asia and Europe. In Buenos Aires, where I’ll be for the next month, everything just feels like such a challenge. The cars don’t stop when you’re crossing the street, I can’t figure out what or where to eat (TBH, I can feel some old habits creeping back hard), and it’s almost impossible to find an ATM that has cash in it (did I mention no one takes credit cards?). Trust me — I know that these are all privileged problems to have, but it has been a huge adjustment.
On top of the madness of trying to navigate daily life in a new city where I don’t speak the language, my first week as #solozo has meant that I’ve had to put myself out there in a totally different way than I did when I was here with someone else. And already, I can feel the shift. In the past five days, I’ve spent more time with the other Remotes than I have all year. I went to lunch on two separate occasions with people I’d never hung out with before, and to dinner with a girl I hadn’t really spoken to since month one. I went to the club two nights in a row. I walk to and from the workspace with different people every day. The bonds that I felt I’d barely been holding onto for the last eight months are getting stronger, and that “unspoken divide” is finally starting to close.
Still, there have been moments when I’ve really, really missed the support system I relied on (and, ok, took for granted) all year. On Friday night, I curled up in a ball in my bed and cried because I had no plans for dinner and couldn’t figure out where to go or how to order food online. For the first time all year, I was deeply, deeply lonely.
Eventually, I pulled my shit together and messaged a bunch of people until I found someone who would come with me to get empanadas. Two hours later, I was sitting on a rooftop overlooking the Palermo neighborhood, drinking Malbec and playing a weird game of “REMOTE YEAR TRIVIA” with 30-something of my #tramily members, and started to feel like I was
maybe probably going to be ok on my own (… especially because I’m taking Spanish classes.)