Sunsets in Uruguay Maia Walker with permission for Varsity

You know that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching when obnoxiously adorned pink and red card displays seep into the forefront of every shop window, precariously perched balloons and stuffed toys peering eerily out at passersby.

This holiday entices a myriad of emotions. You’ve got the peppy new couples, overtly smitten and ecstatic to be celebrating their first Valentine’s, thoroughly prepared to break the bank for the perfect day. Or there’s the people who, whether they’re in a relationship or not, think that it’s overrated garbage – the peak of capitalism-induced performativity. Then there’s the newly single people, perhaps victims of an ugly breakup, who never want to even think about love again. Or – perhaps the most wholesome genre – the parents who, in spite of many a rolled eye, send their kids a card every year to remind them that there is more to love than romance.

“Parents who send their kids a card every year remind them that there is more to love than romance”

Now, you might assume from my prior negativity that I am not a fan of Valentine’s. But, in fact, that’s not entirely correct. While I do agree that it is over commercialised, as most holidays are nowadays, I not-so-secretly enjoy indulging in the opportunity to plan a fun little date or buy a cute little gift. What I don’t like is the fact that my girlfriend is, for the foreseeable future, 7,000 miles away from me.

So, this one goes out to my fellow long-distance relationship friends, who – if they’re anything like me – are currently balancing on that oh-so-precarious border between optimism and pessimism.

Maia and her girlfriend, reunitedMaia Walker with permission for Varsity

To provide some background to my love life, I met my girlfriend while on my year abroad in Spain. But, come June, the end of the trip tore us away from our sun-kissed, study-free days; I returned to the UK, and she went back to Uruguay. Then, we became the classic long-distance lesbian stereotype, rudely split apart by an extortionately priced 25-hour, three-flight-long journey.

“Celebratory holidays are a sore spot, magnifying everything that you can’t have”

While the challenges of long-distance relationships extend much further than the Valentine’s dilemma, celebratory holidays are undeniably a sore spot, magnifying everything that you can’t have. New Year’s for me was a particularly tough one, as I drifted into the New Year realising that, for the first three months of 2023, my relationship would be solely characterised by a surreal bubble of phone calls.

That being said, I’m doing my best not to wallow in my negativity because, in pondering the potentially non-existent “meaning” of Valentine’s Day, I have realised that being with the person you love, no matter how far apart you are, is always something to be grateful for.


Mountain View

Lessons from a distance

And, while long-distance can be incredibly hard, it precipitates many a beautiful moment, too. I’ll try to avoid being overly soppy, but, in the past seven-ish months, I have learnt more about myself, about my girlfriend, about communication across boundaries, and about trust, than I ever thought possible. I have also learnt so much about Uruguayan culture that now anytime the country pops into conversation, or into my course syllabus, I get embarrassingly excited. I have sent hundreds – thousands? – of fit checks, food snaps (followed by the necessarily overused “save me some!” response), mini vlogs, and even self-made book chapter audio recordings (we’re currently reading Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, which I would highly recommend!). And, finally, I have treasured that moment of completeness, in that bright airport lobby, when we finally reunite and everything falls into place.

Valentine’s Day, if you choose to celebrate it, can be whatever you make of it. You can express your love to your partner, your friends, your family, and to yourself. So, I guess there’s a couple of things you can take away from this article. Firstly, if you’re in a long-distance relationship, you can do this! And secondly, no matter what cards Cupid has dealt you, don’t put too much pressure on things; take the day as it is and have fun.

On 14 February, I will be happily settling down in front of my laptop with me and my girlfriend’s homemade signature dish of pesto pasta and a glass of wine, ready to play some games, watch some Buffy, and simply just talk – and that will be more than enough for me.