I’m stuck in Atlanta, he’s stuck in Seattle

My work is here, his work is there: How will we ever get together?

Topics: Family, Since You Asked, Medicine, Coupling,

Dear Cary,

Some advice, please. I’ve met someone and don’t know what to do (the most pedestrian way to open a conversation with an advice columnist, no?). I’m 30 years old and finally starting to figure my life out. After taking the circuitous route, I’ve put myself through medical school and decided to pursue what I love: surgery. The hours and overall commitment are staggering and often overwhelming. But the truth is that I love the operating room and I love the concept of surgery. The patient’s problem is diagnosed and then definitively treated (as opposed to tinkering with meds, etc.). Instant gratification, other than the grueling training. I’m a New York girl but am doing my residency down in Atlanta. I don’t love it down here but often am too busy to notice or care. I keep my relationships at home close and make do with acquaintances here.

Through relatives of friends of relatives, ad nauseam, I met a guy. This guy had been talked up to me for months. “He’s perfect for you. He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s Jewish, he’s handsome.” I’ve never dated anyone that had been suggested to me — certainly not one by my parents. I was certainly not interested in meeting this guy. I’ve dated jerks and sweethearts and have been single for quite some time. Actually, my relationships seem to be getting progressively shorter and less significant as I’ve gotten older.

But back to this guy. Cary, he’s wonderful. He’s handsome, smart, funny and gives me butterflies. He just … fits. I think I’m falling in love with him. And of course he lives where? In Seattle. I met him one night when he was visiting his mother in Atlanta, not expecting very much, and ended up seeing him every night until he left (only a couple of days later). We talk every day. We are romantic and sweet with one another. I somehow have the feeling that this is “it.”

But he’s looking to settle down in Seattle. I’m in Atlanta for the duration of residency, which is five to seven years. Realistically, it’s idiotic to continue this. I don’t want to get hurt, I don’t want him to get hurt, and I don’t want either one of our careers to suffer. I only see this ending in pain — what if he moves here and we break up or I move there and we break up. We each are getting ready to settle down and seem to be getting pulled to opposite sides of the country.

I’m crying as I write this. I couldn’t really tell you why as it’s only been about a month. This goes against the grain of everything that’s being drilled into me at work in terms of decision-making. This is unrealistic and far-fetched in terms of getting a “favorable outcome” (i.e., a rewarding and lasting relationship) and if I were to counsel a patient about a risky decision like this, I would counsel against it. Still … it’s hard to turn away. And I need the advice of a specialist. Any additional information that you could give me on making the correct decision would be greatly appreciated.

You Might Also Like

Rx

Dear Rx,

Since you are a surgeon and don’t have much time, I figure I will dive right in.

It’s a four-hour and 44-minute flight from Seattle to Atlanta. Flying Atlanta to Seattle takes longer because of the headwinds, but Alaska Airlines plans a new nonstop Atlanta-to-Seattle flight beginning in October, leaving Atlanta at 6:10 p.m. and arriving at Seattle-Tacoma at 8:35 p.m. local time, making it a five-hour and 25-minute flight.

Say you agree to date long-distance for one year and then renegotiate. If after one year you think it’s working, OK, you could re-up for another year. Or if after one year it’s horrible, you could either break it off or one of you would have to move.

How’s that?

By temperament, you indicate that you like to get in and do the job and move on. This situation is more like a chronic condition. You’re not really into chronic conditions. I can relate.

That said, you are a realistic person. You may have become temporarily dreamy but you are basically a realist, as a surgeon has to be. So you can make certain decisions now, and then carry them out.

So that is what I suggest: Deal with this highly chronic situation that is full of contingencies by putting some very clear boundaries around it.

There is also the fact that his mother lives in Atlanta. As time goes on her presence there may become more significant as she needs more help from her son. That’s pretty long-term. But it’s something to think about. Relationships like the one you’re thinking about are pretty long-term, right?

But I’m boring you already, aren’t I? I’m sorry. You want something to slice into. Unfortunately, this is just the sort of condition that does not respond to the knife.

It’s sort of too good to just ignore, though, isn’t it?

Do I have any magical solutions? No. Do I have any larger thoughts? Yes. My larger thought is that I do not believe that our culture of academics and professionals has yet evolved a set of norms to handle what has become known as “the two-body problem.” It is too new. We all know about it and hear about it all the time, but we have not yet evolved the traditions by which, say, a mother can comfort a daughter who is facing such a thing, or a father can comfort and instruct a son. Families have not developed a lore, the way they have developed a lore of, say, how your ancestors came to America and made their way, or how they crossed the continent to the West Coast and made their way, or how they settled in New England and made their way.

So though many people face the same problem, a problem that has become quite common, they still feel alone in facing it. We are a bit marooned, are we not, in the era of constantly shifting problems?

Oh, I wish I could say something brilliant! I really do! But all I can really suggest is that you try to listen to your feelings but place careful boundaries around the problem. Stay rooted in reality, as when “swept off your feet,” you may make rash decisions.





What? You want more advice?

 

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>