PillowTalk

This February, my boyfriend and I will be celebrating our five-year anniversary. We both expected to graduate college three months later in May. Now, it seems like only I will be receiving my diploma this spring.

Most college students know a fifth or sixth year of enrollment is common. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that only 41% of undergraduates received their bachelor’s degree within a four-year enrollment period. Given those odds, one of us was bound to need some more time in Flagstaff.

We both left our homes in Phoenix to attend NAU. Just like so many students before us, we were planning on bidding farewell to this town to begin our post-grad life elsewhere. Now, it is an incredibly unlikely scenario that we both meet our four-year goal.

My boyfriend shouldn’t feel guilty for needing an extra semester or two. I do not wish to blame him for taking school a little slower than I. However, Flagstaff’s rent is high, and I can’t start my career here.

This dilemma has made me consider moving home. It’s free, and I can begin a job pertaining to my major. But, do I want to be away from my boyfriend for, potentially, a year? Can I commit to making that two-hour drive up the mountain to see him as often as I can? Can I trust him to routinely make the same trip down the mountain?

I have more questions and considerations than I can tolerate to ponder. We’ve never done long distance. Even with less than 100 miles between us, I’m not sure I can bear being away from someone I’m with every day.

If I were to stay in Flagstaff, I would be putting a hold on starting my professional life. I would likely work full-time, but only to extend the dates on my resume and save money. However, this could provide me with a gap year before starting my career – using this as a transition period between school and professional life might aid in acclimating me to post-college adulthood.

Discussing these possibilities with my boyfriend always feels selfish — is what he wants more important than what is smart for me?

When faced with a significant relationship decision, communication is key. I don’t want this to read like a diary entry, as the purpose of sharing my experience is to warn those looking to stay together of post-graduation of problems that may arise; different career paths, housing costs and extra coursework can all get in the way of a relationship. What I recommend, and what my boyfriend and I have done, is to start talking about it early on.

Whatever happens, we know it’ll work out. We’ve made it through college together just as in love as we were when we graduated high school. Two more graduations can’t kill us.