From young this has defined me: pools of ambition that I’ve alternatively swam and struggled in. Terrified of waking up one day to find that I had wasted my life, I threw myself into work, trying to write my way into a life I found meaningful.
I was raised in the age of change, where Hollywood romances had started to peter out into slogans of female independence, critical essays questioning the status quo of a life lived prioritising the couple over the individual.
As a result, I saw a relationship as a likely death sentence to the pursuit of individual dreams, a lifetime of half-compromises. Where would I find a partner who would be okay with all the things I wanted? And yet, six years ago when I first met Shane on the eastbound train from NTU, I hoped.
The limit of Shane’s “okay” has stretched beyond the limits of my expectations. He has been by my side as I researched writing programmes, and he is the first reader and editor for any story I write, the organising principle to the chaos of my mind. He does this while maintaining a life, a career, and an artistic practice that’s separate from mine, and from our relationship.
A relationship can have space for both parties to grow into their own person.Jemimah Wei
In the past six years, my work as a travel host has taken me all over the world in short bursts – rehearsals in being apart – and yet he has never complained as I tried to figure out where my life was going. He has been more supportive than I could’ve ever dreamt of.
Still, when I called him one evening last year with news of my acceptance to Columbia University School of the Arts, I was afraid. I thought, surely this is when he goes, “Alright, I just want a girlfriend who is present, is that so much to ask?”
Instead, he asked me to marry him.
Two months before I flew, what I thought was a birthday celebration for a girlfriend turned out to be an elaborate proposal, a six-act theatrical experience based on a play he wrote.
It dawned on me that this two-year long-distance relationship I had imposed on us with my ambition was not something he secretly resented, nor something he was simply tolerating. It’s something he is actively, wholeheartedly committing to.
So we are engaged, promised to each other. But while a promise suggests future fulfilment, Shane has shown me that a relationship can have space for both parties to grow into their own person, chasing their dreams while always having a home to return to in the other.
This should be obvious, but it is not always. The distance between us is also a promise towards reunion and, although we are physically apart, we know that the endgame is in each other.
Illustration of Jemimah by Shane
Jemimah Wei is a writer based in New York City, pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Columbia University. Her partner, Shane Lim, depending on who you ask, is either a copywriter, a poet, an illustrator, a best friend to many, an incredibly supportive fiancé to one, or all of the above.
This article was first published in our magazine’s February issue.