We all know how terrible long distance relationships can be. I was in one up until the end of college, and it was the main reason why my relationship ended. She was moving away and at the time there was realistically nothing I could have done about it, so we ended up breaking up. I still regret it not trying harder or just accepting the distance at times, but we had tried it before and I knew that it just couldn’t work out for me. As shitty as it was, I knew having a long distance relationship would be even worse, and since that day, I vowed never to have a long distance relationship ever again.
But what about long distance friendships? Relationships are one thing, but friendships are just, different. Friendships were born out of late night phone calls and yearly summer camp adventures. Ever since we were young we wanted to see our friends more than anything else in the world, no matter how far we lived from one another. Distance only made us more determined to find one another. We wrote postcards and called every night and made sure to remember funny stories to share with one another when we saw each other next. Now, we send a Facebook message once in a while, and meet up every five years for reunions. Why?
First off, I have to say that I probably have a better tolerance for long distance friendships than most people. Born and raised in New York and having moved around quite a bit in the city, I didn’t grow up with a neighborhood of friends. Not only did we not have cul-de-sacs to bike around or basketball hoops connected to our garage doors, most of us lived ten or fifteen train stations away from one another. I grew up with what seemed to be the smallest of the long distance friendships, but long distance nonetheless. Distance, it turns out, made no difference to me when it came to wanting to be every part of someone’s life, wherever they were in the world.
Then came college. Like all my close friends at home, we left New York City to pursue a higher education and live life a little, in new places with new friends, just trying to live life to the fullest. It was here that I began losing touch with some of the people that I cherished the most in the world. And somewhere, deep down, I hoped that it has more to do with the fact that we were physically further apart now, rather than the simple fact that we have just grown apart as people. Unfortunately, I’ll never know, but I think about these people probably more than I should (and will ever admit). Honestly, if I could bring back 10 people back into my life, a majority of those would be those I lost touch with after moving to college.
And while most of my friends migrated back to New York four years later, I never came back. After college, I scored an amazing job in Ann Arbor and was the best thing someone like me could wish for. I had a well paying job at a great place and got to be with my friends for an additional 2 years. A lot of them reunited, moved in together, and even work together now. And though I could have moved back to New York, I wouldn’t have made some of the most meaningful connections with some amazing people in Ann Arbor. I missed out on rekindling some of my very own long distance friendships, and I’ll never know what could have been if only I reached out more.
Which brings me to now. December 2011. Seattle. I’ve been thinking a lot about long-distance friendships as of late because frankly, I miss my college friends. I miss being a couple blocks from each other, staying up until dawn, feeling like everything is where it was supposed to be. Part of me still wishes that I could just stay close to them, in a safe bubble, where inside jokes flow like the Mississippi and you could write a 1,000 page biography about each of those around you. I miss them like I missed my high school friends. But this time around, I realize that I need to make an effort to keep in touch as well. Part of me knows that moving to Seattle was the best decision in my life, just as going to the University of Michigan was. So in an attempt to have the both worlds, I am now facing the truth: I have become the long-distance friend.
So what do you do?
Technology nowadays lets you instantly reconnect with people in an instant, but we don’t nearly use it as much as we should. We can call, video chat, text, and IM someone so quickly, but most of us don’t. Sure, some people hate talking on the phone, and video chatting is, and I will be the first to admit it, kinda creepy. And texting and IMing someone just doesn’t cut it sometimes. But as effort goes, reaching out to somebody by dialing 10 numbers or sending them a brief message is so easy, why don’t we do it more often?
Sometimes I can’t believe that people used to communicate through the post. It’s almost so elementary now, to think about sending someone a postcard or letter or card. But think about when you actually receive something in the mail. I don’t know about you, but I get excited. And when I get a something from one of my dearest friends, I love that they took the time to think of me, search far and wide for a stamp, and write a thought-out letter. Why not give someone else that joy?
Friends who visit are not a dime a dozen. Being visited by a friend is the ultimate display of friendship. Now, I’m not talking about the friend “in town for a conference” or friend “in for a wedding,” but the friend visiting because they want to honestly see you and catch up. Though I understand that time and money are not resources that we can readily spare, but when they get the chance to, don’t pass it up. This is why I visit my friends every opportunity I have and always make an effort to let my friends know they’re welcome to come and stay whenever they want. It’s remarkable how short weekend or a whole weekend endeavor once in a while can maintain a close friendship.
But whatever it is, you make an effort.
The worst thing you can do is lose touch with someone out of laziness. Those that are reading this blog are probably in the same exact boat that I am in right now. We’re all in this place in our lives of even newer beginnings: moving away for a job, going to a new grad school, falling in love and starting a family; in essence, we are all slowly becoming the long-distance friends ourselves.
So take a step back, and think of the people that matter in your life. Where are they in the world? When was the last time you talked to them? And why the hell not? In terms of cost benefit analysis, the cost of reaching out to someone is so miniscule compared to what you both stand to get out of it. We live in a world where people need the company of others, so it only makes sense to try and keep people around who make us happy, no?
I’m urging all of you out there to think of your friends and realize it’s probably never too late to contact them… after all, you were amazing friends once. We all have a best friend or two that doesn’t live in the same area code, state, or even coast, but you can still reach out to them. Do what you have to do. Make an effort. Call them. Email them. Text them. Visit them. Do something! True friends are hard to come by, and distance, in a world of instant communication, is the stupidest reason to lose a friend.
Yu Live, Yu Learn
Photo from here.