How to survive long-distance friendship.
Her: I’m having wine for dinner.
Me: * High five emoji*
Me: I’m having pizza. Again.
Her: *High five emoji*
Me: I miss your face. Can we check calendars soon to see real life faces?
Her: Yes! What does next month look like for you?
Adulting is hard. It comes with taxes you have to pay yourself, jobs that you can’t ditch like class, and laundry that doesn’t fold itself (just like my mom warned me about when I was younger). These were all things I knew were coming with age. The thing that I wasn’t prepared for was friend separation. In college, I would see my “home friends” on holiday breaks and summer vacations but I always thought I would be back. In grad school, I would see my “college friends” when I went back for Homecoming or when they end up in the same city. Then jobs happened and new “job friends” came into existence. And “husband’s friends” became part of “my friends” but more and more of “my friends” were no longer in my immediate space.
life has taken my friends across the country, to the other side of the world, hundreds of miles up the coast, or, even worse, to the other side of Los Angeles… the city where 16 miles feels like that cross-country trip you took with your roommate after college. This has meant that I have to work harder to maintain the friendships I have with the people I love.
FIVE WAYS TO HAVE A GREAT LONG-DISTANCE FRIENDSHIP
Don’t let out of sight mean out of mind. You or your friends may have partners, kids, jobs, and grocery lists, so it can be easy to become distracted by what’s in front of you. It can be normal to let what you see consistently take over your brain (until you see a post on social media reminding you that your friend is still around). Don’t let it. Set reminders in your phone to reach out to these friends who aren’t always physically easily accessible, maybe every first Tuesday of the month or every Sunday afternoon.
Have interactive dates from your own homes. Do something together at the same time, like watch a favorite TV show or make dinner. The only decision you have to make after that is whether to use FaceTime or Skype. Pour a glass of wine, turn on the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and talk your way through the show (mostly during commercials). Or stand in each other’s kitchens as you both make dinner at the same time. Sit down at your dining room tables to share a meal and catch up, as if you were actually sitting across the table at happy hour. There’s nothing that says that two friends can’t enjoy each other’s company without actually being in their physical company.
Use technology in new ways. There are so many apps that can be downloaded to allow friends across countries and oceans to stay in touch without any additional cost. Just like iMessage, WhatsApp lets you text people regardless of where they live.
When you make plans, show up. Follow through. Actually be there. When you don’t have the opportunity to see your friends often, it means that when you do see them, you need to make the most of it. Some of my best friends in the whole world require that we compare our calendars months in advance to schedule days and times where we can get together. When you have to plan bonding time so far in advance, canceling can postpone a friend date weeks or even months.
Pick your priorities. Friendship has to become intentional as you get older. I wish I was Wonder Woman and could be everything to everyone whenever they need me, but unfortunately, I do not have a lasso of truth or hair that magically curls perfectly when I take it out of a ponytail. It took a while, but I have come to the realization that not only is my time is valuable, but I get to decide where it goes. Pick the humans that build up your spirit instead of depleting it. Choose to invest in the people that you want to be surrounded by, literally and figuratively, and not the people who don’t give back to you.
Make the call, send the letter, have the FaceTime date, send the text high five. You are a good friend and can always become a better one.