In defence of your best friends sometimes being very far away from you, and how to survive the distance.
Too often we are presented with the idea that your best friend should be the person you spend the most time with, partners in crime joined at the hip. Friends since childhood; the person you spent your afternoons sipping two straws of the same milkshake with and giggling about school, seamlessly transitioning to adult life together discussing careers and sex. But this is the sort of stuff we grew up watching on TV, it is not always real life and we shouldn’t expect it to be. A lot of the time people haven’t know their best pal since age 5 and even if they have, people move in different directions and you won’t always live in the same city.
Your best friend isn’t always the person you see the most, often your best friends are not the people that live down the road, but the ones that live on the other side of the country. Online articles are full of advice and stories about romantic long-distance relationships and I often get frustrated at the lack of discussion around long distance friendships. With increasing technology, social media and cheap flights, we no longer have the excuse of ‘simply losing touch’. I know firsthand that such friendships can be the best and strongest bonds, physical distance doesn’t always have to mean distant friendship. But if you want to be the best friends who find themselves old and grey sat on the balcony porch, telling their grandchildren about the times they went wild in their twenties, you have to be prepared to put in a lot of work.
I definitely feel as we get older, we realise who we need to keep in our lives a lot more. There are so many people who I once knew and although we were very good friends, when they moved away or we changed schools, we lost contact pretty quickly. I can easily place the blame on not having a mobile phone, or exams filling up all of our time, but the truth is, pencils and paper have existed for longer than I can comprehend, so we can only really blame ourselves. There is something weird about people you once knew going off and achieving great things and yet you not being in their life to celebrate with them. Too often I only have a tentative grasp on what’s going on with old contacts through what they post on Facebook. So I want to make sure that from now on I keep close to the people who mean the most, no matter where we end up.
The first step to making a long distance friendship go the distance is acceptance. If a friend moves away, you have to accept that they will get a new job, make new friends and create a new life. You need to move past any jealousy or any discomfort surrounding the fact they’ll have new spheres that don’t directly involve you. But ask your friend about who they spend time with, learn their friends’ names and learn something about them. If you take an interest in their new life, when you visit, there can be a little overlap with the life they had and have with you. It can also go a long way to the both of you being able to chat about everything and anything.
You have to accept that at points you both might just get busy. Life is like that and when meeting up doesn’t just involve drinking coffee in Central Perk like we all grew up thinking the root of friendship was, it can be difficult at times to keep up with each other. But if a long distance friendship is going to last, you have to make time to be there for one another. Schedule in Skype calls, even if they just last half an hour. Take time out of your day to send them a little text with what you have been up to and be there for them if they need to rant about people you have never even met before. But don’t panic if it’s been a month and you haven’t touched base. When you do talk, it’ll be like no time has passed at all.
Who we class as our friends can be one of the most important things we do in life. I live consciously by the motto “quality over quantity” and I will never look back. We hear time and time again that we are the product of the five people we spend the most time with. Although I like to believe that we have more individual power to help stop us being simply molded by the people around us, I sometimes stop and think that if that were true, would I be happy with the product? And in truth, at the minute, yes I would be. But that is only because I started being serious about friendship. I don’t base it on who is the most accessible (though let’s not take for granted the friend who’s always up for doing something) because friendship should be treasured on who makes you laugh in the first 5 minutes of being in each other’s company or who would listen to your long convoluted explanation about how the beautiful person you see at the bus stop is most definitely in love with you even though you’ve never actually spoken and actually cares. So distance should never be the nail in the coffin of a friendship, because if they are worth it, you will both make it work, and maybe in many, many years’ time, you’ll be sipping tea and reminiscing in rocking chairs on the front porch.
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