Being in your 20s often involves a whole lot of long-distance relationships.
When I went to college out of state, all of the sudden I was away from my closest friends and was desperately trying to hold on to them. Frankly, some friendships lasted and some didn’t — it’s just how life goes.
Then, once I graduated from college, I was experiencing the same thing but on a larger scale. Not only was I trying to maintain those important relationships I had at home, but now I was trying to maintain newer relationships with friends that had moved all over the country.
These long distance relationships are just going to be more difficult once you’re not on a school schedule anymore. You can no longer guarantee seeing all of your friends over break, because not everyone goes home for those anymore. Plus, you’re all going to be calling different places “home” now.
However, friendships, unlike romantic relationships, are a lot easier to maintain when you have distance separating you.
These are the ways I have found make it easier:
Send snail mail.
I can be having the absolute worst day and a bit of snail mail will instantly make it brighter. There is nothing I love more than a postcard, a random note saying “I miss you,” or even a dumb drawing arriving in the mail from someone I love.
When it feels like all I get are bills or random catalogs I don’t want, receiving something that a friend of mine spent time on and wanted to share with me, means a lot. (FYI – I keep all of those letters. One day when I’m really old I’ll have something physical to look at and remember my friends and our crazy youth.)
Knowing this about myself, I try to send as much snail mail to my far-away friends as possible, so maybe I could brighten their day as well, knowing that I’m thinking about them.
Ongoing texts and group chats.
My two best friends from college and I haven’t all been in the same place for an extended period of time for a year and a half now. But I talk to them every day in our ongoing group chat.
It’s very low key, low stress. Even though it’s not a place where we share the important things or have serious talks, it’s still been so important to me to have a daily connection with them.
We send funny videos, share news tidbits, or weird things that happened to us that day. Having that ongoing communication, even in a small way like that, has helped me remain tethered to them.
Phone/Skype Calls/Hangout Sessions.
While I love the texting and the snail mail, this one is even more important. Being able to hangout every now and then, even if it’s just virtually, gives you the chance to talk about the important things and work out whatever stuff you need to work out with your friends.
You get to actually laugh with them instead of typing “hahaha” or “lolz” as you blow air out your nose at a text you received. You can have a virtual drink together or virtually eat dinner together.
Take advantage of technology in the best way you can and use it for really connecting with one another.
Even though all of the above is great, nothing is going to beat actually spending time together in the same space.
Relationships are all about making the effort. Sometimes that means saving up money for a plane ticket or making time for a road trip to see each other every now and then. Even if it can only happen once every one or two years, it still gives you both something to look forward to.
In the mean time, focus on the here and now.
This one might be difficult, especially if you find yourself in a new place with few friends to actually hang out with. It’s easy to get caught up in homesickness and wanting to talk to your friends all the time.
However, you can run into trouble with this when you find that your friends don’t have all the time in the world to spend talking to you. This can harbor negative feelings towards them, when really they aren’t doing anything wrong.
Try focusing on the here and now — the what’s happening in your life right in front of you — what you have control of. Live your life, make new friends, and keep moving. Then, when the time’s right, you and your friend will find time to connect again. Plus, you’ll actually have fun new things to share with them, since it’s been a while since you talked.
Just like romantic long-distance relationships are not for everybody, neither are long-distance friendships. However, when two people are committed to keeping a friendship alive, despite distance, it can and will work, granted both people put in the time.
It’s important to look after your own heart in all of this, and if ever you feel that someone is not putting in the same effort as you, either address it with them or try to let it go.
Life is linear. We can only move forward. Sometimes we find ourselves walking along parallel paths with people who become our friends. However, if we ever find our paths are starting to move in different directions, we can’t really choose to abandon our own path to walk along someone else’s with them. We’ll feel lost and they’ll feel, well, crowded.
And, as I’ve seen happen many times in my life, paths can cross each other again, even after being apart for a while. Reconnections are made. We just have to have faith in our own path, keep marching along, and being grateful for those people who we find ourselves walking beside.