The art of long distance friends.
After I graduated from college I moved to Seattle. I left my high school friends in my hometown and packed up and moved three hours north to Seattle with some friends from college. After 8 years away the hardest thing I've dealt with is learning how to maintain relationships long distance. Friends have changed, I have changed, they've gotten married, had kids, but deep down I know that hasn't changed how I feel about them or our relationships. Coming to terms with the fact that we are both on different paths in life was hard, really hard. I still struggle with it daily. I have to go back to the foundation of our relationship, we've simply moved on a little, made new friends, forged new relationships, but our relationship is still there just maybe a different shade.
There are ways to keep in touch, to keep that friendship or relationship alive, but you have to work at it, just like you do anything in life, relationships are hard; be them romantic or platonic, communication is the key.
1. Send a card. The written word is a lost art, but something so easy, inexpensive and so meaningful. I love getting a card in the mail, be it a thank you note, an invitation or just a plain note to say hello the thoughtfulness means so much and always puts a smile on my face. I've made a habit of picking up cards whenever I find them. I have quite the collection on hand for a birthday, weddings, baby, engagement or just to say hello. They come in handy whenever I feel like a friend needs a pick-me-up.
2. When something reminds you of them, reach out. I have friendships that date back to kindergarten with inside jokes, symbols, sayings, songs, so many things that make me think of my friends. Instead of keeping them to yourself tell them. Send them a text and tell them you're thinking of them. Every time I hear the Blues Travelers "Run-Around" I think of my best friend that lives across the world in Myanmar, it was her ring tone. Or if I'm watching Felicity I'll text my friend #teamben because we both loved Felicity and Ben together in that show. Don't just smile to yourself when you think of your friend, text them, call them, send them a carrier pigeon and tell them you're thinking of them.
3. Pick up the phone. I don't know why, but people are so scared to have a phone conversation these days. I don't know why, because it was my favorite thing to do as a kid, sit in my room and talk on the phone to my friends. I even had my own phone line so I wouldn't bug my parents. I've found so much joy recently in actually talking to my friends on the phone. I'm sick of staring at my phone or computer all day with work, it's so much easier to explain myself verbally than it is through text. Plus hearing someone's voice brings meaning to your words. You hear someones true tone when you hear them tell you a story or memory. One of my oldest friends lives an hour south of me in Tumwater, Washington. We've gotten in the habit of calling each other after she is finished from work and has picked up her daughter from daycare. We laugh that her 11 month old knows my voice better than anyone's because she heard us talking on the phone so much while she was in the womb. I like that, it makes me feel a certain connection with her too even if it isn't true. Pick up the phone, be it if you're in the car for 10 minutes on your way to the grocery store, or wondering the aisle, make an effort and pick up the phone. You never know how much the person on the other end may need it.
4. Send random flowers or a package. No better way to brighten someone's day than with a small parcel or flowers. It may cost a little more money, but it's the thought that counts. I'm a giver. I always have been, it's one reason I love Christmas. Trying to find a meaningful gift for someone I love means more to me than it may to them. I know it may sound selfish, but it brings me a ton of joy, even if I'm not there to see their face light up, it makes me happy. I have two friends abroad that I met on Instagram, we're pen pals if you will, sounds so juvenile, but it's fun. I saw these two girls were exchanging gifts to one another and asked If I could get in on it, I needed a distraction and was in need of the friendship. Now I feel like these two girls are my sisters and we've never even met, but I feel like I know them from the handwritten messages and parcels they send every few months.
5. Remember the foundation of your relationship. When my friend moved away from our hometown in Oregon to Washington two years ago it was her first time really out on her own. She had her husband, but no friends or immediate family near by. It was a huge change for her, and it was something I struggled with then I moved to Seattle. I had friends, but most of them have moved away. She knew she was going to have to be the one to make an effort with our friends back home, and it's true. People at home are in their own routine, you're the one that made a change in life. You can be out of sight out of mind, but it doesn't have to be that way if you make an effort. Your friends may not make as big of an effort; they are still surrounded by the things that make them comfortable. It doesn't mean they love you any less, remember the foundation of your relationship and take a step up. Don't give up on a relationship that has gotten you through so many good times and so many hard times. Just because there is distance between you doesn't change anything if you don't let it.
Make an effort. Communication is everything. Be it a card, text, call or package, be involved even though you aren't there. If you're in a couple hours drive, plan a weekend to meet half way and grab lunch, explore the town. Don't give up on the girlfriends that made you who you are. They are apart of the fabric that is the woman you've become.