A couple of my fellow eAmbassadors, Sienna and Krysta, have written excellent posts on managing the “LDR”, or Long Distance Relationship. Now, I’m happily and perpetually single, so I know nothing about maintaining romantic relationships, but I am practically a professional at long distance friendships. (Just ask my best friend of going on 15 years; she’ll vouch for me!)
When starting post-secondary life friendships are a huge concern, but it’s not just making friends that has us students panicking; some of us just can’t stand the thought of losing the friends we already have.
Let me tell you one thing right away: that wisdom you’ve had thrown at you about highschool friends never making it past highschool? Complete and utter hogwash. If you’re concerned about it, please don’t be.
In fact, just thinking about how often adults impress their so called “knowledge” onto groups of young friends has me banging my head against the wall. A complete stranger once explained to a dear friend and I that there’s just no way for teenage girls to remain friends until adulthood, because you know, boys and vanity, and whatever else, will get in the way. Ahh, the wisdom of random men who accost you at Tim Hortons: Truly the advice to live your life by. He had a fully-grown daughter, he explained, so he knew.
And okay, I graduated from highschool less than five months ago, so I understand that you probably doubt that I know what I’m talking about. But I swear I do, so just hear me out: you can leave your highschool friends in the dust and never speak to them again. It’s easy, but it’s a choice, just like it’s a choice to stay in contact with someone who lives far away.
Some backstory: I moved around a lot as a kid. It sucked, but you know what I got out of it? Lots of really great friendships. Sure, there are tons that faded into nothing more than nice memories and “happy birthday!” posts on facebook once a year, but more importantly there are some that continue to grow and thrive today.
That friend I mentioned earlier? We met before we were even in school. We barely knew what friendship was when we pinky-promised to be “BFF’s forever and ever!”
I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that our friendship wouldn’t survive whatever was going on at that time. Me moving? Survived that. Me moving back and then moving away again (several times)? Survived that. Okay, said the cynics, but highschool is different, harsh and cruel, and people change. Did we at least choose the same highschool since at that point we were living in the same city? Nope, we didn’t, and guess what? We survived that. Did we both change? Heck yes. That’s the beauty of growing up.
We don’t talk often these days, but when we do it’s like no time has passed. I’d still drop everything if she called me up and said she needed me, and it’s always amazing to get perspective on your life from someone who has seen you through everything; from pranking our siblings to identity crises, from braces and learning how to put on makeup to screaming at each other over nothing. It’s impossible to be anything but brutally honest with each other now. I don’t think anyone expects us to be in contact by the time we graduate from university, but her and I know differently. I mean we managed long distance at six years old. We’ve got this.
And then there’s my good friend Jessica. Jess and I have been friends for, oh, seven years now, and we’ve been dancing the long distance dance for five of those seven. Until now: she’s at York’s Keele campus these days, so for the first time in five years we’re living in the same city! Want to hear a funny thought? Jess and I had mastered the long distance friendship thing so well, that we’re still reeling over the idea that we can hop the York shuttle bus and see each other whenever we want. (Seriously, you guys don’t understand how strange that is to me?)
We really did have the LDR friend thing down to a science, and we have tons of little traditions. For example, whenever one of us travels somewhere we send those cheesy “wish you were here” postcards through actual snail mail. It also helps that we’re both awesome at thoughtful gifts. (Okay, so it’s mostly her who’s awesome at thoughtful gifts, and I’ll be crying over the journal/scrapbook she gave me for the rest of eternity. It’s this wonderful mix of “let me share some of the parts of my life you’re missing” and, “how many inside jokes can I squeeze into one book?”).
The last long distance friendship that I’m going to mention is someone I met on the ~internet~. (“Don’t talk to strangers, kids!” I say, making me the biggest hypocrite to ever hypocrite while I try to hide my small hoard of internet friends away from judging eyes.) She also goes to Glendon, so like Jess, we’re no longer long distance friends. But before September we’d met in person twice, and briefly at that. Two times in around four(?) years is nothing. Our entire friendship was formed over a distance, and guess what? Still a worthwhile and real friendship. She’s knows me better than most people ever have and vice versa, I think. (*cough* Can you tell that she helped me pick which university to go to? *cough*)
So that’s some of my experience with friendship from afar; I could go on, but I picked these three for a reason: they’re all completely different.
I don’t talk to the first girl often enough for people to believe that we’re actually good friends, but yet we continue to soldier on. The fact is that we’ve never needed assurance that we’re still friends, because we grew up together. To put it into other words, I don’t need my brother to tell me that he loves me, it may be nice when he does, but I would know anyways. The same thing applies to her.
The second friendship I discussed? It thrives on long conversations, creativity, and thoughtful gestures. We’re an affectionate pair in person so we had to find ways to express that over a distance.
The last friendship? Another completely different sort, as it’s inception didn’t have anything to do with being in close proximity to each other, and now we’re figuring out how to be “real life” friends. Fun fact: we like each other in person just as much because friendships based over distance are VALID and POSSIBLE. (Oh, look at that, we found the point of this post 1100 words in.)
It’s expected for all of us to lose touch with our highschool friends, because we live in a world that just doesn’t value platonic friendships as much as it should, especially those of teenagers. (Who, of course, are shallow and ready to backstab each other at any moment, am I right?)
However, just like romantic relationships if you want to put the effort in, it can and will work.
FIVE RANDOM TIPS FOR KEEPING A FRIENDSHIP THRIVING AFTER YOU’VE MOVED AWAY FOR SCHOOL:
1) Take advantage of social media. Right now one of my friends from highschool is snapchatting me pictures of inanimate objects around their dorm room with no captions, and another is snapchatting me pictures of his tiny little dog (who I miss dearly!!). These interactions are pointless and random, but that’s why they’re so fun.
2) No awkwardness. Speak to your friends how you would speak to them in person. Just because it’s over the internet or the phone, doesn’t mean that formality is required. This is your friend who has made you laugh so hard you started sobbing, so why are you feeling the need to be formal?? I tend to go the “i miss ur dumb face get on skype now” route with my friends, but I know some people prefer to be a bit more eloquent even when they’re being informal.
3) Trust that you’re still loved and needed even if you’re not in every picture they tag with #squad. Jealousy is for squares. They’re not betraying you or replacing you by meeting new people. Take your head out of that middle school mindset and focus on making new connections too.
4) There’s going to be a shift in the dynamic of your friendship. It’s inevitable, but it’s not BAD, so just let it happen. Think of your friendship as a Pokemon; it’s just evolving into a newer, possibly better and stronger, stage.
5) Just because it’s not a romantic relationship doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remind them that you love them. Jess once surprised me by showing up at my house at midnight to spend my birthday weekend with me even though her schedule at the time was crazy busy, but sometimes a simple phone call instead of a text when you know they’ve been feeling down is more than enough. You know your friend and what they like. Do those things!
(ETA: I was just about to post this when I got a very sweet text from a dear friend that I see very, very rarely, and it seemed rather timely; so shout out to Audrey for being a darling.)
Happy long-distance friendship-ing!!