Maintaining a long-distance relationship takes a lot of work, and I’m not even talking about a romantic partnership. When you have friends and family you see once a year or once every three to five years, you have to work much harder to grow and cultivate your relationship. It’s far easier to have a friendship with someone you can meet at a cafe on a moment’s notice.
Distance is not a deal breaker. I’ve met a lot of folks (mostly those who’ve never had to move) who simply don’t believe this. It’s enormously disappointing when you put a lot of work into maintaining a relationship, because you really and truly care about your friend, only to find you’ve fallen victim to the “out of sight, out of mind” clause. I have a hard time not letting this get to me. I care about people so deeply (probably a little too deeply) that the dissolution of a relationship, the slow fade from friends to acquaintances to strangers, is a gutting experience for me. Friend break-ups are a lot harder for me to grasp and recover from than romantic break-ups. Sometimes I get so upset I just want to yell, “I’m glad this friendship meant so much to you, Mark BrendanaQUITS!!!” …Parks and Recreation helps me feel better.
Especially this summer, as people I love jettison off into their post-college lives, I’ve been focusing on letting go of the folks who don’t want to put in the effort. Because it is a lot of work, and I know lots of people aren’t interested in it. Despite the difficulty, almost all of my best friends live impossibly far away. There’s Charlie in Britain, Chelsea in California, Katherine in Texas, Meg in Nova Scotia- not to mention my entire family in New England. All of them are such vibrant and meaningful individuals. I wish we could all live together (at least in the same city) but I don’t feel like our friendships have deteriorated or become inauthentic as a result of distance.
You just have to get a bit creative. We share video blogs, and tweets (newly added to this blog!), we read each other’s blogs, and have Google Hangouts. We write each other letters, send text messages, and have long phone conversations. We collaborate on creative projects and encourage each other’s individual endeavors. We’re great friends, we just don’t see each other (tangibly…we see each other through screens quite a bit) as frequently as we’d like to.
I’m still sad about the handful of friends who weren’t and aren’t interested in staying friends. I think I’ll always be sad to have lost them, or to be ditched by them, truthfully. But it helps me appreciate the amazing people who are in my life now, those who live across the street and those who live across the world. It takes a lot to make any relationship work, and I’m glad to know people who are willing to be creative, commit their time and build something beautiful. (I’m such a sentimental sap.)
Here’s a good example of making long-distance friendship work: My friend Paul is a massively talented artist. He just moved a few states away for graduate school, but continues to grace me with his hilarious and adroit advice and friendship via phone, email and postal service. My day was made when I found this nestled in my mailbox.