Do you keep in touch with any childhood friends? I have exactly one and I see her a couple times a year when I travel back home to visit family. We have been long-distance friends for about 8 years now. A few days ago, we spoke over the phone to catch up, having missed our chance during the winter holidays. Our conversation made me think about “long-distance friendships.”
For the purposes of this post, I will call my friend Elle. I have known Elle since I was in elementary school. Elle and I were more than just school friends, we took dance classes together, participated in a musical theater program, and we even went to the same SAT tutoring program. Our friendship became long-distance when I moved away for college and she attended a (prestigious!) university in our hometown. Now, whenever I go home to visit family, I always try to squeeze in time to get dinner with Elle. There are a few things that happen when you find yourself in a long-distance friendship with a childhood bestie.
Growing in Different Directions
It’s easy to grow apart when you and your best friend are no longer having all of the same adventures. As the years passed between Elle and I, the stories about our lives diverged and the cast of characters replaced. In college, it felt as if both Elle and I began to take on our own new adult personalities. I developed an academic and interests different from my high school curriculum and Elle doubled down on her interests and blossomed socially. Along the way, Elle altered her course of study and met a long-term boyfriend and I studied abroad, met a college bestie, and remained single (save for the harem of lovely ladies who became my closest college friends). After college, I went to grad school in Boston and Elle worked in our hometown. Today, Elle is working towards her Master’s degree and I anticipate starting a PhD program in the fall. A lot has changed, and, in some ways, we are growing in parallel and in other ways in completely different directions.
When you have a childhood friend, you are likely to swim in the same circles or at least be acquainted with the same pool of people. When you grow apart, it is likely that your collection of mutual friends dwindles with time. Years ago, we would wonder whether so-and-so stayed together with her boyfriend or whether our classmate, the star of the high school musical, was still pursuing acting. Today, our mutual friends are still the silly 18-year olds posing awkwardly in Facebook photos rather than the living, breathing, mature mid-20 somethings they matured to be. As Elle stayed in our hometown, she still sometimes sees our old classmates. Occasionally, she will mention someone and often I struggle to remember just who she is referring to.
The quality of a friendship changes once it goes long distance. When you would once go out to dinner, to the movies, or just for a walk, now, it is phone calls, videochats, or the rare in-person catch up meet once or twice a year. The friendship used to be about the “now,” the problems of the day and the fun activities planned for the new future. The long-distance friendship is a bit more about the past, learning as much as you can about the other and their adventures and trying to get up to speed. This is an interesting transition, because a long-distance best friend is not the person whom you can invite out after a long work week, rather a person you catch up with remotely and ask for advice.
A Friend is a Friend
One day out of the blue, Elle texted me and asked that I to post a bad review of a restaurant in our hometown. She explained that her friend was treated horribly there by the waitstaff who made overtly racist comments to him. Without needing to say anymore, I took to Facebook and created a generically bad post without knowing anymore about the situation. Sometimes, that’s what friendship is. Friendship is also checking in every once and a while to make sure the other is okay. At times, my friendship with Elle is a long dinner at a restaurant. Then, when the servers kick us out at close, it is sitting in the car in a dark parking lot for about 45 more minutes unmoving until we have completely exhausted the conversation.
Whether here or far, a friend is a friend. If you have someone special in your life worth keeping, don’t let them go no matter the distance. Friendship grows and changes with the times and that is okay. If you think that it’s too late to reach out to an old friend, I highly suggest that you reconsider. Whether a friend, a family member, or a significant other, good people are worth holding onto. I hope you too, Dear Reader, have a few special ones that make all the difference in your life.