As we get older and become adults, staying close to friends tends to get harder. Adult life can be full of trying to get through college classes, keep a job, stay healthy, figure out what you want in the future, and stay connected to the people that mean the most to you. Many days it can feel like an exhausting juggling act of keeping your school, work, social, spiritual, and personal life somewhat together. I think we all knew these things come with age to a certain extent, but somehow we thought it would be easier to juggle. Or maybe we knew many things would suffer, but never thought it would be those relationships closest to our hearts. That has definitely been the case for me.
Nearly everyone in my life has moved away to attend college, gotten married or just moved away in general.
I used to see friends at church multiple times a week and be able to plan outings often also. But when people started moving on, I wasn't prepared for the loneliness I experienced. More texts and emails were typed to each other. More letters and notes were written. More phone calls were dialed and voices heard on the other end in between breaks and vacations.
I always thought things would become more ideal when everyone came back, but now I'm the one leaving for the first time. For a lot of the times they are here, I will no longer be the person who is always here. I will no longer be close geographically to "my people" but they are still close to my heart and I will continue to invest in them if they are five minutes away or five-hundred miles.
Life often takes people across the city, across the state or even across the world from us.
People go to college, graduate school, pursue dreams, get jobs, get married, and eventually settle down. We can either lose our long-lasting friendships, or we can choose to fight harder to maintain closeness. I chose the latter; not because its convenient, but because its worth it.
Recently, I had a friend tell me out of sight meant out of mind for him and he just couldn't do long distance. While this isn't the case for me (I'm constantly thinking of and missing people), I understand how it could be an issue. You aren't seeing the person on a regular basis, so you somewhat forget about them and the need to maintain your relationship. You don't have to let out of sight mean out of mind, though.
Your friend may have a boyfriend or girlfriend, parents, jobs, kids and tend to get distracted by everything around them. This is normal to let your everyday life consume your thoughts, but you can make room to let other things enter your mind too.
Have things around your place to remind you of them, set reminders to check on them and get into a habit of catching up with people while doing chores or going somewhere. There are a few people I try to text on the daily — sometimes it's me reminding them I'm thinking about them, something random I saw that made me smile or telling them good morning.
The smallest things often make the most impact — a text, quick phone call so they can hear your voice, hand-writing a letter (the way to my heart), or a video call while you both study. Tag each other in posts and send each other selfies or other pictures. I don't know about you, but it makes me happy to see a notification from one of "my people," knowing they were thinking of me miles away.
There is nothing that says two friends can't remain close and spend time together, even if it's not physically.
It takes more intention and effort than it does to grab lunch with your roommate, but I've found that I'm often closer to long-distance friends because neither of us takes our time for granted. Connecting and getting together takes more effort than just a regular meet up, but is completely worth it.
Keep the lines of communication and honesty open. When you don't have the chance to see your friends often, it means that when you do see them, you need to make the most of it. Show up and always be fully present. You both deserve your planned bonding time to be special and prioritized.
As we all get more settled in our lives, the amount of time will change and priorities will get swapped around some.
Your time and energy are valuable, but you get to decide where it goes. I try to focus less on doing things I feel obligated to (that I don't have to do), and more on those that I know will fill me and encourage others that I love. It's all a choice we have to choose to make. Will you share the pain, but also some of the biggest joys with another person that you choose no matter the distance between you?
The best things in life take work and long distance ones take extra work, but I'll never regret keeping up with those who are near and dear to my heart. Together we can face anything together, even if that means being vulnerable over video call instead of across the table! Let's do more than just survive long-distance friendships — let's thrive.