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  • Writer's pictureBecci

An Ode to Long-Distance Friendships

Updated: Jun 10, 2019



I have three very best friends.


I have the almost cliché best friend from primary school, who just knows everything about where I come from: my mum loves her like an own daughter, I know her family's kitchen closet in and out and she has an accumulated knowledge of all the things I've never told anyone else - if I ever became a person of interest in a high profile case she'd be the first person I'd want under witness protection for her and my own good.


I have the best friend who was there for me during maybe the most confusing time of my life: my teenage years. She was there in a time and at a place where emotions were ruling everyone's lives - and she was my rock; my comfort and joy every single day - even on the shitty ones. The friend who, no matter what, continues to be one of the people I like to be around most - especially when she starts laughing.


I have the best friend who only got to know me when I was 19, but who probably knows me best because she has to listen to my ideas, my rants, my hopes and dreams, once and then all over again. If you ever need a prediction of how I will react at a given point or time, she is the girl you want to talk to. She is the type of friend who can be your grown-up kick in the butt, the person who brings you home after a night out and the person who tells you to breathe when you seriously need to calm down.


These three girls are very different from each other. But what they have in common is not only their incredible intellect, that they are kind and humble, have a big heart and a belief system I can identify with - but that they all live far away from me. However, what they also have in common is that it actually does not even matter where they physically are - they are by my side and I know from the bottom of my heart that I can count on them in a crisis or an everyday life problem alike. Sounds cliché - don't care.


 

The reason all of my best friendships are long-distance can be traced back to how I cannot sit still for long. I moved away from home when I was 15, found a new home until I was 19, moved again when I was 22 and then 24, and I am not even planning to stay where I am right now for more than a couple of months or years either.


With all the great things that come from setting up your tents anew every once in a while, there is one factor that people often struggle with. Moving, inevitably, means leaving people behind.


I was most recently reminded of how much this means when I spoke to my best friend (no 3,  so you can keep them apart) about my wish to leave the Netherlands after five years. She did not really understand why I had such a desire to leave and - I think - was mostly worried about what this would do to our friendship. At this point in time, I was so accustomed to leaving people behind - the thought that this might affect our friendship did not even occur to me, because I've had 'survived' long-distance friendships before. To me, saying goodbye became so normal that I could not even begin to understand anyone's worries on this matter. I was really living out the 'if it is meant to be, it is meant to be' - philosophy.


In my opinion leaving a place behind is more than going through your belongings to see what fits in the moving van. Unfortunately, it also means that all your friendships inevitably must flow through some sort of strainer. Often this is the strainer called time. Let's be realistic: you can't keep in touch with them all. And you shouldn't.


I firmly believe that holding on to people for the sake of holding on is the wrong way to go about long-distance friendships. I believe that if two people have something to say to each other regardless of the physical space between them, things will work out. Some of your friends are simply just meant for a specific time and place - and others are meant to be there for longer. You never know which ones will turn out to be which, but there is no point in forcing anything that is not naturally working out. In the long run, that will make you more unhappy than saying goodbye. Two things should be said here: (i) This does not mean that saying goodbye does not hurt (friendship heartbreaks and disappointments are such an under-developed concept - but that is a dicussion for another blog); (ii) This also does not mean that you should stop putting any effort into your (long-distance) friendships the moment one of you moves away.


 

A friendship related incident (a primary example of the point I am trying to make) that I am most thankful about in all of my long distance friendship histories is concerning my best friend (no 2 this time). We've had a crazy on/off friendship for most of the time we knew each other: we pretty much became close friends the moment we met, but we only spent a year together before my friend left and although we stayed in touch with letters, it was hard because we both had shit to figure out. The best thing happened when my friend moved back and we had another amazing year together. I left this next time, and four years passed with a varying degree of communication, but never a lot (no blame on either of us - it was and is okay and there are no hard feelings). Last fall, I became incredibly homesick for my 'home away from home' in the mountains and decided to pay her a visit. We were both so nervous to see each other again but turns out there was nothing to worry about: never in the past two years have I laughed as much as the few days I spent with her last fall. It was probably the most significant weekend of that year for me. Now, there is not a week that passes by where we don't chat or even call. She came to visit me for my birthday this spring. We are full on back into each other's lives and can have four-to-five hours skype calls every now and so often- no biggie. (Okay full disclosure - half of that time I talk to her cats, it still counts). Point is: we did not force things and look where we ended up. If it is meant to be...


I am not trying to glorify long-distance friendship. The truth is: most of the time it really sucks. It is hardest for me that even in a time of livestreaming and a myriad of communication tools, it is impossible to share everyday life. Of course, you call and skype and write letters - but what is missing is a sense of normalcy. You can talk about what you did and you can break it down to the most boring details all you want, it is not the same if you cannot experience it together! Because it is not the crazy and extraordinary things we do together that make these friendships special to me, it is the routine.


One of my favorite quality times with best friend (no 3) is when we both have a cup of tea and take care of our individual well-being (working on to-dos, watching a series, reading a book) next to each other. From the outside, our lives will look dull or seasoned, but for us, this is the ultimate quality time. Being alone in each others company. Or best friend (no 1): at the moment, we only update each other occasionally about where our lives are heading (again, no hard feelings), but I cannot wait to see her this Christmas over a tea (coffee for her?) and some home-made Christmas cookies to just be around her calm and reflective self - taking mental notes of all the smart stuff she is saying and listening to where life is taking her.


 

I am continuing to be eternally grateful for these three girls (we are at an age to say women but I cannot wrap my mind around it yet) in my life. The 'if it is meant to be' - philosophy should not imply that one takes long-distance friends for granted. Friendships - as so many other concepts in life - are constantly fluctuating. No or little communication does not mean you love each other less. What's important is that it feels right for the two people in the friendship. What's important at the end of the day is that you feel connected even through the physical distance. 


So to all three of you. You know you are more than a number in this text to me. Thank you for being an integral part of my life. Thank you for being the best parts of my life most of the time. Thank you for watching me grow. Thank you for the roots and the wings. Thank you for the comfort every step of the way. Thank you for sticking with me. I'd love to have you by my side every single day - but this is already more than I could have ever asked for.










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