An old photograph and handwritten letter spread across a desk

Going the Distance

One of the most incredible feelings in the world is when you meet someone that you just connect with. Whether it’s a best friend or someone you’re in love with, there’s nothing like the feeling you have when you’re with your person that just gets you. But when university rolls around and new jobs and opportunities take you to different places and life gets in the way, sometimes we don’t always get to see our people as much as we would like. As a student who has spent half of the past four years 3000 miles away from the people I love most in the world, I know the struggle of missing someone. Along the way I’ve learned the importance of not only maintaining long distance relationships but making them the strongest relationships in my life, and what I have learned has made me a much better friend to the people I see everyday.

Don’t take anything for granted

Being apart from the people you love means you’re going to appreciate the time you’re together so much more. So when I’m with friends, new or old, I really try to be present and not take a moment for granted, because living far away from so many people I love has made me realize just how fleeting those moments can be. Recently a friend told me how they feel like social media gives them a false pretense of interacting with someone because when you watch a friend’s Insta story or like their tweet, you get an instant update on their life and you don’t feel the need to reach out anymore. Although social media is great for keeping us all connected, it also takes away from meaningful interactions. So the next time you find yourself tagging your friends in memes and commenting on their Instagram, make sure you’re also picking up the phone and actually talking to them about how their day was.

Make it personal

When I was 12 years old I met a girl who instantly became a best friend to me. We shared so much in common and were so alike in many ways that I couldn’t ever remember what it was like to not have her in my life. So when she told me she would be moving away at the end of the school year I was devastated. In a time when social media didn’t exist and the only connection I had to the rest of the world was very limited dial-up internet, I was sure the distance would keep our friendship from continuing. Then one day, a few months after my best friend moved,  I came home to find a parcel with a handwritten letter and a gorgeous scarf inside. For the next 10 years, even when we began to have access to countless social media platforms, me and my best friend would solely communicate through handwritten letters and personal gifts and we continue to do so to this day. We’ve only seen each other twice in person in the past decade, but I consider her to be one of my best friends because of the effort we put into our friendship. Putting in personal touches and being extra thoughtful with friendships makes them so much more special, and even with my Canadian friends I refrain from solely communicating with them over messenger or text when I go home to Ireland for the summer. Instead, I send them postcards or personalized letters, and I’ve found that distance can actually make a friendship stronger.

Technology is also amazing

Then again, we have moved far away from the days when you had to wait for someone to stop using the landline phone to log into the internet. Now we have endless apps that keep us connected to the people we love even when they’re far away. My best friend lives in the UK but we’re constantly communicating. From messenger to phone calls and endless facetime sessions, our friendship has never changed even when our living situations have. Of course, there are some complications that arise when you have a long distance friendship like time differences and busy schedules, and weekly skype calls sometimes become monthly and messages go unread for longer than what we’re used to. Even when we can’t talk everyday, my best friend and I will leave voice messages for each other, lengthy messages to update each other on our lives and we make sure to make up for it by choosing a “catch up” day. Whether it’s spending hours on the phone talking about everything that’s happened or just watching a movie together on Skype, it definitely bridges the gap between distance and we’re closer than ever before.

Have a goal in mind

The most important thing about being away from those you love is making sure you make both short term and long term future plans with them. My best friend and I constantly talk about our future plans all the time, whether it’s the next time we’ll see each other in a few months or being in the old folks home together one day. Yes, it’s silly and we’re half-joking when we think that far ahead, but those funny little fantasies mean a lot when you’re so far away from each other because that kind of faith in a friendship is what keeps it alive. Every year for the past four years that we’ve both been in university we’ve made the effort to fly across the world and see each other several times. We talk about the next time we’ll live on the same street again, and make both short term and long term plans to keep each other in our lives.

See it as a positive thing

There’s something to be said about having friends all over the world. Sure, it’s tough being away from those you love, but when you get the urge to get away from your everyday routine it’s comforting to know you have friends in different places. When I have late night phone calls with my best friend after a night out or I go to London to see him every summer, it feels like an escape from my everyday reality and in many ways I see the friendship as a lot more special because of it. So by prioritizing, having faith, making an effort and knowing that your friendship can overcome anything, allow distance to bring you closer to those you love.