On Distance, and the Nature of Friendship.

Something that I’m ashamed to admit  (but is undoubtedly true) is that I’m terrible at keeping in touch. Email, text message, letter, or carrier pigeon, when it comes to communicating with far-away friends, I struggle to keep up my end of the bargain. That means, that — barring a few exceptions — I’ve failed to keep in touch with many of my best friends from college.

Thankfully, they tend to be much better at keeping up with me. So, when a few weeks ago, A asked if she and M could come up to my neck of the woods for a last minute visit, I was both ecstatic and apprehensive. These girls were some of my closest friends and confidants just a few years ago, but I hadn’t seen them in longer than I could remember. We hadn’t been texting or Skyping or even Snapchatting on any sort of regular basis, and I didn’t know the details of what was happening in their worlds.

I knew the cities they lived in, that they were employed, that — from the little my Facebook Newsfeed showed — they looked happy and healthy and generally like they were living good lives. The real stuff though? The kind of stuff we’d gossiped about in the dorms and debated over in the dining hall? Not a clue.

So, on Friday afternoon, I anxiously awaited their arrival. I made sure I had enough clean sheets, that the air mattresses were ready to be inflated and that the towels were in easy reach. I thought about where we should go for dinner, and what things around town we should do. Turns out, I didn’t need to worry about any of that.

These girls? These are some of my best friends in the world. The minute they stepped foot in my apartment it was like we had never been apart. That same easy sense of camaraderie, of giddy excitement in finding your people? It was all there. Although we had long been separated by thousands of miles, it was like all that time and distance didn’t matter. There were no awkward silences, no lulls in the conversation. At first, we didn’t even bother finding something to do. We perched delicately on my kitchen counters, sipping water and catching up on all the little details that social media could not provide.

These girls and me? We have history. A and I met at freshmen orientation, stuck in the same academic advising group with a decrepit older woman in bug-eye glasses. We had shot each other commiserating looks across the desk as our fossilized adviser entered our AP credits into the system at a snail’s pace. A was, although I didn’t realize it then, the first collegiate friend I would make.

M and I, on the other hand, didn’t meet until after school was already in session. On paper, it made little sense that we became friends. She was a well-coiffed Southern girl living in the ‘cool kid’ dorms, and I, a nerdy California type who had opted-into rooming with my fellow geeks. Still, we’d bonded over a deep love of history and a weakness for high fashion. We’ve been friends ever since.

In light of all this, it should have been no surprise that by the time we got around to leaving the house, it was like college all over again in all of the best ways. Hemming and hawing over where to go to dinner. Spirited discussions of politics and religion and morality and the nature of humanity itself (all the kinds of things you’re not supposed to discuss in polite company, really). We seamlessly switched between intellectual debates and schoolgirl-style gossip without missing a beat. We casually discussed our career goals, our personal lives, our favorite trashy TV shows. We discovered, easily and happily, that time and distance had done us no disservice when it came to being friends.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to get better at keeping in touch in the future. Their visit reminded me of how joyous it is to have friends that make friendship easy. How fulfilling it seems to have people in your life who not only agree with you, but challenge you. Who possess fundamental similarities to you but also marked differences. They’ve reminded me that friendship is a give-and-take not just emotionally but intellectually and spiritually as well.

This weekend, we’ve pretty much crossed the gamut. Museums and restaurants, spin classes and strolls along the river. We’ve watched god-awful movies (take a tip from me, and don’t put yourself through the 2001 Angelina Jolie/Antonio Banderas flick Original Sin) and taken-in serious news clips. There have been revelatory moments and ridiculous ones, and it’s been amazing. I want more days like these in my life.

Thinking about it, I realize that I haven’t fully comprehended just how lucky I’ve been to have friends like these. Friends who not only ‘click’ with me on a fundamental level, but who are willing to forgive me when I mess up. A and M looked at my complete failure to keep them a part of my day-to-day life and moved past it. Even though I’ve spectacularly crashed and burned when it comes to the ‘give’ portion of our  ‘give-and-take’, they’ve given me the opportunity to start over again. This weekend has proven to me that keeping in touch isn’t a chore or a burden but an amazing privilege. That friendship doesn’t have to be what they show in the movies. In fact, it can be so much better.

Indeed, when it comes down to it, so much of what we focus on as a society is romantic relationships. Sure, those are great. I, like many other adults in this world, would like to find a fulfilling romantic partner as I move through my life. That being said, there are other equally important relationships. Friendships shape so much of who we are, and friendships like these? They matter. They can fundamentally alter how we view they world in myriad ways. They help define who we are. I’ve been so lucky to have friends like these, and I haven’t been very good at showing it. Moving forward, I don’t intend to overlook the privilege of having friends like M and A anymore. Instead, I’m going to savor every moment: the good, the bad, the mundane, and the remarkable. My friends deserve no less.

Friends in Prague
To many more years of friendship all across the world.


Day 15: January 15, 2017


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