Long Distance Friendships
The term ‘long distance’ can send alarm bells ringing for many. We think of two people in love, keeping their relationship afloat with a – you guessed it – long distance between them. When I first started university, I met a lot of people whose relationships ended because they ‘couldn’t handle doing it long distance’. I speak from experience when I say that maintaining a long distance relationship is HARD. I’ve done it for a romantic relationship and platonic relationships, and all the same issues arise at some point. But it’s only difficult if you don’t put equal amounts of effort in. The time apart can cause trust issues to arise, jealousy you never thought you had in you rears its ugly head, and you wonder if hanging on to someone you get to see once a month is worth it.
But the type of long distance relationship we don’t acknowledge enough, are long distance friendships. It’s the same longing, the same feeling of missing a little part of you, and the same feeling of it being just so unfair that you can’t pop in to see them for a cup of tea when you’re having a bad day.
I never thought I would fit in the stereotype and make lifelong friends at university, but I did. Even those I lost touch with, or we grew apart, I know I’ll always have them in my memories of the best three years of my life so far. There’s just no way you can go through the stress, laughs, breakdowns and highs of university life without creating a bond with the people who stood by and went through it all with you.
But coming back home to Jersey means that those people are now a plane and train ride away. I can’t hop on the bus or walk 10 minutes to go and see them. I can’t nip downstairs and have a movie night with my housemates anymore, or have a spontaneous night out on a wednesday with my coursemates. I have to book ahead, plan my travel and make sure I can have the time off work just to sit and have a chat and a laugh with them now, and it’s harder to deal with than I ever imagined.
“Distance makes the heart grow fonder”
I recently went back to Bournemouth for my graduation ceremony. I collected my degree, and got to see the friends who had watched me trudge through three years of hard work to get it. It’s a warm sense of familiarity when you get to see people you shared such an important part of your life with. But then, the minute I left them I felt a little lost again. Leaving important people behind, knowing that instead of being able to hop on a bus and go to see them the same day you need them, you’ll have to pre plan and book flights months in advance, can feel so unfair.
Celebrating the three short years we spent together, that felt like a life time, felt bitter sweet. Such a prevalent time in our lives was all done, and we all agreed it felt odd to be saying goodbye even if it was only temporary. I then came home, and celebrated with family and loved ones, which was so lovely, but equally felt odd. To not have my friends there with me to help explain the stories, the laughs and the tears from our years together was strange.
I have always been a bit of a loner, in the sense that I enjoy my own company and don’t really rely on other people to entertain me or keep me happy. But now, after living with people I now class as best friends, and meeting people that made my time in Bournemouth so wonderful, I find myself craving their company. I’ve learnt that whilst being alone sometimes is good for the soul and your mental health, it doesn’t have to be your only option. Relying on your friends and seeking them out for comfort when you need it, doesn’t make you weak or a burden to them. It means you’ve found people who are your chosen family, and that’s just too precious to let go of.
Friendship shouldn’t be something that feels like a chore, or something you have to make the effort to maintain. I have friends that I know I can go weeks, months even without talking to, and when we do catch up again it’ll be like no time has gone by. Then there are friends I’m in touch with every day, talking about the ups and downs of our day to day lives and sharing memes with each other. It all depends on the person, and your dynamic with each other.
The distance between you should never affect how much you love each other though. You might have a low maintenance relationship, and not need to talk every day, but there always needs to be some level of effort made to keep them in your life. Whether that’s a little note to see how they are, a message every few months to have a big catch up, or a phone call on a day you know they might be finding touch to get through; you should never leave them wondering if you still care.
But maybe if distance does cause you to drift apart, sometimes that’s what’s meant to happen in order for both of you grow individually and get where you want and need to be. If you’re meant to stay in each other’s lives, you will.