Keeping in Touch With Faraway Friends
On the last day of 8th grade, I walked out the front doors of Highview Middle School and immediately broke down sobbing. It was the first time in my little life that I realized my friends might not be the BFFs forever that I always thought they would be. Some were going off to other high schools and I was so scared things would never be the same. Four years later, the feeling returned as I watched my friends disperse to colleges across the country. At least my middle school friends were just in the next town over—this was on a whole 'nother level. How could we still be close when everyone would be so far?
Since then, I’ve lived in four different cities on three separate continents. Distance is no stranger to me. Yet somehow, I’ve stayed close with most of those friends from back in the middle school (even elementary school!) days. If you had told my 13 year-old-self that you could live in a foreign country and still keep your best friends from home, I would’ve said you were crazy.
But distance doesn’t have to equal deteriorated friendships.
Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips on how to keep friendships thriving even when there’s miles or oceans in between.
Remember the little things. In the midst of the second worst finals week of my college career (I’ve chosen to block out the cracked out Adderall-overdose of 2010), a card from one of my dearest friends from far away arrived in the mail from Boston. I almost burst into tears when I read her handwritten note describing how proud she was of me for finishing up grad school and offering a little pick-me-up to see it through in the form of a Starbucks gift card. She didn’t even know that I was barely holding it together, living off Gardetto’s every day and three hours of sleep each night, but even from 900 miles away, she could sense a friend in need at just the right time.
Step beyond social media. These days it’s easy to just creep your friend’s Facebook or Twitter for tidbits of what’s going on in his/her life. You don’t even have to talk to them to get a quick status update. But where’s the connection in that? Just because your best friend in California posted a funny article doesn’t mean she isn’t actually having a terrible day. Pick up the phone. In just 5 minutes, you could have the same conversation that would take more than 20 on social media. Plus, you’ll feel so much closer when you can actually hear the other person’s voice or see their face via FaceTime or Skype.
Schedule time to talk. Sometimes it can be difficult to coordinate time to chat, especially when you're in a different timezone than your faraway friend. Schedule a set time in the same way you would a coffee or dinner date with your friends in the same city. You could even plan to brew your favorite beverage at the same time and have a virtual coffee catch up. The key is to make the time.
Go the distance. As great as all this new technology is, nothing can replace actual face time. Plan a trip and give yourselves something to look forward to. This is easier said than done when you have friends overseas, but if you plan ahead and start saving, you could get there in no time.
Hint, hint friends and family: you know you’re always welcome in Bangkok!