Mastering the Art of Long Distance Friendship

co-authored by two long-distance friends, Emily Ruch and Chloe Sayers

And by master, we mean “navigate in the dark without a flashlight and minimal bruises along the way.” Everyone knows friendships change after college. What we didn’t anticipate was how the new marriages, new jobs, and new states could create both
emotional and literal distance between friends. No two friendships look alike and different friendships will react differently to the strain of distance, but here’s some lessons these two long-distance friends learned along the way.

1. Reset Expectations

When you live in close proximity, whether that’s a few rooms down the hall or across town, you grow to expect and gauge the health of your relationships by your frequency of 11212707_10153812461504908_672609704767413814_ocontact. Once you’re 3,000 miles and 3 time zones apart, that’s just not realistic. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to connecting.

…. and set Realistic Expectations

Now that the days of spontaneous coffee dates and late-night-dance sessions are few and far between, it’s important to regroup and set new expectations for the friendship. It is most likely unrealistic to think that you will be able to talk to each other every day. Sure, you may go through stages where texts are sent back and forth in quick succession, but typically you are on different schedules (or time zones). It’s important to find the routine of staying connected that can be easily obtained by both parties.

2. Be intentional

You’re not going to bump into your friend around town, so a long-distance friendship forces you to stretch that intentionality muscle and make the friendship a priority by scheduling time to talk, writing notes, and just generally not falling off the face of the earth.

3. Small talk is OK

One of the hardest things for me about long-distance friendships, is that I felt like I was spending all my time talking with friends on the phone just catching up. Since it would be weeks between talking and our lives were moving fast, there was a lot of just general ground to cover each call. I grew to realize that just keeping up with a friend was a blessing and not every conversation had to be a philosophical discussion to keep the friendship healthy and thriving.

4. Allow Yourself to Grieve

“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”

Long-distance friendships are hard. If you are coming right out of college, it can seem especially painful and abrupt to have your best friend suddenly absent from your day to day life. It’s okay to grieve that loss, because that is what it is. This is not to say that you throw up your hands and throw in the towel, but rather give yourself some grace while you navigate the transition.

5. Make New Friends

Still working on this myself – seriously, after college how does one make a new friend? Suddenly it’s not as simple as walking up to someone at Swing Club and saying “Hi, I’m ____,” or striking up a conversation in the omelette line at brunch about that group project due tomorrow. But it’s an important step in the process.

Do you feel nervous about making new friends/your friend making new friends? It makes sense. There is an inherent panic that the introduction of a new friendship will somehow cause the existing pair to find someone that they get along with better/enjoy more. But this comes back to the intentionality that you set up; while life may have a mind of its own sometimes, you do have the power to make sure you don’t drift apart.

And making friends where you are will only strengthen your long-distance friendship. It will allow you to flourish where you are and lose some of that panic over the change, because you will realize that your friendship can remain strong in the presence of other relationships. If something is important to you, you will make time for it.

At the end of the day, you can make a long-distance friendship work but make sure to work in some face-to-face time too!

Living with Ghosts

Every single time I drive to work, Bad Blood plays at least twice on the radio.  And every time I 295591hear the sad saga about the inadequacy of Band-Aids to cover bullet-hole sized wounds, I try to gather up those “I hate my back-stabbing friend” emotions (it’s a long drive and it gets boring) but I can’t think of a single friendship that ended with knife scars.  I almost wish I could, partly so I could empathize with Taylor, but mostly because even a angst-filled relationship sounds good right now compared to __________ (I’ve got a blank space and I’ll write your name).

We joked about getting all of life’s transitions (graduating college, getting married, moving away from home, moving across the country, starting new jobs) out of the way in two months but the reality of that drastic upheaval is wishing you were part of a T-Swift video just so you’d have some friends nearby.  To the many friends I do have, thank you for keeping up.  Thank you for the texts, calls, letters, and e-mails that remind me that I am loved and in a way, who I am.  I know we shouldn’t define ourselves by who we are to other people, but we do and I have learned how much I depend on those coffee dates and conversations to help me process life and determine who I am and where I’m going.

Taylor Swift may be ubiquitous but there are so many things in Southern California that are new to me.  My runs around the neighborhood are a full aromtheraputic experience, ranging from roses to delicious Mexican dinners.  It’s different working full-time instead of being an eternal intern.  It’s far different to be a wife than a fiance and much more wonderful.  I can see palm trees out my bedroom window and the work break room and everywhere else.

Hi there.

The very first word that I spoke as a 9-month-old wasn’t so much a word as it was a phrase:

“Hi there.”

Evidently, I skipped over the basics of “Mom” “Dad” “Sis” and “ball” and went straight to informal greetings.  And I’ve been  introducing myself every since.

I met my wonderful and  recently wedded friend by randomly introducing myself at a Swing Club because she vaguely looked like a girl from  high school that I didn’t even know that well but the “soul rejoices in the familiar.”

I met my recently wedded husband by introducing myself in line for a freshman informational meeting because, hey, he was cute, in my Old Testament class, and clearly interested in leadership.  Can you say spiritual leader spouse material?

Don’t worry, I just thought he was cute at the time.

A few weekends ago, I headed back east to see that dear friend get married.  Waves of nostalgia 8202592and longing rushed over me as I gazed over neat fields of Lancaster corn and farms.  Was it really last summer that I lived and loved here? Why did we move to California?

I was caught between two Lands of Lonely.  In Pennsylvania, I was with friends and families and humidity and all things home reminiscent.  Yet I was separated from my forever love.  At the same time, I dreaded returning to So Cal with all work and very little play and no friends.  I started regretting all our decisions–except the marriage one.

But as I re-crossed the country for the 3rd time in two months, I realized that I’ve been looking for the wrong things.  I’m searching for my childhood and college friends amidst strangers.

I’m going to stop searching for my past in the present.

Inadequate.

I have been recently thinking about inadequacy. Not for the purpose of beating myself up, but just a realistic look at who I am. I have come to the conclusion that I am ultimately inadquate in everything. I will never be the friend, roommate, Christ-follower, daughter, student, leader, or sister that I should be. I am very confident in the fact that I will ultimately fail. This thought could be stifling, but it doesn’t have to be.

Which is why I don’t mind posting things like this, thoughts that aren’t just interesting analogies or insightful lists. Letting the realization that my life is be defined by inadequacy stop me from trying to be better is fatal to the person I want to become. Yet lying to myself in thinking that everything is always perfect is equally dangerous.

It’s okay to not understand life sometimes or yourself or why you feel like you want to cry but never can.

What’s not okay is letting that stop you from moving on, looking beyond the meladrama in your mind, and making life better.

Standing on my Shallow Soapbox

Now is the time to write.  In the past, my creativity was being forcibly taken from me by a busy schedule and projects.  Conversations have also drained my ability to put coherent thoughts on a page, yet these I do not regret.  Typically, I have at least one nugget of an idea a day which I’d like to write about.  If I’m lucky, I write it down and don’t lose the scrap of paper.  Lately, however, I have had some very decent talks with some very decent people which gave me another outlet for thinking.  Good for myself and my friendships, bad for a blog.  To be honest, though, I’m not writing for whoever is reading this.

I can’t talk.  I’m always talking.  But not today.  And it’s killing me.  My soul is restless, I can feel the words, thoughts, phrases, and clauses, trying to come together.  They keep missing each other, like a failed high-five, an inch away from collision, a centimeter away from forceful contact.  This is my attempt to put them together so that I can feel the impact of words once again.

Today my blog is my soapbox.  I have completed high school which gives me a relatively shallow box to stand on and give advice, but it is my box and I am going to use it.

As a result of scholarships, senior awards night, and making an obnoxious amount of display boards and scrapbooks, I have come to two conclusions:
1)  I find myself quite annoying at times.  I feel like the poster child for anything and everything and if I could be someone else and know me, I’m not sure I’d want to.  This is the last time I will spend a concentrated amount of time reading about myself.  I much prefer reading about others.
2) It is my sincerest wish that my time in private school, home school, and public school does not simply add up to a resume of accomplishments, awards, and certificates.  I was looking at a sheet with all of those listed and realized that those things did not embody the success of my schooling, not by a long shot. This led me to reflect on the things that I did in high school that actually did matter and this is where things get a little soapbox-y.

I have met some of the most incredible people in high school, particularly in the last two years.  They aren’t the people that I was supposed to be associated with.  They weren’t friends because they boosted my outward reputation.  Sometimes we didn’t have that much in common.  The majority of them started off with poor first impressions and misjudgements.  So my word to the wise:  never overlook anyone.  Never write someone off after the first conversation, first month, or even first year.  People continue to surprise me with how much they add to my life and much of their value you probably won’t even realize until they are gone.  If you want to limit yourself to the people that approach you first, that are accepted by others, or don’t require you to exit your comfort zone, feel free.  You’ll miss out on knowing and learning from some of the most original and wonderful people you’ll ever know, but hey, at least it won’t be uncomfortable and you’ll always have that little group of friends that are exactly. just. like. you.

We are now drawing near to the end of my writing abilities.  Significant events generally spur on significant writing and while these past few weeks have certainly not been lacking in significance, I have only brushed the surface of their impact on me in this post.

Until I have more time,
Chloe

Linguistics

Just from reading the title, you are probably already bored.  Linguistics sounds like a required gen ed course at a liberal arts college.  I’m not talking about analyzing the Greek and Latin roots of the English language (been there, did that–trust me, its not fun).  So stick with me on this one.linguistics
Conversationalist
I feel like the ability to carry on a conversation is extremely limited nowadays.  In my opinion, a conversation is not:

a contest to get in the most brag points as possible
an argument
a five part report
a string of questions
topping someone’s stories with a better one of your own
constant connections to your own life, often unrelated to what the person was really trying to say

gossip
talking about the weather or teachers
inserting “lol” or “haha” at the beginning and end of each sentence
Conversations are precious and beautiful.  They are an effort on the part of two people to better understand each other, themselves, and the world around them.  They are about philosophies and ideas, hopes and dreams, silly thoughts and deep ones.  They aren’t all intellectual exchanges, but with some inconsequential small talk mixed in.  They are a give and take.  They involve more listening than talking.
 A true conversation is one where you are actually hearing and following up with the person you are talking to, not waiting impatiently until you get to have your say.  A true conversation can be both enlightening and confusing.  It is not limited to a list of topics.  It is not limited by social barriers that dictate what is appropriate for conversing.  It can make your heart soar with new ideas and freedom.  It can weigh your soul down with the burdens of another.  But its worth it. Every time.
Talking to someone else could be the key you were looking for that opens up their soul and saves their life.  And, at the same time, you are saving your own.