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!

Writing a Better Story (Part 1)

Blogger graphs the page views from this blog, and I’ve found that it has a unnerving correlation to my personal up and downs.  The best parts of my year have huge peaks then there are massive valleys during the hard times, when I want to write, to express myself, to shout something, but nothing comes out.
Speaking of writing, I have been thinking a good deal lately about stories.  In particular, the story that is your life.

Do you realize that?  That this life is a story, and we are in the process of shaping the rising action, anticipating the climax, and choosing the setting.  Arguably, it is God doing the writing but I will discuss this later.

I have a friend who put it this way: “We define ourselves as characters with our actions, our inactions, so on, so forth.  And really morality is merely doing exactly what your protagonist would do.”

I tend to agree.  I’m not promoting a frantic, Willy Loman, “I haven’t got a thing in the ground” reaction to the story idea.  A life lived solely for the purpose of leaving a legacy will most likely look very impressive.  However, a character that has spent so much time focused on the appearance of their actions will miss the actual living part.

I am promoting an intentional life.  What can you remember from your story so far?  Which moments stand out?  If you were weeding out all of the commonplace events and stringing together the significant ones would it make a good story?  Would you make a good protagonist, one that you would root for and relate to?  It doesn’t matter if it would make the bestseller list or end up in the free box at garage sales.  What matters is if it is a story that you would like reading, and inevitably, one that you wouldn’t mind reading to God.

At the end of any book, it usually isn’t the success of the mission, the resolution of the inherent conflict, or whether the boy gets the girl that makes an impact on me.  If it is any sort of quality book, it is the personal success (that is, the development of their character towards a better end) that creates an enticing plot line, significant climax, and satisfying end to any book.  (Side note: I have a habit of aligning myself with the wrong character in any given book, which my English class was ever so kind to point out to me.)

The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined.  The point of a story is never about the ending, remember.  It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle. [Donald Miller]

So envision what you want life to be.  Decide to like the main character, which, by the way, is you. Take the opportunities to write a better story.  Don’t shy away from confrontation and changes.  But be wise, be careful, and seek God’s will continuously.  The only problem with writing a better story, is that it might just work.