Long-Distance Friendships

Photo by Toni Cuenca on Unsplash

The hardest thing about starting college, I think, is leaving your friends from home and starting from scratch. I love meeting new people, so when I started college, I met a lot of people and made a lot of friends quickly. Even though I loved my new friends, I couldn’t help but grieve my high school friendships. I missed the consistency of seeing them every day in class or at lunch, and I didn’t know how to translate that connection into something that worked long distance. I was afraid of growing apart from them.

It is natural to feel this way. After all, you have relied on this structure for years, so naturally your friendship will have to adjust to this change. Friendships go through changes all of the time. One of my best friends ever is a girl that I met in seventh grade drama class. We were instantly best friends, attached at the hip, matching “best friends forever” Claire’s necklaces and all. It didn’t take long for our friendship to blow up—over what exactly? Who knows—and we became enemies as quickly as we became pals. After taking a few months apart, resilient as ever, we were friends again by eighth grade. It is something we laugh about often, how our friendship has survived so much turbulence, but we are stronger because of it. 

The summer before our senior year of college I went over to her house to go swimming. The weather that summer had been extremely temperamental, either having periods of heavy rain or periods of extreme heat, so any fair weather day like this one was a treat. We sat in tube floaties, face to face, holding our floats together by the handle so we wouldn’t drift apart. We talked about people from high school, roommate drama, hook-ups. Our friendship survives mostly on these silly types of conversations, nothing too serious. Then we started talking about how we had changed so much since middle school, how our friendship has survived so many versions of ourselves, how grateful we were to know each other. We talked about post-grad, how daunting it is to be faced with what’s next, how to find your purpose, your passion. We didn’t often have conversations like that. We learned a lot about each other just floating around together in her backyard that day.

By the end of the conversation we had come to the realization that our years away had actually made our time together more valuable, how we were growing together and our friendship was actually evolving in tandem. Somehow, after ten years of friendship, we were closer than ever, and we parted feeling like we knew each other better. The way we had changed as people actually made us more suited to be better friends to one another, deeping our friendship from middle school best friends to adult best friends. It felt like our friendship had gotten stronger because of the way we had grown as people.

So I guess there are a few things to take away here:

It is totally valid to be sad to leave your friends, but the truth is that distance doesn’t actually kill friendships. The love hasn’t gone anywhere, it is actually just spreading— across cities, state lines, wherever you end up! Call them, go visit, be happy that they’re thriving somewhere new. And honestly, hanging out with your friends’ new friends can be awesome, so don’t be afraid to share the love.

Keep in touch as much as you can, but try to be flexible. Sometimes I like to schedule a call with a friend I haven’t talked to in a while, other times I just try my luck on my walk home from class, or while I’m making dinner. Not everything has to be so formal, even a fifteen minute chat can do wonders. Either way, just pick up the phone and make something happen! 

You don’t have to be afraid of change. Changing is awesome, it just means that you are getting to know yourself better. If you feel you and your old friends are growing apart, that isn’t always a bad thing. The love will always be there, but it is ok to let go of something that is not true to you anymore. Hang onto each other’s floaties, but understand that drifting is natural. It is ok to miss people that you have grown away from, but trust that the current will take you where you need to go. 

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By Erin O’Brien

Erin O’Brien is a student based in Boston, MA studying Communications and Studio Art. She is drawn to telling stories about love and friendship, and is a firm believer that being sappy and loving big is never a waste of time. She loves watching movies and snuggling up with her dog, Jeffrey.

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