Make new friends AND keep the old?

I have these two friends, and they’ve been dating for seven years. A few months ago, they got engaged. I’m always surprised when I think about them because their relationship is so strong, and growing stronger, yet ever since high school ended they hardly ever see each other. The guy is currently in upstate New York with the Navy, and before that he was in the Midwest somewhere – Chicago, I think. The girl is in South Jersey for college, and understandably doesn’t get to visit him all that often. Regardless of all that, and despite their young age, they’re one of the most together couples I’ve ever known.

My question is: How do they make it work? Sure, it can be said that distance makes the heart grow fonder, but enough distance is equally as likely to make the heart forget what it loved about a person in the first place. I’ve been in New York for two years, and I find it extremely hard to keep up with my friends and family back in South Jersey.

I always find myself dividing my relationships up into two sections – New York and Home (because even though I have an apartment up here and live here, I will always think of my parents’ house as Home). It’s very rare that the two ever merge, though I often share stories of home to people up here and vice versa. When talking about friends, I say, “Oh, my best friend back home…” or, “You remember, I told you about her…she’s my best friend at school?” I never just use a person’s name, it’s always with some epithet – a way to keep everything separate and clear in my own mind.

Stories about home are getting less and less the more time I spend up here. I always find some excuse not to visit; oh, I’d come home this weekend but I don’t want to leave Sassy (my cat) alone and she doesn’t like travelling; dude, sorry I’m gonna miss your birthday but I have, like, a zillion tests I need to study for next week. I even missed my Aunt’s wedding because of school obligations and the hassle of travelling two hours on the New Jersey Turnpike.

What I want to know is how people who go away for college – or even if they don’t go away, but are too busy with new responsibilities to enjoy old fun – stay in touch and up to date with their pre-college lives. Is it really as hard as I feel it is, or is it like it is for my two engaged friends, meaning easy and natural?

-Mary K

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