Long Distance Friendships: A Lament

*Note: Listen to “Transatlanticism (I Need You So Much Closer)” by Death Cab For Cutie for full angst effect*

I’ve lived all over the U.S. as an adult. These very distinct parts of the country have left great impressions on me. I have picked up quirks and lessons and interests from each place that have helped to shape and form who I am as an adult. Most importantly, I’ve found my people along the way. My best friends, my ride or dies, the loves of my life. I never would have found them if I hadn’t uprooted myself time and again. In retrospect, it almost feels that I was pulled to these places to find these people. Or maybe it’s these people who made moving to and living in these places unendingly worth it.

What this also means, is that my people are scattered around the country. It can make daily life pretty challenging and lonely at times.

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If I had just stayed in one place, I never would have found them. But by moving so frequently, I only got them in my daily life for a blink of time. We see each other for the big events, the weddings, the babies, the vacations that take us two years to plan because everyone’s schedules are getting more and more packed what with adult life being horrible complicated.

Most of the time, I feel only unbelievably blessed to have friends all over. I can travel to any of these places and have people to see and stay and play with. My network is wide and strong and that’s amazing.

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But a lot of the time, I miss them to the point of hurting in my body. The older I get, the harder it gets. I’m running out of patience of not being in the same place as them. That it always takes such concerted and focused attention and energy to even stay a little bit caught up.

One of my main pastimes is staying up to date with my friends and family (my sisters are also my best friends). Any extra time I have or can sneak in the day with my little one will be dedicated to a phone call, a text conversation, or planning a Skype date for after his bedtime. Putting dates on the calendar and planning to the best of my ability.  It’s a lot of energy and time and while it’s so worth it, it is also a strenuous effort to recapture the magic of what it was to live in the same place.  To go see a show together on a weeknight or tailgate at 7am before a football game or go to happy hour and talk about books and boys into the night.

Some days I just wake up with this ache. It’s a feeling that is usually prompted by a social media post, or a dream, or a conversation that brings to mind my best friends. And on this gloomy June day, I have and hold that ache. I miss my people today.

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The ones who are struggling and who I can’t grab in a hug and bring over some dinner. The ones who are about to or who have babies, who I can’t just take all my extra baby clothes to and be around to help and hold their child when they really need it. The ones who are traveling all over and who I can’t join. The ones who are playing their music and putting on shows and following their dreams who I can’t go see and support whenever I want to.

This is life. I know this. And I deal without complaint (mostly) a good portion of the time. But on days like today, I want to throw my arms out and have a spectacular tantrum. My two-year-old is great at these, he’d totally get it.

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Purposely awkward posing is a sign you found your people

We are so blessed to get to experience what it is to forge these deeply felt relationships. But to not be able to be together because of jobs and distance and the natural developments of life, feels like a particularly bitter and cruel reality.

You find your soulmates and you’re just not allowed to be together?

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Despite all this effort and your constant thinking of them, it’s not always possible to keep in great touch. Life gets in the way. You make a phone date and your toddler has a meltdown during that time and it just doesn’t happen. Everyone is understanding, but no less disappointed. Another day goes by that you aren’t on the same page, you feel the magic start to slip away, the intimacy elude you ever so slightly.

In this time of interconnection, you somehow feel less connected than ever. You see a post of them with their other friends, who you don’t even recognize and the flare of envy in you is so strong you can’t bring yourself to like the photo until you’ve had time to calm down and remember that they are allowed to have other friends. You applaud yourself for your maturity. You never mention your unfounded hatred for their new best friends, then you meet them the next time you visit and they’re awesome and warm and wonderful and now you want them as your new best friend and it’s great but it’s also stupid hard.

I’m not all complaints today.  Now that I am firmly rooted in Oakland, I am building important and solid friendships. But it takes time. I’m not great at small talk or just superficial get-to-know you talk. I want to dive in to the big questions right away: what moves you? What have you learned about yourself and life since the last time we talked? What books are you reading (this is a big question for any reader)? How do you feel about the path you’ve chosen for yourself? What are your hopes and dreams? I want to know how my friends feel and are in a real way that would be seen as entirely creepy in those first interactions.

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It doesn’t get more bestie than adults wearing matching pumpkin gloves
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Or matching tutus

Making new friends as an adult is a complex dance that I don’t always know the steps. I can improvise with the best of them, and it’s often a lot of fun, but what I miss on days like this is that deeply comfortable choreography that I have memorized in my muscles, bones and tissues. The dance that you know by heart. You sink into the couch and you know what to order for dinner, what kind of wine to get, and you gab for hours without ever feeling wholly caught up.

The kind that has you revisit memories like that time you both drunkenly tried to rewrite the lyrics to Firework (why?), or the time that you ate those pot cookies (hi parents) and saw Rilo Kiley, or the time you elbowed your way past children onto a tram because you were about to die of heat stroke in Puerto Rico, or those horrid guys they used to date, or how beautiful they were at their weddings, or the endless times you laughed until you couldn’t breathe, or those times you cried until they made you laugh.

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And they were there for it all. Witness to your life, you witness to theirs. Enriching it and molding it and valuing it. The small moments that became everything in the history of your friendship. The feeling of being heard and held, no matter the fights, the awkward moments, the resentments or the issues. The total and complete love you have for one another.

The people you tell a stranger to “fuck off” for, something you have never said to another human being not in jest.

The people you travel across the world to see.

The people you can text about your guilty pleasure TV shows and send awkward selfies to asking if that dress in Target is actually cute or just Target cute and who will help you prep for your job interviews.

The people who you can tell your dreams to and who subtly and not so subtly push you to achieve every time you talk.

The people who really love your kid.

The people who make amazing kids who you love.

The people who think you’re funny.

The people you worry about.

The people who will bring you smoothies when you’re sick and send you cards just because.

The people who let and help you grow.

The people who you can talk about books with to the point that they are your most trusted source of book wisdom.

The people who tell you when you fucked up.

The people who actually just want you around all the time, as much as you want them around all the time.

Friendship is a beautiful thing. I am unmoored without them. But I will keep on keeping on and holding out hope that someday we will all live on the same block and life will finally resume as it was always intended to be.

In the meantime, I will live knowing that our love and friendship isn’t paused by our distance. And I’ll write laments and love letters to them until the next time we see each other.

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