5 Simple Ways Distance Has Strengthened My Friendships19 November 2015
Family is not something I place a lot of emphasis on in my life. While I have a mother I'm very close to and a sister who I modeled my personality after, I've always been a bit off to the side in regards to my extended family. With too many cousins to remember and the added three thousand mile space between myself and any blood relatives, I've learned to be comfortable being on my own.
Beginning in college I got used to the idea that holidays could be celebrated with just one or two people, or simply a pet if that's all you had around. College taught me that it's the people around you that make the day special, and you don't need to share ancestors to enjoy their company. Friendships became difficult to hold on to when I moved from California to Washington DC though, because on top of the distance there was a three hour time difference. Suddenly people I saw daily were never around, and daily conversations transitioned into occasional Facebook chats.
Distance didn't damage all my friendships though, in fact, some have become stronger than they were before. With a little extra attention and effort paid, I've been able to maintain close ties with those that are willing to continue including me in their life despite the space between us. While it isn't easy never being able to go to lunch or celebrate their big moments, our mutual commitment to not let our friendship slip beats any Starbucks run we did in the past. Here are the ways in which distance actually helped my friendships grow stronger...
Weeded out people I was never truly close to.
The easiest way to determine who is a close friend and who is someone you became friends with just for the convenience is to move far, far away from them. Good friends will be there to say goodbye your last night in town and continually reach out to you your first few weeks in a new place. Acquaintances stop being acquaintances the moment you no longer share a zip code. Good friends stick around no matter how far you may go.
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Quality has replaced quantity.
My roommates have always become my best friends, from freshmen year of college to my last semester. Studying at a small campus meant my friends were always around, many living a short walking distance from my apartment. The hardest part of moving far from your friends is not seeing them as often, which is why it's important to make the most out of the time you do have together. Quality time has replaced the quantity of time I spend with my friends, ranging from a short visit back home to a long phone call on a weekday night. Even though we spend a fraction of the time we used to, the time we share together now is much more important to the both of us.
We have become better communicators.
With many of my friends having a hectic life like me, finding time to catch up between work schedules and graduate classes proves to be a dilemma when you add in the three hour time difference. Because of this hiccup, I've found that the way we communicate has changed. With my old college roommate, we do most of our communicating through Instagram and often tag each other in things we know the other would like. With my study abroad friends, phone calls have become one of our rituals when commuting home. Each friendship has changed in it's own way so that keeping in touch doesn't become inconvenient for either of us.
We know who to reach out to for emotional support.
Listen, moving away from everything and everyone you know is hard, which is why you need to find one person you can call during those really tough days. I have about three friends who I can call anytime of the day to brag about an awesome deal I found at Target or cry about how I have no idea how I can make rent this month. With most people fading into the distance when you move far away, it'll be easier to determine who you can rely on for encouragement when you need it most.
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Mutual effort makes us appreciate the friendship more than ever.
Anyone who takes the time to talk to you over the phone, like a real phone call, is a true friend and you should send them a postcard or something. The easier thing to do when someone moves away is to only see and talk to them when they're in town, so if your friends are still including you in group chats and tagging you on hilarious memes on Instagram hold onto them, because the majority of people will move on with their lives. Staying close takes so much more work when you can't be together, but just like with a romantic relationship, when you finally do get to meetup, it's the most fun you'll have all month.
Do any of you have experience moving away from all your friends? How did you cope with the change? What methods did you use to make sure you didn't lose contact over time?