I can confidently say I am an expert on long-distance relationships, whether romantic (blogpost coming soon!) or platonic. As a third culture millennial, I’m no amateur when it comes to the challenges of adjusting to new environments and maintaining friendships. Bonds may be weakened when you don't see each other as often and easily as you once did. So, even with all the accessible channels of communication, such as social media and free call and text messaging apps, keeping in touch with close friends can still come with many difficulties. The reality many of us face after graduating college (and even high school) is that we lose touch with the people we cherished for a season, but how about nurturing those relationships for a lifetime?
REMEMBER THIS UNWAVERING AXIOM: CHANGES IN SPACE WILL ALTER THE BALANCE OF FRIENDSHIP.
...so don't feel bad if you're feeling the effects of distance. It's completely normal.
Not only do you not live in the same dorm, apartment or house anymore, but everyone has left town all together. Therefore, it is less likely that you will partake in shared adventures. Once you enter the workforce, continue your education and/or get married, experiences begin to diverge and commonalities vary more than they did before. This makes it more difficult to reconnect and re-establish common ground.
Recently, I have been reflecting on the state of my post-college friendships. It’s a challenge when distance forces us to miss chapters in each other’s lives when in the past we hadn't missed a beat. Maintaining old friendships requires one to act more intentionally once college is over. I am trying to make a more concerted effort to continue to foster those bonds with my friends, and actively practice what I have learned in the past year.
1. SCHEDULE A STANDING DATE.
Even though most of my college friends were pretty active on campus, I saw them everyday, some multiple times a day because we were involved in the same activities, took the same classes, or lived in close proximity to each other.
However, just hours after graduation day, running into friends becomes less plausible. It can feel awkward and strange to schedule a weekly phone call or Google Hangouts session, but the regularity makes a huge difference. I talk to several groups of friends pretty often using GroupMe, but we are now looking to graduate to group calls. It helps to feel more connected than we would have otherwise.
2. BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT AND A GOOD LISTENER.
When you are in the same space as someone, it can feel as though you are always in sync. But how does this manifest after months apart?
Sometimes, you won't know everything as it happens -- there might be delays in communication. You can’t expect to remain as synchronized as you once were. After all, you spent a lot if time together in the past. It takes humility to accept this, but as soon as you do, you can listen better.
3. REMAIN AVAILABLE.
A long distance friend may not think you’re available unless you regularly remind him or her that you are. Offer a helpful hand to ensure your friends that you are willing to be there for them despite the miles between you.
I’m still learning what it means to be supportive in my friendships and I have to make sure I give as much, if not more, than I take. Friendship is service-oriented and stems from companionship, encouragement and loyalty.
4. SHARE RESOURCES.
One of the great things about having friends across different industries and with varying experiences is the ability to share tips and garner access to useful resources. I am a connector -- I don't typically like separate friendship circles, so I like to facilitate meetings between my friends. We are sometimes so busy seeking more experienced mentors that we often don’t realize that we already have knowledge or networks that can benefit someone else. It's probably so familiar that we may be taking it for granted.
I've discovered that being able to point my friends to resources has allowed me to contribute to my friendships in a new way. The benefit of having diverse networks and being a part of dissimilar communities and work environments is that we can teach and advise each other.
It's important to acknowledge and accept that friendships will grow -- personalities and interests evolve; people take on new responsibilities and priorities change. Distance alters the nature of a friendship, no matter how close, no matter how committed. Learning to build and rebuild under new circumstances requires effort and time that may once have felt unnecessary. The bottom line is to accept the new eccentricities in one another and find a new friendship rhythm.
Do you agree with these methods? Do you have any additional tips?
PS. This is applicable to family as well.