By Victoria Santoro, IATG ContributorJanuary 28, 2016
After college, and again after law school, most of my friends took off for other locations in the U.S. Some friends returned to their home states, California, Tennessee, Washington, D.C. Some friends chased dreams in bigger cities, New York, Los Angeles, London. Some friends relocated because their spouse’s job opportunities changed. With the exception of college in Connecticut, I've remained, always, in Boston, so I've gotten very used to being a long-distance friend.
I joke about being good at this type of long distance relationship, but sometimes I'm not quite sure. Friendships are so important, lifelines to other parts of your life. Sometimes friendships remind you of when you were a different person, living a different life. And good friends love experiencing and watching all of the changes.
But how do we maintain these friendships? How do you ensure your friends know about your daily life, and who you really are at this time?
I've written about unplugging from tech and letting go of social media a little bit. These changes are great, but the reason we all love Facebook so much is because it gives us a sense of being connected to old friends. In part, I think this is a false belief, that we consume only what people post and have no true glimpse into a person’s story. For my friendships, this has become unacceptable. To be a real friend, you have to know the full story.
To be the best long-distance friend, I have some rules.
1. Call Y’All
You have to suck it up and make phone calls. In a world full of Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and all the other incredible messaging apps, we miss out on real human conversation most of the time. For a long-distance friend, this isn’t really going to cut it. People don’t usually share all the ins and outs of their struggles, issues, joys, triumphs, and the mundane scenes that make up their life over a text message. My mother reminds me of this often as she frequently demands a phone call over a quick text.
2. Pack Your Bag
You do have to make it a priority to actually visit one another. You certainly don’t have to fly cross-country every few months, but if each of you are making the effort for a weekend visit and coordinating when you can get together, it’ll go a long way in keeping your bond strong. There is nothing that will ever substitute for being able to sit together, talking about nothing and everything. It’s these moments that maintain intimacy and closeness. It doesn’t require anything fancy or expensive. Hanging out, wandering around town, drinking coffee, and making breakfast together are my favorite things to do with friends. Travel, go see them.
3. Be Open, Be Soft
Be flexible. People float towards you and away from you based on the direction of their lives. Stay in touch, but don’t be rigid. Sometimes, it will be two years before you see someone you love. Don’t be angry or upset, just let it happen. Over the course of a lifetime, you’ll want to hang on to those longtime friends. Seizing opportunities when they are available is important, but don’t be rigid in your demands.
This way, you can cultivate a network of close friendships all across the country, if not the globe. What better excuse for travel than to go see a close friend.
What kinds of qualities make up strong friendships? How do you maintain a connection with absent friends? Share some tips on social to help others connect with their long-distance “tribes.”
Victoria Santoro is a trial attorney who practices law in Boston. She is also a teacher, speaker, and writer, maintaining her personal blog The Limber Lawyer, and contributing to various legal publications. Victoria is passionate about helping young girls and women not only succeed but also find contentment and purpose. In her free time, she can often be found training or competing for half-marathons and triathlons.
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