Long-distance friendships

January 8, 2012

I recently had a few old friends comment on a facebook thread that they missed me and I was surprised at how much nostalgia and homesickness came flooding back.

The backstory is that I moved to the States when I was 15. I did a couple of years of High School, then went on to do 5 years of university study and work. I lived in the USA for a total of about 8 years. But last October (2011) I reached my 9 year milestone of living in New Zealand.

Officially that makes me more Kiwi than American. But despite the length of time, the years I lived in the USA were formative. I learned to drive there (My old Nissan Sentra, no power steering and manual shift), I learned to kiss (and more) there, how to go camping and bowling. I went to concerts, on road trips and quit smoking. Got my first tattoo, had my first paying job, got fired from a job. I spent hours doing nothing with friends which were filled with laughter, fun and silliness, which created strong bonds. I still feel them pull today.

It’s incredibly hard when people you love, and who love you, live so far away. It’s hard that the people I know who’ve still got my back (and vice versa) are out of reach. Some of my friends have seen hard times and I couldn’t help. When I have my dark moments I can’t reach out to them and then I may question my decision to seek a life elsewhere.

I wonder what it would be like to hang out now, what we would all talk about. How different our conversation topics would be. I’m sure we have all changed and it’s important to clear some mental space around the shape of our memories of people so that we sorta blur the edges of where the memory of them stops and the potential new parts of them start. Creating that space to allows for the new parts we’ve all inevitably grown.

The distance between us also means we can’t catch up and reminisce. Reminiscing to me has a very important function. It allows us to debrief and share how we may have processed our past.

I now have the 20/20 perfect vision of hindsight and can remember, consider and categorise events and people with confidence. But the problem is when you move away like I did, you never get to casually catch up and share our new found insights. There are many events for which I now wish I could go back and properly effect closure.

For example; Remember that time you tried to tell me my boyfriend was controlling? Yup, you were right and a hero for trying to tell me. I’m sorry about that time I wasn’t there for you. I still think we were wrong/right for doing/not doing that thing we did/didn’t do.

And also on a less serious note; remember that time you stayed up all night with me? That meant the world to me. Remember that time we danced in NYC? Still one of the best nights of my life. Remember that joke about the spatula? That Sinatra song? That place? That thing that happened?

When you move away you lose the opportunities to revisit events and say things to people like: ‘You were right’, ‘thank you’, ‘I forgive you’ or ‘I’m sorry’.

So it is because of this that long-distance friendships can take on a bit of a blurry quality. Fuzzy with our projected images of how we might have continued to knit our friendships over time. Yet the connection (for me at least) remains, partially due to how deeply those connections were laid and the quality of the people involved.

I’m deeply sentimental and even though that can be a burden, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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