When you’ve grown up with someone and seen them practically every day of your life, it’s a bit hard when you have to move away. You can’t do spontaneous things like going out for coffee in the afternoons or going shopping for a couple hours or even going on a walk like you used to. Instead, you have to balance busy schedules against the rigors of different time zones and different lives. You may even start to wonder if it’s even worth it to keep your friendships going–if perhaps they’d be happier if you just bugged off and let them keep living their lives without constant interruptions from you reminding them what life used to be like.
Fortunately, friendships don’t have to peter out with distance and changing lives. There are still some things you can do that will help your friends far away feel like they’re still connected with you–that you still care.
First, be proactive, whether you’re the friend that left or the friend that stayed. Don’t assume that just because they’re your friend that they can do all the working of keeping the friendship together, or figuring out all the wonky time-zone differences, or figuring out your schedule. If you work together on this, it will also have the bonus that you talk more!
Second, try to make things easier for them to call you. If there’s a foreign country involved (no, we’re not starting any wars or anything!), chances are neither of you can just call from your phone like you normally would. Try to get free apps like Skype or WeChat (which is huge in China!) that will let you talk without one or the other of you spending a boatload of money every time you get lonely. Even $0.05 a minute adds up pretty quickly.
Third, (and this might be the hardest), keep thinking of things that you can talk about. If you’re anything like me, when something interesting comes up that you want to talk about with your friends, it may be a couple days before you get to calling them. And by that time, it might have disappeared! And if I can’t remember anything I wanted to talk about, I’m pretty much the world’s most boring friend. Conversations devolve into a series of “How was your week?” “Fine.” “Anything exciting?” “Nope.” Read a thought-provoking book, or talk about something interesting you read in the news, or even discuss funny YouTube videos. Or, you can remember the interesting things that happened at work that week, like the time your student said “shit” in class without knowing it was a bad word. (He was using it to talk about dog poop).
Fourth, do what you can from a distance to make your friend feel cared about still. (I’m really bad at this one too.) Send a postcard, or an email if a postcard is too hard. Maybe write a letter, or, if funds allow, send a small box. If you feel up to it, visiting is always appreciated. Just think of it as your only chance to see the world.
So, if all your friends have moved away (or if you’ve moved away), your highschool habits of forming friendships just aren’t working anymore, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever make new friends again, or if you’re doomed to die friendless with hot ears from talking on the phone so much, think of these tips. Long-distance friendships are possible–though hot ears are pretty much inevitable.