Most would agree that this pandemic showed us who our friends are. But let's be empathetic and fair, this pandemic has caused us never-ending heartache, grief, and stress. And at the end of the day, we have to take care of ourselves first. As life happens, it's a struggle to balance family, work, personal issues, and friends; let alone carve out 15 minutes for ourselves. As we get older, it naturally becomes harder to maintain friendships near and far. We become so caught up in our everyday lives that we start to drift from the ones that mean the most. I'm hella guilty of this, now more than ever. But it's not intentional. Your girl is out here creating a whole new life. I'm the type of friend who shows up. I try to check-in most times, but most days I can't. And sometimes, I might beat myself up over it too.
I'm not in the business of transactional friendships, building deeper connections is what I do. I always want to return the same love, kindness, and energy that is given to me.
I moved out of my home state 10 years ago. I live 2,000 miles away from most of my lifelong friends. And over the years, my circle of friends has expanded. I have friends who live 20 minutes away or hours away. I also have friends in different states, countries, and continents. Catching up through social media used to be enough. Liking pictures or commenting on threads just doesn't do it for me anymore. Scrolling through pictures, posts, and videos is cool, but it doesn't tell you how someone is really doing. It only provides a glimpse into parts of their life they choose to share. I need more than just a glimpse. I need to know if my friend is OK. I'm also the type if I don't hear from one of my friends in a while – I will reach out. And when I touch down in their city, I come all the way through. I'll be the first to say, "Where you at?", "Where we going?", and "What we doing?" With advanced notice. If you ask my friends, they will tell you this too.
Here are a few practical ways I maintain my long-distance friendships and keep my friendships in good standing.
1. Hit Them Up
Reach out. I mean, does it matter who reaches out first or not? Nope. Text, call, or FaceTime. Leave a voice note or video message. Slide in their DMs with a quick note. With so many different messaging apps and social media platforms, our only excuse is time. Friendships require time. Don't be that friend that only comes around for good moments or bad moments. Sometimes, that's exactly what it is though. Strive to be the friend that reaches out when it gets too silent. When your intuition is telling you something is off. Your efforts will be appreciated.
2. You’re Never Too Old To Be A Pen Pal
My greatest friendship grew over emails. We were once new friends and now we are great friends. We've maintained daily emails to each other for 10 years. When I moved to Florida we somehow decided to keep in touch via e-mail. We shared dating stories, relationship drama, and personal struggles. It helped our workday go by faster. There wasn't a minute out of our day where we were not emailing each other. If one of us didn't email that day, we both knew something was wrong. A text would be sent with, "Hey, are you at work?" So, write your friend that letter or email. I love receiving cards, letters, or care packages. And I'm sure your friends would too.
3. Group Activities For The Win
A few childhood friends of mine and I decided to do a running challenge together. The three of us committed to running a mile a few times a week. With me on the east coast and them on the west coast. We used the Nike Running App to stay connected. While they dropped off after a few weeks, I continued with my runs. It was fun while it lasted. We kept each other motivated and celebrated our wins. Find an activity that you can do with your friends and watch how you grow together.
4. Remember The Important Dates
Stay connected. Not only do I calendar my friends' birthdays, but I remember scheduled graduations and wedding anniversaries too. I try to remember significant events in their lives. I can safely say I know the birthdates of all my friends' children. I'm forever auntie. And if I don't remember the exact date, I at least remember the month they were born. I'll usually call to say happy birthday to their child. If they're of age and have a phone, I might send a text hello or happy birthday. I have even texted my friend's 18-year-old son to hug his mother. Other times, I'll hit up her husband or sister to check-in. Yes, we're that close. All of us have been friends for over 15 years.
5. Schedule A Date
This can be a virtual or an in-person date. With COVID, we still want to play it safe and protect our loved ones. Cook dinner together, play a game, watch a movie, or enjoy some cocktails over FaceTime, Houseparty, or Zoom. I try to connect with friends face-to-face when I can. Because of time differences, I am a few hours ahead of the west coast. I know one of my homegirls works from home, so, I might hit her with a video call around the time she wakes up. And no, she doesn't mind either. Hey, you gotta get it in where you can. Oh, and after multiple failed scheduled FaceTime dates with my homeboy a few days ago, he hit me up as I was walking out of the gym. I stayed in the parking lot and sat in my car for a whole hour just talking to him. We laughed. We smiled. We reminisced. I love a good car conversation whether it's in person or not. It's little gestures like this y'all.
6. Plan A Visit or A Friendcation
I know, I know. BUT COVID. Don't let this stop you from connecting with friends. You can still plan a visit or a vacation. You just have to be smart and safe about your planning. What better way is there to catch up with your homegirls and get some uninterrupted one-on-one time? Consider meeting up at local spots, like restaurants, nail salons, art museums, day spas, wineries, or beaches. Think of major cities and short road trips. Maybe this looks like a weekend sleepover filled with girl talk, secrets, wine, and comfort foods.
Whatever you decide to do – just know there is always a way to maintain long-distance friendships. There is no need to feel jealous or like you lost a friend. It just takes a little creativity, thoughtfulness, and effort.
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