This summer I am saying goodbye to three great friends. All three of them are moving out of our current city to pursue their own dreams even further – two of them are going to graduate schools at least 1,000 miles away, and one is moving to the Midwest for a great job opportunity.
Let’s get something out of the way first: I’m incredibly happy for them. My happiness and pride knows no bounds. Alongside that irrepressible joy, though, is the steadily rising feeling of dread and anxiety. Because in a few months, I will be put to a friendship test I have never before passed. Previously, when I moved or friends left, despite their best efforts, it slowly but surely became an “out of sight, out of mind” situation. I’d look up one day and realize I hadn’t texted or called that person, or seen them, sometimes in as much as a year’s time. When I was younger and decidedly less mature, I had clever ways of making this seem inevitable, or as if it was solely the fault of the other person. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I started to realize that the common denominator was me.
So I am trying to prepare myself to pass this test, even with my terrible track record. Because now that I’m an adult, I can no longer justify abandoning friends for no other reason than the fact that one of us moved. And because, unfortunately, this is one of the crossroads of adult life, many adults will not live in the same cities as the vast majority of their closest friends. If I want to keep the strong ties that have been built between years of memories and laughter and love, I’m going to have to work for it. Here’s a list of how I plan to do that – feel free to add to it in the comments!
1. Set up a regular check-in time.
In this stage of our lives, both my BFF and I are very busy women. We can’t just rely on the idea that we’ll call, text and write each other whenever the mood strikes. Of course I will send her random gifs of Tina Belcher dancing or Nene Leakes rolling her eyes, but to make sure we are up to date on the real happenings in each other’s lives, we need to have regular conversations with one another. So when her new job starts and she gets a sense of her schedule, we’ll immediately set aside at least an hour a week to update ourselves on one another via Google Hangouts.
2. Make sure to include them on all the things they don’t have to be present to enjoy.
If you’re already used to texting and emailing your friends, this will probably only increase in frequency if one of them moves, but make sure to capture “the little things” by sending your friends messages when you’re thinking of them, spot their ex at a neighborhood bar, or getting drunk alone while watching Netflix.
3. Keep your bond over shared interests.
It was definitely unplanned, but the BFF and I are both currently obsessed with erotica, or as we refer to it, smutty goodness. Our subgenre interests have varied a bit but we recently began reading the same series and Hooo Boy is there a lot to talk about. So we’re starting our own book club! We’ll alternate picking books to read and then chat about them during a set time online. If you and your friend are crazy about the same thing, find a way to take part in it together.
4. Have a plan for when your ugliest emotions strike.
There are a lot of ugly ways for emotions to take over, and jealousy is at the top of my list. I already know that when I see my friends on Facebook or Instagram with their new friends, my immediate feeling will probably be one of resentment or bitterness. I know I’ll be sad that I’m not the one hanging out with them and that our circumstances keep us temporarily apart. But I also know that our friendship will survive it and ultimately become stronger. So I’ll choke down my bitterness and double tap every ‘Gram update like there’s no tomorrow.
5. Visit as much as possible.
Depending upon where friends move, “as much as possible” might actually only equal once a year or even less. My friends are moving 10, 12, and 33 hours away respectively, so driving is pretty much out. But there are going to be times when they are visiting their hometowns, or coming back to the city I live in, or opportunities for us to make something “halfway” work for a short trip. It’s not as ideal as living within ten minutes of them like I do now, but it’ll definitely do. I’ve set every electronic flight pricing alert for their new cities that exists in the known universe, and I plan to take advantage of it.
6. Try out some snail mail.
Two words: care packages. There are going to be a million little things that remind me of my friends, and things that they can’t get regionally. Given the relatively cheap shipping prices available with the USPS, there’s no reason not to send a mini-Tardis or New Orleans-themed shirt every once in a while!
7. Understand that the relationship won’t always balance out.
There are going to be times when the friendship feels lopsided. Maybe my friend gets more responsibilities at work, or I start hanging out with a new group that takes up more of my time. That’s fine. I have no problem stepping up and being the more communicative one during her busy time, and I know she’ll do the same for me when the tables have turned. Part of this trust, though, is built on honesty. You should feel comfortable telling your friends when you’re busy and vice versa without hurting feelings. Plan to make it up to them and then follow through and everyone will be fine.
8. Start a sustainable tradition.
Maybe you both like to write and start a private blog back and forth, or have once monthly Netflix dates where you stay in and FaceTime during a series you both like. Whatever it is, make it fun and make it something you both want to commit to doing consistently. There’s not always going to be new topics to discuss or information to fill them in on. Keep creating memories in the best way you know how, and use technology to your advantage.
9. Take note of the minutiae.
This is previously where I’ve struggled the most. My friends that are far away tell me about things that happened at work or the funny thing that guy on the subway said and I immediately forget, but minutiae is the bedrock of a friendship. Make sure to take note of what they tell you about their lives, and weave it into future conversations by asking them for updates periodically. It’ll make them feel heard and important, even though they’re far away.
10. Accept that things have changed.
Listen, even if we do all of the above with fidelity, the truth is that my friendships with these three friends will necessarily change. I love them, and they love me, and that won’t change. But we will not have the same type of friendship anymore, and that’s okay. As we move into new phases of our lives, we can’t always stay attached at the hip with the people we love. In a perfect world, I’d have millions of dollars and a compound of hundreds of acres in Texas where all my powerful lady friends could live in their own houses connected to mine via tunnels (can you tell I’ve thought about this before?) but as it stands right now, I’m barely lower middle class and have no idea how home loans work, so that’s just a fantasy. Life is not going to work out that way, and honestly, I’m fine with it. In the meantime, all my friends are pursuing their interests, rising higher in their respective fields, and becoming even greater idols. I can’t be mad at that.