The start of a new school year comes with so much excitement and buzz. The knowledge of a fresh start and the promise of new friendships is enough to get anyone excited to leave for school. This newness comes at the bittersweet cost of saying goodbye to hometown and childhood friends. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, staying in touch feels like such a chore. If you’re nervous about how to ensure you’re keeping in meaningful contact with your long-distance pals, read ahead for some tips and tricks on how I’ve mastered friendship from afar.
Don’t make any promises.
Everyone wants to be able to text every day and call once a week. We all have high hopes for mailing out care packages and booking flights for the first long weekend we stumble into. It can be easy to get swept up in the promises you’ll want to make, but try to wait until you’re settled to set your plans in stone. Promising to visit, to call every day, and to never make a friend as good as them can only lead to disappointment or even resentment. You simply don’t know what life will look like at a distance until you begin to live it. Life gets busy, things get in the way, and soon you’re letting people down in the mix. Expressing hope to stay in touch is different than promising to book the next flight out. Adjustment periods are all about you. Figure out what your new world looks like, then decide how your long-distance friends fit into it.
When you think of that person – act!
I often find myself sipping on a certain coffee or looking at an old shop in Boulder and thinking of friends who I used to enjoy getting breakfast or shopping on Pearl with. As soon as someone’s name pops into my head, I try to shoot them a simple “thinking of you!” or include a photo of the place or thing that inspired their presence in my mind. You don’t always have to have a reason to reach out; sometimes just letting your friends know that they’re on your mind is enough.
Have a personal call time.
Scheduling an hour or so each week that is reserved for catching up with your loved ones has been a great way to stay in touch with my long-distance friends. I set aside time so that I’m certain to check in on people throughout the week rather than just randomly remembering to chat after months of radio silence. In the past, I’ve even tried calling a different friend for 30 minutes each day of the week. If you have 30 minutes to scroll on TikTok on an average Wednesday night, you could probably set aside some time to chat on the phone. Try scheduling phone calls in your calendar!
Begin a new tradition.
After a summer of reading Sally Rooney and romanticizing email exchanges, I have officially become an email pen pal (keyboard pal?) with a very old friend whom I don’t live close to anymore. After months of this, I now know everything that’s going on in her life, all the characters that make up her day-to-day, and even her most personal and intimate thoughts. We started this new tradition just to stay in touch, but now I can’t go a week without hearing from her! Trying to instill a new aspect to your friendship or tradition to keep the friendship alive can be really helpful in staying in touch. Maybe you mail care packages twice a semester. Maybe you hand write letters. Maybe you celebrate Christmas in July because you only get to see each other in the summer months! Creating something individualized and special with your long-distance friends gives you both things to look forward to and helps to keep the relationship feeling alive and well.
It’s all about the little things.
If I know my friend got a promotion at work, I’ll send flowers. If I know they’re struggling during finals week, I’ll venmo them $5 for coffee. On birthdays, I try to reach out over social media, by text, or sometimes send a small gift. I text them pictures of us together that come up on my Snapchat or camera roll memories and try to plan a trip with them once a year (at least). Continually showing that you care in small ways is so important because now you won’t be there for so many of the big things. It doesn’t always have to be monetary, either! Post a picture with them on social media, mail them a little note you wrote for them, or set up a Zoom call with them.
Ensure that the relationship still exists organically.
To me, this tip is the most important. If the relationship begins to feel like work or you start to have the feeling that you’re naturally growing apart from an old friend, it is okay to let the relationship go. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself and your long-distance friends is to let it exist organically and reassess whether or not this is someone you still need in your life. The less pressure and forced friendship you apply to long-distance friendships, the healthier and more fulfilling they can be.
When practicing your long-distance skills, always make sure you’re taking care of yourself first and not overextending to please others. My long-distance friendships are some of the most fulfilling relationships in my life, and practicing staying in touch has only made them stronger. I hope these tips and tricks will help you mindfully stay connected.