Why my best friend and I embrace the distance between us

We met in high school. She was a transfer student whose arrival in my life was as abrupt as it was significant. Immensely talented and very pretty, she quickly became popular among students and teachers alike at our small arts high school. I don’t actually remember how I met Kellie, but I know that, by the end of junior year, we’d grown from acquaintances, to friends, to sisters.

We stressed over parties, college, and theater. Once, we found her dad’s weed stash and skimmed off it to roll a joint, which we promptly smoked, topless, on her back deck, cackling over the suggestion that he might ask for it back. I’d ride home with her after theater rehearsals and we’d gossip late into the night about boys while studying complex sheet music for class. She was my designated driver the first time I had alcohol (I still apologize to her for that night). Our time in high school was the beginning of a genuine friendship.

Ten years have passed since I met Kellie. Things are different. There are 500 miles between us now. I’m lucky to have a best friend who, like me, not only takes our distance in stride, but appreciates and embraces it.

Being best friends with her has taught me that as people evolve, their friendships have to evolve too.

In the beginning, we were carefree high school students with barely a curfew to answer to. We turned to one another for entertainment, support, and validation. We were teenagers.

Enter college. We drifted. For a while, I wasn’t sure if she was still my best friend. That’s the huge fear, right? That dreaded feeling we all have when distance enters a friendship, as it always does: “Where has she been?” “Are we still cool?” “What happened?” “What if she’s not my best friend anymore?” It’s hard to feel like you’re losing your best friend.

After college, while I was busy enduring growing pains with my family, things in Kellie’s life started to unravel. We wanted to be there for each other, but we both had to learn things about ourselves first. They were lessons we were better off learning separately, at least at that point. Without saying so explicitly, we each turned our focus to our own circumstances.

It was for the best. If I had smothered Kellie, our friendship would have likely become overwhelming for her. If she had been a text message away, I might have thought twice about some hard decisions I needed to make alone. In the end, though, our distance was just a phase, and one that is not exclusive to Kellie and me. When these insecurities inevitably appear in a friendship, it’s a defining moment. “Can you give me my space when I need it?” is a question that needs to be answered.

For eight months, she needed space. I did too. I will always love her for giving that to me.

I realized that distance or lack of communication doesn’t kill friendships. It’s the approach to these challenges that kills friendships. When Kellie and I reconnected, the radio silence was mentioned, all was forgiven, and we picked up where we left off. I’ve witnessed plenty of friendships go sour because one friend feels that the other isn’t as available as they once were. A girlfriend of mine was recently blocked by a “bff” of hers for having the audacity to focus on her art.

Now, Kellie and I are both 26, which I’m pretty sure is the official age where you drop the “-ing” and just become an adult. She has a full time job. I have kids. Making rent, grocery shopping, and student loan payments are all a part of our day-to-day realities. It’s virtually impossible for us to stay in constant communication. Our personal responsibilities have taken priority.

We appreciate each other the most because we don’t talk everyday. We don’t have to. Friendships are supposed to change because people change. We’re not 16 anymore.

Our friendship isn’t defined by physically being in each others presence, and that knowledge has kept us close. She gets that I’m busy. She knows that, if we haven’t touched base in a while, then it means I’m working to achieve my goals or better my life in some way — that’s all there is to it. And the feeling is mutual. It’s a wonderful thing to have a friend that supports me when I’m busy.

Every once in a while, when there’s a laugh to be had, Kellie will send me a chain of texts full of gifs and emojis. Other days, I call to rant to her voicemail just so we can laugh about it a few days later. We see more of each other on Instagram than we do in person, but when we do get together, it’s like we’ve barely missed a day.

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