How my two besties and I make long-distance friendship work

I met Sarah the first day of my job at a company in Chicago, when I was assigned to be her desk mate. She didn’t really want to share a desk with anyone, but I managed to win her over. We bonded over discussions of what books we were reading on the train each week, and she invited me to join her book club, a group of smart and funny women. One of those women was Sarah’s good friend Stefanie, and we hit it off right away. From that day on, the three of us ran around Chicago together. We were queens of throwing the perfect theme party, which we did to celebrate birthdays, new jobs, or the fact that Gilmore Girls was available to stream on Netflix. We got each other through bad boyfriends and breakups, and helped each other move over the years.

Now, five years later, none of us live in the Central timezone. There are more than 3,000 miles between me in Portland and Stefanie in Boston, with Sarah between us in Salt Lake City. Luckily, the three of us are all still just as close as we were when we once lived in the same city.

I’m not interested in a long-distance relationship with a dude, but I am 100% a believer in long-distance best-friendship. We each have our own lives going on in our current cities, but we still want to be involved with each other’s. It’s totally doable — just need to be thoughtful, persistent, and a little bit creative. Here’s how we keep tabs on each other despite the miles in between:

Group texting

The group text is the cornerstone of our joint long-distance best friendship. Whether it’s Sarah letting us know we need to be watching iZombie or Stefanie sending photos of the Boston Marathon happening outside her window, the group text is key. It’s a small way of keeping in touch that takes little time but has a big payoff. Sometimes, out of nowhere, I’ll just text them a reminder of something that made us laugh one time, or send them a screenshot of something I know they’ll love.

Seeking shopping advice

Sometimes when I’m out trying on new clothes or shoes, I’ll text Sarah and Stefanie a fitting room picture to help me decide. They both have known me long enough to know my style really well, as well as what does and doesn’t always work on me. Plus, they have seen my wardrobe and can gently remind me that maybe I don’t need yet another dress in that particular shade of blue. Texting selfies also helps when it comes to getting ready to go out or planning a first date outfit.

Video chatting

Sometimes a text just doesn’t cut it — it’s hard to relay the play-by-play of a high-drama meltdown or a terrible date, so we like to check in over Google Hangouts now and then. Thanks to video-led tours, we are very familiar with the layouts of each other’s very cute apartments and homes. Plus, it means we get to see Sarah’s adorable baby. I recommend a good test session to troubleshoot technical difficulties — sometimes we use Skype as a backup plan.

Sharing viewing experiences

When Lemonade came out, I watched it immediately. Stefanie was busy that weekend, but she still wanted to see it. I hosted an impromptu viewing party at my apartment a couple of days later so my Portland friends could watch. Stefanie hit play at the same time we did, and texted me her excellent commentary throughout. Our tradition of watching The Bachelor together the day after it airs is probably the dorkiest thing we do, but it’s also my favorite. We recently texted each other a delightful rundown of our thoughts on the recent Bachelorette contestants. For the record, I’m #TeamDerek.

Sending care packages

We love sending each other mail, whether it’s Stefanie sending me a book she read and thought I’d like, or me sending Sarah some great Portland chocolate I discovered. When I was sick recently, Sarah surprised me with an Amazon Pantry delivery of all the things I needed so I didn’t have to leave my apartment. Even if it means just mailing a card with an inside joke or some unexpected kind words, it’s such a thoughtful, small gesture that lets us know we’re thinking of each other.

Reaching out when you need help

Earlier this spring, I wound up in the hospital unexpectedly. Things turned out fine, but I also send out a popular email newsletter to hundreds of people every two weeks and didn’t want to miss an edition. I asked Stefanie to log into my TinyLetter account and put together an edition of my newsletter. She worked from the notes I’d left myself, wrote an awesome email to my readers, and sent it out for me right on time. Obviously the circumstances weren’t great, but it also turned out to be a fun way for my readers to get to know Stefanie, since I talk about her a lot in my writing.

Supporting each other’s passions

Sarah recently had a baby, and has been on maternity leave for the last few weeks. When I asked my friends to be test readers for the first draft of a memoir I wrote, she stepped up to the plate. I didn’t expect her to have time to get notes back to me, but she caught me by surprise. She read it in a matter of days, and sent me back an email full of great feedback. I’m especially glad she read my version of events, since she was along for the ride when most of it was happening and could help me fill in anything I’d left out.

Making travel plans

While we might wish we could plan monthly vacations together, that’s not realistic. However, when the stars align, we make strides to get together in person. We spent a Thanksgiving together at Sarah’s in Salt Lake City and soon we’ll all be together again in Chicago for a wedding of a dear friend we all love. I can’t wait to be around both of my long-distance best friends again, even if it’s just for a weekend.

Sometimes I wish we all still lived in the same city, but if we can’t have that, then I’m glad we still talk every week, if not daily. Our many modes of conversation help us feel close, and it’s fun to have visits in the future to look forward to. Plus, these two women are too important to me to let go just because of some timezone math.

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