How to keep up friendships when you're going through big life changes
Friends in faraway places are still friends. That’s what I tell myself whenever I’m feeling especially lonely in my new city. Sure, I have made a few new pals post-grad, but they’re mostly acquaintances. And while acquaintances do have the ability to grow into well, more-than-acquaintances, that doesn’t mean you have to forget your old buddies altogether. Unless, of course, they’re bringing you down. Maintaining friendships can be tricky in adulthood but I’ve come to find that with a little added effort, it’s not so bad.
Make birthdays extra special
So not all of us have the means to fly out to surprise our BFFs on their earthstrong day (as Drake calls it) but that doesn’t mean you have to forget about it all together. If your friend lives somewhat close, then by all means, pull out all the stops and surprise them. But if you now live far apart, you’ll have to be a little more creative. If time has gotten away from you and you’re desperate, you can just do the ol’ order on Amazon’s 2-day shipping route, but if you plan accordingly, you have the opportunity to do something really nice for a friend you probably haven’t seen in awhile.
Of course, material things won’t replace your actual presence (notice how I avoided that presents/presence pun there), but when you can’t be there for your friend a little reminder of your friendship is the next best thing. Because who else is gonna know what your BFF really wants? Nobody, that’s who! So go forth and make that care package full of inside jokes. Or track down and surprise them with that rare vinyl they’ve been hung up over for the last year. Whatever you do, I’m sure it’ll be amazing. Birthdays can be a vulnerable time when you’re away from your usual crowd of people so this is a good time to remind old friends that you still have their backs. And hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.
Make reunions really count
True blue friends have a way of magically reverting back to their old ways no matter how much time has passed. But in order for this rekindling of something glorious once had to take place, a reunion has to happen. This can mean the whole gang getting together in your hometown over the holidays, but it can also mean planning a road trip. It can mean visiting your pal in their new city or hosting them in yours too.
As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you are determined to meet up with your friend(s), there are ways to work around stuff like entry-level post-grad salaries (aka brokeness) and meager vacation times. When it comes to flights and bus tickets, buy those suckers in advance. Also, swap calendars with your BFF(s) early on to find the long weekends and holiday breaks that synch up. Take advantage of those three-day weekends! Plus, it never hurts to hit two birds with one stone. Do you have family where your friend lives? Visit them too and you’ll probably get free food and shelter! Do you travel for work and happen to have a business trip in your friend’s city? Well, you might as well meet up for lunch! It takes a little extra coordinating, but long distance friendships are definitely doable.
Know that it’s OK not to be in touch always
So it’s been a minute since you’ve reached out to some of your good friends. Not a big deal. Even if you do consider your old pals a priority and value their friendships, it’s not always easy to remember to check on them when you’re not seeing their beautiful shining faces everyday. So don’t beat yourself up if you feel like too much time has passed—the phone does go both ways, after all. Chances are, your old partners in crime feel the same way.
Lucky for you, there’s social media. And snail mail still exists too, by the way. Send along an email during your downtime at work, or create a text group where the GIF-response possibilities are endless. Or if you want the BFF Of The Year award, bust out that snazzy stationary and mail something handwritten. Seriously, everybody loves getting mail! Imagine how thrilled your friend will be to see your letter among the stack of junk flyers and loan statements. And, like, you’ll probably receive one in return so win-win!
Drifting apart is OK, too
I don’t know if anyone else remembers Rainbow Fish, the beloved children’s book on friendship, but there’s a song in it that goes “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” Is it a cute, catchy song? Yes. Was it probably an old proverb before being taught to children by sparkly fish? Also, yes. But does it always ring true? Unfortunately, no. Sometimes it’s better to let old friends go. Or other times, we do keep our old friends but we find that a new group is more in line with our current selves. It’s fine if this new group of friends takes the gold and the old group becomes silver. Better yet, don’t focus on titles at all.
If a new friend group feels good, go with it. It’s not the end of the world if you find yourself having fewer and fewer things in common with your hometown pals. You can still keep in touch but you also don’t have to force a friendship that isn’t really there anymore. Of course, all friends go through lulls where they’re not putting their all into the relationship and that’s totally normal, but if it comes to the point where you don’t really want to put your all in, then maybe it’s time to move on. It will feel weird at first, but it’s just a part of life. And your new best friend is right around the corner.
[Image via New Line Cinema]