The care and keeping of friends can be difficult as we grow up. Being in our mid-twenties comes with responsibilities that we didn’t have at 18 or 19. When we were younger, things were simpler — there wasn’t a fear that our friends were going to move to another city to go to a different school, be with a partner, or chase their dream job. They were there when we needed to go get lunch in between work shifts and classes. They were there when we wanted to go see the latest Harry Potter movie for the fifth time. But then things started to change: we grew up, and we became displaced from the very roots that helped us grow into the adults we are today.
My own best friends are spread out across the country. Some of them are friends I’ve met on the Internet (Twitter, as well as a few writing groups), and some are friends I know from various stages of adolescence. Getting from my home in Buffalo to Seattle, Virginia Beach, and Atlanta isn’t exactly the easiest (or, you know, cheapest) thing to do, but that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to stay close with these people, these soulmates, who just happen to live thousands of miles away.
For an introvert like me, managing these long-distance friendships is actually easier than staying in touch with my friends who live in Buffalo. It’s 100 times less stressful and exhausting for me to talk through something going on via text. It’s easier to be vulnerable enough to share my writing when my friends aren’t right there in front of me. There also isn’t the pressure of am I seeing this person enough? because you know that you’ll see your friends when you have some extra money and Southwest runs an amazing sale. And that’s part of what makes long-distance friends the best. It takes money and work to go physically see them. If you can only afford to fly out to see them once a year, it makes your time together that much more precious.
My long-distance friends not only have physical distance from my life, but they have an emotional distance from the situations I describe to them that allows them to call me out on when I’m in a downward spiral, when I’m being an annoying pest, or even when they think I should unplug for an hour or two because, even over Gchat, they can tell that I’m stressed. It’s not that they care about me more than my local friends, but that I can often let myself be more honest with them about what I’m feeling. I’m not putting on war paint and making sure that I look put together for them — I’m just real.
The fact that these long-distance friends, whether they’ve known you for ages or you’ve met in recent years, seem so far removed from your physical life means it’s easier to be yourself, to really find your voice, and to let someone get to know you without the walls and protective layers. You can talk to them about everything, about anything, and not see their eyes glaze over because they’ve heard it all before.
So don’t let anyone tell you that the person you chat with on Twitter every day isn’t a real friend. Don’t be afraid to get on a plane (after talking to them on the phone or Skyping with them, because sometimes you just never know) and visit them and their city. Be vulnerable, be open, and find that friend who is going to be your soulmate. And cherish the long-distance friends you’ve known for years — the ones with whom you can always just pick up right where you left off. Long-distance friends are the kinds of friends who will save you, from problems big and small— from boredom, bad haircuts, getting lost in a strange city, and even from feeling alone.
Nicole Tone is a 26-year-old living the married MFA student life in Buffalo, NY. She’s a writer, a self-proclaimed coffee snob, book reviewer, and freelance editor. You can follow her stress about being a debut author on her website, Twitter, Facebook page, and Instagram.