Why my long distance friendlationship was the best thing to happen to me
All long distance relationships are hard. Being away from friends, partners and family, it’s all hard. But for me, my most consistent relationship is with somebody who lives more than 4,000 miles away. My best friend, Jade, and I have now been friends for more than eight years, and for seven of those years she has lived in Calgary, Canada while I’ve lived in Dorset, England. And you know what? The distance is the best thing that ever happened to us.
I can still remember the day she told me. March 5, 2009: It was a typical Thursday. We were thirteen, and I was too early for class as I always was, waiting for her to arrive too late as she always did. I couldn’t wait to see her, because the boy I’d liked since the beginning of high school had asked me to be his secret girlfriend via MSN the night before, and I was dying to tell her. The moment she walked through the door, though, I knew something was wrong. Normally she’d try to wear as much makeup as humanly possible for school, but that day, she wore none. Then, at lunch, as we walked laps around the tennis courts arm-in-arm, she told me that her family was moving to Calgary, which just happens to be on the other side of the world from England.
In 2009, we were still in our Joan Jett phase with short, choppy haircuts and too much eyeliner. We were both learning guitar and believed ourselves to be the most misunderstood thirteen year olds in the world, so the prospect of being separated by an ocean was devastating. Naturally, as any thirteen year olds would, we both dyed our hair purple in solidarity. This remains one of the worst decisions of both of our hair-lives; even now, nearly seven years later, tints of red remain to taunt us and our impulsive younger selves. (We have since raised the stakes and gotten the coolest matching tattoos.)
But a few months later, she was gone, leaving me as one half of a plum-haired duo. Neither of us had ever been so close to another human, so not knowing if, or when we would see each other again was the most heartbreaking thing in the world.
In the months following, we both read Twilight and entered a Bella Swan stage, becoming teenage recluses and believing we would never again be happy. We wrote each other letters every week, which would arrive weeks later filled with our saliva and cat biscuits because we just missed each other that much. But I remember being almost glad in this period that I had someone to miss so much, that our friendship was somehow more validated because of how hard it was to be apart. It took so much effort to stay as close as we’d always been — the price of stamps alone proved our dedication!
It was easy to stay close at first. Neither of us had much more in our lives than our mutual missing of the other, and we hadn’t reached the age where boys or school or jobs were big time-consumers. She came back to visit the UK that same summer, and it was as though no time at all had passed. We had an infinite month of pretending we were in The Truman Show, and soon enough she’d break through a wall and be living ten minutes away from me again, rather than ten hours. We carried this sentiment for the next two years; she came back again the following summer, I visited Canada the year after, and this whole long distance friendlationship became manageable and almost normal. We clung to the idea that she’d move back for university as soon as she turned 18, and somehow that dream made the years apart bearable.
But eventually, as hard as we fought it, we both grew up separately, with new lives and new friends and new priorities. We didn’t see each other at all between the ages of 16 and 19, and her absence was easier for me. We missed the most vital teenage years together, arguably when all of the biggest things are happening — first loves, first times, first jobs, first cars, university, etc. It was honestly like a breakup at times; one of us would have huge outbursts of anger when we felt the other wasn’t being there enough, that they’d become selfish and lax in the best friend department. I famously said to her once, “I will always love you, I just don’t see the point of you anymore. I’m watching your life progress through the pictures I see of you, but it doesn’t feel like I’m part of your life.” (I think I stole most of those words from Taylor Swift lyrics.)
Rightly so, she’d then responded that I had NO idea what was going on in her life because I never asked, and after that we didn’t speak for three weeks — the longest we’ve ever gone without contact. But then this summer she came back for the first time in three years, and despite not seeing each other for such a long time, nothing at all had changed. Our hair had grown and was now natural colors, our makeup skills had thankfully developed, and we’d of course discovered boys and Netflix so we had three years of vital catch-up to do. But our bond had survived. We still understood each other better than anyone else ever would, and we remained two halves who needed each other to be complete.
This year marks both of us turning twenty, and also her seven-year anniversary as a Canadian citizen. It has been the most difficult, but most fulfilling relationship I’ve ever had, and after all the frustration, laziness, selfishness, life generally getting in the way, I know we can survive anything. In May this year, I will be flying to Calgary by myself for the first time, where we will do a mini backpacking tour of Canada, beginning in Calgary and traveling across BC, ending the tour in Vancouver. So a warning to Canada, if you see two, very small girls with British accents and arrow tattoos on their biceps causing chaos… they’re probably us.
Do I wish we lived in the same country? Of course. It would certainly be easier that way. Our lives would be far simpler if the other was there to stop us doing ridiculous things (which happens too often), instead of having to be consoled via Skype the next morning. But nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace the feeling of running up to each other after so long apart and realizing we’re complete again, that nothing will ever change despite the 4,000-odd miles between us. And this summer, we’ll have our adorable airport reunion to look forward to.
From our long distance friendlationship, I’ve learnt the importance of effort and patience being a two-way street. If we hadn’t tried as hard as we have to maintain constant contact, to be there as often as we can, even if that meant early mornings and late nights for the other… then we wouldn’t have worked. Inevitably, there have been times where we’ve both been lacking, when we are too preoccupied living our “real, everyday” lives to check in with the other side of the world eight hours away. But I know if I ever need her, and vice versa, we will be there for each other.
Lucy Scott is a 20-year-old from writer and runner from Bath, England, with sass that won’t quit. Follow her on Instagram here.