My 2014 post Thanksgiving weekend was spent alternating between packing up the contents of my Portland, Oregon apartment and sobbing as I consumed an entire box of Blue Star creme brûlée donuts. I was about to move across the country to Washington DC, and the process of figuring out what I could take with me and what I had to leave behind was hard to focus on because I knew that the one aspect of my life in Portland that I needed with me the most was something I couldn’t take.
“I knew that the one aspect of my life in Portland that I needed with me the most was something I couldn’t take.”
My best friend, Taya, is easily one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. We met in a Pop Culture class and instantly hit it off, working together on projects and bonding over our love of music and creating art. We impulsively went to see a band called New Politics play one night, and the bass player of one of the opening bands told us that we should write our own music so we wrote a song called “Pete Wentz Husband” about our love for Pete Wentz, obviously. It was an incredibly specific kind of weird, and when you find someone you can share that with, you have to hold on to them as long as you can.
When I moved, I was pretty confident in my ability to stay in touch with Taya. I thought it would be easy. If I could stay in touch when I lived in Portland despite the distractions of school and jobs and such, I would be able to stay in touch after I moved, right?
“It was an incredibly specific kind of weird, and when you find someone you can share that with, you have to hold on to them as long as you can.”
Keeping in touch with long distance friends is hard. You have to put some real effort in. You can’t just run into each other on the streetcar and impulsively decide to go get coffee and catch up. You have to make plans, stick to them, and figure out ways to hang out on Skype or on the phone. You have to be prepared for technical issues. And if you’re the one who moved, you might even deal with some regret like I’ve dealt with – why did I choose to move away when everything was going so well?
Once you’ve committed to putting in the effort, you have to figure out exactly how to keep in touch. Are you good at replying to text messages or emails? If you are, tell me your secrets because I am very bad at replying to text messages. If you text me right now, it might be months before you hear from me and I’ll pick up the conversation as if it’s only been a few minutes. That’s something I’m trying to work on. But if you’re bad at texting like I am, you have other options, like Skype or FaceTime. You can even get creative, sitting together on Skype while you watch new episodes of your favorite TV show. Taya and I have been on the phone together through crucial episodes of Twin Peaks and it makes the distance between us seem so much less than 2,800 miles.
“Why did I choose to move away when everything was going so well?”
I don’t often consider how hard it is to maintain friendships in general, and its even harder when your best friend isn’t automatically present in your life. I think we all take for granted how wonderful it is to see that friend regularly at school or at work. I also didn’t realize how much less I’d have in common with Taya now that I’d moved to Washington DC, which is the polar opposite of Portland in so many ways. At our cores, we are the same people, but without the shared experiences of living in Portland, there are a lot of things about each other’s lives that we don’t automatically understand. Who can even begin to explain DC humidity or the way people drive here to someone who hasn’t experienced it? But that gives us even more to talk about when we do have a chance to catch up.
As hard as it is to maintain a long distance friendship, it can be rewarding as well. I know that Taya is a true friend because I know we’ve both worked hard to stay in touch. It’s been a tough journey but it means the world knowing that someone loves you enough to come along with you.
And to me, that makes it all worth it in the end.