I miss my friends from home. If you don’t, I’m guessing you either didn’t have friends in high school, or you’re just an emotionless person. Sorry, not sorry.
Jokes aside, it’s my second year of long-distance friendships, and I’d like to think I’ve learned some things. The word “sophomore” does effectively mean “wise fool,” so take this with a healthy grain of salt, but here are my thoughts on how to stay close to the people you care about when you’re physically far away.
This first thing genuinely sucks to realize, but it’s important: everyone has priorities, and in college, you need to decide what yours are. Where does keeping in touch with friends from home fall for you? Are you willing to put the effort in? Deciding this for yourself is one thing, but since friendships are mutual, you are going to have to figure out where you fall on your friends’ lists of priorities as well. This is the part that can get kind of painful.
Here’s the thing: I am not saying that if your friend at another school is more focused on their coursework, clubs, and making new friends there, that they aren’t worth staying friends with. However, it means you have to decide whether you’re okay with your spot on their list, because it’s going to determine how much time and effort they are willing to put into the friendship. It might hurt to realize that your friend has more important things to do, but understanding this is better than waiting around, expecting more communication from them, and not hearing anything back. If you’re not okay with this, that comes to my next point.
Don’t let things simmer. I know, no one likes talking about their feelings. When you’re not seeing someone every day, it’s easy to let small things, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings build up until by the time you actually talk they’ve been blown way out of proportion.
Have you ever thought about what your communication style is in your friendships? For example, probably my least favorite text to ever get from my close friends is “how are you?” It’s one of the easiest texts to send, but at least for me, one of the hardest to answer. It requires me to actually confront how I’m feeling, deal with it, and then put it into words. If I’m not having a great day, this text leaves me at a loss, and I’m less likely to respond because talking to my friend now seems difficult instead of enjoyable.
I, on the other hand, like to reach out to my friends with a random question. “Can I get your opinion on this?,” “What do you think of this idea?,” etc. To me, this feels like involving them in my life. However, for one of my close friends from home, these texts felt like I was just reaching out when I needed something from her. Meanwhile, I wasn’t asking her how her life was going because I personally hate getting those texts. This led to a major communication breakdown between the two of us, and by the time we talked about it, we were both hurt and feeling like the other person wasn’t putting effort into the friendship.
When you don’t talk to or see someone every day, things get lost in translation. You know when someone asks you what you want for your birthday, and suddenly you can’t think of anything that you’ve ever wanted? That’s what happens when you try to “catch up” with someone once a month. I’m unable to not sound cheesy saying this, but life is made up of the small moments — a nice conversation with a new person, finishing your comp sci homework and feeling proud, perfect weather when walking to class…
None of these things feel relevant the next day, week, or month later, so when you try to catch up with people far away, it can feel like there’s nothing to say. So here’s my advice to actually stay close to people, instead of going through the cycle of falling out of touch and trying to fix it.
Every single time you think or feel something that a) you would tell your friend if they were walking next to you at that moment, or b) reminds you of them for any reason, text them. Text them random things! Send them a picture of the great salad you had for lunch! Even better, call them. My closest friend from home calls me out of the blue all the time — and if I’m not in class, I pick up. Talk for five minutes on your way to class or on your way to the dining hall instead of trying to schedule a time.
Friendships are a composite of little moments of connection. Instead of waiting until you’re home together, reach out every day, and ask for the same in return. It shouldn’t be true that you automatically lose touch with most people when you graduate high school. It just requires that you decide if the effort is worth it, for both of you.