When I left California four years ago, I said goodbye to many friends. At the time, there were some that I knew I’d never see or talk to again. They just weren’t those kinds of friends. Then again, there were some who I swore I’d talk to regularly, those, know-them-til-the-day-you-die type friends.
But there have been people who surprised me, whose ability to keep in touch has blown me away. And there are very good friends, friends who were like family, who I speak to on rare occasion. It’s weird how it all shakes out.
That’s the thing no one tells you about moving 3,000 miles away from your friends. You’ll probably lose 80% of them and the 20% you keep might not be the people you expect.
I’m not perfect at this. In fact, sometimes I’ve really sucked. Here are a few things I wish someone had told me when I left California, to make it easier to maintain those friendships.
1. Set Calendar Reminders
When you get off the phone with someone, set a calendar reminder in your phone (with an alert) for your next call. You won’t suddenly turn in to every day talkers, but maybe skip ahead 4 weeks and add the reminder. It’ll help keep 6 months from going by accidentally.
2. Embrace Snail Mail
Nothing reminds someone that you miss them like a handwritten card. My favorite place to find cute, quality cards is T.J. Maxx or Marshalls. One trick is to pre-address and stamp several cards at once. Then later all you have to do is write a quick note, stuff it, seal it, and pop it in the mail.
If you’re really going for it, send a care package.
3. Have Your Next Visit In Mind
When my bestie Kaylin and I see each other, we make it a point to make a guesstimate on when we’ll see each other next. When I visited last August, she told me she’d visit me in early 2014. She flew out in February. After her bachelorette party last week, I know I’ll see her in September and again in October for her wedding. After that, I bet we meet somewhere in the middle. Nashville?
4. Text The Little Things, Even If You Think They’re Dumb
If something makes you think of a friend or a funny memory you shared together, send them a quick text. If something ridiculous happens to you, send a quick text. If your dog is doing something really really unbelievably cute (which come on, Archie does every 3 1/2 minutes), send a quick text.
5. Accept That Things Have Changed
For a long time I felt guilty about not maintaining as many friendships as I thought I would. The thing is, there are many friends who I haven’t figured out how to fit in to my new life. We’ve never gotten in to the groove of being daily texters. It’s simply not possible to keep dozens of people up to date on day-to-day life. So those are the marathon phone call friends. But sometimes, they’re the people you look back on fondly on the occasion that you think of them.
Losing touch doesn’t have to mean you weren’t great friends. Perhaps your friendship with each other served a purpose during a certain point in your life (say, college) and now you have other people filling that purpose. It isn’t that you didn’t love each other. It’s not that the whole friendship is a failure. It evolved. And sometimes people evolve away from each other.
The friendship that I’ve done the best job of maintaining is my relationship with my best friend Kaylin. The funny thing is, I say I’ve done the best job of maintaining but it’s really her. She’s a friendship mastermind who never forgets to call after an important day, send a card for no reason, or text a pic from the Target dressing room. For my part, I always try to catch up to her. To call her as much as she calls me. To meet her halfway. It’s easy to do because her friendship is the one I enjoy the most.
With others, it’s been more challenging. The weird thing about long-distance friendships is that sometimes, you just don’t want to pick up the phone. It’s like getting over the initial hurdle of calling or answering is the biggest thing. Once you’re on the phone and engaged with a person whose friendship you value, you start to wonder why you don’t call more. Talking is great! We get off the phone and it’s like “let’s talk more often, okay?” and then we don’t. Months go by and then randomly, another marathon phone call takes place because truly, you can only do the big life updates. And you know what? That’s okay.