Absence makes the heart grow fonder

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Fabiha Fairooz/Staff

My purple glitter gel pen rolls smoothly over the page in my planner as I cross off yet another day in my countdown to see my best friends again. The entire countdown is exactly 304 days long, and it has been like this for 10 years.

I met my two best friends, Lillie and Sarah, in preschool in Berlin, where I grew up. We ended up being in the same classes from first to third grade as well, spending everyday together up until the day my family moved halfway across the world to California. All of a sudden, the two-minute bike ride to their houses turned into a 12-hour flight, and I went from seeing them everyday to crossing off the days until I get to see them for a couple of weeks in the summer.

Even now when people ask me who my best friends are, I don’t have to think twice to know it’s them. Throughout all these years, staying in touch was almost second nature for us. I never think about having to text them, we’ve naturally and constantly been in touch for the past 10 years. The distance between us never stopped them from calling me to talk about the cute new boy in their math class or to cry over a hard test – even if it was 4 a.m. my time. I Skyped them for every birthday dinner, got a fully detailed report of their first kisses, helped them with English assignments, knew when they had a bad week and calmed them down when they failed their driving test or fought with their friends from school. Even now, while Sarah goes to college in Germany, Lillie moved to London for a year and I am here, I know that Lillie just started a flirtationship with the guy who delivers her packages and that Sarah ditches most of her classes because she thinks she can learn the material better on her own.

Nothing about our friendship ever seemed extraordinary to me — until college happened and all the people I’d spent the past four years with were going off to different places and doing their own things. Some went to schools far away, some to schools close to mine and some even to the same school as me — and yet for the most part, I went from talking to these people everyday to almost never speaking to them. Communication faded between everyone, as the bustle of a new school and new friends took over. Although I was so sure I’d be talking to my best friends from high school all the time, we all got busy and our group chat slowly died down.

Everyone talks about how difficult long distance relationships are, but what about long distance friendships? I obviously understand there’s a difference between missing someone you are in love with and missing a friend, but at a basic level the two are similar. It’s about keeping in touch with someone you care about. And on whatever level, one thing is always true: it’s difficult, and it hurts.

I know this freaks out a lot of people. Coming out of high school, many assume they’ll be talking to their friends all the time and that they’d be able to stay in touch with everyone they were friends with in high school. But we are all moving into our new lives differently, and staying in touch with high school friends can be hard. It can be extremely discouraging to reach out to a friend and have them not respond, or feel like you’re bothering them, and it hurts when you feel as if your friends aren’t reaching out to you as much. Although I’m no expert at friendships, from my experience, the key is to pick the most important people and make sure you text them every so often. Call your friend as you’re walking between classes or text them before you go to bed. Make it a priority to stay in touch with only your best friends — everyone else you’ll see during the breaks, and chances are, your friendships will pick right back up. And don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away, sometimes it takes a little bit of distance for friendships to revitalize and grow the strongest they can be.  

Having realized that it’s normal for people to drift apart, I formed a new appreciation for what I have with my two best friends in Germany. Our long distance friendship over so many years was by no means guaranteed, but it never felt like a chore or burden to keep up with them  — it was just a part of life.

I met my future bridesmaids and eventual bingo partners in preschool, and although they live halfway around the world, they are and will always be my best friends. I’m no longer sad that I don’t get to see them everyday. I am instead living my life to the fullest, knowing that with every additional line of purple glitter gel pen, I’m one day closer to telling them all about it in person.

Contact Frida Schaefer Bastian at [email protected].