October (Part 2)

I am a creature of habit.

As much as I like to think of myself as a spontaneous, carefree girl whose ears perk up at the sound of ‘adventure’, ready for anyone to carry me off into the unknown, I love routine. I like the predictability of a morning rehearsed, the comfort of five hours stretched out into a familiar shape. It’s one of the reasons I could never work in retail for my whole life: retail includes an ever changing schedule, and I like knowing that Monday nights are my ‘grocery shopping’ nights or that Tuesday mornings I’m at the gym with my favorite coach. This unremarkable repetition is also one of the things I’m most neurotic about – “am I wasting my youth? WHAT AM I DOING?!” – but there’s one component to the daily schedule which has become ingrained into habit without hesitation: saying good morning to one of my best friends.

Wake up, make a tea, sit down, say good morning.

I don’t say good morning to the same friend every morning, but I also send off a quick ‘I’m thinking of you’ message because, well, I am thinking of them. It’s the reason I send $5 on Venmo some mornings: I want my friends to know I appreciate them, because I know we don’t always feel loved.

Even if we don’t speak for hours, days or weeks, this simple exchange is an important way for me to start my day. The conversation usually turns to asking each other how we are, how we’ve slept and what we have on for the day. We’ll send memes and compare dreams, and each friend and I have the same conversation usually happens at approximately 7am each morning (later if it’s a Saturday, and even later if it’s a Sunday).

It’s ordinary and it’s simple, but it’s an important show of how we turn up for each other.

You see, I’m in a long-distance friendship with most of my best friends. Some are in Boston, some are in Colorado, some are in London, but it’s long-distance. I’d even argue that the friends I have in Connecticut are in a long-distance relationship with me because we don’t have a weekly set schedule of friend-dates. Sure, some of these people live a few hours’ drive or a quick flight, but at one point, my friends live in the same building as me. I could walk to their door in less than two minutes, so while we’re still close, it’s not quite close enough.

The possibility that we will move away from our best friends is something we grow up with. We know it can happen – we know it will happen – but while we’re getting drunk on $1 Bud Lights and basking in the responsibility-free realm of old-enough-to-drink but not-old-enough-to-be-serious, we don’t care. The threat of missing our sisters (or brothers) feel as far away as 401Ks and dental plans.

But then the ‘if’ becomes a ‘when’ and the ‘when’ becomes a ‘now’, and before you know it, your favorite person is a hundred miles away. Hell, I’ve left my friends for the great unknown, for a great adventure, and there wasn’t a day that I didn’t miss them. The off-the-cuff pizza nights make way for girls’ weekends planned far in advance, hungover Sunday mornings surrounded by Dunkin’ ice coffees are cut short by the necessity of travel and the looming responsibility of the work week. As we ache into adulthood, the freedom that we had to absorb each other begins to dim, and we make way for a new wave of best friendship. Less symbiotic and more loving long-distance.

As a generation we talk about long-distance relationships a lot – how to keep the spark alive, how to not feel jealous when the person you love is having a ton of fun with someone else – but less often do we consider how our friendships are affected by distance. Which is strange when you think about how many of us have grown up and left the nest, leaving our people behind for the lure of a good job or a good city.

Think: “I literally loveuso much I wld die 4 you”, “wow how lucky am I that u exist?????” and “thnak u for being YOU AN ANGEL a queen amongst PeasANTz”.

Just like long-distance relationships, long-distance best friendships need work. They deserve work. It’s easy to fall into the natural rhythm of life and settle for a quick exchange of texts and the certainty of birthday party reunions, but best-friendships need nurturing. They need love and attention and a kind of life-long determination to keep the connection alive, no matter the distance or drama of the month. For most of us, the relationship we have with our best friend is the longest one we’ll have all our lives, and when you go from living in each other’s pockets to only being able to share a bottle of prosecco once a month, the nature of that relationship is bound to change. Many times, in fact.

You can expect a few things to happen when you begin your long-distance friendship. You’ll talk about missing each other a lot and remind each other that you aren’t both 10 minutes from the same bar. You’ll cry when you see each other, not necessarily because you’re sad about the distance (although you are), but more because you store up all of your frantic emotions for these scheduled girls’ time meetings, and when your partner-in-crime starts to ask the questions that only your partner-in-crime can.

Your “drunk chatting” graduates to “drunk gushing”. If you’re not well-versed with this mode of affection, drunk gushing is what you call the incoherent messages we send when we’re 4 glasses of wine deep. Think: “I literally loveuso much I wld die 4 you”, “wow how lucky am I that u exist?????” and “thnak u for being YOU AN ANGEL a queen amongst PeasANTz”. Or, well, maybe this is just me. But my friends still reply.

Those classic conversations once shared over a single moment are now move into the digital realm, to be laughed about and screenshotted the next morning. Although it never gets old, that warm glow of someone you love singing your praises with no inhibition and no reserve, no matter what the time is. The conversations just really going full throttle on “how much they love you” and “if you die I’ll resurrect you just to kill you again for leaving me so don’t even think about it” is the best way to wake up.

You also gradually become an eager spectator of their ‘other life’: the existence they have outside of you, which consists of their day-to-day. It’s their job, their love life, their other friends – the parts that they can see in front of them, that accompany them for the few quick cocktails you wish you could share. It’s the drunken stories you aren’t a part of, the cute boy you’ve never seen, the work that won’t ever creep close to your own.

It’s the trips you can’t go on and the events you miss, the anecdote you’ve heard a thousand times over but which this time comes with a small detail which reminds you that you weren’t there. Sometimes it’s sad and makes you miss the closeness you once took for granted.

You also start to appreciate the depth of your friendship. When your bond isn’t a given solidified by circumstance or proximity, every conversation and every meeting feels like a little building block in your joint effort to stay connected. You’re elevated by the knowledge that somebody is putting out their energy and spending their time just to stay close to you. It’s a selfless love.

The threat of missing our sisters (or brothers) feel as far away as 401Ks and dental plans.

Whether your journey can be measured by train or by plane, the distance between you will always feel long. But it’s worth working for, these special bonds, because they’re the kind of connections that outlast many others, and they’re constants in a life which is forever changing and turning.

So send a text, a voice note, a calendar alert for your next wine night – anything – and remind your best friend that you’re thinking of them. Many people become friends but very few become your soulmates. And we all need a bit of friend soulmates, now don’t we?

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