For friends, distance is worth it

My whole life, I dreamed of meeting a best friend who knew me the way no one else ever had. A kindred spirit. A platonic soul mate. A bosom friend.

I never dreamed that once I found that person, I would have to learn how to navigate a long-distance friendship after she moved 1,000 miles away.

I finally met this best friend after I went potluck for a roommate freshman year. I didn’t know anyone else at Baylor, and I was nervous that my unknown roommate and I wouldn’t get along. The one thing I never thought to worry about was that my roommate would become my best friend, only to graduate during my sophomore year and move back home to Florida.

In the year since she left, I’ve learned a lot about navigating a long-distance friendship. Like any relationship, it takes effort to maintain a friendship.Throwing 1,000 miles and multiple time zones into the mix makes things a lot more complicated. We can’t exactly spend hours at each other’s apartment, binge-watching “Parks and Recreation” and talking late into the night about everything from pirate queens to her dream of building a tiny house.

Instead, the whole dynamic of our friendship has had to change, and we’ve had to learn how to communicate regularly, be there for each other and have fun together in spite of the distance. Many of my other friends have faced similar challenges, either with friends from back home who went elsewhere after high school or friends who graduated before them and headed out into the great, wide world. Though maintaining these friendships can be tough, there are a few strategies you can use to stay close to your friends, even when you’re far away.

The lifesaver of any long-distance friendship is a website called Rabbit. Essentially, Rabbit is Skype with Netflix thrown in. While you have a video call, Rabbit lets you pull up YouTube, Netflix or Hulu so you can watch videos together. This takes your regular catch-up session to a whole new level, since you can not only talk about what’s going on in your lives, but you can also watch shows together the same way you would if you were together.

It’s also easier to stay in touch with short, regular calls instead of long, less frequent calls. For a while, my best friend and I used to spend a couple hours on Skype each month. Now, we try to talk a couple times each week, even if we only have 10 or 15 minutes to spare. It’s a lot easier to stay informed on what’s going on in another person’s life if you check in with them on a more regular basis.

Sending physical mail is important, too. For example, when I was studying abroad in London I mailed my best friend postcards from the cool places I visited, and she recently sent me a box filled with (belated but awesome) Christmas presents. Sending mail creates a more tangible connection, unlike texting or phone calls or Skype. I always love receiving handwritten cards or personalized gifts from my faraway friends because they’re a reminder that we still physically exist in each other’s lives, even if we’re separated by great distances.

Another important part of maintaining our long-distance friendship is making plans for when we’ll be reunited. My best friend and I often talk about how I hope to go visit her this summer, and she tells me she hopes to come celebrate my 21st birthday with me this spring. Although these plans may not always come to fruition because of our busy lives and tight budgets, it’s important to know that we’ll have fun together in the future, and we won’t always be separated like we are now.

It takes a lot of effort to maintain a long-distance friendship, but some relationships are more than worth working for. Technology does make it easier than ever to stay in touch, and with the right habits and open communication, you never truly have to bid your friends goodbye.

Kalli Damschen is a senior English and journalism major from Layton, Utah. She is a reporter for the Lariat.