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The Ups and Downs of Long Distance Friendships

At the tail end of my college career, I imagined the hardest road bumps ahead would be finding a great job in a city I love and finding a cool pet-friendly downtown apartment to move all of my books and scented candles into by graduation. I didn’t expect loneliness to be part of the equation.

That is truly the hardest adjustment I’ve had to make as an adult: making and keeping friends.

I survived the job applications and apartment hunting. Yet, my first few years living in Des Moines, the only people I knew were family. The majority of my high school and college friends ended up in different places, scattered across Iowa, the US, even the world. After three years in Des Moines, I’ve been lucky enough to make new friends, but navigating longer distance friendships has been a battle.

Despite living in a world of constant connection, there’s always ups and downs when it comes to maintaining distant relationships. Some friends live two to three hours away or two to three states over. Others entail an international flight, 2 layovers, and a seven-hour time difference.

The great thing about being an adult and realizing nobody knows what they’re doing is the sense of community that creates. I know there are countless people trying to navigate friendships the same way I am, mostly because they only people who read my blog are my aforementioned long distance friends. Which is why I know some of the following points will ring a bell with you:)

+ : Prestige [Friendships] Worldwide

I count myself very lucky to have traveled and connected with amazing people from across the country and world. I met amazing groups of people while living in Alaska and studying in Scotland. I get to visit friends on the beautiful East and West coasts, even traveling to Canada this last summer (hey Shann!). Sadly for said friends, they had to visit me in Iowa, where our claim to fame is sweet corn and being outnumbered by pigs 20 to 1.

It’s a wonderful feeling to know I have an amazing network of friends that extends from me to the edges of the country, sometimes spilling over into others.

– : Time is [Never] of the Essence

Whether the time difference is one hour or seven, you never truly appreciate the ease of communicating with someone in your own time zone until you regularly don’t. You’re constantly being forced to do the math, and, for me, that’s like reliving Algebra 2 day in and day out. It may be 5 p.m. here when I send a group text to the wonderful group of women I met when living in Scotland, but it’s 12:00 a.m. in Austria and 2 p.m. in California and 6:00 p.m. in New York and Canada. Getting an answer to a quick question, like updating mailing addresses, becomes a week-long affair.

+ : Let Me Count The Ways To Keep in Touch

While finding a time for everyone to chat and catch up is hard with multiple time zones, there is no shortage of ways to stay in touch. From group Skype calls to WhatsApp to Facebook Messenger, Instagram inboxes and Snapchat stories, there is always a way to feel connected to those we love far away. Some tools let us communicate together in a group, others let us simply feel connected to the other ones’ lives by witnessing their goings-on via posts. We may not be able to experience the ins and outs of our days together anymore, but we get to feel as though we do.

– : Ain’t Nobody Got Time For Multiple Group Chats

While the variety of ways to keep in touch is a beauty to behold, it’s still a beast to manage. Trying to keep track of people’s contact information or scheduling conflicts for reunion dates across various inboxes and chats feels like you’re a lab rat stuck in a maze with no end. Just a lot of bobbing and weaving back and forth, trying to find the light [and cheese] at the end of it all.

+ : Meet Me in the Middle…of London Heathrow Airport

One of the best parts of meeting people from all around the state, country, and the world is the ability to travel to see them. When visiting someone’s home, not only do you get free housing accommodation but the best tour guide possible: a local! If you are lucky in the way I have been, and meet a group of amazing people who love to travel, you get to plan trips to new places together.

– : Me: I really want to travel. My schedule: Like…in 2022

Taking trips is amazing. Planning trips can only be compared to planning a funeral; you save it until the last minute and you want to die by the end. Not only do you have to iron out your own schedule, but in the case of my amazing, beautiful, talented group of worldly friends, also 5-6 other people’s schedules. By the grace of whatever God you believe in, all six of us have been able to make all of our reunions the past four years in a row, and that is an accomplishment if I’ve ever seen one. Here’s to Year 5!

It goes to show you rarely find a positive in life without a negative. I mean that’s the whole premise of batteries and magnets so it must be true. While long-distance friendships are hard, the effort makes it so much more worth the while. I get to point to the edges of the world and say, “Someone there loves me, and I love them.” Because of that, I always carry a bit of them with me, and I with them.

It’s work, but I wouldn’t trade true friendships for anything more convenient and less meaningful.


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