It is my humble opinion that the long distance friendship isn’t given enough acknowledgement. We’ve all heard or experienced the trials of long distance romance, but how does it feel when it’s a best friend that’s absent?
Having just endured my first long distance flight, when I first stepped through customs in Singapore (a mere 17 hours since boarding my plane at Gatwick), I can’t honestly say if I was looking forward to seeing my friend George or the Java Chip Frappuccino he had waiting for me. In an uncharacteristic move, I had made a 6,800 mile journey completely alone, a feat that seemed to surprise most my nearest and dearest, who didn’t quite believe I was ever going book the flights I’d been researching for so long.
I was visiting one of my favourite people, who is one of my closest friends in all but the geographical sense. Though George and I had met at uni, when I was but a fresher and he was a wise old third year, he moved to Singapore to teach English a few months after graduating, meaning most of our friendship has been spent on different continents. Given the intense anxiety I experience just taking an unfamiliar bus route, it’s a testament to our long distance friendship how easily I strolled into the airport with absolutely zero worries standing in my way.
There are endless books, songs and articles lamenting about long distance relationships and the challenges they present, though nowhere near as many dedicated to the struggle of a long distance friendship. In part, I guess this is due to most of us having a variety of friends to lean on whilst only having one significant other, meaning that their absence is noticed so much more. Having dealt with long distance relationships before (in which I was invariably pulling my weight more) I can speak from experience when I say that this is largely, for lack of a kinder word, bullshit.
I’m not a huge socialite, and each one of the friends I have has been somewhat carefully curated. My seemingly short list of friends, along with my boyfriend, are each wonderful, supportive and just a little bit weird in their own beautiful ways, and any absences would be noticed considerably. However, if you read my run down of Five Friends You Need in Your Twenties, you’ll know what I mean when I say George is my Tough Love friend, as even from thousands of miles away he always tries to push me to do better for myself.
When you rely on second hand information about someone’s life, things can go one of two ways – you’ll either be unquestionably biased towards their side of the story, or you’ll be able to objectively read into the facts and set them straight. Having a friend who will talk sense into you when you’re on a rant or who you can use as a sounding board for your crazy ideas helps keep you sane and seeing the bigger picture. I can’t really thank George enough for his support over the years, and I hope I can say I’m there for him too!
When you’re someone like me, who’s confidence isn’t famed for being especially high, being able to maintain a friendship under trying geographical times can also give you a bit of a boost, as it shows that at least someone out there really will put effort into maintaining contact with you. That’s not to say that those near to you can’t also lift your spirits, but when you get into one of those states of minds when you convince yourself everyone secretly hates you, overcoming geographical adversity is a pretty difficult thing to ignore.
To say that leaving felt pretty shitty is an understatement. As I sat sobbing in the airport KFC where we were having a hurried last meal together, George remained stoic – a tactic he’s developed to make goodbyes easier. I was deeply sad to be leaving, not only my friend, but the beautiful city behind – the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. Though it no doubt sounds incredibly cliched, by pushing myself so far from my comfort zone I proved to myself that I am genuinely capable of doing things that others find scary, which I would never have done without my friend.
If you suddenly find yourself faced with a loved one moving far away, take it from me when I say that it doesn’t have to be the end. Though at times it’s difficult, a true friend will be there for you no matter the distance, and having the excuse to travel to see them is a huge bonus!