What happens to friendships when you decide to move a substantial number of miles away? If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years is that long distance friendships, just like romantic relationships, are hard work. I’ve missed many birthday cakes, all-nighters, carnival parades and holidays over the years. Most importantly, I’ve missed all these tiny, almost insignificant moments that bond people, like shots that were far beyond our ability to handle alcohol, inside jokes, watching the stars late at night/ the sunrise, lunatic home-made choreographies, seeing someone getting the cold shoulder treatment from his/her crush, eating dessert from its container and so on. I’ve given and taken advice over facebook chat, seen people cry on Skype without being able to do something else, but try to console them with kind words. I’ve had catch-ups with friends I haven’t seen in years. There are others I know I won’t be seeing for a long time because they moved or live permanently in other cities. I’ve been full of nostalgia, tired of saying goodbyes and browsing through summer vacation pictures while supposedly writing university term papers.
As I mentioned before, it’s hard work. Friendships are like the muscles of an athlete or the skills of a foreign languages enthusiast, they need constant work. Otherwise they fade away and finally disappear. I know it first-hand because I have done it once or twice on purpose, but that’s another story. One thing I’ve learned along the way is that you have to put your egoism aside; there are no “he/she didn’t call” or “he/she never writes to me.” My way of seeing it is thinking “what did/can I do?” Did I write to them to wish happy birthday or simply to see what they’re doing? Did I called or text them when I got in Athens? Do I know enough about what’s going on in their lives? Of course, facebook plays a hugely important role for me in staying in contact with my friends back home. I like to think of myself as a terrible spammer; I sent photos and links that remind me of them, post music video on their profiles and use their status updates as an excuse to chat them up.
However, it takes two to tango. Sometimes the response – or to be more precise – the lack of it makes me bitter. It’s pretty deprecating seeing that you are the only one trying. However, I try not to take it personally; I guess it is simply a part of the process of growing up apart, meeting new people and making new friends. In addition, it is something I only realized when my mom pointed it out for me: I view the time I spend in Athens as something limited and therefore precious. On the other hand, friends that live here permanently perceive time differently; it’s endless, so why bother plan things in advance? To make it more comprehensible, I’ll attempt to draw a parallel between that and Athenians’ reaction to rainy weather: Having lived a considerable amount of my life in Corfu, where it rains non-stop, and in Germany, where the color of the sky simply varies between different shades of grey, I’m not afraid to go out on a bad weather day. Living in those two places taught me that one shall go out no matter what the weather feels like; you simply put on your rubber boots, practice your layering technique, button up your coat and go out. If you’ve waited for a truly heavenly day to come along in order to go out, you’d probably spend an eternity at home. Athenians on the contrary are well aware that the sun is going to reappear sooner or later, so they don’t mind spending an afternoon cocooning at home watching PLL or Suits, instead of getting in weather’s way. Same logic applies to the aforementioned point.
There is a beautiful quote of Maya Angelou that goes like this: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”It would be terribly easy for me to let myself feel neglected and miserable (I’m by nature inclined to do so); unfortunately enough, there are always a few amazing people who love to spam me as much as I do love to spam them, pick me up for coffee and make me pray I don’t pee in my pants from laughing too hard.
I’d love to read your thoughts on maintaining long distance friendships.