It's mid-August, the usual August lull will have hit, but for some of those heading off to university soon, the question about maintaining friendships may be on on your minds.
If you're even remotely nomadic by nature, chances are you have a bunch of friends you may have left behind in a place you've previously lived. We see this happen if families move, if you go to a different town (or country, in Luxembourg's case) for university, and if you then move away after university too. Most of us have long-distance friendships, but for the under-25s, the struggle inherent in long-distance friendships is perhaps all the more clearer as you most likely don't have a long-term partner or children that you focus your energy on.
So friends remain, but how do you ensure you stay as close as you can when you only see each other periodically? This is something I'm especially prone to ponder as I've got a lot of my friends now living in different cities and countries, and consider these guys to be my closest friends...unfortunately only figuratively, not literally.
Having different friendships
Usually, I'm not a fan of #inspirationalquotes, but there's one that resonates when it comes to reflecting on friendships:"People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime." We can break friendships down by this quote as well - you might have 'convenience friends', who you spend time with as you're put in the same situation, such as school or work, but you might not spend time with if that reason for your friendship goes away.
Then, the seasonal friends applies to certain periods in your lifetime, notably university. These people make up your daily life for a good three to four years and at the time, you feel like you could never imagine a life when you're not so close. But, much like with friends that come into your life for a reason, you do grow apart.
And then finally, the friends for a lifetime, who emerge from either scenario and are there through thick and through thin. These are the ones you want to hold onto but what to do if you feel distance growing?
I think it's worth acknowledging and understanding that some friendships do just drift away, precisely because you're no longer in the situation where you're able to curate that friendship by seeing each other frequently and without effort. Somehow, suggesting you meet up for a coffee becomes a monumental task. This is sad, but sometimes it is worth knowing when to let go as well.
The internet - friend or foe?
Friendships, like relationships, require an emotional burden in terms of maintaining that friendship. Sometimes that burden can be uneven and that's difficult to navigate - if you feel like you're the one carrying the friendship, do you continue for the sake of your friend, talk to them, or decide maybe it's not worth investing so much effort into this friendship?
Obviously, your mileage varies depending on the friendship and the circumstances. And then, of course, we have the internet. What can be an amazing tool for staying in touch with people you're no longer able to see in real life can also be a double-edged sword. The benefits of social media and video chats are that you can stay in touch and see each others' faces, hear each others' voices, and also see what you're up to (if you like to post a lot to social media, that is). You can also just tag your friend in something fun, just a quick reminder of 'This made me think of you!' and things as small as that sometimes are enough to keep a friendship strong in between months of not seeing each other.
But the internet has its negative sides, especially if you're insecure and perhaps you've had trouble staying in touch, going back to the idea of an emotional burden. If you follow a friend on social media and see they've been busy moving on in their life (and maybe you feel you're in the same place), but at the same time you've asked them to call or chat for the past x amount of times, it can be difficult to see what might be a friend moving on. And if that friend is leaving your messages unread - and you can see this - the sense that your friendship may not be what it used to be can be difficult to stomach. However, sometimes it's worth letting these friendships go. We don't have endless amounts of patience and these relationships should be two-way streets. Granted, I personally think it's worth maybe having an open-mind in case that person does come back and put more effort in.
The thing with friendships, even toxic ones, is that you don't have to burn bridges. You can just take a step back, often for your own sake. If you're the one always taking the initiative, you can scale that back, which is generally a healthier approach than confronting somebody and having bad blood.
Fundamentally though, friendships evolve as we do and how to curate these friendships through distance is not a 'one size fits all' scenario. Some people you might not see for a year but, if you end up in the same place, it's like nothing has changed.
I have a friend that I've known for 20+ years and whenever I'm back home and we meet up for a cup of tea, our dynamic remains the same. With other friends you might need to do something more to make sure you're up to date with each other. Two of my closest university friends and I try to make sure we know when we're next seeing each other before going back to our own lives and also do a type of catching up by creating music playlists for each other.
Perhaps this piece may not seem like it has much of an opinion to it, but I would argue that coming to a place where you understand that not every friendship requires the same care and effort is one of the most important things you can learn when it comes to having long-distance friendships.
Nathalie Lodhi is an editor and translator for RTL Today who has a fair amount of long-distance friendships.