I’ve lived in Vancouver for four years now and in the past year, a lot of the friends I initially made when I first came here have moved, most of them graduating school or returning home. Since I value close friendships, I make it a point to keep in touch with my long-distance friends. On some level, any kind of long-distance relationship can be both a challenge and a blessing. In a weird way, I’ve become closer to certain of my friends because now we have to be more mindful, invest time and effort into maintaining our relationship.
The golden rule for me is planning ahead. I find it sad how sometime, people will say, “Keep in touch!” and then never do. The trick is to schedule phone calls or Skype dates the same way you would schedule any other hangout. Since I personally have a busy schedule, sometimes I even have to say, “I can Skype you in two weeks this day and this time!”
It sounds silly, but the truth is that without careful planning, it can be easy to prioritize other things. In the past, I’ve found myself cancelling phone calls and not returning them for weeks at a time. Those sorts of things definitely take a toll on any relationship.
I am a fan of cards. I mean, who doesn’t love to receive mail? In order to maintain my friendships, I like to send card on holidays and birthdays.
This means that I have to make sure to add my loved ones’ birthdays in my Google Calendar because it can be easy to forget. Sending a postcard may seem like a simple gesture at first, but it goes a long way. It’s also the perfect opportunity to tell the other person how grateful you are to have them in your life.
Skype or Facetime
When I need to rant or have something to say, Skyping my best friend from home will be just as cathartic as seeing my therapist or talking to my Vancouver friends at a local coffee shop.
Video chatting is vastly different than texting and I definitely prefer phone calls over emails or texts — although you can seek emotional support through both, I suppose. You can get just as much support through video chatting than you would in person.
Managing a large social circle
This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but because I have collected a lot of friends over the years, it’s hard to keep track sometimes. I was never particularly popular in high school, but I have always valued close relationships. Now, I have friends back home like my high school girlfriends and childhood friends.
I have friend overseas and I have friends here in Vancouver. I also have mentors and other individuals whom I consider part of my social support system. I mentally keep track of all of them and sometimes when I catch myself thinking, “Huh, I haven’t heard from X person for a while,” I will immediately contact them so we can plan a date and “catch up”. It’s the only way to keep friendships alive. You have to make an effort to keep in touch and it’s hard work because it’s so easy to drift apart. It’s also super frustrating when you’re always the one reaching out.
For example, I will meet up with a friend and they will be happy to see me. We have a great time, but unless I reach out a second or third time, I never hear from them again. I think it’s because we live in a society where we’re always “running out of time.” I find it time consuming to invest in so many friendships, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because I value my relationships so much. It has and will always be worth it.
The authors of this column are not mental health professionals. If you need additional support, please contact Student Health Services, Sexual Assault Support Centre and/or the Wellness Centre. In case of an emergency, call 911.