A long time ago, in a city not too far away, lived a young teenage student in a university hall filled with people whom she did not actually know. These people were from all across the country, from all walks of life, and would soon shape the way she viewed the world for years to come. Some of these people would quickly become like a second family to her, and for the next three years, these people would become a life support that she never expected to need.
This girl, for those who hadn’t already guessed it, was me. At just eighteen years old I moved to a completely new city, all on my own, and found myself living with brand new people and desperately trying to make friends so that I wouldn’t feel isolated in an accommodation block filled with complete strangers. I was one of the lucky ones, you hear so many horror stories from people who go to university and spend three years loathing everyone they live with, even the people who they actively chose to spend their years with.
Somehow, I got lucky. I managed to stumble across people at university who I connected with in ways that I had never expected. Not only were we all in exactly the same boat, but we all needed that second family to keep us propped up when the going got a bit tough throughout the course of our degrees.
People tell you that life will be difficult after university. You’ll go from trekking across to campus for an hour lecture before catching the bus home and sleeping for the rest of the afternoon to working nine-to-five, five days a week (if you’re lucky). You’ll go from nursing a mid-week hangover with takeaway and Netflix to forgetting what a mid-week hangover even is. You’ll go from having complete freedom over how you do things to being promptly dropped back into a situation where suddenly things are out of your control again – either you’ll be living with your parents, or you’ll be forced to become an adult straight away as you move out from home and find your first ‘proper’ job.
One thing they don’t tell you is the actual heartache that comes along with leaving your friends behind. I was sad the day I moved out, but nothing could prepare me for the tough adjustment period as I came to terms with my best friends not living a five-minute walk down the road anymore. Now, my closest friend lives 125 miles away in Birmingham and my other closest friend moved all the way from Halifax to London.
There were points in this transition period where I wasn’t sure if I would ever fully get used to it. You get this sense of loneliness that you can’t quite shake – there’s no one in the house at 1 am who will sit and watch High School Musical vines with you until you fall asleep in the same bed anymore and that is a horrible thing. Even though these people are only a phone call away at any time (thank you modern technology) there’s still a big gap left in your life.
If there’s one thing I have learnt from this experience, however, it’s that long-distance friendships show you who is a close friend and who isn’t. Yes, we are all adults and we all live busy lives, and maintaining conversations via text can be difficult. Sometimes it is just so easy to think “Oh, I’ll reply to that later” except later ends up being a week and a half and then it’s too awkward to reply at all. But I have found that it is simple to keep up conversations with people frequently if you’re both on the same page.
Take my best friend from my course for example – even if it’s just sending a meme or a BuzzFeed article – we communicate somehow at least once a day. We didn’t agree to do this, and we don’t plan it, it’s just the way that it has panned out for us. Maybe that’s an exceptional case because we are so similar, but if anything we have become even closer since leaving university. Not seeing someone
Not seeing someone every day makes you appreciate your conversations more, and makes it easier to open up about things if you don’t have to try and verbalise it. I miss her like crazy a lot of the time – when work has been stressful and all I want to do is watch Parks and Recreation with a big bowl of popcorn, she would be my go-to gal and it is hard to not have that easily. It just makes things even more exciting when we do get to see each other.
Then there are others, who I may not speak to every day but when we do get together its as if we were never apart. We just pick up straight where we left off.
An example of this happened very recently. Four of my house mates all came up for the weekend to celebrate a friend’s birthday and Leeds Pride, and it was such a lovely feeling to be reunited with them for a whole weekend – so much so that I’m currently sat in my living room on my own wondering how I’ve coped without them being around for so long. When we’re back together, it’s like we just click. We’re all so busy in our day to day lives that time does run away with us and we can go weeks without even considering dropping each other a message, so we have to make up for all of that when we do get together. And, because we all do lead such busy lives and have completely different schedules we have to make the most of these reunions because it could be a good year before everyone is back together again.
Part of me wonders if I will ever truly get used to long-distance friendships and the frustrations they bring along with them. I certainly feel like I am less busy now than I have ever been, simply because my friends are scattered across the country and getting together requires weeks of planning. Long gone are the days of popping to Starbucks on campus before a lecture or a cheeky breakfast in Whetherspoons to prepare us for a hangover fueled day. I’m just lucky to have people who do make the effort when they can. Not everyone gets that.
Have you experienced the same kind of long distance friendship agony? How do you and your friends cope?