Staying in touch can be a tricky thing. How many friendships endure and blossom into the real thing? How many “best friends” turn into lifelong confidantes, long-distance partners in life’s drama? Not many. True friendships are to be cherished, for they really are a rarity. And what is it that distinguishes them from the broad stream of different relationships we cultivate over the years? Is it Time? Is it Familiarity? A bit like comfort food, perhaps; comfort-relationships? Or is it that inner feeling that runs through everything, rising from your gut and recognizing each other’s voice, that tells you that no matter how hard you may try, you can’t quite put your finger on what makes it real. There’s a deep understanding and acceptance within yourself that this breed of friendship isn’t something either of you choose; rather, it chooses you, and pursues you till you get it right.
That doesn’t mean true friendships don’t call for hard work. On the contrary, they are much more difficult to navigate, because the level of involvement from both sides is much greater. When you’ve moved to a new location, full of enthusiasm and fire to wade through whatever life may throw at you, it is not familiarity that comes calling and makes you go over - if only for a second - your decision. It’s an acute sense of not knowing. As a fully grown adult, of course you’re able to distinguish between what’s real and what is most likely an impression of your conditioning. Yet, the vulnerability is real and you can feel it. It’s at times like these when you know that your true friendships are much more than just fun and laughs. The authenticity of those friendships reaches right down to the core of your being; they are intrinsic to your identity, to your sense of self. In short, a part of your best friend lives in you, and you’ve left a part of yourself with him at your hometown for safekeeping.
Long-distance friendships thrive on honesty. When you know someone well and can take liberties with them that you can’t with others, you have a responsibility to be honest with them and be available to their ideas and views as well. This isn’t a responsibility of the kind you’ve taken on for your spouse, your children, or your parents; because your priorities have changed and you have to actively be there for your loved ones, the honesty between yourself and your best-friend is a slow and steady investment. Do it well and for long enough, and you'll end up with a stable ground on which both of you can stand as mature adults, each with his or her own unique story. But with a shared understanding that goes beyond words.
If friendship is the gift that keeps on giving, then you and your best friend are its conduits. You know your friend needn’t say anything to let you know how much the friendship matters. Your friend knows that there is no material possession that can encapsulate your equation, and that you needn’t shower her with gifts to thank her for being there. Yet, you understand that gestures are important. And it’s not because they are mandatory, it’s because they are not. You are building new customs as you go along, and you’re making the effort to acknowledge the crossing of every barrier. A thoughtful gift can be much more than a mere present - you’re breathing life into the current stage of your friendship. Your gift to your friend is a symbolic gesture, and a great one can be timeless.
The Role of Long-Distance Friendship in Exploring Your Roots
Yes, you’ve grown up and bravely taken ownership of your existence. Life has taken you far, far away from the vast fortress of your boyhood dreams. Your childhood friend now lives in another city, living a life that you could not have foreseen when you were kids. Your college friend, who you once could have sworn would never have left his parents’ home, leave alone the city, has moved to a different country. Sound familiar? Well, as we all know but aren’t always willing to admit, times change, as do people.
Amazingly, today, a lot of young adults are reclaiming their roots and taking stock of cherished memories that formed an important part of their trajectory growing up. The fact that they have access to wider networks is no small factor in this transformation. Before, it was perhaps understood that many close friendships would fade into the distance as people took on the responsibilities that come with starting a family. Now, many have mutual expectations of keeping in touch, at least semi-regularly, even if distance keeps them apart.
Relationships are central to an individual’s overall well-being. It is through relationships that they can come to understand themselves and grow as people, whether it’s in their roles as fathers, mothers, siblings, or friends. Friends who go way back, they understand aspects of your personality that are integral to who you are no matter which stage of life you are traversing. They understand things that newer friends or colleagues - no matter how close they are - simply will not be able to see.
For instance, if a family member were to fall ill in some unfortunate circumstance, your old childhood friend may come forward and offer you support and comfort in a way that your close colleague wouldn’t be able to. And it’s not because you aren’t as close to the colleague, but your closeness is based on common ground and current experiences. With an old friend, your closeness isn’t based on anything other than shared experiences that become an integral part of both your personalities. These experiences are essential to your core identity. Because your old friend knows you more deeply than time can corrode, he may be in a position to offer you emotional support in the time of your need.
Your old long-distance friend can also reminisce and share laughs with you about good times, taking you through memories of warmth and light. They know who you used to be, and they can help you remember special moments that may have slipped out of focus in your busy life. That said, long-distance friendships do require work and effort. They require a level of nurturing that calls for emotional intelligence, because you and your friend will most certainly have changed over the years.
Planning and Setting Aside Time to Catch Up
Social media isn’t exactly the frontier of authentic long-distance friendships. One could argue that social media has made us passive observers of our friendships rather than active participants. This is hardly a healthy trend. Yes, you can message on Whatsapp, have him as a Facebook friend, send him twitter updates, and keep in touch through Instagram, but these are largely impersonal and fleeting modes of communication. Speaking on the phone or having a Skype or Zoom call is a far better way of connecting with him or her. There is plenty of research supporting the idea that long-distance friendships thrive via phone conversations.
It would do your friendship a world of good if both your long-distance best friend and yourself are able to set aside time for the occasional vacation, and when that isn’t possible, a trip to where the other resides. It would give the two of you a chance to renew your friendship and build new memories. More importantly, it means you are willing to actively invest in your equation rather than allowing the friendship itself to become a memory. Of course, when you catch up, you’re going to spend a long time reminiscing and laughing about the good times you had when you were younger; at the same time, you have to move beyond it too or there’s a danger of the friendship falling into a repetitive trap. The nostalgia has got to be balanced with a healthy mutual interest for each other’s present day lives.
Moving Beyond Nostalgia
There’s another enticing - but ultimately futile - zone you might want to avoid. And that is to idealize your friendship. Yes, the fact that you and your friend continue to catch up despite the distance is certainly worth celebrating, but to turn the positivity into a frozen image would be a mistake; because it would mean each of you fires off expectations without realizing you’re doing so.
What you might want to do instead is to adopt an attitude of openness and compassion, where you’re attentive to the other’s needs without compromising on your own values, intuition, and learnings from life. The ability to be upfront and civil at the same time is a real blessing. When you avoid conflict completely, in all likelihood the friendship will eventually fizzle out, because no equation between two human beings can be perfect. Relationships are dynamic, and honesty between the two of you can only be a positive thing.
Nurturing The Gift That Keeps on Giving
One fine morning, you receive a call from your best friend for no particular reason, other than the fact that it’s been a while. What can you say about moments like these? They are rare and wonderful, because they allow each of you to put your adult egos aside and communicate as old friends. It doesn’t mean each of you has to temporarily suspend your individual worlds - you bring them into the equation and share the joys. And it doesn’t mean you don’t rib each other every now and then, because that keeps things light and easy. You can laugh with an old friend, and in the very same conversation, discuss serious issues and confide your doubts and fears. And that truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
How do you let your friend know how much moments such as these mean to you? You both know that your camaraderie is for life, but how can you convey just how much you savor each special moment. Is a unique and timeless gift enough? Perhaps not. But it is just about the closest thing you have to a physical representation of your gratitude. And for that reason, it’s worth exploring unique gift ideas to celebrate your long-distance friendship. Here are 5 unique gift ideas for you to choose from.
5 Unique Gifts to Celebrate Your Long-Distance Friendship
- ‘Open When’ Note Cards in Customized Envelopes
There’s a reason why people romanticize snail mail in a way that email will never make the cut. That’s because it’s much more personal, and it’s most often a labor of love. You can create customized ‘Open When’ note cards for your friend based on specific moods, experiences, or thoughts.
It’s in your hands, literally, to capture the essence of your friendship, letting him or her know just how deep your understanding of their character goes. Be as creative as you wish, there are no limits!
- A Custom-Decorated ‘Life Planner’ Set
A life-planner can be a bit of a hit-or-miss gift. Isn’t it enough that you wake up each morning to a fresh set of responsibilities, a burgeoning load of new tasks to complete; is it really necessary to be reminded of life’s challenges by the one person with whom you can share a laugh and just have a good time totally in the moment? Well, it all depends on what you choose to make of the “life” in ‘life-planner’. It needn’t be limited to mundane day-to-day tasks or important meetings - it can be about setting aside time for loved ones with specific activities. It can be about planning vacations. It can be about reunions, or even better, new adventures.
Every time your friend opens the planner for the year that’s ahead, she should feel inspired. She can forge a new path to live a simpler, healthier, and happier life. Happiness is a lifelong commitment to well-being, and a life-planner can remind you of the big and small steps to get there. Along with the weekly calendar pages, it's packed with family-friendly recipes, organizing tricks, and helpful how-tos.
- Long-Distance Friendship Keychain
A keychain may at first seem like too small a gift, but it needn’t be so. Firstly, it’s worth considering the fact that a keychain travels with your best friend wherever he or she goes. What better way to give them a piece of your soul, and to capture the essence of your lifelong friendship? Whether it’s one of gold, silver, or a nice blend of different color tones, a beautifully designed keychain is worth gifting to your friend.
You might want to add something symbolic, like an angel wing or specific musical notes - something that can take you to the heart of the finest days of childhood or youth, and can do so while accommodating the wonder of the present moment.
- Identical Coffee Mugs with Sketched Notes
As we’ve just established with the ideas explored above, there’s nothing more charming than a symbolic gift that’s uniquely your friend’s, for life. How about identical coffee mugs with cherished memories handwritten.
Like yourself, your best friend probably conjures particular memories in specific situations, to help them wade through life’s journey with ease. Coffee mugs are probably the first thing one notices in the morning; most of us need that early morning cup of coffee to start the day. There is the perfect opportunity to illustrate the unique bond the two of you share!
- Distinct, Customized Clothing for Every Season
This one’s a bit tricky, because you need to be able to get your friend’s measurements discreetly, and ensure she doesn’t have a hunch about what you’re up to. But once you’re past this hurdle, you’re truly good to go! You know your friend’s tastes - you’ve practically seen her flaunt her style your whole life. Is there a better gift than a set of beautiful garments that your friend can wear at all times!
But it doesn’t stop here. You need to add a little something to make the gift more personal. For the summer, pick out t-shirts with unique messages that relate to aspects of your unique bond. For the colder seasons, you can pick out jackets with unique designs, matching hats that you can wear at different occasions when you meet, and semi-casual shirts that you are certain your friend can wear with confidence every time he steps out of the house. The right clothes can last a lifetime, much like your friendship!
Boldly Navigating the Art of the Long-Distance Friendship
Your long-distance best friend may be on your mind a lot of the time, but when you don’t have the luxury of meeting someone regularly, the relationship can very easily turn into something of a hazy daydream. You’re going to want to do everything you possibly can not to allow an authentic relationship to slide into a string of half-hearted apologies followed by rumination. We’ve already enquired into the monumental role of honesty in your equation.
Of course, years will have passed, entire landscapes will have changed, and changes can be so abrupt that they leave each of you helpless and perplexed. But that’s no reason to ease off on your friendship; on the contrary, it’s a sign that it really does matter. Your unique bond is irreplaceable, and with an irreplaceable gift to illustrate the idea, you’re on your way to navigating the next stages of your friendship with ease.
We’ve all heard numerous war stories about camaraderie between soldiers becoming so intense during wartime, that it makes one question the notion of time. Well, in your case you have the hurdle of distance to overcome, and the gift of time - both a shared past and bright future - to help you get to the other side. You never know when your gift will mean something to your best friend - it may be exactly when he receives it, or at a moment in time where your support and solidarity matter the most.