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Waving at Airplanes: Why Long-Distance Relationships Can Work

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Staff Writer - Katrin Callender

There is tension in my chest as I type these words. I know that in a few hours, I will be with my best friend. And I know that it is not going to be like all the times we met to go see a film, or volunteer at an event or sit on a bench and catch up. It isn’t going to be like our days as schoolfellows either. There will be the same giggling, running through the library showing each other the treasures we’ve found, and intimate conversation. Unlike the meetings of the past, when we wave goodbye to each other, months –even years-will go by before we are together again.

This is not the first time we’ve parted in this fashion.  The air is thick and hot as if nature itself is as forlorn as I. It never gets easier. She migrated some years ago and she has been back since. And during every visit we meet and talk for hours and each conversation is so filled with love and laughter that the time in between visits seems to melt. There has been no loneliness; no joke or adventure that was forced to wait till I could go online; no empty chair beside me. Surely it was just yesterday or last week that we spoke, not a year- a whole year!

There are a number of reasons that her family moved away. What really matters is her happiness. Every visit is a reminder that the goals she and her family have set are being pursued and accomplished. I celebrate this. I would not be worthy of her friendship if I resented her move, or envied these successes.  We all grow up. Sometimes we must leave our homes to make our dreams come true. Some of us go geographically further than others on these quests. Distance does not mean that our relationships must die. Technology can help to keep us together but it is merely one tool to do so. Does friendship rely only on the regularity with which we speak to a person? No. We speak to many people as we go about our daily business and we do not necessarily call them friend. Is it solely the result of being in close proximity? No. We find ourselves in close proximity to strangers all the time, in elevators or taxis and so on.  Frequent conversation and physical proximity may facilitate friendship, but these alone do not maintain it.

What is it we love about our friends? What common traits or interests do we enjoy? What about qualities like loyalty, warmth and discretion, or any others you may prioritize. Friendships predate numerous technological advancements. And as such, these may have seen greater distance and time without communication than we have ever known. Should we assume that these friendships faded? Our friends occupy a space in our hearts because of the nature of the interaction we enjoy with them. Some friendships are made in minutes; others in years. Why should this space become vacant because our friends have gone away?

I want to shy away from this meeting. I am terrified of the pain. If I don’t go-if there is no goodbye- maybe she isn’t leaving. Then I remember my friend. She is so brave and adventurous. She has dared me to dream and to chase dreams. And she has cheered for me on the sidelines. She helps to make me my best. And this is not goodbye. This is us taking two separate journeys, armed with the lessons we’ve taught each other, and so much love. This is us braving the immediate future alone, until we meet again time melting and tell each other the tale. Bon Voyage!



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