Years ago, I remember one of my husband’s friends saying, “I can’t be friends with people unless they live within a certain radius.” While we appreciated that he knew this about himself, it was also baffling to us.
When we first me, my husband was an Australian living in Minnesota. I was a Midwest girl living in New York City. Moving and having to maintain long distance friendships was something we were both accustomed to. We built the foundation for our relationship from thousands of miles apart.
Distance wasn’t a factor for either of us. But I know this is something that many people struggle with.
With each move I have made throughout my adult life, there have been people that have withstood the distance and others who, with time, became memories of a season or chapter.
A reason. A season. Or, a lifetime.
Some people come into your life to teach you a lesson or force you to examine something that you had been unwilling to see without their prompting. Others are with you for a short time during a particular stage of life, but as that season changes, so does the relationship. And then there are those who are with you, always, despite proximity or major life changes.
My best friend from college likes to tease me, “I need an address book just for you!” From the first day we walked into our Introduction to Media course over 20 years ago to every season and chapter of life since – weddings, the birth of our children, milestones, difficult moments – we have been with one another through everything.
Distance never mattered.
As seasons have changed in my own life, I value the friendships that have traveled with me even more.
I was talking with another friend last week – someone who is near and dear to my heart and consider to be one of my closest and most valued friendships. Since the day I left America, we have scheduled weekly calls to check in with one another. And while travel schedules have resulted in us missing a week here and there, it has been one of the highlights of each week.
Despite the distance, we haven’t missed a beat in each other’s lives.
She walked through the exciting moments with us just before we left, sat on the phone with me while I cried about missing work and friends, and she talked me through moments of questioning our decision or what the next chapter might look like.
And I have done the same for her, listening and providing a sounding board on everything from career to marriage.
While we no longer have those conversations from the comfort of my back deck, they still happen – over coffee for me and wine for her – without fail.
One of those conversations has been preparing to move again, as the owners of the rental home we are in have decided to make this their forever home. While it certainly isn’t an ideal circumstance, it was the risk we knew we took in renting versus purchasing a home.
As we pulled our moving boxes out of storage and were deciding what came next, I sent photos and links of potential homes to friends back in the states asking for input on our options.
Most of those were met with an enthusiastic offering of opinions. I mean, who doesn’t like looking at homes when you aren’t attached to the outcome? I am one of those people who check out the real estate listings from week to week, constantly monitoring the market. When asked for my opinion on housing, I am happy to willingly offer up my two cents.
Above and beyond that, I find that when we allow our friends to come along with us on the journey, they feel connected even though the circumstances surrounding the friendship have changed – in our case, location.
When one response was, “just come home,” I laughed it off but knew I needed to take a moment to actually process the words. And what I realized during that pause was that the request was more about them than me.
I found myself thinking a lot about the different seasons in my own life – friends that have come and gone, and those that have stayed the course from chapter to chapter. The words of my husband’s friend echoed back to me.
While moving certainly isn’t a new experience of my adult life, I still struggle to understand the idea that friendships can only survive when located within a certain geographical location.
I wondered, if your life always remains the same, are your friendships weighted in true connection or is it simple proximity?
At dinner over the weekend, we realized that around our table we collectively represented Australia, Switzerland, Wales, France, Greece, America, Ireland, New Zealand, and England – jokingly calling ourselves The United Nations. But what struck me as we reminisced about where we all came from, was that at some point or another, we had all gone through the same thing – being the new kid and redefining what life looked like. It was the common thread that connected each of us.
What moving has taught me is the value of learning from the experiences of others. Not everyone from each chapter of life may make it to the next, so while they are here in whichever chapter they happened to show up in, embrace it.
Why limit your life or your friendships to live within the box of proximity? When we close ourselves off, we also limit the lens through which we see life – appreciating only that which is right in front of us.
We live in a big world with people from all different walks of life, religious backgrounds, and cultures. Whether someone ends up being in your life for just a season or they happen to be one of those special friendships that define your tribe, why limit yourself to what is simply comfortable or familiar?
Everyone we meet has an opportunity to impact our perspective, to help change our thoughts, and reshape our idea of the world.
This week, let’s all challenge ourselves to open our eyes to those around us. Whether it is an old friendship that needs nurturing, a new friendship that needs openness, or an opportunity to embrace someone or something that is different. Do so with open arms and open hearts – you never know who may end joining you for a lifetime.
Cheers to a new week and living life without limits.