When did it become natural to move far from the people we love, to test the strength of relationships to time and distance? Is it a way by which we tease out meaning in an overly networked web of relationships? Is it in our new-frontier blood, an innate drive to push beyond the next horizon? Does it make us stronger to test our independence? Or stupid to sever our support systems? Are we inclined to stray from the comfort of safety or are we pulled by the allure of opportunity elsewhere? What makes us go? And can we ever go back?
I have friends and family all over the globe. One comes home from Kenya as another flies off to New Zealand. With more relatives than there are states, my blood is spilled across this country with someone to go home to in any given direction. From coast to coast and continent to continent, the more opportunity that I chase and the more I come into my own, the further I find myself from the people I love. Each new place is a new set of associations perhaps with a few old ones to redefine in the mix. It is a tricky balance of sticking your neck out and coddling what is already good.
As relationships are defined by phone calls and emails, I find myself severing those I don’t have the time to hold on to. Not because I don’t value the diversity, but because I am only capable of so many connections in a week, of so many phone calls and so much screen time. There are very few that I want to see go, and some that I hope will rekindle some day. But it always feels a little unnatural to so intentionally slip into neglect or to fight for proximity.
Beneath the veil of sadness by which faraway friendships are defined is the excitement of knowing that we have each chosen our place in the universe, that we are all exactly where we want to be. There is so much optimism in that recognition, I can’t help but be proud of each of my people and immensely grateful for the privilege and liberty bestowed upon us.
The upside to the physical separation is that I seem to know someone almost everywhere I go. Each move is an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, to redefine old relationships. Sometimes this means picking up exactly where we left off. Effortlessly we give way to the laughter and embrace the old ways and it’s like it always was. These relationships feel like home, every single time. They require little nurturing and thrive without the slightest effort. There are other friendships, though, ones that demand to be redefined in light of the distance and the lapse of time. People have changed and the reunion makes the evolution glaringly obvious. At best, both parties recognize the shift and either accommodate it and see what evolves or walk quietly away recognizing that it has lived its course. Neither option is painless and the tangible renegotiation is always a bit awkward, but these relationships push me to grow and make me recognize how much I already have. A reminder of who I was once and how far I have come and exactly where I want to end up, in the best case scenario, we end up growing together again and it was all a healthy practice in priorities and intetionalization.
And then there’s everything in between. The spectrum of dynamics has grown only more diverse with the distance of geography. And so we choose our partners in crime carefully, and we keep tabs on our confidants, and we coddle those closest to us as we lean toward the next adventure. Come what, come who, may.