What It’s Like When Most of Your Relationships Are Long-Distance

Approximately five minutes after I became a legal adult (give or take a few months), I married a man in the military and moved out of state. A couple years later I moved again. A couple years later, well, I bet you can guess the rest.

Since 2011 I’ve lived in four different states, and I’ve enjoyed getting to experience different parts of the west. I’ve lived on an island and at 4,000 feet in the high desert. I’ve spent anniversaries spinning in the Space Needle and birthdays floating on Lake Tahoe. I’ve tried many different takes on burritos, and I’ve met a lot of people.

When you move a lot, an above average amount of people make their way into your life. IMO, far too many to maintain relationships with. You only have so much time and motivation during the day to devote to the relationships with the people around you, much less those who live hundreds of miles away.

In a relatively short amount of time, I’ve become pretty familiar with the different ways that being a halfway-vagabond can impact relationships.The more I’ve moved, the more efficient I’ve become, even as an introvert, at making friends.

It doesn’t always pan out, but sometimes it does in the let’s-be-friends-until-one-of-us-dies kind of way.

The People That Need to Go

Here’s the deal with being time-pressured while making friends: sometimes you jump in too far, and too late you realize it is not a good match. Sure, this happens to everybody, but it definitely wouldn’t happen to me (again, the introvert) as much if I had a different lifestyle.

I have formed relationships with people only to find that they were fairly toxic– that underneath the external friendliness and even charm, there were issues lurking that I was not prepared to deal with.

In these, albeit few instances, when it came time to move, it was more than welcome. While I absolutely believe that the way to deal with toxic people, is to actually deal with them.

However sometimes when you’re in a small, isolated town, they’re not totally willing to be dealt with or to take any hints. Sometimes, they become so obsessed with maintaining the relationship that they will say and do anything in an attempt to convince you not to cut them out.

In those fairly rare situations, leaving can be cleansing. I’ve left certain people and then felt so much lighter in the middle of my moving box-filled new home. You can definitely deal with toxic people, or you can try to deal and then move hundreds of miles away for extra measure.

The Ones You Need in Your Social Media

These people make up the biggest group– these are the light friendships you form. The BBQ-inviters and weekend sushi-date pals. For me, this group was often largely made up of civilian friends who were from the town I had just moved to, so they were my go-tos when I needed a new… well, everything. They pointed me in the right direction for everything from hairdressers to weekend hiking spots.

These are the people you aren’t heartbroken to leave, but likely have brief periods of nostalgia pop-up along with those Facebook memories. There are definitely a lot of childhood friends in this mix. They fall in an interesting category, because I’m not willing to give them up totally, but we don’t text or see each other. So I found myself feeling something rare: thankful for Facebook.

And even though my natural inclination is to assume that everyone else will initiate all communication, I’ve found that when I actually care about seeing how they are, it’s actually not that hard to make the communication happen.

The Ones You Didn’t Know You Need

Have you ever seen a unicorn? Sasquatch? The Lockness Monster? Well I have. It turns out, in my life, they all have taken the form of precious friends. There are only a few of them. People that I met like I met all the rest, but that at some point I realized were actually not like all the rest at all.

A couple of them shared their childhoods with me, and thus they know most chapters of my life as well as I do theirs. A couple of them were fellow military spouses who weathered the scary version of me that appeared when my husband spent seven months deployed to a war zone.

I never have the expectations that the people I meet will remain active parts of my life long after we no longer live in the same place. But these people have become my people and physical proximity has no bearing on that.

The Ones You’ve Needed All Along

In the midst of all the new people and places that have filled my life for the last 6.5 years, those who are nearest and dearest to me have been a part of my life from the very beginning, and they are never far from my thoughts.

Instead, it’s as if I see everything through the filter of where I come from. I have never had an experience so eclipsing that I forgot how much I miss my mom. I’ve never had a shrimp taco that satisfied the expectations the crispy devils from home have given my taste buds. I’ve never seen a scenic vista, without counting how many days its been since I’ve last been thrilled by Patrick’s Point or Mount Shasta or the sequoias of Northern California, my homeland.

There’s no doubt being in a new place is stimulating, exciting at times even. But moving through life and spending the majority of it not being known well by the people around you is tiring to say the least.

This has all become far more weighty since my daughter was born. She’s one of the most important parts of me, and it kills me that she doesn’t have a regular relationship with my other favorite people, including her grandmother. And we’re the minority, the majority of Americans are a mere 18 miles from their mother. I still have close relationships with my family. I talk to them every week. We send photos religiously. We use the majority of our vacation time to visit each other. We share everything except for physical proximity.

But sometimes it just doesn’t feel like enough. Because when I don’t share a zip-code with them I also don’t share smiles in the kitchen after an inside joke with my brother, or long after dinner walks with my dad. There are no trips to Target after binge-watching Bridezillas with my sister, or any comfortable silences on the porch with my mom.

No one here knows just how much I love my mom and the redwoods and shrimp tacos from Los Gordos, and sometimes I kind of wish they did.

 

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