Lala Letter #3 - Intentional Friendship
I have always lived by the belief that friends are the family we choose for ourselves.
The relationships we surround ourselves with say a lot about our own personas, and what we find important. Jane Austen said it best: “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
A bit of insight: I grew up a little outside of Boston, MA within a loyal, close knit circle and can’t imagine a more ideal foundation for the types of connections I’ve sought out since then. After a huge move to Mississippi at the end of high school, the coasties reassured me that such a leap proved to be a blessing in disguise, and the timing meant I had extra loved ones to visit while home from college with my family during breaks. Ole Miss (s’go rebs) and Oxford as a whole were incomparable for meeting people from all over the world, who were equally as swept up in the segue between living relatively carefree and chasing careers. Studying abroad furthered that, through the multitude of cultures and incredible individuals who reshaped my perspective.
First year of post-grad life was uncomfortable in every aspect—that’s another blog in itself—and a major pain point was absorbing that some relationships weather transitions better than others. Some don’t at all.
I took that kinda personal. A LOT personal, actually. I invest hard in my friendships, and absolutely could not wrap my mind around the fact that even though there were no harsh exchanges or dramatic outbursts, a few just….faded.
I’m highly analytical—to a fault, probably—and so eventually unraveled the essence of what separates the friendships that have endured from the rest.
It’s not luck.
It’s nearly impossible to remain close to friends met up to the age of seventeen through sheer good fortune. Many of us live hundreds of miles away from where we grew up and rarely go back. We also change quite a bit over the years.
It’s not proximity.
Residing in the same place as people you went to high school and/or college with does not automatically mean you want to hangout; anyone who has suddenly made a hard left in Walmart and walked around three aisles more than necessary can attest to that.
It’s not a “college thing.”
Sharing scantrons, an Uber from the Square, or tent in the Grove is rarely substantial enough to last beyond earning a diploma. Devising a path to support the rest of your life requires an insane amount of hours, focus, and perseverance, especially at the beginning. Time is both more valuable and scarcer than ever.
It’s not special circumstance.
Hopping on a plane to a new country every other weekend while studying abroad and spending spring break on a beach in the Mediterranean is a dream, but not the average setup. Navigating time zones and coordinating which of your home states or countries to meet up in takes work, for all that it is worthwhile.
When a relationship holds value to us it’s prioritized, and we invest in it. Reciprocity takes effort-there’s a clear difference between care and convenience.
Life stages also fall wildly across the spectrum once your twenties hit—I have friends pouring all of their energy into entrepreneurship (hi Bella), others still figuring out where to move next, and even one or two taking on parenthood.
Social media is helpful for keeping up to date on events here and there, and as someone who works in the digital realm I love the levels of relatability and collaboration it threads into everyday life. A like or a comment, better still a message, can revive an old conversation in a way that’s more intrinsic than instigated. Yet that’s just the bare minimum.
Maintaining meaningful, evolving friendships is only accomplished when approached deliberately.
It takes 99 cents to pick up a card, and another dollar to mail it.
Bonus points if you keep a sheet of stamps in your wallet so that when a birthday or event sneaks up you’ve got that part down—even more points if it was written in your planner and you knew it was coming a week in advance. Keeping an updated list of contact info in the back of said planner also makes for a higher chance of spontaneous notes and packages; my friends have developed a ritual of sending letters of encouragement and support as well as celebration.
Texts are awesome, sometimes the only way of successfully staying in touch in spite of opposite schedules.
It takes ten seconds to say ‘hi’ or ‘are you alive’. Phone calls are obviously more personal-even if it’s just planned for the duration of a thirty-minute commute, it makes a huge impact. FaceTime is a lifesaver when you live outside of driving distance, or when you just HAVE to show them exactly what you’re talking about in real time. Organizing phone calls and FaceTime dates days in advance improves the likelihood of them actually happening, even if half of it is spent discussing how tired y’all are-life is prettttty overwhelming at the moment.
Intention comes in many forms.
Some people are less affected by a card and would rather meet up for dinner or drinks after work every now and then. Making time to hangout in person means the world when everybody is so busy—again with the care overriding convenience thing. Take note of those small details and preferences, and accommodate them as best you can (reciprocity part two on that angle as well). This of course applies within reason, and is dependent on taking care of yourself and obligations alongside committing time and energy to friendships.
Basically: show up however and whenever you can. But show up.
A last minute call on a birthday, dressing up for a holiday party, coordinating a cute pic, stopping by for twenty minutes on the way home from errands or to the gym—a few minutes here and there resonates both in the present and far later down the line. An annual reunion trip is #goals but if realistically it looks more like popping by in leggings to watch Netflix or having a virtual wine date over your laptops, don’t discount the beauty of that.
My tribe is spread out across Boston, Chapel Hill, Chicago, Gainesville, Raleigh, New Orleans, and soon to be LA-proving that distance and contrasting life directions aren’t a death sentence to friendships.
Intention outweighs indifference in keeping us close.
They’ve seen me through unbelievable highs as well as utter heartbreak. While there can be grace in growing apart and losing touch, cultivating the bonds that have risen naturally along the way is priceless. Reminding one another again and again that we’re there, even just in spirit, is restorative in itself.
So if it’s been awhile, if you needed a push, if you’ve got allll the feels after reading this: consider my letter a serendipitous invitation.
Ask how they’ve been, let nostalgia play in, suggest brunch, mention how proud you are of the moves they’ve been making, reiterate how important their friendship is to you and above all else—
Tell ’em you love them. That can’t be underestimated or overstated. Ever.