Thoughts on long-distance friendship

Today, not for the first time, I will preface a thought with David Foster Wallace’s wisdom.

You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.

This entry is not about vanity, but rather the latter half of Wallace’s sentiment, that of confronting others’ interest, or relative lack thereof, in your life.

Perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching discoveries of adulthood—one filled with the same distress and disillusionment of a child waking to their mother’s hand under their head, attempting to deftly swap teeth for cash—is that people, even our closest friends, don’t, as it turns out, think about us all too often. This thesis, one I’m inadvertently testing regularly of late, is never more evident than in leaving home for a month at a time. Arriving back in San Francisco from thirty days on the road, broadcasting to the people of my heart that I’ve returned, is met with slightly more enthusiasm than realizing, on a Friday afternoon, that it will be a three day weekend thanks to an obscure, often forgotten federal holiday, or the announcement of, I don’t know, Season 2 of Stranger Things.

“It’s not your fault,” I want to say to my friends. I understand. You’re all incredibly special to me, but we, all of us, can only focus on so many people at once. Like, scientifically, according to research by Robin Dunbar.

At some point in time, we’ve all known a friend who disappears into the romantic embrace of a relationship, as if their union with another human results in the fusion of DNA to create a new person altogether, replete with alternative priorities and a social calendar conspicuously absent of your name. But is it surprising that this happens? It takes only one person, often one that you’ve loved deeply and subsequently lost, to empathize with the unintentional departure of others from your life. Finding another human who wants to dedicate themselves to you as much as you to them is as magical as it is rare.

With no small amount of heartache, I realize that I am working the same effect on my friends in San Francisco; while not slipping away to nest with another human, I am intentionally unhitching myself from a train that has been making blissful laps around San Francisco for the past five years. If, after reading this paragraph, you mutter, through clenched teeth and with a furrowed brow, “you goddamn hypocrite”, you’d be right to do so (though if I’m lucky I’ll also inspire a reluctant chuckle at my keen foresight of your reaction).

All of this is to point out the inherent loneliness in a life untethered from permanent residence. Close friendships are formed and thrive on a diet of geographic proximity, and the effort required to feed relationships gone dormant from sparse correspondence can feel exhausting, if not futile. This experiment in living may turn out to be, among other things, about learning how to better nurture my connections from afar.