Yesterday I took a train to Liverpool to meet the editor of a blog I used to work for. We had never met in person before and it's only since I moved to London that we've even been in the same hemisphere if not the same time zone. Before yesterday, she'd been someone on the other end of a computer screen via Skype or email – and that computer screen was at times pretty wonky when I was on the island with all the internet issues that entailed.
But she's a friend who became a friend as we talked over Skype and email.
We didn't stop talking yesterday when we met. It was as easy as meeting any one of my other friends who I've known for a long time in real life.
We just simply realised what the other looked like outside of a computer screen.
It got me thinking though about how friendships work now as all of us have jobs and lives that – in their varying precarious and wonky and sometimes-even-strategic ways – take us away from places we might have considered home and from the people we love most in the world.
This is not to say that we move and hole ourselves away never to meet anyone new or do anything differently. We make new homes, and we find some new people of our own as well.
But the ways in which we keep our old friendships burning and bright has changed. The ways in which we meet new people and stoke the beginnings of those fires.
And they take work and they take adjustment, especially when you're on other ends of the world.
Texts and emails aren't enough for some people in my life so it's a less regular FaceTime or Skype; but for others it's how we communicated before anyway because we were on other sides of the country. It's small, regular check-ins to see how the other is going. For a pretty segment of my life, Instagram helps as well.
We work out the new rhythms of our friendships. But the fact that this does take work in some ways changes the fabric of these old friendships. I've seen it in mine as I've moved about the place – and I've seen it in the friendships that others have told me about.
These changes bring two things:
- The friendship becomes stronger because you're both committed to making it work and you forgive each other the wonks of it all when wonks need to be forgiven. There's an ease that comes to these friendships because they know who you are (the real you) and can see how you can navigate your way through the new space without losing your way too much. One friend gave me de Certeau's 'Walking in the City' to read as I moved here and it has entirely and beautifully coloured how I find my way around London.
- The friendship falls away because something in it isn't strong enough to last the distance and last the changes. I used to mourn these losses badly, blame myself, because friendships shouldn't fall apart. Now my grieving period for these losses is shorter. Sometimes friends come to you for a season and that's enough and is what's meant to be. Sometimes friendships look nice and everything that is said is nice, but it's not enough. And that's the way of things sometimes. Moving helps you let go of things you might have otherwise held onto for no other reason than you had it.
And the friendships that stay – the intimacy they bring – are remarkable. And this is where ideas of intimacy are changing – and should be changing. If intimacy is that trust in someone – a space that is safe and authentic and true – where you are accepted entirely as yourself – why does that intimacy only have to be limited to romance? I want that safe, authentic, trusting space throughout my life.
Romance can flicker away – flowers die and earthquakes are never eternal to badly and poorly paraphrase poor Byron – but wonky-friendly intimacy is much more lasting.
That's what matters at the end of the day.
Its what matters at 2am when things are dark.
And it's what has mattered here on one end of the world as I realise more and more who my tribe are and how much I love them entirely.