My freshman year of college, when I was battling both homesickness and frigid Chicago winters, I loved to go to Borders to peruse books and treat myself to a chai latte. When Borders went out of business, one of the first things I did was Google its chai tea mix, wondering if I might be able to indulge elsewhere. In retrospect, this seems somewhat insensitive to Borders. But, I digress.
One afternoon I was exceptionally homesick and stumbled upon this Papyrus card. I remember thinking, in the most dramatic way: This. Card. Gets. Me. I wanted to buy it for so many friends. But, at $6.50 a pop, that translated into about two lattes a piece. So I bought one and kept it for myself, a reminder to keep dreaming the big dreams of creating a tiny neighborhood with all of the people I love packed into it. With warm summer nights on one another's back decks as the smell of charcoal grills wafted through the air. With short walks to friends' houses and easy just-saying-hi-drop-bys each week.
For a moment, we sort of had this in Atlanta. I lived in a duplex with my brothers and my friend Melly. Our dear friends Katie and Austen lived just down the hill. And one street over? Was our friend Megan. It felt like this magical one mile loop that would have been ideal for a progressive dinner.
There were, of course, hundreds of other people I would have loved to cram into our street. But I remember thinking we were so lucky to have this much love and support in our area. I remember knowing, acutely, that it wouldn't last forever. We couldn't all rent duplexes and basements forever. Someday, we'd make grown up choices - different choices - that would lead us all in various directions.
And when those days started coming, I remember thinking one of life's greatest injustices is that you can't always live near everyone you love.
Why does my cousin have to live in California and my sister in Denver? Why are friends as far east and west as the world can take them, beyond a weekend drive? Why does it sometimes feel like pieces of my heart are scattered all across America when I really want it to be right here in Virginia?
Every time I've moved, leaving behind people I love dearly, I remember feeling like it was such an unfair part of the process.
And although I haven't yet come up with a way to teleport, I can tell you this for sure: it's OK for this to be a really, really hard part of moving. It's OK if it makes you want to tantrum a little bit. It's OK if every part of your move - or your friend's move - feels right, except for this portion of it. You are not alone in this feeling.
What I always try to remember, on those days when I'm missing my friends more than ever, is that we're lucky to have had a season in life that made our paths cross. And even more fortunate to have the kind of friendships that allow us to pick back up right where we left off when we're reunited.
Also, something I have learned as I've created more long-distance friendships is that it forces you to be more intentional with them. We talk on the phone a lot more than we did when we were neighbors. And those phone conversations are more thoughtful and purposeful - because we know we need them. When we're in the same city, we make our time together count, with real, sans-technology togetherness and eye contact.
Does this make up for the fact that you can't grab a quick coffee or go for an after-diner walk? It doesn't. But sometimes a scheduled phone date, a walk&talk catch up, or a quick Facetime will be just the tenderness your soul needs. And as a wise veteran at the airport once told me, with those you love, it's never really goodbye you have to say. It's always until we meet again. Someday soon, perhaps before we know it, they'll be knocking on our doors and sitting on our porches, telling us about their new city or latest adventure.