The reality of living in an international world - and what I mean by that is a world in which most people leave their hometown after high school or university - is that most of us have friends who live an ocean away because either they've left or you have. Those are the friends we tend to forget a little, not because we love them any less but maybe because they're not as present in our everyday lives it's easier to assume they are okay and deal with what consumes us immediately. So here's a letter to you, my friends who I unintentionally put on the backseat.
I hope you're well. I know, the worst kind of small talk, but when I say that I mean it. I really do hope you're ok. I guess I may as well ask, even though all you’ll likely say is “I’m good thanks!”.
So, how are you?
I'm sorry I haven't been in contact recently - who am I kidding? I haven't really been in contact for years. Why are humans so often so poor at this whole communication thing? It seems to be the downfall of relationships, the underlying reason for arguments, the reason people don't get along. I don't think this is just the fault of being human though. It's something else because my Grandma, the one I visited last month, she's great at keeping in contact with her friends, always thinking of them and sending emails or birthday cards. I wonder if this poor connection is a by-product of the culture we live in. Ironic really, when we’re meant to be so connected with everyone “at our fingertips”.
It's not hard, is it? To check-in. But there's a vast difference between "hey, how are you?" Without really caring for a genuine answer, and a meaningful conversation that reaches into the depths of a person's life, finding out how they really feel, because you can't really talk about feelings without context and context takes time. That's the thing, we all think we don't have enough time. We prioritise other parts of life because that friend, that best friend will always be there. You can talk to them next week, next month, next year?
"Sorry I've been so busy"
"I'm so sorry life's just got ahead of me"
I say these things repeatedly, to you, to others. Trying to justify my lack of connection but really, my life is not so busy that I can't just drop you a line. It takes five minutes to write;
"Hiya, I know I've not been very present recently but I love you heaps and think about you often. How are you? Can we please have a virtual catchup soon?"
For some reason, although it only takes five minutes, this is the task that falls to the bottom of the to-do list. It's always the one to do later. Maybe it's not the hassle of doing the task but rather the urgency of it. I tend to procrastinate. You know me, I never used to, but the truth is I do now. I, along with most adults, don't tackle tasks as soon as I find them but rather push them to their threshold until I'm down to the final hour. I blame this horrible habit on education, an environment where most of us fall into this bad behaviour. When every task has been procrastinated, it means that more often than not there is a task on my to-do list that must be completed today. This, of course, pushes the friendly message to tomorrow and then the next day, then the next because it doesn't really have a deadline. The morbid thing about mortality is that we all have a deadline and we never know when it’s going to be so that message might be more urgent than we naively think.
I guess when I start to question how important these people are, the people we forget about a little, the friends we put on the back seat, how important you are, that's when it starts to feel a little more pressing.
I think sometimes "hey, how are you?" and a superficial chat can be enough though. It can be enough just to keep tabs, to let that person know "hey, I think about you and I care". Maybe there are some better questions to ask though. “How are you?”, never really feels meaningful, but maybe “what are you up to this weekend?”, feels a bit more like you care about their everyday life and how they are. It also provides more context to ask in the future, “hey, how was the movie on the weekend?”.
So, what are you up to next week?
My friend, my sweet, firstly I’m sorry. I’m sorry for putting you on the backseat because you don’t deserve to be there. I want you to know, right now that I do care. I care so immensely and although sometimes I'm a shit friend, I still think about you all the time. With any good apology is a promise for the future and here’s mine: you are no longer a “to-do task” and I don’t want to treat you like one ever again. Maybe it’ll only be once a month but I’ll show you how much I care about you.
Love you to the moon and back forever.
Being human is hard. We’re full of flaws and mistakes but one of our greatest qualities is our ability to recognise them and make amends. Being humble and kind and vulnerable is such a strength. Thank you to one of my best friends who inspired this post by reaching out to me out of the blue to check that I was okay.