(this blog post is a bit belated, friends, but it seemed good to write and share it, anyway).
I just graduated from college. How do I balance and prioritize relationships with people that are now long distance, versus the people who are actually around, in my physical space? How does that work?
sincerely, a social introvert
Dear a social introvert,
My first temptation when I read your question was to tell you that there is no difference between the people who live far away from you and the people who live close to you. In terms of your heart, that is – there is no difference. I want to tell you to hold fast to those people far away – to invest your time in them and your energy in them. To write them letters and call them and keep tabs on their lives.
But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?). There is something different. There is something different about telling a funny story over the phone while lying on your bed in 93 degrees, laughing until your sides ache, and telling the story across the same table while the person can see you actually laughing. There must be a difference, or else why would we miss each other when we’re apart? There must be a difference, or else why would there be so much joy and so much sadness in airport terminals?
So much for my first temptation, social introvert. You and I both know there is a difference between the people who inhabit our immediate physical space and the people who don’t. And I want to acknowledge that fully.
But (did you know there would be another “but” in this letter?). I also don’t think that distinction is the first one you should pay attention to when you think about how to invest your time and your self. If you’re really looking to love others, if you really want to create in your life homes for the people you love? You shouldn’t worry too much about whether or not they are close or far away. Each has its own difficulties. That funny story that’s so much easier to tell the person who lives next door? It has its equivalent. It’s easier to share deep things across distance – we don’t waste as much time on the silly or unimportant as we tend to when we’re in person. When we’re at a distance, friendships stretch and bend, but they find a different strength. They’re tested. They give us the chance to be brave and practice loyalty and work hard. When we’re in person, we’re tested by proximity. Those friendships give us the chance to practice patience, persistence, and humility.
I don’t want to tell you to balance them by having an equal number of long distance friends and next-door-neighbor friends. We all know that wouldn’t work. Instead I want you to find balance by looking at the people over their place, the friend behind the phone call or the letter or the surprise visit after work. Look at the person, and then go for it.
The best kind of balance is the one where you love more than you think possible.