I’ve Got Friends in Low (and High, and Near, and Far) Places

This past week I’ve been moving phone numbers from my cell phone into a spreadsheet, so that when it comes time to get rid of the phone I still know how to get in touch with family and friends. Isn’t it amazing how dependent we’ve become on cell phones? Though I’ve only had a cell phone for four years, I think without it, I could call no more than four people.

Anyhow, as I’ve entered the names and numbers into my spreadsheet, I’ve also added in addresses (should I ever find myself wanting to send one of those old-fashioned postcards), and as I’ve done this I’ve been astounded by how much of the globe my friends span. I’ve got people everywhere it seems. On the one hand, I find this extremely cool. On the other hand, I find it so insanely frustrating.

I’m lucky, I know, to have lived in and traveled to so many different places. I’m even more fortunate to have walked away from these experiences with new friendships, especially since I’m not the type of person who makes friends easily. I am often reticent when I meet people. I observe instead of jump in. I dread small talk. I can usually tell quickly whether or not I will get along with someone, and I rarely waste time on someone I don’t think I will connect with. I won’t call you my friend just because we went to the same school, played on the same team, rode the same bus, or came from the same town. I’m the type that would rather have a very small group of close friends than a large group of more nebulous friends. When I walked away from college, from a study abroad year, from teaching in Athens, I added not dozens of phone numbers to my book, but just a small handful. There are no names on my phone list that I can’t place. There are only friends, very, very good friends.

I like it that way.

But I hate it too. Because that means when it’s time to go, I’m not just leaving behind people who were a good time while they were around; I’m leaving behind people I care about. They are people I want to be able to see on a whim, talk to whenever I feel like it. People I want to go with to happy hour, dinner, the movies, pub quiz, the market. People I want to be able to sit on a couch next to and talk to until it’s too late to go home. People I want to have be a part of my every day, regular ol’, plain Jane life.

But when you meet your friends on some random patch of earth that you’re only sharing for a brief blink in each of your lives, it doesn’t work that way. Instead you have to settle for phone calls that are too infrequent, too rushed, too distant; and for visits that are too rare and too short. You don’t get “hey you want to come over for dinner tonight,” but instead must work with “do you have anything on your calendar for the third weekend in August, because I might be able to come see you then.” You measure time since you hung out in years, rather than days, and you spend most of your friendship missing each other.

It sucks. But it’s a fact of life for those of us born with itchy feet, and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing to be done about it. No matter how much I scheme, I’ll never convince all the people I care about to settle in the same place. And though in my mind, nothing sounds more ideal, I know in reality that it would be less so. We’re all marching to our own drummer; we’re all searching for own tomorrow. So I guess instead of lamenting, I’ll just give thanks for that small moment when we heard the same tune…and for email, cell phones, and those third weekends in August every other year.