Growing up, my family moved a lot. This is by no means a complaint, as I believe that it has taught me a lot of unique lessons. As I started to make moves on my own - to college, to Baltimore after college, and to Los Angeles, my mom reiterated to me in several conversations "friendships are hard, you have to work at them" and I always simply agreed, and let it pass. With age and distance, this advice has really started to resonate with me. As friends are getting serious with significant others, really blossoming in their careers, going through loss in their families, and achieving some vital milestones, some all the way across the country, my mom was right - we have to work at keeping in touch and remaining a part of each special occasion despite the obstacle of distance. After leaving my parents house for college ten years ago, through each move, I've learned some great lessons in how to best maintain relationships with so many that I am close with.
Plan vacations: Every year, a close friend of mine from college and I plan a trip together. Whether it be one of us visiting the other, or meeting in Mexico, we make sure that there is time set aside to spend together. While we keep in touch throughout the year, knowing that there is one long weekend, or week we get to see each other (and vacation) and catch up allows us to stay connected. Since leaving Lexington after college, I've made an effort each year to get back for a visit.
Follow friends closely online: The advent of social media has helped with long-distance in an enormous capacity. Let friends know that you're following along with their lives by engaging with content they've posted online. When you see an exciting post, text and call them to learn more.
Schedule phone or video chat time: Over the long weekend, I spent more time on the phone than I did in high school when I had to sneak in late night calls after my parents went to sleep. I was able to catch up with my family, friends from college, friends from after college and video chat with a friend's new baby. We've also found that scheduling "virtual happy hours" makes for a lot of fun, by simply opening a bottle of wine at the same time for your online catch-up.
Be present at the big events: While traveling can get costly, your friends will only get married once; they'll only have their first baby once; they'll need you when they experience loss; they want to spend birthdays with you, etc. Be there when you can. Nothing meant more to me than a close friend surprising me on my birthday with a visit to Los Angeles. I will forever be grateful for the memories of the wedding I traveled to in the fall in Kentucky.
Send physical mail: Not just on birthdays, or holidays, but on random occasions. I came home the other night to flowers from two of my girlfriends simply because it's been an incredible year (yes, it's only February...) and it was such a nice reminder that even though they aren't actually here, they're thinking of me and supporting my decisions, albeit far away.
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