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How to Stay Close to Long-Distance Friends

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Years ago, I was sitting at my desk on my first day of a new job when a text popped up on my phone: “Good luck today! You’re gonna KILL IT.” I appreciated my friend’s supportive words, of course, but I especially appreciated that she’d remembered exactly when I was starting my new gig. I knew I wanted to start doing the same for my friends and check in with them about important events in their lives to make them feel loved and cared for. But like everyone else, I’m busy, and I’m human — so I struggled to actually remember to do this.

Eventually, I figured out the perfect solution: Google Calendar. I already use it to keep track of doctor’s appointments, medication schedules, quarterly tax due dates, and work deadlines. I love the relief that comes from filling out the event details and hitting save — it calms my anxious brain, allowing me to relax a little and know I won’t forget to do the thing. I’ll see the little blue box whenever I check my calendar, and I’ll get a reminder in my inbox beforehand. So I started thinking: Why not apply the same strategy to my personal relationships? 

While maintaining my friendships is not a chore like managing my health and my finances, it does require emotional labor. No, I can’t predict when a friend will face a crisis and need a sympathetic ear or advice, but I can be proactive when they tell me they have something specific coming up, whether it’s something exciting, stressful, or emotionally difficult.

When my friend Adam told me he had a big job interview coming up, for example, I asked him when it was, and then immediately made a calendar event for that morning: “Wish Adam good luck on job interview.” Then I moved on with my day with one less thing swirling around my head to remember. When my friend Kate gushed about the guy she was going out with the following Friday, I set a reminder for Saturday morning: “Ask Kate how date went.”

Other times, it will be less clear what to say. When a friend recently told me she’d be visiting her grandma who’s in hospice care, for example, I set a reminder to simply check in and tell her I was thinking about her that day. And if she had told me her grandma was sick without mentioning a specific date, I could have still set a reminder to follow up in a week or two and ask how she and her family were doing. 

All of these friends live several states away, and this strategy helps me feel like I can maintain emotional closeness despite the physical distance. You can wish a local friend good luck on their job interview over dinner the night before or get the details of their big date over coffee the next morning — but staying involved in your long-distance friends’ lives takes more effort. Setting these calendar reminders makes it so much easier. Why give yourself yet another thing to keep track of in your mind when you could write everything down in one place?

Admittedly, I’m still working on making this practice a habit. Sometimes a friend mentions something and I forget to set one of these calendar events (the key is to do it immediately!) or other times I might be too wrapped up in my own life to ask a friend about theirs. But I know how great I feel when friends remember details I share and follow up with me, so I’m trying my best to do the same for them — and my trusty Google Calendar makes it so much easier.



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