Being a Faraway Friend

If we’re friends, chances are I’ve imagined your death. If we’re close friends, chances are I imagine your death on a regular basis. Does that sound weird and off-putting? I promise I’ll justify it. 

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What prompted this confession was a fascinating piece recently put out by BBC Travel. Bhutan’s dark secret to happiness talks about how Bhutanese culture promotes thinking about death on a constant basis in order to maintain happiness. “In Bhutanese culture,” the author writes, “one is expected to think about death five times a day.” Research has apparently shown that thinking about death relieves the psychological threat of dying by compensating with thoughts of happiness. The sum of the article was basically YOLO—seize the day and appreciate the things you might not ordinarily notice.

Okay, but thinking about your own death has nothing to do with imagining the deaths of your friends. But for me, this sort of contemplation leads me to same sort of “You Only Live Once” mentality when it comes to relationships. Rather than reflecting after the actual loss of someone I love and care about, that, hey I should have spent more time with them, or I wish I had checked in more with so-and-so, I get a chance to correct my course before the dreaded “It’s too late”.

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Living abroad is an amazing experience, but it is also a humbling one. I hit the 6-month mark of my move to Germany at the start of last month, and am feeling myself settle into one of the roughest phases of culture shock. The “honeymoon” of moving is over and now’s the point that homesickness and feelings of loneliness start to take over. I’m combating it two ways—by making sure I’m meeting new people here in Hamburg, and by giving the relationships back home plenty of nourishment.

In today’s age of technology, there’s absolutely no reason at all that someone who lives far away should be thought of as “gone”. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to check in with two faraway friends every week—whether by a FaceTime call or a long email or a simple Facebook post letting them know they were on my mind. Moving frequently in my early twenties meant creating friendships across the globe, but sustaining those relationships means making an effort. And occasionally, that effort requires an imaginary eulogy to remind me of what I might be missing. 

Drafting your fake eulogies gives me a chance to reflect on what I love about you—to pluck out my favorite memories and breath new life into them. To remind myself that I am so lucky to have such a variety of people in my life—that these people fill my life with joy and silliness, with culture and intellectual conversations. With fierce opinions and crazy dreams, with tolerance and optimism. With inspirational words that keep me going, and comforting ones to remind me that I’m not alone—no matter how far I range from home.