The Anyion: Out of touch

When friendships go long-distance, their pixellated replacement does not provide much comfort.

By Anya Marchenko

Someone once told me that I could never be a good writer because I am afraid to tell the truth. So if you allow me to be petty and human and down-to-earth (read: whiny), here’s the truth: I hate keeping in touch.

I loathe composing catching-up e-mails to my old friends, and I dread the second the Skype ringtone pierces my speakers. Answering a “Hey, what’s up?” text message might be the most depressing thing I do in a day. I put keeping in touch way at the bottom of my to-do list, where my friendships—what they were and what they’re going to be—mock me.

My present and disturbing condition started half a year ago, with some badminton, a definition, and a book. There I was, standing in my high school’s field house, pitifully hugging myself as I gave up on curbing the sense of loss that was pouring out of my eyes and drying on my neck. Life makes people cry in the most unromantic situations. I was the captain of the goddamned badminton team and I was crying for all of the things that could’ve been with my friends, because like some terrible and oddly well-planned breakup, we would have to leave each other in August.

The last game of the spring season was winding down in the field house around me, and as I watched the people I loved, the realization that I will not talk to them every day coiled nastily in my stomach.

Like always, I associated the end of the season with all of the other things that would end—or worse, might end. No more airport-like high school building, no more English teachers whose nerves were probably frayed from editing my college essays, and, worst of all, no more steady companionship from my circle of friends. With every reminder to get my graduation gown and every gag-worthy seniors 2k13 post on Facebook, the threads that had woven my life for the past four years were tying themselves into a pretty little knot and then cutting the ends.

It shouldn’t be hard to keep in touch with my friends—I don’t have that many in the first place. Unfortunately for readers clinging to their chairs in anticipation of social advice, I have made this choice myself and am vaguely proud of it. “Friend” is a deliberately strict term. I reserve it for the people who are truly sacred, and do sacred things, like having enough patience to teach me physics at 2 a.m.

Coincidentally, as I was dealing with my fear of leaving these people, I read a book about doing just that. Maybe John Green, with all of his infinite wisdom and tear-jerking books about friendship and change, could have provided some solace for a poor soul unwilling to wrench away from old relationships and enter new ones.

“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.”

Well, screw you, John Green. You were no help at all.

However, what Johnny dearest did remind me of is that “friend” is a universally warm word. It brings you back home, whether you’re going to college or leaving it. Like the smell of your mother’s hair or finally being able to cuddle your cat, old friends fill you with the feeling of familiarity.

And this is precisely why keeping in touch feels so wrong. Recapping your week in an e-mail does not do justice to talking nonsense in the wee hours of the morning, sending someone a package is unsatisfying compared to just walking into their house unannounced with some snacks and a movie, and making fun of someone and telling them how perfect they are in the same breath isn’t the same via text.

I miss those things because being with someone in person is an irreplaceable feeling—a feeling I’m anxiously waiting to be reunited with during Thanksgiving. Until then, I’ll still be bad at keeping in touch. I’m not sure that I have the “let’s try to cope with being apart by looking at each other’s pixelated faces!” thing down.

What I do know for sure? I’ll be answering some emails tonight.

Anya Marchenko is a first-year in the College.