I woke up one morning with a message from a friend. She wrote to me in the middle of the night and said she missed me. She needed to talk. I rolled onto my side in bed and set my phone down instead of replying.
I know I should have messaged her back, but it was 8 a.m. in London and 3 a.m. for her at home. I excused my absent-mind friendliness to the five hours and the ocean between us.
My best friend isn’t the only friend I’ve neglected while studying in London. It’s easy to be a bad friend abroad. I’ve made new friends from my university here while ignoring the old ones back on campus. I check-in on classmates from other American colleges in my program more often than I do on for my friends at home.
I have a fear of missing out (FOMO) for friends at home, and I flight this fear by ignoring them altogether. I know that is counterintuitive.
I have good friends that are graduating while I am abroad. I have study buddies haunting our regular coffee shops without me. They won’t be on campus when I return for the fall semester, and if I ask them about their finals or their fun now I know it’ll hurt me.
The truth is that I miss them so much I don’t know how to talk to them about it. I am scared to hear if they’re having a good time not because I am envious of their experiences while I am gone. I am scared to hear they’re having a good time without me because I’m worried about the “without me” part.
Am I going to be able to just rejoin my friend group in the fall semester as if I never left for eight months? We’re all getting a taste of life apart, and I irrationally worry that my friends will favor my absence.
I had two toxic friendships shatter my confidence in my ability to be a good friend and develop healthy friendships. I have done three years of dark self-work, and I try to choose healing every day. I still struggle with my trust in friendships, and my time abroad has loosened some of the progress I’ve made.
I want to be a more responsible and proactive friend. I want to have faith in my friendships and my ability to be a strong friend again. I just need my friends to know that I am still adjusting to being abroad and the bruises from failed friendships.
I still won’t excuse my recent behavior to my friends at home. I want to call more often. I want to move our daily conversations off of our Snapchat streak to a more tangible communication medium. I want to FaceTime once or twice instead of liking your Instagram posts.
I want my friends to feel my love across the Atlantic and know that eight months apart won’t burn any (London) bridges for me.
Okay, I am sorry for that joke. You can unfriend me for that!