Real Life: Are you good at keeping in touch?

stamps | photo by heather bullard

In the fourth grade, my teacher had us participate in a pen pal program with another class that lived in North Dakota. My pen pal’s name was Carrie, and even when our school-mandated pen pal project was over, she and I kept in touch for several years. At one point, a few years after our correspondence had begun, our mothers let us chat on the phone; I remember thinking her accent was funny (but she probably thought the same about me). Pen pals, early 90s style — my pre-cursor to blogging life!

I got to thinking about Carrie the other day after I’d had a Skype call with a good friend who lives back in SF. I used to think that I was really, really bad at keeping up with people. In fact, when I moved from Austin to LA for college, I feel like I lost touch with all but a few friends. Back then (you know, the late teens/early 20s), it just seemed like such an effort. And, when you’re younger and have moved to a different place, I think your life (and your perspective) just changes so rapidly, that when you re-connect with old friends, you realize how much you’ve changed, and it can be almost jarring in a way.

But nowadays, I try to make a lot more of an effort. Let’s be honest, moving across the country when you’re nearly 30 means you’re leaving some pretty good friends behind, and it’s a lot harder to snap your fingers and have relationships that run as deep or as long (not impossible — it just takes time, time I sometimes feel like I don’t have!). The funny thing is, I’ve learned that making an effort isn’t actually that much of an effort at all. Everyone gets so busy, that sending a quick email, or a little gift, or even scheduling in a Skype or phone call once every month or two is enough to keep a friendship alive and well. To me, it feels like the older I’ve gotten, the more important it’s been to maintain those connections. I think of those close friends as family — they’re my peeps.

All of this made me wonder: are you good at keeping up with long distance friends? How do you keep a close connection? Or, if you’re not so good at it, what do you think is hardest for you about staying in touch? (No judgments here!)

I still wonder about Carrie sometimes. I know there’s a box of her old letters and photos sitting somewhere in my mom’s house in Texas. I think it would be hilarious if she’s a blogger. Carrie, are you out there?!

{Image Credit: Heather Bullard}


  1. 9.18.13
    Emma said:

    Like you, I worry sometimes that I’m not keeping in touch enough. My husband is from the UK, and we visit about once a year. Keeping those friendships alive across the pond can be difficult, but you’re totally right, a ‘hello’ email, a few texts and cards/presents in the mail can make a huge difference. The hardest part I find is that I will think of a person while I’m out (driving, in a meeting, etc) and I don’t have a way to reach out to them then and there. By the time I pick up my phone/computer, I’ve been distracted and forget to get in touch :S

    • 9.18.13
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Emma, that always happens to me, too!

  2. 9.18.13
    Rachelle said:

    I found that when it’s people you really care about and love keeping in touch with them is a breeze.

  3. 9.18.13
    Renate said:

    Oh, dear. “In fact, when I moved from Austin to LA for college, I feel like I lost touch with all but a few friends. Back then (you know, the late teens/early 20s), it just seemed like such an effort.” This is simply spot on. I moved from Latvia to Denmark to study when I was barely 18 and 4 years on don’t keep up with hardly any of my then everyday friends. I think it was important for all of us to establish ourselves and it was harder for me to keep up, because nobody ever ran into me on the streets or could grab a cup of coffee with me every now and then.
    I regret that a tiny bit sometimes. I feel like I’ve missed that train just a little bit, so now, I pay much more attention to the friends I’ve made in Denmark even though I’ve completed my studies and quit my student job – I will do my best to keep up at least a few of those relationships, because I agree with you completely – especially as you grow older, you value every person, that’s in your life and those in particular, that have no direct connection to you (meaning, family).

    Thanks for reminding me!!!

    Hope you’ll get in touch with Carrie, how funny and sweet that could be :)

    Renate from

  4. 9.18.13

    I’m notoriously bad at keeping in touch, but I’ll sometimes go on sprees of catching up with people, and those people where it feels like no time’s passed at all, those are the people where keeping in touch really matters. I definitely aim to make more of an effort though — and sometimes a little snail mail can make someone’s day!

  5. 9.18.13

    This is a topic I talk about all the time! I try SO HARD to stay in touch with people. I text, or tweet, them when I think about them. I try to make phone calls every few months. I send emails. One of my goals this year was to remember to send birthday cards to my family and friends, and aside from a handful of belated birthdays I have done it successfully!

    The hardest and most frustrating thing is that nobody else reciprocates. I don’t know why it is? I completely understand that people are busy, I am too! It is so discouraging since any relationship should be a two-way street. When do you draw the line between continuing or not? I find if I don’t get any response after a few different attempts, I will stop trying.

  6. 9.18.13
    Christine said:

    I had a friend named Kate in college who was particularly good at sending postcards. We played lacrosse together and were good friends for a couple of years, but kept in touch through her postcards when she studied abroad in Italy. After we graduated, she kept sending postcards–quick little notes about her weekend on a free restaurant postcard, a summary of a vacation on a beach postcard, etc, etc. I felt compelled to send them back! So she was always first on my postcard list when I lived in France and Australia and traveled through Southeast Asia, and it was her example that inspired me to keep sending them to other friends. When I moved to NYC last August, Kate lived in DC–and even though we hadn’t been THAT close in college, it just seemed natural that our friendship picked up. Now that she moved to NYC in June, she’s one of my best friends in the city–and we still haven’t stopped sending each other postcards, even though we live a 15-minute walk from each other! The power of making an effort, even when it’s just the cost of a cheap stamp :)

    • 9.18.13
      Victoria McGinley said:

      a) I love the postcard idea and b) it’s so true! I have found that even the little effort — or in the case of a stamp, cost — makes such a big difference!

  7. 9.18.13

    Funnily enough, I think that I’m closest to my friend who lives in Ireland than I am to the ones that live here! We chat the most often, likely because we schedule the time. I can go for weeks without seeing the girlfriend that lives down the street. I never really thought about this until now actually!

  8. 9.18.13
    Myrna said:

    I agree it’s very hard to keep in touch with friends especially once they start having kids. I had two close friends in high school and we remained pretty close then they started having kids. I talk to them once a year or the occasional chit chat on Facebook. It breaks my heart that we are not as close however I know that if I ever needed anything I could count on them, I hope. I sent a text here and there some they respond to and some they don’t. Since I don’t have any children I’m sure it’s harder to relate now so I completely understand.
    Great article I’ve thought about writing about this topic because I’m sure everyone can relate to this. :)


  9. 9.18.13

    I’ve always actually been proud of myself for keeping in touch with important people in my life. I think it has more to do with the fact that little things happen and make me think of this person or that person, and I make a habit of shooting that person a quick email or text RIGHT then. A lot of times that turns into a phone call or Skype date. I have friends all over the country, and I love them all way too much to let them go, even when I make a move to a new place!

  10. 9.18.13
    Kodi said:

    This is cheesy, but I put alerts in my phone for important events for my friends, far and near. It reminds me to text them about the things they’re excited about that I sometimes forget about when I’m busy. I care about those things and them, and I feel a little dumb that I need to be reminded — but that’s how life goes sometimes!
    grey et al

    • 9.18.13
      Victoria McGinley said:

      That’s actually a fab idea! Not cheesy at all!

  11. 9.18.13
    janel said:

    yes, i even feel that (as a senior in college) i don’t have time to have meaningful interactions and quality time with my good friends here- not to mention those who don’t go to my school! i’ve found that setting little phone reminders to send a hello text or planning dinner together in advance really helps.

  12. 9.18.13
    rox said:

    I hate to admit this is def something I need to work on. I certainly have people in my life who deserve the effort on my end to remain in contact! xo

  13. 9.18.13
    Alecia said:

    I have to admit that I am terrible at keeping in contact with others. It is so true that it doesn’t really take that much effort to send an email or a skype call (all great ideas that I should do asap).

    I am so bad that my best friend from high school sent me a snail mail letter to tell me she is thinking about me. I had all these intentions to write her back and……well let’s just say that my intentions were good but I am terrible with follow through and forgot about it until just now. So thanks for reminding me to get back to connecting with people off the internet.

    xx Alecia

  14. 9.18.13
    dana said:

    I used to think I wasn’t, but the older I get, the more I realize how important friends are to you and the more I make an effort. You do realize how much you change and how many people come into and out of your life, but its always good to keep in touch, even if its someone you’re not super close with anymore!

  15. 9.18.13

    It’s not often that I actually “comment,” but this post struck me. Perhaps because I pride myself as well at actually putting the effort forth to keep in touch with friends. You’re right-it is so minimal! I think one of the true joys in life is actually being able to recognize the great variety of people you have in it. Why would anyone want to lose touch with that?

  16. 9.19.13

    As much as people hate on FB, I love it simply for the ease of keeping up with people from all areas of my life. Those who are special to me will always be easy to keep up with.

  17. 9.19.13
    ame said:

    I will go with “kinda”. I hate FB and I am trying to kill it dead in my life, but it’s kind of a go-to for knowing sort of what’s going on. I am overly reliant on texting and emailing, and yet not very good at setting up time to actually go and say have lunch or a drink with someone I havent’ seen in a while. I might be a fiercely loyal and supportive friend, but I tend to think I am a crappy friend because I don’t keep up well enough with what is going on. I am so wrapped up in my schedule sometimes.

  18. 9.20.13
    Angela said:

    I wish I was better at it. But I just forget.
    Just got back from traveling around the world for a year and in that time I skyped with my mum only once. I did email her every other week but that was pretty much it. Same with friends and other family members.
    Now that I’m back I do feel like I want to connect with people more. But I’m not going to do it out of politeness anymore. I will just keep in touch with people I really want to keep in touch with and I will really make an effort.

  19. 9.21.13

    I love this post. I too had a pen pal from Japan for many years, but with the advent of babies in my life a post office visit felt so tedious and honestly, impossible! I know we all hate and love things like FB, and I think that the options for keeping in touch in a relevant way are improving all the time. Such a great reminder that our time in the digital world can be time spent connecting and not just following endless feeds!

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