A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?
–Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)
Last year was my Year of Letting Go, in which I slowly but surely let go of friendships and work relationships that were bringing more stress and negativity into my life than joy or mutual support, or that had simply run their course. It’s not always easy to let go or fade out, but time and energy that you devote to relationships that aren’t working are time and energy you could be devoting to relationships that will. In some ways, the heart is like a hard drive: It has only so much space, and you need to watch out for resource hogs.
While looking for a suitable quote to post with a photo of the Kahlil Gibran Memorial on my Instagram, I came upon the snippet above, and it got me thinking of how I let a few local friendships go in favor of friendships with people who live far away. Part of this is because a few friends in distant places have had access to my personal, private online journal for many years (some going back to 2003), and vice versa. We’ve been with each other through births, deaths, marriages, divorces, remarriages, trauma, illness, healing, job loss, moves, natural disasters, you name it. I’ve met many of them in person, spoken to quite a few of them on the phone, and have had visits and taken trips with several of them. Getting to know each other was effortless, and we get along so well because we had something solid in common from the start—values, life experiences, politics, how we see the world and handle what life throws at us, etc. Hey, if you don’t take a shine to what you read in someone’s journal, there’s no sense in sticking around and forging a rapport.
This is one reason why I pretty much never post photos of myself on the Internet or social media. I prefer to have a meeting of the minds because that’s what’s most important to me in any friendship I form, and for better or worse, pictures lead to presumptions. I’d rather not introduce a prejudice if I don’t have to. Then there are the guys who see a photo of a woman and decide to say something inappropriate. Yeah, no thanks.
But anyway, finding that quote made me think of my faraway friends who know me better than some who lived in a 5-mile radius of me, and better than anyone in my own family ever did. That’s the wonder of the Internet. It has its risks and its flaws, but it enables you to find your people if you use it right. I firmly believe you get two families: The one you’re born with and the one you craft for yourself by filling your sphere with people you love simply because they are who they are, and who love you in return simply because you are you. Distance, like DNA, is a matter of chance.
So here’s to my blog buddies and my fellow MySpace survivors from back in the day, and here’s to my more recent acquaintances and all the possibilities. Now if someone would just invent a teleporter, we could raise a glass.
P.S. Speaking of the Internet, for the love of all that is holy, it’s Kahlil, not “Khalil.”