Building Friendships From the In-Between

I can’t exactly tell you how I became close with my best friend because honestly, I don’t remember. I do remember I didn’t really like her at first, and she didn’t like me much, either. In truth, our friendship blossomed much like watching the sun set: no one notices the sky subtly changing with each passing second, until looking up to realize it’s taken on an entirely different color. Whispering back and forth in class, solving hard homework questions together on FaceTime, sitting in the locker room before practice — we built our friendship from these in-between moments. To everyone else, we were considered somewhat of an odd pairing. Our personalities were different, we didn’t share many of the same friends, or the same hobbies. High school operated much like a weird habitat of individual ecosystems, and after meeting each other freshman year we both drifted towards different environments. We didn’t occupy the same circles inside, or outside, of school. We didn’t even have much opportunity to hang out just the two of us, because we lived over an hour away from each other. No stranger to sharing the in-between moments, it didn’t matter that we saw each other seldom–a quick conversation in the hallway, meet-up for lunch, or an after-school snack run. We would go days, sometimes even weeks, without actually speaking to each other, only to stay up texting all night in a back and forth conversation where neither of us left the chat window. Physically speaking, we were never the closest. But somehow, we always found our way back to each other, as if the universe knew we were destined to be friends, no matter the distance separating us.  

I always knew our friendship was special, but it took me six years to figure out why. I think the best way to describe what we share is: a low-maintenance friendship. When I use the word low-maintenance, I’m not talking about the common definition, “requiring little work to keep in good condition,” but rather the second, informal definition, “(of a person) not demanding a great deal of attention; independent.” In low-maintenance friendships, you do not always need to be in the presence of the other person, constantly prove your worth, or present yourself in a certain manner to keep the relationship strong. These friendships do not require little effort, rather they require little effort to maintain. Why is this difference important? In a world where so many things require a high level of maintenance to uphold, it can feel like being trapped in an endless cycle of commitments, obligations, and expectations. Low-maintenance friendships are a break in the routine, a breath of fresh air.

Looking back, I think the distance between us is one of the reasons our friendship is so strong —we are a breath of fresh air for one another. We are not tied up in the high-maintenance aspects of each other’s daily routines and instead serve as outlets for one another, to express our happiness, anger, fear, sorrow, and every emotion in between. We walk our own paths, and they don’t intersect much, physically. But, over the years we’ve crafted our friendship into a safe space between the demanding realities of life. We are always there for each other, on the other end of the phone, if not in-person. 

My low-maintenance friendship has taught me lots of things, the most notable being that there is more to closeness than just physical proximity. Some friendships are built from big moments and exhilarating experiences you will never forget, but other friendships form from the collection of smaller, in-between moments. It’s easy to overlook the latter, because these friendships are not as glamorous, the foundational moments not as memorable. Sure, my low-maintenance friend and I don’t get to grab coffee everyday, or go on adventures every weekend. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen her in-person this year (and still have some fingers left over). But, six years down the road, our friendship is stronger than ever. Low-maintenance friendships may not always be the most exciting, but they are invaluable. The relationship I share with my low-maintenance friend is one constant I’ve come to greatly appreciate in a world full of inconsistencies.