“The distance is nothing when one has a motive.” —Jane Austen
We are supposed to stay connected. We create meaningful relationships with people from far away, and then we try to stay in touch through social media and Skype — maybe a smoke signal or two, as long as they translate to 140 characters or less. But I’m not sure many of us are willing to go the distance for real connections.
No one told me what would happen when the people I met during grad school went back to their far away homes. Maybe I didn’t want to imagine what would happen once our time in the program ended.
When I traveled to one of those far away places — though I’m not sure five hours can be considered that far — I was reminded of what Jane Austen said about distance. I reunited with two of my favorite friends, and we laughed and told stories, and before we knew it, it was time to return home.
In this lifetime, I think we all wish to find our people — those who understand us no matter what. These two are my people, and although we are separated by distance, we still find ways to stay connected.
I think of the way we all checked our phones or posted photos of one another, live-tweeting our excursion to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant. We seemed to eliminate social media in exchange for meaningful conversation and karaoke when we thought about the time it took to be connected again. We focused on the moment instead of the future favorites on our posts.
In this generation, we document our lives for everyone. I wonder what Jane Austen would think of using #amwriting or of people referring to her novel’s main couple as #TeamLarcy because of course they must be our #OTP. Would she write a novel in which we put on a hipster-themed Regency era ball with phones recording it all? Imagine the pictures filtered with Helena or Ashby, both of which she’d have to use to name a dancing couple for ironic purposes, of course.
I think Jane Austen would marvel at the fact that we no longer value face to face conversations or handwritten letters — real connections. I think she would say something such as, “What are tweets to rocks and mountains?”
After spending a real day with my people exploring Peebles Island, I think I would agree with such an opinion from Ms. Austen. Here we found beauty and silence and real togetherness as we traversed the landscape of the island and our post-grad relationship, which is stronger than ever. We connected in a real way to each other and to the world around us. It reminded me of the importance of not only the cultivation of such relationships but of the continued diligence it takes to maintain connections that will not break.
So to all of you with far away friends or family or loves, I hope you won’t be discouraged by the distance. Don’t forget the importance of those rare times when you can reunite face to face, even if it means traveling the distance between state lines and zip codes and social media posts. Memorize the smiles from Instagram pictures and stay updated through Facebook posts, but when you’re together, try your best to live in the moment. Let the distance disappear so you may feel connected again.