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Keep in touch

| Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I spent much of last weekend talking with family and friends, which is a normal enough way to spend some free time, except that none of them were actually in the same room as me.

Some, like my mom and girlfriend, I hadn’t talked to for a few days. Others, like some friends from school, I hadn’t caught up with in months. Such is the life of a recent graduate living abroad.

I’m not complaining about it, though. I chose to move to Ireland after graduation, but the move has made the reality of graduation particularly stark for me. One of the biggest adjustments after graduation is that you no longer live down the hall or across the quad from all of your closest friends. I moved across an ocean.

Granted, I work for Notre Dame in Ireland, so I’m still deeply connected to the University, but my physical distance, and more than that, the time difference, makes maintaining treasured relationships challenging. Luckily, I’m a bit of a night owl so I don’t mind staying up late to video chat with friends and relatives back home, but even so, it’s difficult to keep building relationships from so far away.

In my graduation column last May, I wrote, in reference to fellow graduating seniors, “Many of us are moving to new places, new homes with new people who we can only hope end up as special to us as the people we found here.” In Ireland, I have made cherished new friends and strengthened bonds with old ones, but sometimes I wonder if that comes at the expense of my loved ones back home. I know that’s a ludicrous thought, but it creeps in every so often anyway.

The more I’ve thought about all of this, though, the more I have come to draw a few key conclusions. First, if a bit cliched, relationships of every sort are hard work. My girlfriend and I will both openly admit how hard a long-distance relationship is, especially with an eight-hour time difference, but we’re making it work. It’s the friendships that become easy to forget about and tough to sustain.

There are always “pick up where you left off” friends — the people you can go months without talking to, but never skip a beat with. These friendships are few, far between and exceedingly special, though. Most friendships you either keep or let fade away.

That leads be to my second conclusion: you keep the relationships you want to keep. The others drift off into the past. This is something we’re all told when we graduate, but it doesn’t become real until well after that. I’m not far enough removed from college to have completely fallen out of touch with good friends, but relationships do take a hit when you go from seeing someone every day to maybe once every year or two. Yet as I have already learned, you have to make the decision to stay in touch with friends and you have to work to keep them as a part of your life.

I made it my new year’s resolution to talk more regularly with friends back in the U.S., and like most new year’s resolutions, it started off well but has since veered off course. In the first few weeks of the new year, I made a real effort to reach out to my friends from home and Notre Dame and had great conversations with lots of them. But, as often happens, our schedules filled up and it got difficult to make time for each other. Last weekend was my attempt to revive my new year’s resolution, and I was satisfied with my effort, though still wish I could have talked with more people.

From what little I have experienced of post-grad life so far, though, I think that’s just sort of how it goes. I’ll always wish I could have talked to more friends, kept in touch with more people, hung on to more friends. I suppose that’s part of growing up. Friendships come and go.

And so I arrive at my final conclusion: the friends who come and never go, the ones who remain constant despite life’s constant changes, those are life’s greatest treasures. I’m sure I’ll look back on this column someday years from now and cringe at these cliched conclusions and perhaps even my youthful optimism about the nature of relationships. That’s a problem for future Jack. In the meantime, I’m going to keep in touch with the people who fill my life with love, challenges and unending joy, with a special appreciation for the friends who come and never go.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

Contact Jack