Over the past few weeks I have been fortunate enough to do some traveling that brought me closer to some of the most important people in my life, many of whom I’ve been sharing long distance friendships with for years due to our educational, professional and personal circumstances. Although it was an amazing time, coming back from these travels impacted me a lot more significantly than I had thought. Re-adjusting to the time zone wasn’t the only lag that I felt… I felt a deep longing for the closeness that being physically near the people you love provides. I was homesick for the people – my people – who make even the other side of the country feel like home.
Globalization, I guess, has led to a significant increase in the mobility of our communities. Gone are the days where people grew up, went to school, worked and raised their families all within a 20km radius. This is such an exciting development in the world that we live in, but I’m wondering if our need for relationships hasn’t exactly globalized as well as technology has. In a world where absolutely everything can be done remotely (seriously… you can set your CrockPot from your phone), how do we catch up and make human nature remote?
The tough part is that human nature is just that, it’s human. And, even with the best technology, it can be very difficult to squeeze it into an app on your smartphone. There’s something so powerful to be said about simply being near the people you love. So, now that our lives are taking us to the corners of the world, I’m wondering how we can work to stay close and keep our relationships healthy.
One of the things that I think really impacts our day to day mental health is guilt that we harbour about our globalized relationships. We live in fear that we haven’t done enough, that we’ve missed out on something important, and that we aren’t being a good enough long distance friend. What amazes me, though, is that both sides of the relationship are often feeling the same way. Which, on one hand is a testament to how important the friendship is to both parties, but on the other hand is insight into how human nature is lagging behind globalization.
So what can we do, as humans, to catch up? First and foremost, I think we need to give up the guilt. No one is perfect, and we certainly shouldn’t expect that of each other. The more we let go of the guilt that is manifesting itself from the physical distance between us, the closer we will actually feel. We’ll let go of the feeling that the longer it’s been since we’ve spoken, the harder it will somehow be. We’ll forget about the fact that we may have missed out on something important, and focus on the fact that we still can reconnect and reminisce when we can.
Now that we will increasingly become distanced from the people that we love, we have to start being intentional about how we manage through the transitions and maintain our mental health. So take action and pay attention when you start feeling the effects of your globalized relationships. Love the people around you, love the ones who can’t be close but wish they could and, most of all, make sure you love yourself! Much like managing changes in our health, this uncharted territory for human nature can become second nature, we just have to work at it.
About Kathryn Christie
As an HR Consultant with a deep passion for Mental Health, Kathryn spends her days pushing paper and her nights volunteering with the Canadian Mental Health Association as a co-facilitator of the Family and Caregiver Education program. Her passion extends beyond the realm of her volunteer work which has brought her to Healthy Minds Canada to share stories, support and inspiration with her community.