My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Life in Cartoon Motion

Every once in a while, someone remarks or asks of me, “Don’t you ever wish you could have lived in simpler times?” or something along those lines. And every time, my response is some version of, “Hell, no.” Setting aside the obvious benefits of clean drinking water (at least, in this part of Canada) and flush toilets, I am forever grateful to have the privilege of being able to stay in contact with people I’ve befriended no matter where they are in the world. In “simpler times”, if your friend moved overseas … well, that was it for visits. Maybe you would write, sure, and depending on the time and the weather your letter might make it. Maybe you could exchange telegrams. But modern telecommunications means I can literally hang out with a friend no matter the distance—just call them up, turn on the camera, and prop them up next to me on the couch. It isn’t quite the same as them being there in person … but it’s really damn close.

I’m grateful for this because one of the hardest lessons I’m learning as an adult is that I am very content to stay in this one place, yet I seem to have this habit of making friends with wonderful people who want to leave to have adventures. And when they go, it hurts. But it would hurt a whole lot more if their leaving meant effectively not talking to them for a long time, if ever.

As I write this (though I will be posting after the fact, if I post this at all), one of my best friends is weeks away from moving to Montreal. She is a bundle of nerves and exuberance, nervous of course about leaving family and friends for a big city, yet excited and enthusiastic and confident that this is the right next step for her. And as the days tick down to her departure and we hang out, I find myself mirroring those feelings: I know she will flourish in that environment, yet I am nervous for this big change. I’m writing this post because I’ve been trying not to bring up my own feelings, because I don’t want to stress her out any more than she already is. Whether or not I actually put this out into the world … I don’t know. But it’s somewhere else for my thoughts to go.

For example: each time she comes over to cook dinner, lies on my couch and nearly falls asleep (it’s your fault—you’re the one who helped me pick it out!), stays up with me to watch Buffy … I think to myself, “This is one of the last times this is going to happen regularly.” Oh, we plan to video chat, and even cook and watch TV together long distance—that is the miracle, as I mentioned, of modern telecommunications. And she will, of course, visit here when she can, and make time to see me then. But those visits will be exceptions rather than the rule they have become in my life, and that … that makes me sad.

Of course people move away. It always happens. But for whatever reason, it isn’t something that I’ve really seen talked about much in our media and culture. Instead we are inundated with sitcoms like Friends or The Big Bang Theory where a large group of semi-infantilized adults live in close proximity to each other for a decade or more. And maybe that’s realistic for some friend groups, but it isn’t for most. And not seeing that in books and TV has made it a little bit harder, I think.

Moreover, while I’ve known this friend for probably about five years, it’s really only this past year that we have become so close. We worked together a lot during my last months at the art gallery, and we did more than “stay in touch” following both of us leaving that job: our casual coworker friendship blossomed into this amazing, complex relationship of mutual advice-giving, shoulder-leaning, cooking mentoring, Buffy watching, and tea-drinking. We text back and forth every day, something I don’t do with a lot of my friends. We are very different people, with very distinctive interests, yet somehow that just makes it easier to talk … maybe because we cut through a lot of the surface-level things and get right to those deep conversations I love to have.

And now that I finally have this, this closeness and this routine, it’s changing. It’s not going away, per se, but it will be different—there is no denying that. It isn’t so much that my friend is leaving, but it is the little things. The way she smiles, without fail, and says, “Hello!” in a certain tone of voice as I open my front door when she arrives. (Or, if I’m lounging on my deck while waiting, the slightly more tentative, “Hello?” as she unlatches the back gate to join me.) The way she forbids me, sometimes, from preparing our dessert after we cook, banishing me from my own kitchen so she can do it herself.

More than anyone else I know, she has made me feel comfortable in my own home. That seems like a weird thing to say, I guess, but it’s the truth. She was my first (and only) choice to accompany me to buy furniture and household items literally the day after I got my house. She basically helped me furnish my living room. And it is through her frequent visits that I have been able to realize my dreams of being a good host, and become comfortable in that capacity, confident that I am treating my friends well. One of my favourite things about living alone is the very fact that I can invite whomever I want into this space whenever I like, and having this friend over has helped make that a reality. I live alone already, yet after she moves, my house is going to feel a little emptier.

And I don’t really know how much she realizes this. I have made it a habit to tell her how much she means to me almost every day, because our lives are too short for us not to tell the people we love how they make us feel … but it’s one thing to say it, even over and over, and another to feel like you have made yourself understood. I try to back words up with actions, cups of tea and well-timed hugs and little jokes to lift the mood. With scarves and hats and mittens, because knitting is how I say, “I love you.”

But how can it ever really be enough? How can I ever really repay you for all that you have done, for choosing me out of all these people in your life to visit this attention on? How can I make it clear that, amidst all my insecurities about never really truly being good enough for anyone, just you being in my life makes me feel infinitely more comfortable in my own skin?

I told her recently, when she asked why I haven’t been blogging, that I haven’t had a lot I want to blog about. It’s just that the things I want to talk about lately feel more personal and too intimate to put out there on the Internet for strangers to read. “I’m so happy these days,” I said, “that all I really want to do is scream from the rooftops about how happy I am.” I feel so blessed, so fulfilled with my friendships, my life, my routines. This past year has literally been the best year of my life so far, and you have been a huge part of that.

You have literally become an essential part of my life this past year, but now things are changing. And that change is good, and healthy, and I don’t begrudge you your decisions. I want you to be happy, to take chances, to grow, just as I know you want the same things for me. Change will always be a constant in my adult friendships; I get that. It just sucks that, having become so used to having you around in this capacity, I’m going to have to adjust to the difference in how we spend time together (and, to be fair, you will have to adjust as well).

I’m having a hard time of it right now, not really because I’m sad but the opposite … I’m happy. And by dint of being happy, of having these relationships that I care so much about, of course I’m always nervous about changes. I can’t predict what the next year has in store for us. Hopefully, though, by expressing these feelings and working them out, I can put myself into a head-space where maintaining that happiness is easier despite these changes. Because I know it’s possible. This isn’t a big goodbye, thank goodness.

No, there’s definitely no “simpler time” I’d rather go back to living in. Quite the contrary: if I had the option, I would go forward to a time with teleportation, so no matter where you move, we could visit each other in person any time we want. Your companionship is worth the risk of scattering my atoms across the cosmos. You’re just that type of friend.