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One of my best friends has moved overseas, and I feel heartbroken

IMAGE VIA @CAITEMMABURKE/INSTAGRAM
WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“I felt nostalgic for something that wasn’t yet in the past; I was watching her in her element, and at that moment I was acutely reminded of the cavernous hole she was leaving in my life.”

Part of your late twenties that no one adequately prepares you for is the giant chasm that opens up when it comes to the life choices you’re making compared to those around you (or on your social media feeds). Each day, the number of people I know that are committing to ‘big life decisions’ increases.

Two good friends have recently bought houses with their partners, and as happy as I am for them, their big life decision reminds me how far away I am from reaching these traditional milestones. I don’t have enough savings to contemplate gingerly placing a foot on the increasingly out-of-reach property ladder, I’ve yet to meet anyone I’d like to ‘settle down’ with – it’s truly a hellscape out there – and having a baby isn’t something I’m interested in, maybe ever.


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Instead, I find myself in the midst of my Saturn Return, living in a rental property during a bitterly cold Melbourne winter. Like everyone else who’s been left behind, I’m all too aware that almost everyone except me is apparently downing bottomless aperol spritzes in the Amalfi Coast or living out their Call Me By Your Name fantasy in some souped-up Airbnb in the south of France. To add insult to injury, one of those people is one of my best friends.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m incredibly happy for her. She’s been saving and planning and preparing for more than a year, and exploring Europe for a few months before settling in Berlin is a life choice I’m proud of her for making. It takes guts to uproot yourself. Removing yourself from those you feel the most comfortable and the most yourself around is never easy, but sometimes in life, it’s what’s necessary.

But it’s hard not to feel bereft as the one left behind. While she’s experiencing so much newness, I’m stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of mundanity, which is hardly the optimal space to be in when you’re missing someone. Our friendship has been a constant in my life for so many years – we’ve been friends since we were 13 – and we’re so often defined in relation to each other; Cait and Caz, Caz and Cait.

After spending our youth in New Zealand where we discovered a shared affinity for skaters, reckless behaviour and house parties (ideally house parties featuring skaters behaving recklessly) and connected over our obsessive love of music by creating the cringiest girl band of all time, we both made our way to Melbourne in our early twenties.

Me first, and her at my absolute insistence that she move. Eventually, we moved within walking distance of each other, which was easily one of the most life-enhancing decisions we’ve both made. Being in such close proximity meant spur-of-the-moment dinners and coffees, popping over to borrow that top of theirs you’d had your eye on, meeting after work for late-night runs, and far too many hungover days spent in my bed or hers, before we made the two-minute journey back to our own homes.

We have a friendship that’s built on honesty and hilarity; not many people make me laugh the way she does, until tears leak out of my eyes and my stomach aches. We can fight like sisters and annoy each other, but we can never stay angry – we’re always trying to be better friends to one another. She relishes squeezing every last droplet of laughter out of a silly, silly joke just as much as she enjoys the eternal appeal of a very big night out – two things we’ve always had in common.

The night before she left, we went out together for the final time in a long time. I was all too aware that I was applying her eyeliner and downing pet nats with her for what could be the last time in years, given what we’ve all experienced with the pandemique.

Later that night, as I watched her effortlessly charm an overly eager man on the dancefloor while ‘I Follow You’ by Lykke Li echoed around the room, I felt nostalgic for something that wasn’t yet in the past; I was watching her in her element, and at that moment I was acutely reminded of the cavernous hole she was leaving in my life.

It was the same hole that was left when one of my other best friends, Roberta, moved back to New Zealand. Until you’re not able to be in the physical presence of your friend when you want to be, you don’t realise how much of close female friendship is in the minutiae of the everyday.

It’s doing their makeup for a night out, taking a break from work to meet for a coffee and a croissant on a park bench to unpack your latest dating disaster (or the rare success) and sharing clothing and beds with the same ease that you share your greatest anxieties and your most debilitating doubts.

The issue is, we don’t make space for friendship to be treated with the same reverence (or talked about in the same terms) as romantic love. In many ways, my best friends and I are there for each other in a more serious, committed way than any of us have ever experienced in a romantic relationship. Romantic love can be fickle, but real, genuine friendship love feels like a more considered, long-term commitment.

I was explaining to my boss the other day that for someone who doesn’t live in the same country as their family and is currently single, your friends really are everything to you. So when one of them leaves, it feels almost like a breakup – an amicable one where we’re still the best of friends, but a breakup nonetheless.

But if a stranger stops you while why you’re walking home from work openly weeping to ask you what’s wrong, and you explain that your best friends have moved away and started new lives in other countries, I’m certain they would be much more sympathetic if you tell them instead that your boyfriend has just dumped you. I hope that this is changing.

Writers like Dolly Alderton, who’s essentially the millennial generation’s very own Nora Ephron, have spearheaded a new understanding of the importance of female friendship. Her debut book Everything I Know About Love, and its recent television adaptation, serve as a poignant reminder of the depth and intensity of these bonds.

And while I’m looking down the barrel of many more years of everyone around me, myself included, making ‘big life decisions’ and uprooting themselves time and time again, Dolly’s words still provide me with some much-needed comfort.

In a recent interview with Stylist Magazine, she admitted that while maintaining these close friendships in her thirties was challenging – what with new babies, sick parents, the relentless demands of work and being separated by vast bodies of water and time differences – they’re still the most important relationships in her life.

As always, Dolly sums it up much better (and much more succinctly) than I ever could, so I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from the article: “I still think they are most likely the relationships that will sustain me until the day I die. They’re the relationships I have the most confidence in. And they’re the relationships that have changed me the most.”

For advice on maintaining long-distance friendships, try this.

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