Kelly Ledsworth / Design Director

Long-distance friendships/relationships used to mean two people staying in touch who are separated by the distance of living in two states, attending different universities, or hours away from each other. Yet in light of the pandemic, long-distance friendships can mean two people living in the same town that are unable to see each other due to social distancing rules and fear of passing COVID-19.

Now that students are back on campus, a new wave of keeping in touch has to be factored into the already busy lives of maintaining a healthy school schedule, eating three meals a day, and social life.

Students are making new friends, but how are they maintaining their preexisting relationships? Has the pandemic taught students to be better at calling home, or staying in touch?

USM student David Hession, originally from Parkman, Maine is now situated in the Upperclass Hall apartments. Hession is entering his junior year studying music performance in concentration in jazz studies.

Luckily for Hession, the music department has the majority of their classes in person; smaller groups of students still have to attend practice sessions and class. Meaning that Hession sees a handful of his friends throughout the week due to his classes. He stated how most of his friendships are located on campus, so seeing people in passing or classes is the best way he keeps in touch. However, Hession said, “each of my friendships has the ways that I keep in touch with them.” He explained that one of his friends from USM who is not taking classes this year has a specific alarm. “Every day at 6:30 am I have an alarm saying I need to text this one person,” Hession said that this alarm keeps in contact with this friend, and doing daily checks in is helpful to let them know he is thinking about them.

“Especially during the pandemic, it’s important to allow my friends to lean on me. I want them to know everything will be okay.” Hession actions to stay in touch are intending to let those he cares about know they can always talk to him if they need him.

When it comes to family, some students have particular days when they call home. Some students prefer to text their parents, and sometimes a more sporadic way of calling home is better.

For Hession whose parents are still home in Parkman, and a sister living in New Hampshire, he enjoys the more sporadic route. “Yea, I’ve never been good at keeping touch with my family, of course, I call my mom now and then, birthday for sure, and all the holidays.” Hession said, “it’s just not a scheduled routine.”

Hession said his calls with his sister are much more inconsistent. “It’s never something I schedule, but my family and sister are very understanding of my routine.”

“Usually no contact from me means everything is fine,” Hession says.

As a music major, he has many rehearsals and practices throughout the week and oftentimes during the weekend. He also has 15 credits in courses and two on-campus jobs. Hession repeatedly mentioned how important his academics are to him. How the school will always come first in his book, even over his social life.

As students, having to balance enough time for work, school and social life can be quite the task. They often feel like they need to pick and choose when they should dedicate time to being on their phones and calling home or turning on do not disturb and doing our homework. Hession replied “I don’t” when asked how he prioritizes his social life. “I prioritize my academic life and then social life fills in the gap.” However, he did admit he can “acknowledge when I need help, and allows myself to reach out to friends when I need them.”

Being in an ever-changing world, with new rules and responsibilities for the safety of others and yourself. It is so important to have some balance and normalcy. It is okay to ask for help and rely on your friends to talk things through. It is more stressful than ever during this time of so much unknown.

For those both on and off-campus, Hession enjoys talking over text or in-person daily, and for those he texts, he tries to call and have a conversation weekly. “I am less likely to text people to catch up and more likely to ask to make plans.” Hession like most people would rather see people and catch up in person than over text.

In a time when people are limited to when they can see friends and family in person when allowed to see them, it is almost more special. Seeing friends in person, either on a distanced walk or over a cup of coffee. These moments catching up and staying up to date can mean a lot. In a time of uncertainty, it is so crucial to rely on your friends. Keeping in touch might be the best way to stay sane these days.

Hession does admit that “I am not craving the human interaction like most people, still I am still seeing people in person for rehearsals and class, but if it was completed remotely I would be going insane.”

When asked about how the pandemic and quarantine over the months from March to August affected Hession’s friendships he answered that it didn’t change his routine. His strict and rigid schedule both in and out of the school year allowed him to have a fluid yet consent relationship with his friends.

He recalls that one of his oldest friends, dating back to the 2nd grade, was able to catch up through the use of video games and chat during the summer. Hession states he likes his friendships to be more spontaneous and less structured. “It’s not the same emotional draw, I want to call them because I miss them, and have it feel less like a task.” These more random calls are more fulfilling and an easier way to keep in touch.

“I am very fortunate in that my friends are very understanding of my schedule.” Hession also explained that he would rather have smaller tighter friendships than large groups of friends he knows inch deep. “Luckily I have always had this mindset, and able to build and have the patience to have and find such good friends”

For Hession, “all of my friendships are very close or not at all. All or nothing. Right now all of my friendships are strong and solid.” Like many of us, during this pandemic, we were all able to rethink and reflect on all of our relationships, with family members, friends, and romantic relationships. “Of course during the pandemic, I drifted away and had some falling out with people,” he said.

Although these relationships are so necessary, Hession also faces challenges. “It’s exhausting emotionally and sometimes I am mentally fatigued.” Hession’s way of being a good friend is to be the one to help out, asking if they need help and being there for his friends when they need him. He explains how these actions are fulfilling for him when he can help others to feel better, he can cope with his challenges.

“As a musician, I am very emotionally driven, and when I am in a headspace of emotional struggle I make the best work-. My music portrays my raw emotion and can be shown, it reflects the mood of my day,” he said. Hession reflects on how it turns his stress into art, he stops thinking about the technicalities of what it means to make music and focuses on the emotion. In the end, he said it’s more of a story and comes out better.

The only thing we all wish we could do is being able to see all of our friends in person, give hugs, and not be concerned about passing on the virus. Hession agrees that he wishes he had more time to keep in touch, “I wish I could do more, give better advice, and be there for them more, there is only so much I can do via text and phone calls.”

I think everyone wishes we could have one normal day in this chaos.


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