The loveliest realization I've had this year

Ideas Nov 18, 2020

In the past 4 years only, I've lived in 4 different places.

I moved from Paris to Melbourne, Melbourne to Sydney, Sydney to Berkeley and Berkeley to New York.

Wow, that's so cool! I often get.

I agree. But there's one thing I'd started saying along the way.

Yes, but... the cost of all this world exploration is leaving wonderful people behind.

Sure, it was always balanced out by the exciting promise of the next chapter, but turning my back on blossoming friendships became more and more difficult, out of fear it would all become sweet yet distant memories of the past.

And yet.

Was I really turning my back on them?


During the first lockdown, I got on a call with my best friend from San Francisco, and it was delightful. We talked, laughed, reflected on why we were here as immigrants and held space for each other to wallow and dream.

When I hung up, my heart was full and my soul, radiant.

A thought swept me up my feet.

She loves me.

She really, really loves me.

Not that I ever doubted that, but I never explicitly thought about it.

Soon after, I had a similar call with my best friend from Australia, and again felt her love from all across the globe through my phone.

That's when I started reflecting on how incredibly lucky I was.

Yes, it had been difficult to leave these people physically, and not see them every day. But leaving had made all these friendships deeper, stronger and more special than any other.

This proved to be true for every single friendship I have nurtured from a distance.

Every text, every call, every audio, every card was yet another root of the friendship tree we were both cultivating. Being apart, yet investing time in staying in touch in a meaningful way had acted as a powerful fertilizer to deepen our love for each other.

It made each of our rare encounters a firework of joy and wholesomeness. We shared dreams, met halfway across the world to make them happen, supported each other through heartache & endeavors and hosted each other in all four corners of the world.  

Long-distance friendships leave no room for default hangouts

The intentionality required to keep up with each of these friendships became the glue holding us together, probably for life. Choosing to take that call, not canceling last minute, organizing one's schedule to make time for everyone while continuing to live in the present. The pandemic has made that easier, but intention has been the magic ingredient all along.

As a result, while I haven't seen most of my friends for 2 years, some for over 4 years, the constant intentional contact makes it feel like we'd always been there when we do see each other.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Not so long ago, I was convinced that the hardest thing to do as an adult was to make friends, especially when you start from scratch somewhere you don't know anyone.

I now realize that with effort, one can create an incredible web of loving, caring, real friends.  

And with it, came this lovely, soul-nourishing realization:

I am loved.

I am so loved by all these people whom I love so much.

It gives me goosebumps just to write it.

And there's more.


A little while back, I stopped assuming I knew myself, and instead started seeing life as the adventure where one slowly discovers who we are, through our adventures, relationships and what we care about.

So having friends from different lives have held up a different mirror to who I was, am, and want to be. I met all of them in different contexts, so they all have different backgrounds - and I've developed unique friendships with each of them.

They have helped me see myself in a multi-dimensional way, and provide me - without knowing - with a powerful and delightful look back at parts of who I am that I love but forgot about.

Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash

So here I am.

I just turned 26, and had the most wonderful birthday weekend, some of the lovely people I'm referring to co-conspired worldwide to surprise me, without even knowing each other.

Where I got messages and calls from all over - you'll hear me talk about my best friend from Australia, my best friend from San Francisco, my best friend from Barcelona, my best friends from Paris, and of course my eternal group of best girlfriends from high school.

I've also created my New York family, and am over the moon to be able to say that yes, my brother and my parents are also in the group of my best friends.

My next big dream? See all of these people gathered around me, all in one place. That will take some serious logistics, but I hope we can make it happen at least once in my lifetime.

In the mean time, know that I love every one of you with all my heart.

Cover photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash.

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Laila Zouaki

Adopted by New York, I made a few life stops in California, Australia, France and Morocco. I'm curious about product, scuba diving, yoga, psychology, art, writing, and food.