Love, your friend: Reflections on a year together and apart

·9 min read
'I would argue that long distance friendship has never before been so rampant, because to some degree we're all experiencing it, whether it's Halifax to Dartmouth, another province or another country,' says Chloe Luckett.
'I would argue that long distance friendship has never before been so rampant, because to some degree we're all experiencing it, whether it's Halifax to Dartmouth, another province or another country,' says Chloe Luckett.

(Mo Phung - image credit)

If somewhere along the line you put romantic love on a pedestal and started maybe-another-time-ing your friends, the pandemic might be your wake-up call.

Or, maybe you've been fully awake, but now you're physically apart.

Sociologist Peter Mallory says we don't know exactly how the pandemic is changing friendships because we don't have the research yet.

But he's sure people are thinking about these connections more right now. That's what we do in any crisis.

"It becomes more difficult to take our friendships for granted during a pandemic," says Mallory, an associate professor of sociology at St.FX university who studies friendship.

Niobe Way, a developmental psychology professor at New York University, got COVID-19 early on, and needed her friends.

She's spent over three decades studying friendship, but it took a pandemic to deepen her own connections. Now, she prioritizes friend time daily, through a video or phone call, or walks. She's even made a couple of new friends.

"We finally sort of are recognizing ... the power of friendship and the importance of friendships in our lives."

Molly Margaret for CBC
Molly Margaret for CBC

Way and Mallory both say that while some friendships are blooming, for others that's not the case.

For example, if someone has a family member dealing with COVID in the hospital, they might not want to connect and go for walks, Way said.

"One thing we have lost is our connection to all kinds of people in our lives," Mallory said.

Friends. Neighbours. Co-workers. Acquaintances.

While the cultural norm is coupledom, that's not the case for many people, Mallory said.

"As sociologists we just believe that our connections to other people are so important," Mallory said. "Our relationships to others, it's the very basis of our identity and who we are."

In the stories below, friends reflect on how their friendship experiences have changed this past year.

A chance to fall in love with our friendship all over again

Words: Chloe Luckett

Photos: Mo Phung

Mo Phung
Mo Phung

It's the worst feeling, your best friend moving away. It's something that everyone will likely experience at one point or another.

People get jobs, get married, or feel the urge to follow an adventure. I don't know if anyone really does well with ambiguity, and that's the scariest part of a friend leaving.

Wondering if you're still the same people that might close down a karaoke bar together on a Wednesday night, or call crying about a bad haircut you got in Grade 3 that still haunts you.

I would argue that long-distance friendship has never before been so rampant, because to some degree we're all experiencing, whether it's Halifax to Dartmouth, another province, or another country, never has the distance between friendships felt this big.

We knew it would feel like this, Han.

February 2020 you packed up your bags for the golden coast of San Francisco. I was heartbroken. Really, I was just scared. Scared that my best friend was moving to another coast in another country, and that our relationship would fade. And then only a month later, the world changed as COVID-19 arrived and society locked down.

Suddenly our situation didn't seem so different from everyone else's.

We all became prisoners of our own homes, if we were fortunate enough to have one. And then we forgot how to socialize as it becomes very obvious that many interactions take place at a bar or restaurant, and many of us started to feel isolated.

Mo Phung
Mo Phung

The idea of a casual get together with your best friend was out of the picture. The worry of losing that friend became a common theme as we all wondered, how do you stay best friends in a global pandemic?

But we made it, and I think you could say that our friendship is even stronger than before. It hasn't always been easy, I think we can agree on that. You know I'd start making coffee a part of my nighttime ritual, if that's what it took. But you also know that I'm 28 going on 90, and rarely do I make it past 9 p.m. With the time difference, that means that we often only have that sweet spot of a couple of hours that overlap.

Just like loving anyone who lives far away, lives will continue to happen, and people will go through rough patches of unexpected hardship. And that's heartbreaking when you can't be there for support and to ride it out with them.

I've never felt that concept so much before as your new world has been undeniably harder than mine. The pandemic is amplified in California, and then with the forest fires your everyday literally went up in flames for a while. But we found a way to support each other and find connection even through the worst of it.

Every day you send me songs that suit your mood, you send me pictures of even the mundane. We still have a drink together on the weekend and we hash out the parts of life that make us feel any type of way.

By continuing to share our vulnerabilities and choosing to keep breaking down the walls that long distance can create. We've found a way to feel closer and like we're still an everyday part of each other's lives.

We made it though, almost a year apart.

Steve Wadden
Steve Wadden

Who knew that so many of our reunions would be the biggest tease, as your best friend's flight lands, but then you have to wait two weeks while they quarantine to see them. It feels cliche to say, but the second I got to throw my arms around you, it suddenly felt like we'd never even been apart.

And then of course when you left, I cried so hard that I actually convinced myself I had COVID because of how asthmatic my sobs sounded. But your visit home only reassured us that distance doesn't mean the end of a friendship.

We're getting to explore another side of each other and our friendship that involves new ways to connect, and I often feel lucky and look at it like a chance to fall in love with our friendship all over again.

Chloe Luckett is originally from Wolfville, N.S., and now lives in Halifax

Picture Pals

Words: Steve Wadden

Photos: All from current projects by members of the HotFog photo collective (@hotfogpress)

Steve Wadden
Steve Wadden

It was early March, 2020, and COVID fears were still playfully flip-flopping between, "China is not in good shape, but we should be fine here," and "Oh my God, the world is going to end."

Despite the lingering feeling of impending doom and having to take a few precautions, it was business as usual for the HotFog collective.

HotFog is a guerrilla exhibition/publishing collective founded by four Cape Breton photographers — Dinao MacCormick, Kyle MacNeil, Chad Tobin and myself, Steve Wadden — in 2018.

Steve Wadden
Steve Wadden

Our group was formed as a way to build on the photo community in Nova Scotia, while also striving to establish an East Coast presence in Toronto's fine-arts-photo scene.

Dinao MacCormick
Dinao MacCormick

It was exactly the kind of thing we were all looking for— a creative and supportive resource pool that we could use collectively, or individually, to foster growth.

But it was more than just meeting up to talk photos, group critiques grant writing and editing book dummies. We had great chemistry and enjoyed each other's company— something that proved invaluable this past year.

Kyle MacNeil
Kyle MacNeil

On the night of March 11 we met to review a printed proof of TURF, our first group book. We celebrated with hugs and good scotch, ate chips from the same bowl and mindlessly licked our fingers.

Then, later that same night, news broke that the NBA shut down and that Tom Hanks had COVID — a bad omen that left us all uneasy about communal chips.

Just 11 days later on March 22, Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency.

Enter lockdown.

It was a bummer, but none of us were ready to give up on all of our hard work.

If anything, the challenge and the uncertainty of it all brought us closer together.

Even through the most strictly prohibited period of 2020, we were all productive with writing articles, publishing photos and helping each other with solo projects.

Chad Tobin
Chad Tobin

We also used the down time wisely to connect with other industry professionals that would normally be too busy to chat.

We kept in touch through Instagram with members of the @halifax_darkroom, Toronto photographers Ian Willms (@ianwillms) Chris Donovan (@cdonovanphoto) and Brian St. Denis (@briandstdenis).

Chad and I both managed a couple of features on @flakphoto I had some work published by @sigmaglobalvision and Chad by @tourdogs and @leica_fotografie_international.


As time went on, things eased up, bubbles became a thing and we were able to safely meet each other in person again.

Summer felt right around the corner and we got word that The Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design would allow us to go ahead with an exhibition of our group project TURF in July. We would even be able to host a masked and physically distanced opening.

We worked together, in person, almost every day for a month leading up to the show. The show was a hit, people were stoked to get out and do something normal-ish and everyone in the collective needed that too. That whole experience left us feeling extremely validated and accomplished.

Of course, the pandemic personally affected everyone in HotFog in different ways.

Speaking for myself, it was a welcome pump of the brakes that allowed me to spend more quality time with my family. I also got back to my childhood pastime of fly-fishing.

Professionally it allowed me to spend the kind of time I've always wanted to spend planning, photographing and writing for personal projects.

I think the real silver lining has been, for all of us in HotFog, the realization of how important connection is to us, and feeling inspired to reprioritize going forward.

Stay tuned for more from the picture pals in 2021:

Tidings a photo book by Kyle MacNeil.

A collaborative photo by Dinao and friend Dani Proteau (@daniproteau)

Two photo books To be Frank and St. Valentine by Chad.

Zines Trophées du Soleil and Selene by Steve.