The saying ‘keep your friends close and your enemies even closer’ could be the mantra of all my relationships over the last 39 years, except for the ‘keep your friends close’ part. I seem to have this crazy habit of actively pushing people away, well not all people, just the good people. In some odd, masochistic life choice I made the decision to keep the toxic people close. My therapist says it’s because I wasn’t lovingly nurtured during my formative years. This has made me as one good friend describes “a lovely, broken, spikey, non-hugger”.
What’s brought this post on though? Firstly, the fact that a number of good friends regularly complain at me that I never text them and always wait for them to get in touch. It’s a terrible trait, brought on by just not wanting to be a bother to anyone. Stoicism and survival modes are odd bedfellows to being sociable and effervescent. If I were a Sim I definitely wouldn’t be the one that pops round unannounced and ‘not asking for help’ would be a key character trait.
Which beautifully brings me on to my second reason for posting. I saw my best friend from uni last night. For many people that would be perfectly normal, but for me, I haven’t seen him in 8 years. I can safely say that he was/is a person who cared. (I’m not going to make this an homage by the way). When I described him to my partner the words “booze cruises”, “politics”, “parties” and “vomiting into a urinal” merrily flooded the conversation. But, and this is the important part, the bits I missed were absolutely crucial.
So here are the bits I missed. I met Chris on my first day at uni. I felt out of place, out of my depth and generally awkward. He was wearing a t-shirt that said: “made in Wales 1980”. We quickly established that we were the oldest people in the room (19…so ancient). He’d been doing a year out in high school in the USA and breaking both his wrists as a terrible goalkeeper, I’d been working at Sainsbury’s (less glamorous, although the discount card was handy for the booze cruises mentioned above). Over our 3 years at uni, we pretty much shared all the same classes and when it came to our finals decided it would be an excellent idea to revise together. THIS is the key moment. A week before exams were due to start, my dad was admitted to hospital with horrific septicemia. I could cope with that. What I couldn’t cope with was what happened next. My mum, starved of a steady supply of alcohol, went into cold turkey and started calling me every 30 minutes to ask me to go and buy her booze. My partner was working really long hours and I just couldn’t cope.
Enter Chris (I’d say stage right, but it would actually probably be flying in from above in a cape with a Welsh dragon on it). He came to my house, sat me down, organised my revision and answered every single phone call from my mum! He also made me listen to Daniel Bedingfield ‘Gotta Get Through This’ which quickly became the anthem of my finals. Not only that, he went with me to visit every lecturer to ask if I could get some dispensation (I couldn’t) and was the one who finally told me my results over the phone. If it wasn’t for him I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have got the degree that I got. I should add that after Chris had told me about my frankly miraculous 2:1, I called my dad who said, “well done although it’s not a degree in science is it” (I was the first person in my family to get a degree).
Anyway, I then just let that friendship slip through my fingers, probably because of my first point. I’ve scattered good, nice, caring people all along my life journey. This is now a warning for two other friends from university…I’m getting in touch! Actually, I’m going to add to that, all the caring friends, I’m going to get in touch more. I’m working hard to get out of the headspace that I’m a bother. I’m pretty sure that I’m not. I need to throw in that there are a couple of other people that I’ve strewn aside over the years. My oldest friend being one of them. If I hadn’t bumped into her dad at Folkestone Market one morning I’m not sure we’d be in touch now. And then there’s my current partner and a whole friendship group who I didn’t speak to for 14 years. The story of that reunion is here and has now reminded me that there’s another person I’ve pushed away (I think I’m going to have to write a bloody list).
So, in short, if you do hear from me out of the blue, apologies for my being a totally remote dickhead, it’s my parents’ fault.