Here’s a list of some things I’m not good at:
- Organising group events
- Mixing friendship groups
- Saying goodbye
- Spending eight hours in a pub without losing all my mental faculties
By pure coincidence, these four points describe almost exactly my last Saturday.
Despite this (and despite the tequila I was forced to drink after very foolishly and very truthfully answering the question: “What’s the worst shot you would want to have to drink right now?”) I actually managed to enjoy my own leaving do.
It’s wonderful of course to be in any gathering that has been distilled into only-people-I-actually-want-to-be-with-and-who-have-chosen-to-be-with-me. But the part that I hadn’t expected was how fun it was to see people from totally different spheres of my existence coming together, like a disorganised and alcoholic This Is Your Life. It made me realise how lucky I am to have good friends. Matskie and Trish, who came all the way from Birmingham just to see me for the afternoon; Brucey, who stayed all evening, even though he had to make his way back to Cambridge that same night; Laide, who brought me an incredibly thoughtful present; and Loren, who chaperoned me from the very beginning all the way through to the very end, and made sure I didn’t try and escape my own event.
More than anything, it reassured me that saying goodbyes to friends really isn’t permanent. I know this already, as someone who grew up saying goodbye across multiple countries. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded: you can keep the friends you work at keeping. You can make new friends, and still have the old ones, and be a total friend glutton for all your days.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you just hold on to people forever. People grow and move and build new relationships; you can’t all just stand still. Even with your closest friends, I think it’s healthy to learn to say goodbye.
But here’s the good news: there are people in my life who I’ve already said goodbye to more times than I can count… and I expect to still be saying goodbye to them decades from now.
Friends are signposts for each stage of your life. With that in mind, here’s my This Is Your Life, populated only by people I saw on Saturday.
This is [My] Life
I was born in Bristol, before moving to Newcastle-under-Lyme as a baby, partly because I felt that prospects for a newborn were greater in Newcastle, and entirely not because of that but actually because my parents moved and decided I had better go with them.
At the age of nine, I was transplanted to a boarding school in the Malaysian jungle, which was the worst experience of my life and then the best experience of my life, the latter at least partly because I met Matskie, who has been one of my most loyal and bestest friends ever since.
Then other stuff happened (like going to an American International school and riding a donkey up a volcano and the time I got stuck on a helipad) before I moved back to the UK for my GCSEs, and became friends with people like Brucey and Trishna, a few of the seemingly limited number of people at my school who didn’t seem to be arseholes. In retrospect, many people who I thought were arseholes weren’t, and a few definitely definitely were.
I went to university in Oxford, which helped me make some incredible friends, like Hugh and Vicky and Lan, and some incredible realisations, like how mind-blowing maths is and how no-one cares.
A few years later (after a stint in Reading which I’ll gloss over because no-one from Reading came to my leaving do and therefore the whole town is dead to me) I moved to London to take up a job at the charity IntoUniversity, and became a fresh-faced graduate along with Ben (who I’m re-evaluating as a friend after his tequila treachery) and Karen (who I leant on massively throughout my time at IU, even though she’s quite small).
I was assigned to IntoUniversity Bow, where my manager Matilda taught me how to do my job, and my colleague Laide shouted at me with loving exasperation for my lack of organisation.
Eventually, for some insane reason, the charity let me manage other people, and both Ian and Emma were forced to labour under my tyrannical dystopia of sarcasm, which makes it all the more impressive that they volunteered to see me outside of work.
Working in London is an absolute privilege. It’s a fantastic city with endless things to do and endless amazing people to meet. I’ve met people through my job, like Jodie and Loren, who are so good at what they do that it’s probably magic.
I’ve had housemates who have become good friends, like Katie and Jeremy (honourary housemate, but still) who looked after me whenever I was having a meltdown, mostly by taking me to Beefeater’s.
I’ve also met friends through friends, because there are just too many people in London for you to keep friends to yourself. J loves good films and so is automatically a good person, but can also be usefully ransacked for advice about New Zealand.
Fran loves roti canai and so is also automatically a good person, and most of my thought processes now involve plotting to steal her flat, which is the greatest thing ever created by humanity except for cheese and The Wire.
Where was I?
Friendships are important: they give you identity and a sense of home.
More than anything, I think friendships are what make me believe I’ll come back to London soon.
Then again, maybe the people I meet in New Zealand will be better.