A Bad Time

When we’re young, we’re thrown together with other children and told to go and play in an effort to gift our long-suffering parents with a blessed hour of peace and quiet. Before we begin to play, we have simple, rudimentary ways of assessing each other:

“What’s your favourite colour?”

“Blue.”

“Me too! Will you be my friend?”

Then we each grab a stick with twigs sticking out the bottom and start studiously brushing the dirt in an attempt to clean our “house,” which is really just the space under a bush where the frost killed off the lower branches, but thankfully we have the imagination required to bridge that minor gap in realities. It doesn’t present too much of a challenge to our world view.

That same imagination is, I think, what helps us form these fast friendships. We make huge leaps of logic from stepping stone to stepping stone of assumption. We decide that since we like blue and are okay, if they like blue they must also be okay. That’s enough. It’s enough to have a shared interest in the colour blue, or in ponies, or in holographic stickers, or pogs (are they still a thing?), or whatever we have our open little hearts set on at that particular moment.

As children, once we’ve established that one binding fact that cements our friendship, we don’t act passive-aggressively forever more if one person claims that Skipper is better than Barbie. We don’t thump each other until we need medical assistance over a difference of opinion on whether Micro Machines are better than Hot Wheels. We don’t refuse to speak to each other ever again because we don’t both want to watch Aladdin. We accept these things as valid and skip over these differences because the important things are still true; we both like the colour blue, and we like each other.

As time wears on, our lives grow more complicated. Our requirements for friendship grow more complex. We start to write people off for small, niggling reasons. That one person who breathes through their mouth. That other person who won’t watch movies with subtitles. Chasms open up where opinions on religion and politics diverge. Instead of the simple acceptance we had as children, we now debate and argue – viciously, ferociously – in an attempt to change other people’s points of view. Race, class, beliefs and values all get dragged into discussions.

Nobody cares about your favourite colour anymore.

It seems like the world is fracturing at the moment. Cracks have appeared as if from nowhere and I can’t tell how deep the damage goes. It seems like the planet is tearing itself apart at the seams, with untidy, fraying stitches just barely holding everything together. What used often to be educated discussion is now aggressive shouting. Disagreements are now total incompatabilities. Apparently there’s a worldwide chronic deficiency of imagination at the moment and people are either unable or unwilling to understand opposing points of view.

Facts have been sacrificed on the altar of audience engagement and squeaky wheels everywhere are getting the grease of media attention, no matter how insufferable the squeak.

The cracks might not worsen. They might stay as they are, never worsening but never healing completely. Or they might at any moment become a break. A split. An insurmountable challenge.

An impassable chasm.

The worst part is that I think a few more seams are going to rip open before this is over. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and I don’t know what to do in the meantime. I definitely don’t have a manual for this. What I do have is a history book, and it’s not exactly reassuring me if I’m honest. If anything it’s making me think we’re about to be in for A Bad Time. A Bad Time with a lot of shouting.

And I hate shouting.

So if anybody wants to hide out and be friends, I’ll be hiding out in my blanket fort with a few micro machines and (since we’re grown ups) some bottles of vodka and gin.

Only people with the password* allowed!

*The password is your favourite colour.

Thoughts On… Friendship

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“Understand that friends come and go,
But a precious few you should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle,
For as the older you get, the more you need the people
You knew when you were young.”

 

My best friend turned thirty yesterday.

She’s become something of a human pinball over the past decade, bouncing from London to Dublin to South America and back again. Her globetrotting has taken her to incredible places, where she’s done unforgettable things, and we’ve kept in touch through the wonder of the internet. We’ve known each other since we were¬†very small, and after all these years all I can say is that I’m so proud to know her. I trust her with fears, hopes and secrets. She’s great for car chats, cinema trips and cocktails. She knows that the correct food for catch-ups is chocolate. She’s a badass with more of a sense of style in her little finger than I’ve accumulated in my entire life.

And she’s brave.

In a few days she moves to Dubai for a new adventure. I can’t wait to see her take on a new country, and I can’t wait to visit her once she’s settled in. It’s going to be amazing, and will hopefully lead to more success and love and laughter and great things in the next few years. When I think back at all the things we’ve done in our lives from sleepovers to summer camps, from movie nights¬†to deep discussions in nightclub toilet cubicles… We’ve covered a lot of ground! There’s still so much out there for us to do though, and I think this is going to be the best time to do it. I think our thirties are going to be awesome!

Yesterday was her thirtieth birthday.

Here’s to another thirty!