The world of social media has diluted the meaning of the word ‘friend’. I know of the entire list of ‘friends’ I have on Facebook, some of them I haven’t spoken to in a long time, and some would be better described as acquaintances. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but it does beg the question of what is ‘friendship’ these days?
Since becoming an expat, I’ve faced the challenge of starting back at more or less ground zero in the friend stakes. Luckily I have enduring friends on the other side of the world, and I thank social media profusely for helping me keep those relationships alive. Plus FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp etc. Are real friends only those whom you’ve known the longest? Or have significant history with – went to school with, worked for years with, shared a hobby with etc? I guess these are the easiest places to make friends; being in a confined space with someone is a natural icebreaker.
Feeling ‘friendless’ is a frightening place to be in your 30s, I confess I had desperate moments when I thought I was a loner loser and no one would want to be chums with me. Plus the fact I felt bereft of my beautiful friends back home – making my (self taken) ‘loser’ status all the more hard to bear.
My first job after moving here was an utter disaster. I worked for what can only be described as the most arrogant, up himself tosser of a bloke (who ran the 1500 metres faster than Seb Coe don’t you know – when they were about 10 – BIG DEAL – look at you now…). He also thought it was ‘cool’ to put the Pulp Fiction movie soundtrack on on a Friday afternoon, too loud for anyone to think, and sing/speak along to all the words. Horrific doesn’t cover it. He was such a twat. When I eventually convinced them to go for a drink on a friday night, he raced to get to the bar first, to buy himself a drink – yes just himself. You get the picture.
Anyway, it was a small company, so I hoped I might meet one, maybe two reasonable people. How wrong I was. I’d chosen a company full of brow beaten and extremely introverted individuals. They had been emotionally scarred by their boss (the company owner and previously mentioned tosser) – he would force them to stand up and speak in front of the whole team when they clearly wanted the ground to swallow them up. They would rather die than speak publicly – they were coders, nerds, and happy with that – they wanted to be left alone to weave their computer magic. To cut a long (well not that long) story short, I left pretty quickly. He didn’t tell anyone I was leaving, and on my last day I stood up and said (quite loudly) – ‘Well that’s me then! I’m off now, bye everyone!’ – to which I got no response… So you can imagine where my mental health stood at that point – first job; fail, friends made; zero. FUCK!
I had better luck with my second job, and also (through force of circumstance) being patient. Friends can’t be forced – much as it feels hideously awkward when you don’t have any/many.
I do however believe in fate. Especially when it comes to friends. I believe that people walk in (and out) of your life at certain times for very specific reasons. I believe in friendships running their course, and having the courage to let them go, can leave you with beautiful memories, rather than a frustrated relationship (or lack thereof). I think I have met people to meet people – some of my closest friends started as a friend of a friend. People have walked into my life when I least expected it, and for reasons that only became apparent because of a chance event. Friends come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s a very broad term, but I’m delighted to say I have some – on both sides of the planet, and I feel very lucky.