Please nobody tell any of my old geography teachers my fun fact because I worry they might fill their shoes with igneous rocks and jump into an oxbow lake. And there goes the sum total of everything I remember from three years hard study of the geographical.
I went out for dinner with two very good London friends and former New York roommates this evening, and it got me thinking. I’m no good at estimating distances (another reason I’m a credit to my former geography teachers), but we probably all live within about twenty miles of each other. That’s very close, but the last time I saw them was in December and January respectively. So, a full quarter of a year.
We’re busy people. I spend most of my time writing, and they both have awesome jobs that make me sound really impressive by association when I brag about them. Or, at least, when I give a vague approximation of what I think they do because it’s all very complicated to my non-financial brain. Suffice it to say, they do things which I would call ‘financial’, which makes me a city slicker by osmosis.
We all have shit to do, and we sometimes prioritise that, but that doesn’t make us bad friends. Neither does the fact that we sometimes have holidays to go on, other people to see, or even a bank balance so prohibitively low it means we can’t afford to go to a bar when everybody else does because even a lime and soda is expensive these days. All of those things just mean we have lives. If we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t hang out with each other at all on account of being so mind-numbingly boring.
Right now, the furthest geographical point at which I have what I would describe as a close friend is 5336 miles. That is far. But in this day and age we’re not disconnected, and that distance doesn’t make us bad friends either. Some of us are just having amazing experiences travelling the West Coast of the USA, while others are spending an evening drinking margaritas before writing into the wee hours. We’re having lives, and they’re different, and it’s fine.
If we really examined how often I see my friends at places which are not the office or the venue for a regularly-scheduled activity I pay to attend, I honestly couldn’t give a per-week estimate. It would probably be a couple of times a month, if that. We try to see each other within a few weeks of our birthdays and Christmas but, beyond that, most of us are just happy ticking along while knowing the other person is out there, and occasionally checking up on each other via Whatsapp.
An older generation might read this and think it was sad, but replace ‘via Whatsapp’ with ‘over the telephone’ or even ‘by post’, and I’m willing to bet lots of them are no better. Judgemental old farts.
One of the things I get asked about moving is whether I’m sad about leaving my friends behind, and the honest answer is ‘not really, no’. There are obviously a few exceptions, but based on the actual amount of time I spend with the majority of my friends, we might not even notice I’ve moved. We have smart phones these days and we’ve also got bigger things to worry about. Like lives. They’re messy, and busy, and they take us in different directions. And that’s fine.