I spent last week in New York on a work trip, and while the schedule was packed pretty much from the minute we landed at JFK, we did manage to find a few moments here and there to take in Manhattan. I am a huge fan of the Big Apple. I am a city girl at heart and New York is by far and away the Big Momma of all mega-urban-metropolises. It’s the backdrop to almost all of my favourite films, it boasts skyscrapers that light up the sky by the hundred, coffee to die for, and food to make any gastronomical critic weep. Other than eating our way through Soho, the highlight for me was catching up with a good friend who has recently moved state-side.
Walking up the High Line on a Thursday evening in mid summer having a good old fashioned gossip I was reminded how lucky I am to have friends scattered all around this world, that arriving in a new city more often than not I can pick up the phone and meet someone. Or at least get a few recommendations from mates who know the globe pretty well. Londoners are well travelled folk and I’m very lucky to count so many of them as friends. And equally that being oceans apart means very little to the relationships I have made and the ones that I have back home in South Africa.
Back in my teens it was near impossible to go without making contact with your mates at least every hour or so. This in the days before social media and mobile phones (imagine) we saw each other in class, while writing letters to the ones that were in the other class, swapping letters at lunch, repeating the process a few times over. We then go home and spend hours hogging the landline until one of our parents picked up the extension and threatened grounding or lack of lifts at the weekend. One day off school and the fragile alliances could change. A year was like a lifetime. And in a time when your parents didn’t understand you and your siblings were just hopeless, your friends are your family, your therapists, health advisers (all with dodgy consequences) your partners in crime. Which means they were INTENSE. Fights were life threatening, and epic. Political manoeuvring legendary; why do you think teen movies are so popular? All of the drama, less the expensive adult stars, historically accurate costumes or pyrotechnics.
New friends were made at university due to shared interests as opposed to post code proximity. A few school friends remain, the ones who genuinely rather like to hang around you, rather than needing a brain to help out in double maths, or being the one who knows how to roll a fag or the best way to escape school during free periods. These friends argue with you about de-constructed post modern feminist theory. And music. And help you out with part time work, tutoring, waitressing, internships.
Post university I left all my friends and family and followed my heart to London. Here new friends are people I meet through work, when at 23 your Tuesday night could be just a raucous as the Saturday night. I meet people out clubbing, through friends of house mates. Friendships in my twenties are defined by booze, banter and boys, while trying to carve out a career – working hard playing harder. Travelling around the world and generally behaving badly. Its a riot and I’m thankful everyday that a huge chunk of it was before the days of Facebook.
But in this decade, friends start to find their own paths that don’t necessarily join up with yours. Some get married and move outside of the M25 (and are never seen again). Others leave London altogether to head back to places like Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Bali, Canada, USA, Dubai and a huge chunk return back to South Africa (in a space of two years about 8 friends relocated). And here I am very grateful for Facebook.
But there are a few that have remained, who travel with you from one transition to the next with or without access to wifi. I don’t need to see these friends every day, every week or even every year. These are the types of friends that no matter how much time has passed I can pick up a conversation where it left off as if nothing has changed. Except now we’re talking around toddlers, or at train stations, on skype or via social media. Our friendships have survived the trenches of high school, university, marriages, children and all this while thousands of miles away. Thankfully, no heart shaped origami letters in sight.
And if the last ten have been anything to go by, I can’t to see what the next 10 years brings