New Blood

I’m bored with my friends.

WHAT!?!! GUYS!!!! Come on…as if that statement could be true. You’re the only ones who have supported my average to marginally above average work for the past 18 years. No, what I mean by that provocative and attention grabbing sentence is that I want to see other people.

She’s all over the place! What the fuck is she writing about.

I’m tying it together. Bear with me.

I am of course not bored with my friends. The closer I get to death the more I realise just how important friendships actually are. I never used to place as much significance on them but over the years I realised they are a vital part of surviving life. Of connecting with one another, of having fun, communicating and feeling good about yourself. Having said that….I need some new blood.

When was the last time you met a completely new person? Not someone who is a friend’s friend, not the new person who comes to your work to do the same thing as you. When did you last meet a completely new human being who you knew nothing about and does something so far removed from anything you do or anyone you know? Can’t remember? Not surprising.

I’d say by your late 20’s, early 30’s you’ve pretty much made the friends you’re going to hang out with for the rest of your life. You might add the odd couple of mates along the way but you’ve basically got your foundation of friends laid down. Good, solid, long lasting friendships traditionally take time to mature. They might be steeped in history, come from a  shared interest or have developed through other friends relationships. Maintaining these friendships takes time and effort so heading out to find even more friends to socialise with can be overwhelming. Life gets busy as you get older ~ partners, babies, careers, sleeping ~ and sometimes it can be a chore meeting up. Often you end up talking about the same things and, sadly, talking about the same people. The element of surprise and discovery within these known groups has gone. Over the years you’ve heard everything there is about each other. I want a change of conversation.

I’ve started doing some new shit these days ~ joining classes, doing exercise, going travelling ~ and when I do these new activities I meet completely different, interesting people and my mind is blown. It seems silly really but I guess as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised I love meeting people, especially women, who are the same age as me but who have completely different lives. Women who started out the same as me ~ college, University, few lovers, moved to a big city to pursue a dream ~ but are way ahead of me in life. I am always astounded at meeting women who, by the time they are 39, have a successful career, a family, a house AND money. What were the decisions they made that took them there and why didn’t I make similar ones? It’s not just women though, I’m interested in anyone who has a life I know nothing about.

When I meet these new creatures my first thought is ‘Great. They have no idea I have a failed comedy career behind me and no job skills in front of me. I can be whoever I want to be to them’ Secondly I want to know everything there is to know about them. What did they do to get themselves to where they are today. A few of my latest examples are Tom, my personal trainer. He’s 27, runs his own business, is about to be a Dad after getting a girl pregnant on their 4th date and takes naked fitness classes for men with body dysmorphia. WHAT?!?!? He has no filter in what he says, has such a dark sense of humour and I am so intrigued. Then there’s Heather who I met at a baby shower. She’s Northern, quiet, warm, interesting, funny and down to earth. About 30 seconds into the conversation I felt like I’d known her since we were teenagers. We talked about books, careers, travel. She had a baby soon after so I’ve only met her once but I keep inviting her to my Fabulous, Interesting, Badass Women get togethers and am determined for her to be my new best friend…as well as for other people to meet her.

My point is that it’s really cool to broaden our relationship horizons as we get older. To have new experiences, meet new people and get something new to chat about. It feels safe in our current friendships, I get it. It’s fun and we don’t have to make an effort sometimes. You can turn up to see old friends in a bad mood, wearing no make up and more importantly no bra. But there is a whole world of ‘other’ out there and it can be really exciting to get to know it.

I’m going to end on the tale of meeting my friend Allan. I went to New Zealand in 2014 and joined an organised tour group in Christchurch that would take me on a 12 day adventure up and around the North Island. I saw Allan before I met him, or I should say I smelt Allan before I met him. A group of us were sat round a table, getting to know each other, and he walked past, introduced himself briefly and headed off for the night. He had a strong Northern accent, spiky dark hair, and wore enough after shave to revive a cadaver. My first impression of him was that he was an older man about town {He was 49 at the time} and I made the assumptions that he was perhaps divorced once or twice, a little cheesy as well as a little arrogant and had joined this tour group to meet a new ‘lady’.*

It took a few days to really chat to him as I, along with three other women, joined a group who had already gotten to know each other over the past 2 weeks discovering the South Island. Allan and I first bonded in a place called Kaikoura where we went swimming with dolphins. My assumptions about him were wrong and the reality of who he actually was was so much better. He had been in the pub trade for years and so loved talking to people and getting to know them. He was comfortable with everyone and up for anything. His humour was silly, pissing taking and hilarious. There were a few difficult personalities in the group that others would either clash heads with or attempt to avoid. Allan got to know those troublesome individuals, charmed them with his humour and diffused the tension. In Nelson, during an insane sunset, that looked like the sky was on fire {I KID YOU NOT}, we ate fish and chips, drank beer, smoked cigarettes and told each other our life stories.

He had three children, one from his first marriage and two step children from his second marriage. When he’d gone as far as he wanted to in the pub trade he sold the pubs that he’d ended up buying and became a millionaire from it. At the time he weighed 22 stone as chatting and socialising in pubs had led to a lot of eating, drinking, chatting and socialising. Just as he was taking some time out to decide what he was going to do next his wife got cancer. Secondary cancer that ended up being terminal. He knew that this spare time on his hands was now going to be dedicated to looking after her.

She’d always wanted a dog but it wasn’t going to happen now. Allan decided to offer his services to people who didn’t have time to walk their dogs during the day and put a small sign up in the newsagents window. From those humble beginnings he grew the business of a dog hotel. He lost weight, knowing he had to look after his wife, by walking the dogs everyday and his wife had a bevvy of different dogs to cuddle for a few hours each day.

When she passed away Allan decided he didn’t want to sit around and mope so he sold his, now burgeoning, dog hotel business to the RSPCA, rented out his house and took off to travel the world for a year. I met him on the last leg of that year. He was an empathetic listener, such a positive presence, a great motivator and had a sense of humour that made me howl with laughter. I missed him terribly when I had to say goodbye and knew that my life was better for having met him. I love talking about him and people are always amused when I say I went to New Zealand and one of the best things to come out of it was that I met a Northern millionaire who used to own a dog hotel.

If Allan exists in the world who else is out there? What other fascinating, dynamic and interesting people are wandering the planet who we haven’t met yet?….I’m off to find them.

 

*Allan’s first impression of me was that I was a pasty ginger who was pretty quiet and probably a little moody. In my defence it was January and I was extremely jetlagged.

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