I’m not very good at keeping friends. My sister is still very close to people she went to school with, lifelong friendships which have stood the test of time. Throughout her life she has added to this list, managing to keep in touch with everyone. At the last time of checking she was friends with half of Northern Ireland and on nodding terms with the other half. She’s a social butterfly, not like her weird, awkward, older brother. That’s me by the way in case you were wondering.
I’ve had friends and am capable of making them. It’s just they tend to slip through my fingers like a bar of soap, swirling down the plughole never to be seen again. When I went to university I lost the friends I had at school, and when I moved to work in Belfast I lost the friends I had at university. And on it goes from job to job and year to year. I know people, I have acquaintances, but beyond my family there’s not really anyone I would regard as a ‘best friend.’
I’ve had drinking friends, church friends, running friends, whatever my particular ‘thing’ is at that given period. Some of these have been intense, consuming friendships that burn fiercely for several months or years. They have never lasted, however. Eventually we will drift apart. Sometimes it is amicable and sometimes there is bad blood involved. I am not always blameless. There is fault on both sides.
The loss of some of these friendships sadden me, while others were a lucky escape. I’m not a very good judge of character so I’ve made some spectacularly bad choices down the years. I sometimes wonder what these people think of me now, do they share the same regrets or rarely give me a second thought? Am I just a walking, talking self-destruct button when it comes to forming and maintaining lasting human connections, beyond my wife and kids?
Maybe I just don’t have time for such distractions in my life. I have so much on my plate and my family come first. When you add my work and writing I don’t have time for a lot more. There’s also a degree of contentment. I don’t want to make the effort anymore, I’m too long in the tooth to start all over again. There are also trust issues. I’ve been let down and hurt by supposed friends in the past. Once bitten, twice shy.
This applies to so many aspects of my life now. Lockdown has accentuated the drawing up of bridges and reluctance to engage and interact with others. I don’t even enjoy telephone conversations and am happy in my little village, staying at home with my family. It will be weird when the world opens up again. Many will go crazy but I don’t think a massive amount will change for me. I won’t be running out to nightclubs or house parties. Been there, done that.
I’ll go to work and I’ll come home, do not pass go, do not collect £200. The only thing I truly miss is watching the kids play sport. It’s tough that they are not even allowed to do that. But, even then, I tend to find a spot alone on the touchline. I’m not good at small talk, whereas everybody else seems to do it with ease. I’m awkward, I say the wrong thing, I put my foot in my mouth with consummate ease. Then worry for the rest of the weekend about how my comments have been perceived.
It’s how I am, it’s how I’ve always been and I doubt very much that I’m going to change now. Besties and BFF’s are an alien concept to me, you’ll never find me at school reunions or hanging around old haunts. People tend to move on or I move on, I’m discarded and left at the roadside. It’s how my life was mapped out for me and I’ve accepted my lot. I have all the people in my life I need right now. The others are maybe, what if, who knows…it’s too late to turn back now.