Life, loss and friendship 

This blog usually focuses on ‘worthy’ issues and I’ve posted things before that I thought might be interesting linking to my personal ethos or things of professional relevance. But this post is a bit of a departure from that. This past few week I’ve been marking assignments, getting a feeling of deja vu, and it was during this process that I suddenly stopped and thought about the futility of life, and if writing and marking essays is really a good use as anyone’s time (obviously education is important, but it was the ‘task’ element, and Groundhog Day feel, that really got me thinking). Alongside this is the fact that over the past year my home life has changed considerably in the last year, and very recently some good friends have moved on, and left Dundee. This has made me think about what really matters in life. I realised that the friends moving on (some have really helped me through a tough period in my life) has hit me harder than I expected. Also, not long ago, another friend from university passed away, while he was still very young, and this was big shock to many of his good friends. What all this has done is given me the chance to reflect and think about how I deal with such life changes and make the most of the time I have.

 

I now realise the issue of loss has featured in my life from an early age and I can just remember leaving my first home in Bury aged three, before we moved away. When I was five my best friend left my school and think I only ever saw them once more (I hope you are well, wherever you are, Michael Hind). In contrast my brother (Ian) was only a few months old when we moved, so probably didn’t feel the same connection and loss. Ian is still very best friends with James (pictured above) who lived a few doors away and I suspect they’ll stay this way for the rest of their lives. I spent a weekend with them recently and had a great time catching up, and in many ways they’ve not changed. It has also been lovely to see how they’ve supported each other as they have got older and had their own kids (not together, by the way).

As my own life went on, growing up in the days before social media (although social media has a downside as Salima Khan’s Ted Talk suggests, and may even make a feeling of isolation worse) I made many friends, but then lost touch. In particular I’ve lost touch with people I worked with, who were great friends at certain points in my life. Nearly twenty years ago I spent a year backpacking and am embarrassed to say I failed to keep in touch with anyone I met at that time. However, I have stayed in contact with school friends who still live near my parents and am fortunate to count my brother as one of my very best friends. I’m also still in touch with some great friends from university. But the main reason for that is quite sad. Not long after we all left university a close friend, Andy, took his own life so at the funeral we agreed to meet very year in Andy’s memory. I’m pleased to say we have managed this, and this coming weekend will be the 17th reunion weekend. I might post an update on the weekend later. Those who can’t make it always call up and I think I can count on these friends as the very best I could wish for. It is just awful that it took the death of someone to give us the impetus for this.

Just a few of the good people of Dundee, or formerly of Dundee

 

Therefore as I get older I become more aware of what matters in life, and take time to enjoy life and my own company. But we are a social species and we need people and interaction and it sometimes needs one person to reach out, or make that effort to stay in touch. A few weekends ago I went 48 hours without any meaningful face-to-face social interaction. I traded a few Facebook or Twitter messages, and a couple of texts, with a few friends, and had a short chat with the bus driver, but I had to push myself to initiate all of these. Watching a football match in the pub someone asked me if I was a Formula One fan, I said I wasn’t, and that was the end of that interaction. I do find radio, and even TV, is a great comfort and talk shows in particular make you feel you are at least part of a human interaction. Of course at least I have the opportunity to go out and meet people and there are many, many people in a far worse position. But being on your own, and feeling lonely is tough.

So I think I will just have to make more effort as I get older, and I’m glad I’ve come to this conclusion now, and have good friends who will reciprocate. I suppose the last few months and years have shown me that there is always time to make new friends, but I should also make time to keep the ones I have.

Update 9th May

The reunion weekend is over for another year. I had a wonderful time seeing some of the best friends and a great couple of nights out in Edinburgh and Newcastle. I can wait for next time, but will make an effort to call and see them all more in the meantime. And today I bumped in to my old American Football coach, totally unexpectedly. It reminded me of the amazing times I had playing for the Gateshead Senators. One of the great things about these experiences is the memories these meetings bring back. Maybe that is what friendship is all about, creating a shared life story.

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