Standing still, or being left behind.

It was fairly harmless, the text message from a friend I left behind in London. Of course I didn’t leave her behind at all, she was in fact already living in Cape Town after her two year stint in London when we moved back here 6 years ago. But she was in a long distance relationship with someone she had met while there, which meant she soon left the sunshine, mountain, and in her case, car break-ins again, to head back to an SW postal code shortly after we got back.

Her great idea (after too many Skype calls where I may, or may not have, complained about everyone settling down with their kids, no one to have fun with and certainly no one to drink wine on week nights with) was that I, we, should move back to London. It was a great city after all, it was summer (when she messaged. That day it was summer) and I’d be closer to her, plenty of other childless friends and of course the 2015 Bride and her little new baby (kinda defeating the purpose of her motivation for a second) plus there were more travel and career opportunities…And something about riding a bicycle to work.

I had zoned out as I stared at the mountain from my desk on the 19th floor. And responded something that was more a picture. And may have also contained that tongue sticking out emoticon. I love that emoticon.
But the truth is, I really have considered it. I love London (I can say that now. A) she’s not listening and 2) It’s easy to say it from miles away when you don’t have black soot in your nose from travelling the northern line).
I love the idea of drinks in the sun along the river, and seeing more of Europe (would you believe when we left I claimed I was done with it? Having never been to Iceland, Portugal or a Scandinavian country. Albeit having gone to every other Western European country), travelling further to the Americas, getting all bank (public) holidays on a Monday and ofcourse, the pound (which really- is only good for anything when you convert it back into a rand and daymn, the round is on you!)

But no, I’m not moving back to London. Mostly because it’s fekking freezing there for most of the year and if you happen to be out the country (visiting one of those European countries) on the weekend summer arrives, you’ll have to wait another year before drinks on the Thames is a thing. Also, leaving there remains one of the best decisions we ever made. Cape Town offered us so much. Things finally came together  in Cape Town. Until now.

Maybe not to London, but I have thought about leaving.

New York. Singapore. Hong Kong. Sydney. The world is big and there are so many places to go. Why go back to somewhere we’ve been (although I’m sure I’d be happier there now than I was back then)?
Cape Town, full of people with babies and families and doing family things like weekend markets, with the baby in the pram. Or braais with the kids. Friends who arrive for dinner with so many belongings from bottles to camp cots, to blankets, books and toys they feel like they’re moving in for a week. Only to pack it all up and take it home some 4 hours later.
We do not fit in in (this) Cape Town anymore. Everyone is moving forward, and we’re now standing still. We are that kid who wore their uniform when it was actually civvies day. The odd men out. Black Sheeps. Or sheep. Whatever.

All around me, people are falling pregnant (mostly on baby 2), watching their babies become little people, enrolling them in schools, having play dates, lunching with their ‘antenatal ‘ girls. (What does that even mean?), having get togethers around kids sleeping times or feeding times. And no one drinks for fun anymore!!

People are leaving or changing jobs, working reduced hours, working from home, or not working at all. Everyone is moving into mid-thirties all the while we’re 19 year olds stuck in ageing bodies. We’re in a city we love, a home we’ve created. But we’re not going anywhere. We’re being left behind. 

So I consider New York, Sydney, Singapore (I don’t think I could live in Hong Kong). Where we could move, live in an apartment and make new friends with people our age who don’t have kids, and who drink wine midweek without any guilt. Who travel and don’t put up Christmas trees either and saw Easter as an opportunity for champagne breakfast instead of Easter egg hunts.

That’d be nice.

Except. I kinda like it here with my mountain. And they’d too probably have kids eventually and stop drinking midweek.

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In ten years time

In 1997, 7 girls sat around my parents lounge in Somerset West and agreed that 10 years later we’d all congregate on top of the Empire State Building in New York. We agreed never to talk of it again, but that no matter what happens, or where we were in life, come 1 July 2007 we’d make our way to a place we’d never been before, and see each other (again).

The location choice may have had something to do with Sleepless in Seattle – a movie that I still actually haven’t seen, but through not seeing it, believe it to be an ultimate love story of star-crossed lovers who are destined to be together, but time, circumstance and… wait.. no, that’s Romeo and Juliet. Nevermind. I should probably watch Sleepless in Seattle.

But.. on 1 July 2007, not a single one of us were in New York. Not a single one of us brought it up. Actually, I may have been the only one that remembered the vow at all.

Obviously when we made this childish vow, we also thought that as soon as we finished matric finals we’d go our separate ways. We never anticipated that really, such good friends would remain that. Go on to be housemates in Stellenbosch and then in London, drink tequila shots over breakups, make-ups and lost jobs in our twenties. Dance together, eat together, travel together.

Out of those 7 girls, I’m in touch with all but one (and even her I’m in touch with over facebook but does that actually count?). We never made it to New York, because I guess.. we didn’t need to. But the promise was there. We assumed we would’ve separated, drifted, and that this vow was what would bring us all back together again. (How little faith we had in our 16 year old friendships).

Today I made a suggestion of meeting up, no matter what, in ten years time again. A suggestion for a promise, that may make saying goodbye, letting go or moving on (when it comes to that) a little easier. But…  when you’re 16, the idea of hooking up at 26, with rising careers and serious boyfriends, maybe even husbands, seemed so appealing.

Now, at 34, my imagination took me to a place where I’m 44, older, with more wrinkles, finer hair, possibly fatter and really… almost half a century old.

I shudder.

While the person I’m meeting at the end of this agreement may not be one that would care for my wrinkles, or lack of top arm definition (at least I can hope they care very little) –  this growing older thing (which differs from the growing up thing.. that which I’ve been in and out of enjoyment with) is frightening. I quickly cancelled the idea of hooking up in 10 years time – which if I’m honest, wasn’t catching on anyway.

10 years may pass and nothing may change. 10 years may pass and everything may change. It would not be the first time I’ve written about forgetting people or how quickly we move on – it happens (it also doesn’t happen at all, but lets generalise). We have this way of just being able to adjust, assume a new life and forget everything and everyone else behind.

The thing with getting older and setting up a reunion to do it, is that both of you get to look back at yourselves and think (err.. judge) – did you do the most you could do with the past 10 years? Is this the best place you could possibly be right now. With every year that passes, I think of an approaching potential reunion (for the record, I have none lined up), where my future self, asks my past self – do you still want to be in that place where you are?

A ten year reunion with someone (or a group of someones – you know, like high school. You were thinking it) is attended mostly out of intrigue, interest… plain nosiness. I guess. There’s that hope that you’d have done better than someone would’ve expected of you. But there’s that risk that you’ll be disappointed. Perhaps by the lack of connection you now have with the friend who was your best when you were 16.

I can’t even imagine myself in ten years time. I assume like the difference between 24 and 34, I’ll be wiser. I’d have to be – I’ll be older (doesn’t wisdom come with age and experience?). Hopefully I’ll be braver (ah, that’ll make the experience that’ll make me wiser).

While no future date has been agreed on, and I doubt it will or if it is, that anyone would keep it (I don’t think those types of promises ever work out) – I do hope that having planted the seed now – I take the idea of being 44, and make every year between now and then count.

Reunion. Or without.