I really do not want to do this growing up thing if it means that I have to lose friends and lose contact with people I love every step of the way.
Goodbyes really are not my strong point. Long before the actual time at which I’ll have to say goodbye to an individual, I will play and replay all the moments we spent together in my head, basically start the process of saying goodbye to them long before I have to. I will spend entire days in bed reading the conversations we used to have on social media, smile to myself at things that were said, cry at the mere possibility of us losing touch in the near future. It’s the last thing that never fails to terrify me, however strong my friendship with that person.
The first time I had to say my first real set of goodbyes was at the end of sixth form; my group of friends and I went for a ceremonial round of cocktails at the local pub, and I think, that in the bliss of each others’ company, we actually forgot that we had to say goodbye to each other. The worst part was saying goodbye to my best friend; it didn’t feel like a real goodbye, and it almost felt static and dehumanised. It was at that point that I realised that I had a deeply-embedded fear of her forgetting me before she’d even left for university. I had a completely irrational fear that her priorities would change, and of course they would, but my fear was that I would no longer be one of them.
This time round, I’m preparing to graduate and leave my friends at university for what could be the best year of my life. But I can’t even be excited because I’m too scared that they’ll forget about my existence; while I will struggle to forget the times we’ve shared together, they’ll struggle to remember them. Even before my departure was confirmed, I had a hard time dealing with the fact that I was leaving; it would be safe to say that I was in denial, despite willingly having signed up to do exactly this.
University is a beautiful but strange place. Meeting so many people from the four corners of the world has been wonderful, and we managed to create a slightly dysfunctional family unit from what we had. And without realising it, they took care of me. I can’t quite put my finger on how they did it, but it might have just been their presences and their general warmth, and I will never be able to thank them enough for that. But then everyone disperses, back to their real families, and what we once had seems like a distant dream. These goodbyes have been about twice as hard as the sixth form round. Who knows when I’ll see most of these people again?
I know there’s Facebook, Skype, Snapchat, iMessage, WhatsApp, all these new social media networks that don’t even let us realise for a minute that there is a time difference between us and our overseas friends. And they’re great for me and my fear of people forgetting me. I am that annoying friend that will tell you on a weekly basis that she misses you and ask what you’re up to. Not because I want to hear specifically that you’re playing Cards Against Humanity with your little brother, but for the plain and simple reason that I want you to speak to me, and somehow reassure me that you still care about me as much as I still care about you.
On the surface, social media is great. I couldn’t ask for more. But my overreliance on it to keep in touch with my friends has given rise to a new fear. It’s that little devil part of every single social media network that tells you when someone is online, whether they have seen/ read your message and chosen to not respond immediately. The logical reason would be that they are busy, but my anxiety will kick into motion and come up with a thousand possibilities as to why they don’t want to talk to me. Did I say something that offended them? Am I being too keen? Do they quite simply not miss me back, but want to spare my feelings and not actually say that?
To my friends I will say this: my messages will not stop. Expect at least one a month of me demanding an update on your life. I want to know how you are, if you’re okay. Knowing you’re okay will make me less anxious. But there’s only so much I can do on social media. I can’t hug you after a boy or a girl breaks your heart. I can’t laugh at your terrible jokes, and pretend I hate them when in fact, I can’t wait to hear them again. I can’t sing with you at the top of my lungs whilst we’re intoxicated, nor dance around with you whilst we’re perfectly sober. I can’t share red velvet cake with you at 3am. I can’t wake up to the sound of your stupid alarm. I can’t cook for you when you’re ill. I can’t run over to your room when you’re having a panic attack, nor run over to your room at midnight on your birthday. I can’t make spontaneous plans with you. But I can’t wait to see you again.
*I wrote this monologue when I was in a really bad place, mentally. I was convinced I was the reason my friends weren’t talking to me and that I’d done something horrible. A few days later, I’d spoken to them all and as you’d expect, everything was fine and I had nothing to worry about. My panicked response to the situation has led me to the conclusion that I most likely have anxiety issues. I don’t know what to do about my anxiety, but I’m glad that I’ve acknowledged it, at the very least.