Following the Yellow Brick Road

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When I left my homeland seven years ago, I wasn’t running from anything. I hadn’t been stock-piling food for fear that South Africa was ‘going the way Zimbabwe’ had gone. I believed, and still do, that the country has a bright shiny future. I was following my own little dream – to see the world, to meet weird and wonderful creatures and learn clever things. At least I think that was my dream, but it’s all so long ago now, who can really remember? The days and the years speed by, the lessons change and the faces rearrange. All I can be sure that lingers on is the desire to see the world, to discover new places and people out there on the untrodden road.

There is a price to pay for all this newness and adventure. For every fascinating foreign encounter, a heartfelt homely one is forfeited. For every new relationship forged, an existing one is neglected.  All the energy we expend in adjusting, adapting and acclimatizing to new environments is used up and cannot be invested in other things. Emotionally, I live in two countries and service two sets of relationships. It’s important to recognize which of these are transient and which have really got your back, and invest in them accordingly. A big bad city like New York really helps to put things in perspective, you learn quickly that for all the wow factor, people here are self-involved and unlikely to invest in you. When a hurricane hits, that person you thought you had a really solid relationship with, is unlikely to invite you to stay in their guest bedroom on the Upper West Side.

But that ‘s just the flip side of why people come here in the first place, in search of self-sufficiency and self-expression. The anonymity afforded by a place that is not your own can be a convenient guise and fuel for freedom and re-invention. Or it can just be fucking lonely. It all depends on what you’re hoping to discover on your path at that point in time. And herein lies my massive conflict: I want to be invisible but I want to belong, I love my family and my country but I also love living here. In such unclear-cut cases, one has to make a choice –  to abandon one world or to inhabit two simultaneously and dedicate a little more energy to a double life. For me, this is a privilege rather than a sacrifice. It affords me the luxury, of one day, when the going gets too tough, to be able to click my heels and wake up in a place where the sun is shining, the language is colorful and the love is abundant.New York, I adore you, but there’s no place like home.

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Ode to My Own Stupidity

Somewhat inspired by the recent resurgence of the Cranberries in my life, this title feels fitting.  Not exactly an Ode to my Family but a lyrical and enthusiastic reflection on some senseless behaviour that I fear may have damaged a relationship at the core of my young New York family.

I can’t even remember the last time I had a ‘fight’ with a friend. The last real soul shattering encounter probably took place a few years ago with my flesh and blood sister. It left us both feeling physically sick to our stomachs. But when you’ve known someone your whole life and you love each other to death there’s no doubt you will figure it out and make it better.

In present encounter, my friend is new. She doesn’t know me like my sister does. I’ve behaved inconsistently, stupidly, selfishly, childishly even. How can she possibly know that this isn’t really who I am? Or even if she takes a leap of faith, will she secretly be waiting for me to f*ck up again?

So why did I f*ck up in the first place? This is what I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out. You have to understand mistakes to avoid repeating them.  Upon reflection, I’ve identified a few recurring themes:

  • I don’t like conflict and so don’t always put myself first when I should
  • When something is on my mind I feel compelled to tell the people concerned
  • I look for validation from men and as a result can’t always trust my behaviour around them

Seeing this written down, the fatality of the combo practically jumps off the page at me. I’m surprised it hasn’t resulted in more recent disasters.

Self diagnosis complete, how to remedy this undesirable behavior? It seems evident:

  • Practice shamelessly going after what I want
  • Keep my thoughts to myself at all costs
  • Break all communication with men, rely on them for nothing

The third objective will be easier if I get my friend back of course. So I’m going to give her some time to be angry and disappointed then hope that she starts missing me, the same way that I’ve missed her this week. Specifically:

At the gym; when I walk past Pizza numero. 28; when summer-time drinking at the Frying Pan is mentioned, at the Cranberries concert; EVERY time I see the stupid man-catalyst for this fiasco.

The accepted thing to do in relationships when something goes wrong is to send flowers.  My instinctive reaction in this scenario was thus naturally to skip to the girl equivalent and try to get a fashion accessory delivered to my friend’s hotel in time for the wedding she’ll be attending with fabulously dressed French people.

I was ready to click checkout on this hot number:

…when sadly, I realised Asos doesn’t deliver to European islands and that she might mistake it for a funeral fascinator and think I am trying to bury our friendship.

Once again, my intentions were good. Fail upon execution. But I’ll get there or at least I’ll try. Let this stand as a stake in the ground on the road leading far far away from stupidity and on to the promised land of self-awareness.

No Such Thing as Just Friends

Being new to a place you track down all your connections. Friends of friends. Friends of random connections.  You trace some of your first Facebook friends to find that their current city matches yours. Bonus. People you actually once knew are again in close proximity.

But time affects your memory of interactions.  I can hardly remember what it was like to spend time with these people.  At the time of befriendment I was happily studying in Paris and in a relationship and therefore had the  luxury of having lots of pure guy friendships. A rarity for me, sadly. I’m a girly girl. I like my girly friends and talking about girly things, including boys. That’s not to say I don’t like having guy friends. I very much do. They bring a really fresh perspective and some handy dude skills. It’s just that the majority of guys I’ve been friends with over the years at some point reveal themselves to being quite open to the prospect of being more than friends. As a result, I’ve grown to believe that ‘There is no such thing as just friends’. Unless:

  • Caveat 1: Neither party is attracted to the other at all (highly unlikely)
  • Caveat 2: One party is not attracted to the opposite sex
  • Caveat 3: One party is in a relationship

Caveat 3 (and suspicions of caveat 2) recently found me lulled into very comfortable guy-friend territory with one such rekindled Facebook friend from my Paris days. Despite him being self-evidently handsome in that Tommy Hilfiger catalogue way, I’ve always maintained that he’s not my type.  Tall, olive skinned, with an athletic build and floppy dark hair really just isn’t my thing. The model scouts who’ve persuaded him to quit his job at McKinsey may be into that look, but not me. Which is why it’s so liberating that we can just hang out as friends. Turns out after all these years we have a lot in common – not only an appreciation of French and Management Consulting but apparently also obscure arty events,  Brooklyn ‘raves’ and drinking…

Turns out the Tommy Hilfiger look is fine over coffee but not over a drink or 5, which can put ‘friends’ in a very precarious position. I should have known better (especially given caveat 3) but we were having so much fun, what being at the ‘rave’ n all that it all just felt like a parallel universe at the time. A natural extension of the friendship.

So now, in broad daylight, the question becomes ‘Can we go back to being just friends?’ I’ve never experienced it myself and usually prefer total avoidance but I’ve definitely heard examples of where it has been done successfully so I’m keen to give it a try. I’m sure, if I put my man hat on, we can go right back to ‘normal’. As such, I’m looking forward to many friendly coffees gradually obliterating the memory of any un friend-like behaviour.