What I’m about to say is so hugely obvious, I’m embarrassed I need to say it at all. But today brought a revelation:
My life is stunted by the lack of novel human contact.
By which I mean that I no longer meet the same huge diversity of people anymore. I don’t get to learn something new from somebody everyday. I have a great number of friends. People I adore, people I love to listen to. But – and here is the rub – I know what they’re going to say. It’s fairly rare when I can’t guess what someone’s reaction to something will be. And the new facts that they offer me are very often things I can’t use. Things that don’t quite register on my radar-of-usefulness, things that merely depress, or bewilder me. I don’t mean to negate what they’re saying. I have chosen these friends particularly because they are this way. I love that their interests are different from mine, that they live in worlds quite different to my own…but I also love that I can trust them to react the ‘right’ way to the things that are bugging me. The downside to having such a great group of friends, is that our lives are so intertwined that they rarely have much to say to me (about the things that matter to me – the little things) that I don’t already know… or haven’t already thought of. I know that the Husband, and many of our friends, are particularly interested in food – where to eat, and music – who to listen to – and these are things that don’t seem that important to me. I’m not meaning to say I look down on stuff like that, simply that I don’t really feel like I have the right conversational skills to discuss the merits of a biodynamic burger, or the new, obscure band. I’m not sure what I really mean at all.
Except that, today, I was stuck in a position of not going home. There were builders in the house until 5, so I went for a drink in a pub garden and waited for them to be gone. And it was in that pub garden (as so many times before) that I had my revelation.
I feed off other people’s lives.
Like some sort of soul-sucking demon, I need other people to make me feel new. Maybe it’s a wanna-be-writer thing. Maybe it’s growing up in a large family. Maybe it’s that I’ve never been quite sure I have anything very unique to offer. Either way, I get off on other people.
There was a family in the pub. A grown up daughter from America, her English housemate, and her visiting parents. And what a storyteller her Daddy was! Now, it isn’t right, or proper, to eavesdrop, but it’s certainly more fun than reading a book you bought in a charity shop for the occasion. And every word was like a new world opening up. He talked of New York, of the Jews (they’re annoying, and then they move out of NY to get old, and even more annoying, somewhere else… and he knows he shouldn’t say it, but it’s just true). His wife -so much more confident, and yet still submissive, in a way I’ve only ever seen American wives manage – told of their first date. It was a beautiful story, better told by her, but involved him turning up to a hiking party in a tuxedo shirt. “Why a tuxedo shirt?” they laughed. “When you’ve been single a while,” he replied,”your laundry kinda creeps up on you. I had nothing else to wear!”.
I have worked in the same school, with children of the same backgrounds for nearly a decade. I have friends with similar backgrounds to my own, or with similar lives now. The people I work with are all in the same profession (albeit for different reasons). It is rare to meet people who are wildly different from this (except, as you do in London, on the street – but that’s not a relationship, it’s a battle!).
The times I remember in my life as being my happiest, are when I started University, and when I moved to London. It became clear this afternoon, just why that might have been. It is the diversity of the human soul that most makes me smile. It is remembering how very vast the world is – but how very similar we all are. It is listening to storytellers, liars, crazy people, charismatics, IT developers, philosophers, poets, non-hipster-middle-classers, that I need. I need to find some more of those people, and to suck up everything they have to offer.
I need to sit in a pub garden more.