I didn’t think it would be a big change. I mean, it is only two hours by plane to get to Sydney, we are still in the same country, how difficult could it be? I realised we would be giving up our beaches lifestyle and I knew we would have to keep quiet about not liking AFL. But I thought that would be the extent of the changes.
Before we moved, everyone asked how we would go without friends or family as we didn’t know anyone in Melbourne. The way I looked at it, it would be nice to have a little distance from the parents (I hope neither of our mums read this) and as for friends, well what was the big deal? There was phone, skype, e-mails, facebook… and a quick plane ride. As far as I was concerned, a talk is a talk, regardless of whether it is done while drinking soy chai lattes or over the phone. Actually, I could always just sip the chai while skyping so clearly it wasn’t even going to be an issue.
Living in Melbourne for almost one year has taught me one thing however … technology is no substitute for “brekky at 10 at Dee Why”.
In the first book to take a comprehensive look at the value of friendships, Vital Friends: The people you can’t afford to live without, Tom Rath finds that “the quality of the friendships in your life are the best predictors of daily happiness and life satisfaction, and have profound implication for your physical health and longevity”. In other words, no friends close by equals sad faces and expanding waist lines with more ice cream needed to fill the void.
My mum moved three times for my dad’s job. And each time she had to say “Goodbye, I will write you” and make new friends. And each time it got harder. Her original friends were those she knew from mothers’ group, kindy or by being their neighbours. They all shared similar interests (like how on earth to trust your child when they say they don’t need to go).
Each time we moved however, it became harder for her to make friends as there were fewer and fewer opportunities to connect with those who shared the common interests vital for building a friendship. Retrospectively, she has taught me the value of my friends. They are your listeners, your cheer squad and your empathisers. And sometimes you need them close by, not a phone call away.
Thank god for facebook. While certain studies have shown that social media doesn’t decrease loneliness as much as face-to-face and while I would now kill for a real life coffee with friends, without my facebook account I would feel even further away from them. I am grateful for the stupid posts my friends put up about their backyard flooding because knowing the silly little things makes me feel like I am still part of the group.
I now look back wistfully at my time in the Northern Beaches – all those times I pulled out of brekky or coffee dates because I was ‘too busy’. I think of all the times I let the mundane things in life – grocery shopping, cleaning the house, doing the washing – get in the way of a coffee catch-up. Those times when I thought “I really can’t be bothered” and bailed out of catching up with friends. Because they’re your friends and they’ll always be there right?
Well, let me tell you what’s true. One day, when you don’t have ready access to the ‘meaningless’ soy chai latte chattering, you will realise how invaluable that chatter really is.
Have you ever bailed on catching up with a friend only to regret it later?