My friend Melissa features in my blog quite a lot over the years, although not always by that name. In the beginning I used to refer to most people by nicknames as I wasn’t sure whether they’d appreciate being identifiable on the internet, and so the name I assigned her at the time was “hug nazi” as she was the one in our group who hugged people for any and every occasion to the point I thought it excessive.
(I wasn’t very receptive to hugs all those years ago, and I can still be a pretty awkward hugger even now - it depends on my relationship with the other person.)
That nickname eventually gave way to her real name, and occasionally I’d drop her more recent nickname of “voucher queen” for the way she seems to do everything by vouchers or on special to save some money here and there.
Regardless of the label I attach to her, Melissa’s been a pretty big part of my life:
- she’s the one who got me into dance classes, which in turn led to the group of friends I often hang-out with now
- we sometimes test-drive places using her vouchers (which she then follows-up by taking her family or boyfriend to if it gets our approval)
- the only time my webcam ever got any use was in Skype video chats with her when she spent a year in Japan
- and we did the red panda encounter together (which is the source for the profile pic I use everywhere on the internet)
And since every good relationship has its ups and downs, there was one point where she wouldn’t talk to me for a month after I got a lot of people, including her mum, to sign a card that said on the front, “So you’re leaving to have a baby”, that I gave to her when she left one of her jobs (it was for some inside joke about her being in HR and hiring pregnant women). No, she wasn’t actually pregnant, but when the photos went up on Facebook, her whole international and not-so-knowledgeable contingent of friends assumed she was, so she spent the rest of the day fielding messages from people asking about her non-pregnancy, getting angrier and angrier at me for each ping of the inbox that signalled another congratulatory message for a baby that didn’t exist.
(I’d like to think we bounced-back from that with an even stronger friendship because, well, now I knew where the lines were - it’s not often you get to discover what those limits are with your friends.)
So we’ve done and gone through a helluva lot of stuff together, mostly small things, but occasionally something big enough to warrant some modicum of planning. It’s the latter things I’ve internally called ‘our adventures’, and this weekend, when we went to the Taylor Swift concert together after planning for it months in advance, was what I was considering the last of our adventures.
When Melissa returned from a massive multi-year overseas trip some time ago, she didn’t take the transition home very well: a lot of the things she knew had changed significantly, she felt out of place or out of sync with her surroundings, and she felt she had lost her place here when she saw how everyone’s new lives were playing out. It also got a little tough for her to re-establish old friendships: the conversations started-off awkward as she struggled to find new common ground that existed in the intervening time between her leaving and now, and she kept comparing ‘now’ to what she felt she had with those people before, which for some reason no-longer held the same spark that it used to.
The gulf between her and I wasn’t as large as most others in Wellington as we’d kept in reasonably regular contact during that time with back-and-forth e-mail exchanges. That, and I didn’t change a lot over that period of time: I kept the same haircut, the same job, I lived in the same place, I was still perpetually single, etc etc. I was the embodiment of a ‘rock’ type person, the kind you could leave alone for years on end, then resume the conversation you had with me when you left.
So when she came back, and I saw how she was dealing with things, I made a promise to myself: that I would stick with her until she managed to find her feet again.
I’d like to think that moment came to pass a few years ago. However, she kind of kept me around for quite a bit longer afterwards. I didn’t mind it though - life around Melissa was pretty interesting compared to my sedentary nature. She even tried disguising the times she turned me into her little pet project to get me to to meet new people and find a girlfriend. I found those a little funny because she was my pet project first, and she wasn’t very good at hiding her motivations.
(Sneakiness, at least when it comes to me, isn’t her forte. There was one time a secret birthday cake arrived in my mailbox via a mystery phone number. Having my number narrowed-down the suspect pool, as did knowing my movements (it was my parents’ mailbox, so the person knew I was visiting my family for the weekend). The big giveaway though, was the cake itself. During Melissa’s earlier years of baking, often, accidentally, a hair from her head would end-up in the baking. I encountered 1 of her hairs in the cake - it made me laugh :) )
So as we sat, and stood, and sang our hearts out with everyone else in the audience to Taylor Swift’s songs, I knew that next weekend, the weekend of the party celebrating her engagement to her long-time-boyfriend-now-fiancé, would mark the moment that she really figured out how to settle back home, and the moment that I could start to bow-out of her life and the promise I made.
Or so that’s what I’m telling myself anyway. No doubt she’ll fight to keep in touch with all her friends, trying her best to not let married life change her too much, but after seeing it everywhere else, it’s just kind-of what happens when people get married - priorities shift, friends change. I’ve long since come to accept that it’s just how life plays out, but I’m not sure if Melissa has.
I don’t intend on dropping-off the radar, but if I’m to give her fiancé the chance to be the best husband he can be, then it’s him that needs to take up the mantle to be her rock, and everything else that comes with the job description of being a husband.
Melissa isn’t the first friend I’ve waved to and wished well as they embarked on married life, but I think this time, for me, it’s gonna hurt a little.
At least I can say that my work here is done.