A horrible photo, and entirely too much wet-blanket-ness.

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My father recently repaired my computer, restored my hard drive and rescued about fifty odd gigabyte of music, Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, uni course work, and most importantly, pictures. I could have hugged him – if we had that kind of relationship. As it was, I hovered anxiously over his shoulder, terrified he’d go through any of the data and discover the very personal folder of Davis Boreanaz nudie shots that I had lovingly accumulated over the years, and when he was done, snatched the laptop from his hands and mumbled something that to the uninitiated may have failed to convey the full extent of my gratitude. But hey, that’s just how my family works.

I don’t use my computer much anymore. I figure as I spend most of my days staring at a screen for eight hours, I have better stuff to do with the time I’m not getting paid for. (Therefore, on a side note, I should probably just accept the fact that I’m never going to be a regular blogger, much as I’d like to.) However, as I had a bit of time on my hands this weekend, I started browsing through my pictures folder, and embarked on a trip down memory lane.

The above picture was taken in early 2006, shortly after my twentieth birthday, in the first flat I moved into after leaving my parents’ house on the other side of the country, with two of the best friends I will ever make in this life. It’s not a great photo – Tessa’s face is half obscured, we’re quite obviously hammered, Jenny hadn’t quite got used to German cuisine yet and is about two months away from shedding twenty pounds, and I look every bit the chinless wonder that I am – and both will probably have some serious words with me about publishing it on this public a forum. But it’s the only photo I can find that has only the three of us in it, and no other people that we subsequently fell out with, or just stopped talking to without ever really noticing, or caring to find out why it happened when we did.

A lot of stuff went down in 2006. I decided that after refusing to consider any different career options for four years, I was no longer interested in becoming an interpretor. I switched my major to English against my parents’ wishes and had to live with their disapproval. I met, and subsequently started dating, someone they disapproved of even more than my career choice, which didn’t make the next three years easy, as every argument about the one (career) would invariably turn into the other (relationship), and vice versa. I had to accept that my parents had an idea of what and how I was supposed to be, and that this idea wasn’t congruent with my own. I, the notorious people pleaser, had to learn to put myself first. And I was mind-bogglingly lucky to have these two ladies by my side to see me through.

Of course the relationship didn’t last, and there were moments (days, weeks) in 2011 when I was working the most soul-destroying job imaginable, which was so pitifully paid that I was working extra hours at my local pub, and I thought more than once, this could have been avoided if I’d gone for a major in accountancy. With the benefit of hindsight I’m not loathe to admit that my parents were right about a number of things, and I could have saved myself a lot of trouble had I listened to their advice. But I would have missed out on a lot of things, experiences,  people that have shaped my life and made me the person I am today – I would be a different version of me, and with all the modesty I can muster – I quite like myself.

The day I decided to go for an English Literature degree, I accepted that I wouldn’t have a career path cut out for me, the way my lawyer brother does. As my final year approached and random third cousins felt justified to ask me what was next, I replied honestly that I had no idea, but that I would take any job to pay the bills while I was figuring it out. I gave myself a year. A month before my deadline expired, I had an excited call from my recruitment agent, and the rest is history.

I can’t know how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t met Tessa and Jenny. What I do know is that I listened to Tessa when she said to me, over and over again, the important thing is that you do what makes you happy. And I breathlessly stood by and watched as Jenny romped her way to an MA with distinction, all the while juggling three jobs, an ERASMUS semester and various unpaid internships, and somehow still finding time to occasionally force-feed me tequila at the Moritzbastei, and I thought, she makes it look so easy.  And I look at her today, with her hot job and her beautiful flat and her lovely boyfriend and the half-marathon she ran last month, and I think, I want to be her when I grow up.

And that’s why it’s a great photo after all – because it was taken in 2006, and it has us three in it, and we’re happy and excited and hopeful, and we’re just at the beginning of that journey. And today it’s 2013, and we’re scattered all over the place, and we’ve changed and we’re older and a little wiser, and I’m stuck with the overwhelming feeling that I wouldn’t be where I am today, nor as happy, if it hadn’t been for these two.

I owe you, ladies.

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The Damsel Has A Girls’ Night Out

I do sometimes understand why people say I’m not really a girl. In fact, I quite often say it myself, usually when people wonder at my choice of footwear or my disinterest in Jo Malone scented candles and other things Cosmo suggests I should be spending my salary on. Feminism has a long way to go etc etc, but anyway, I’m not a total klutz. I have a reasonable interest in make-up (you kind of have to, if your face suddenly remembers that you got off way too lightly when you were a teenager, and forces you to ditch your 3-for-2 Boots Basics for some high-tech acne combat jiggery-pokery) and since I work in the City, I can’t walk around looking like I slept under London Bridge, much as I might like the extra hour in the morning. That said, there is one thing that fills me with genuine dread, and that is the promise of A Girly Night Out.

I usually get ready for A Girly Night Out with a certain degree of enthusiasm. I like the dressing up at home bit, usually to music and with some form of tipple involved. I like having my make-up done by someone other than me and The Hoff is usually happy enough to let me borrow the contents of her wardrobe. If only you didn’t have to Leave The Flat. Because A Girly Night Out entails dancing and cocktails with elaborate decorative elements, the venue of choice is less likely to be found in or near my beloved Hammersmith & Fulham and thus involves a long-ish journey on public transport, on which the consumption of alcoholic beverages is frowned upon. So not only do I have to tolerate forty minutes of touristy hilariousness on the 94 bus from Notting Hill Gate onwards, I also have to endure this sober. And then you reach your destination – just in time to realise that you are in Piccadilly Circus on a Saturday Night. During the Olympic Games.

I shall refrain from a hearty rant about the many idiocies of tourists in London, a) because I can still remember being one and b) I don’t want to waste an opportunity for a future blog post. Suffice to say that the club we finally ended up queuing for was basically a list of all the reasons why I don’t go to clubs. It had everything: The sparsely-clad bar girls who wouldn’t have looked out of place in a strip club, the inventively be-T-Shirted posse of stag do lads who attempted to put their arms around our waists within five minutes of introducing themselves, the Primark-uniformed European teenagers, the omnipresent smell of sick, a menu that on which the cheapest drink was a 250ml bottle of nondescript Dutch lager for a fiver and Rhianna on infinity loop. Within ten minutes I was plummeted in an abyss of depression I hadn’t seen the likes of since my then boyfriend of three years dumped me on an international call to Russia, and I slumped down at a table by the dance floor, trying to hide from the girls how much fun I was still not having and sending pitiful messages to Soldier Boy.

But! Hope was near, although I wasn’t to know it. Whilst I was re-reading my Twitter feed about how much everyone was in love with Jessica Ennis, someone else was also having a shit time, except she was much better at faking it – or maybe she had merely been drinking for much longer than myself. Either way,  Laura, a girl I used to work with, finally came to my rescue, and suggested a pub in Aldgate that was free to get in and played 60s music on Saturdays. Together, we managed to extricate The Hoff, who was already set on enjoying herself, and set off towards Liverpool Street. After a bit of a trek we found The Bell – and it had all the true markings of a great party. A dingy pub, great obscure music that I had never heard of, the clientele a healthy mix of hipsters, people like us and plain old-fashioned weirdos who were all having an absolute BALL, and the best thing, no one looked at me weirdly for dancing without my shoes on or tried to talk to me at all.

Now all I have to do is wait until all the other girls forgive me for ditching them yet again.