I have never been very good at making friends. No, don’t feel sorry for me. Although I can be gregarious and engaging, I can also be prickly and stubborn. I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years not really having any close friends, or having anyone I could trust, or who I knew would always be there for me. Half the reason I (rather rashly) moved to Dublin at 18 was because I didn’t know a soul in the whole country. I could leave behind the rather lonely past, and find people who actually liked me.
And, against all the odds, it worked. I met some of the best friends I will ever have in Ireland. Friends who taught me how to apply make-up in time for my wedding. Friends who helped me remove an unnecessarily large petticoat. Friends who shared my love of Harry Potter, and opened me up to a whole new world of geekery. Friends who helped me find a place to live, and a job, and made me welcome for a second time. Friends who showed me how to kill kobolds with polyhedral dice. Friends who got me through 6am shifts with the extra-drizzle man. Friends that I could rely on, and call for coffee, cocktails and dancing until dawn. Basically, friends who just accepted me for who I was, even when I was being a dick. Even one friend who signed up to have and to hold.
I can never be thankful enough for the people I met in Dublin – and it was those people who made it my home. One of my biggest fears in moving over here was that I wouldn’t know anyone, and that I would never be able to make such friends again.
Now that’s silly for obvious reasons. Primarily, because I moved here with my best friend, and the only person I will always chose to be around, in any context. It’s like having my own personal social survival kit. Also we knew a fair few people who lived here already – people I’d be happy to go for a pint with. But in another sense, it’s not so silly. I opened by mentioning that I’m not good at making friends, but that when I found people I liked, I was at least able to convince them not to stone me on sight. But a couple of years of crippling depression made my acquired-taste personality even less appealing in social situations. And not exercising those social muscles have lead to them being a little rusty, and made me more anxious about how I’m perceived and received – something that never bothered teenage me that much, despite all my loneliness. Recovering from mental illness is about more than having the strength to get out of bed everyday – it’s about being able to move beyond whatever was holding you down. I’m not sure I’ll ever really reach that stage, and I’m certain I’m not there yet.
The above all sounds rather like I’m indescribably lonely here. I’m not, to be clear. I don’t have the friends I had in Dublin. Will I ever have such good friends here? Well, I don’t know that one person can be so lucky twice. There is also, apparently, something called the “Seattle Freeze” – locals don’t tend to warm easily to newcomers, making it difficult for transplants to make real friends. But I’m optimistic. We have found people who hunt for dragons in dungeons. And people who trade surplus sheep for brick. We had people to go drinking with on 4th July, and people to go camping with, and people to get beers with, and play pool and pinball with. Most of all, those we knew before moving over have been incredibly generous with their time, information and friendship.
Although I am alone as I write this, I don’t feel lonely. Long may it continue.