I’ve had a busy few weeks. Last weekend, we had a friend from Seattle visiting at the end of a big Europe trip, as well as an old university friend of mine from London. The weekend before that we were in Naples, visiting another Seattle friend on a Europe trip. And the weekend before THAT my mum was over and I graduated. So we’ve now got three weeks of laundry, no groceries, and – perhaps inevitably – I am going to offload my thoughts onto the internet.
Firstly, it was fucking great to just go to Italy for a weekend. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said to Americans that one of the awesome things about Europe is you can just fly to Paris for the weekend on a whim – but, honestly, I think this is the first time I’ve done it. Just a random weekend, without taking time off work or major planning or anything – book and go. Undoubtedly one of Europe’s great qualities is the fact that you’ve got 20+ countries within a few hours flight, visa-free and in the Eurozone – but it’s something I’ve never truly taken enough advantage of before. But as we were in Belgium in April, and Italy in May, perhaps this is a habit to get into. Feels like it might turn into an expensive one pretty quick though. But I do love being in Europe – more so since I realised how a bunch of morons are trying to take me out of it.
My last couple of weekends have also got me thinking about friendship, the people we choose to love and the communities we make for ourselves. The friends I made in Seattle were friends I chose. They weren’t workmates, or classmates, or my husband’s friends, or family friends. We weren’t friends through circumstance or happenstance. They were friends that I made (and kept) because I saw something in these people that I liked and wanted to be around – and because they saw something similar in me. And for someone who’s not always been great at making friends, there is something incredibly freeing and comforting in that. And so spending a weekend with someone who I knew liked me just because of who I am – not because of trying to study Ancient Greek while hungover, or because I married their friend – was just… wonderful. And reminded me of how much I fucking miss my Seattle friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re here and not there – and not just because of the shitehawk who’s running the country. But I will never not miss there.
And then, the next weekend, an old friend – one of the best. A friendship forged in early morning shifts in Starbucks and secretly mocking the extra drizzle man. But as I realised, we’re still friends over a decade later because I saw something in her I liked and wanted to be around – and she the same. That made me feel so solid and supported. I remembered what I’ve known before – that many of my friends here have been with me through some pretty shitty times. They’ve known me when I wasn’t the eloquent worldly personage I so masterfully convey through this blog – when I was arrogant, or depressed, or bitchy, or a teenager . And not only are they still my friends because of this, but these friendships have made me. A person is a person through other people. And these are my people, be they near or far.
Finally, this all made me think about visiting Seattle again. Even though I’ve had the company of two Seattlites in as many weeks, I know that many of my friends there don’t have the time or money to make it over. I’m also aware how much friendships can decay over time – and I made too many good ones to let that happen. So I want to – and, in the summer, I should be able to in terms of time off work and finances.
But then… the Cheeto-faced one rears his ugly head. The ESTA form – the visa waiver program used by most Europeans visiting the USA – now asks for your social media account details. Now, to be clear, this is something that started under Obama, and is still currently optional – just like employment details, you don’t *have* to fill them out. But the tendency of the Trump administration to refuse travel to people who haven’t broken their rules is notorious. And I know what you’re thinking – I’m a white atheist woman from the UK. I’m unlikely to be targeted by TSA or CBP. But there’s something uncomfortable about visiting a country and knowing that your whiteness is a shield against unlawful intrusions. Saying that, I lived in the US for nearly three years, well aware that my whiteness placed me in a much safer position that people of colour, be they immigrants or citizens. Am I placing too high a value on the privacy of my Twitter feed and text messages? It’s a rather arbitrary line to draw, and says a lot about my privilege. But there it is.
Compromises are inevitable, in this as in everything else. Fuck it, I’ll figure it out later. In the meantime, I’ll value the people I’ve chosen to keep in my life, especially those who chose me too.