On a cold, damp morning, I’m waiting for the London train to whisk me off for a fab day out with my three best friends, who I’ve known for longer than any of us care to admit. (Can we really be old enough to have known anyone that long, even our mothers?)
Warming my hands on my paper cup of coffee, I idly wonder why I now seem to have so many more friends than when I was working full time. For the first time ever, my daughter’s playdates are outnumbered by my own.
And my friends have been turning up like buses, never just one at a time. In the last few weeks I’ve had emails from former colleagues spanning the last three decades. School friends from even further back have got in touch, though they now live as far afield as Michigan and Malawi. I’ve spent more quality time with friends closer to home too. The friendships of a lifetime are snowballing.
What’s going on? Has there been a collision in the space-time continuum, compressing my life, like a scrapped car, into a tiny cube? Have I won the lottery, been made a Dame, discovered the secret of eternal youth, mastered alchemy? I’m not aware of any recent achievement that might have boosted my popularity.
Standing on the chilly station platform, I resort to a tactic that helped at work whenever I found myself wondering why everyone except me was wrong/grumpy/stupid. I was like the proud mother in the old adage, watching the parade: “My boy is so clever, he’s the only one marching in step”. A little self-examination would always reveal that the fault lay entirely with me. Once I’d spotted the problem, getting back into the beat was easy.
I decide the same rule applies to friendship. If you’re feeling friendless, don’t assume others are unfriendly: you may just be sending out the wrong vibes. Trudge through life with eyes downcast, mind on your problems, and you don’t even notice those who want to be your friend. Look up and reach out, and your world will be transformed.
It’s never been easier than in our internet age to rebuild old bonds, catch up with old friends or find new ones. Despatch a few emails, get texting, pick up the phone – it’s easy to invest in your preferred currency of social engagement. As my train pulls in, I realise that I have been doing this on a grand scale since leaving my job last month. Boy, has it paid dividends. I’ve even had to buy a bigger diary.
As I hop aboard the train, I think to myself, not for the first time, that if you want to win the lottery, it really does help if you buy a ticket.