A friend of mine who I met at Manchester University went to Japan after she graduated and hasn’t come back.
I remember thinking, when she left, how strange it was that the (arguably) least confident member of our group (we met in a Halls of Residence, after which we shared a dilapidated Victorian house on an estate on the edge of Moss Side) should go so far, to somewhere so culturally different, for so long. But then the new-found freedom of suddenly being far from home and having to look after ourselves while trying to remember we were ostensibly there to get our degrees, affected us all profoundly.
Graduation year being The Year 2000, we didn’t have mobile phones, and had only recently heard about the World Wide Web, so we kept in touch for a while by writing letters. My friend found out what the Kenji for freedom is, drew it, sent it to me, and I duly had it tattooed on my arm. She also told me an old Japanese story, which I have forgotten, but the essence of it has stayed with me for quarter of a century: Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?
Eventually, technology caught up with us, Facebook became a thing, and our communication turned predominantly digital. And that was great. But one day, I logged in to find that my friend had deleted her FB profile, and with that, we lost contact. (She kept in tentative touch with another of our group, though, and when most of us met up last year in Manchester for the 25th anniversary of us starting uni and meeting each other, we managed to get hold of her on FaceTime or something, and it was brilliant. And, despite being older, we were all essentially the same people we had been years ago, and we had a right old laugh!)
And then it was December 2022, and I found myself thinking about the year’s blackholes and revelations and trying to make sense of it all, while simultaneously considering how I could make positive changes to my life in 2023.
In 2022, I’d made peace with ‘things’ that had haunted me for years; I’d become the author of a series of four published, bestselling novels; and I was painfully aware that I was – to a data analyst – a married mother in her mid-forties, but to me I was a married mother in her mid-forties who still had the mindset and aspirations she had in her early twenties.
And December was bonkers, and not just because I had a five-year-old child at Christmas time. I’ll tell you about two of the incidents.
Firstly, it snowed. I was excited for my little boy, so I ran up to his room (he was still asleep) and told him it was snowing. He jumped out of bed and ran outside in his dressing gown. I had to leave for work. I told him that you have to be careful, driving in the snow. I put my Christmas CD (funnily enough, the one my friend had given me at uni in 1997) and put Shakin’ Stevens’ Merry Christmas, Everyone on repeat. I set off carefully along the country lanes, singing. I went over a railway bridge, braked as I was going downhill and was about to go round a corner, hit a patch of snowy ice, lost control and crashed my beloved car, writing it off.
Secondly, on New Year’s Eve Eve, I discovered that my Facebook account had been hacked. It had multiple restrictions on it due to someone having posted child abuse and sex photos on my wall. It was incredibly distressing. I tried to contact Facebook, to no avail. I went through the secure your account process multiple times, but posts were still being made, and a couple of days later, someone started running ads from my account. I had no choice but to permanently delete my account, which meant losing touch with hundreds of people in one click. I had the phone numbers of some, but by no means the majority; I was admin on several other Pages, which have now gone; and Messenger went. This sort of thing must happen to hundreds of people, every day, I thought. What bad luck.
But I’d wanted change. I now have to think about what sort of car I’d like (within budget) and find one. Maybe it could even be in a colour I actually like! But the way I get around, will change. And now I’m off Facebook, I’ve been forced to re-evaluate how important it really was in my life. Were all of my friends actually friends? What sort of things do I really want to share with people? How much time that I could have spent writing has been spent scrolling through my Facebook feed, and its exponentially growing number of adverts? How much more meaningfully could I communicate with my family and friends? How could I better promote my writing? And now I don’t have to work on five extra Facebook Pages, how much simpler is my life?
Today, I got my nails done, changed my hair colour, and thought about getting a new tattoo – changes that I make in January most years, so no change there; but they say that necessity is the mother of invention, so let’s see what I can do as I move on.
Maybe these things were bad luck, but maybe they’ve turned out to be good luck. Maybe none of it matters at all. Who knows?
#writerslife #socialmedia #carcrash #december #newyear #musings #friendsforever