Monday 14th September

I’m getting bored of my friendship with P. I thought that once we got back from Spain, things would get back to normal and I’d be able to appreciate his company again. But it feels like we’ve spent far too much time with each other and I really need a long break from him. The things he says and does haven’t stopped annoying me yet. When I think about the pointless conversations we’ve had recently, how they seem to be the only type of conversation we can have these days, I get more annoyed.

We’d arranged to go to the cinema on Saturday, and met for dinner beforehand. As soon as we met up I was struggling to think of things to say. All I really want to talk about at the moment is the impending changes in my life, and I know that P doesn’t really support them, so I just had to keep it buttoned, because I didn’t want to get into yet another argument with him.

I’m fully aware that if I move away I’ll be leaving my only true friend behind, I know that friendship is really important and I won’t be abandoning it lightly. When I said that friendship is an important factor in this decision P nodded as if he agreed, but it wasn’t exactly strong agreement. It’s as if he can’t bear to admit why he really wants me to stay here. I’m not blind, I know he will miss me because we’ve basically kept each other’s social lives going for the past couple of years, but it’s the fact that he won’t say it that really bugs me.

The only reason for me staying here that he really wants to talk about is money. I’m so tired of talking to him about money, I daren’t mention anything to do with it now in case he starts banging on about it again. So there was literally nothing interesting for us to talk about on Saturday. When you go and see a film with someone, it’s normal social convention to have a conversation about that after you’ve seen the film, discuss the things you liked and didn’t like – even that conversation, we couldn’t have on Saturday. About anything cultural, P can only say “that was good” or “I didn’t really like that.” Push him for more and you might get “I liked the bit when they did that” or “it wasn’t really my thing.” He isn’t a natural orator – and neither am I, to be fair. I didn’t feel there was any point in pushing him for a proper conversation on Saturday, so I just went home without trying.

Always I’m asking myself if I’m being unfair on him. Is it unfair to focus on just the negatives after ten years of loyal friendship? Can what we’re going through be compared to a divorce? I feel increasingly that this is what’s happening. We clearly have nothing in common any more, nothing to say that we haven’t already said.

We both need to find new friends, that’s a definite. I don’t know how I’m going to do that yet, but I plan to work on it.

*****

I went on a “date” on Friday. I was meeting a Portuguese guy, M, for the second time. Our first meeting (I hesitate to refer to these as dates in anything other than parentheses) was last Sunday. We got on well and agreed to dinner at the end of last week. We met in the park on an unusually sunny evening, and went for a stroll across the green expanse before finding somewhere to eat in town. I got the sense that he was interested in me; more and more I wondered if he was actually flirting. As we chatted about old Hollywood films, places to visit in Europe, books that I need to read, he would pause after every few sentences and look at me knowingly, as if he wanted to get a really good look at me so he could take me in.

I liked the guy’s sharp intelligence, his left leaning politics, his views on family and culture and travel, many of which I share. It’s always refreshing to spend time with someone with whom I seem to have so much in common. But the more he flirted with me, the less I wanted him to. At dinner he decided to turn it up a notch, telling me I was cute a few times as we talked about relationships and what I have against them. I hadn’t intended to rant about men in general, but somehow I was led to a place where I wanted to explain why I will probably never be in a relationship again. For the first time we weren’t agreeing on something. I had thought that he would agree with me on this as he did on everything else. I had thought that he too saw romance and sex as social ideals rather than real needs. Well I was wrong. Like everyone else I’ve ever met, he seemed content to believe that he’ll just meet the right person one day and everything will be fine.

To people in the past I’ve said “what if the right person doesn’t exist?” On Friday, I didn’t even frame it as a question, I simply said “I know the right person doesn’t exist.” Anyone met with such a statement from someone my age will normally smile and tell me confidently that I have a long life ahead of me and many surprises in store. M went a step further, telling me I’m cute and I don’t need to worry about anything.

That’s the thing, I’m not worried about it. I really don’t care that there isn’t a perfect guy out there for me! I’m tired of hanging on to the fantasy that one day someone will really surprise me and I’ll fall in love. It’s not even the perfect guy I don’t believe in any more, it’s the whole idea of relationships as a possibility in my life. I have thirty two years of evidence to show that I can’t fit another human being into my life. Not that I’m too busy for love – that’s not what I’m saying – I simply don’t have the kind of life that can be shared. I’m too lazy, too selfish, too fiercely protective of my privacy – and I don’t think any of those are bad things. I have suffered greatly from loneliness in my life but I don’t attribute that to the lack of romantic love any more, it’s just the lack of close friends.

It didn’t come out right on Friday and M seemed to go away thinking that I was being hard on myself. “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” he said a number of times, patting me on the shoulder, looking like he wanted to throw his arms around me and kiss me. This is why I’m not an orator, because I leave people with these impressions when I try and explain my motivations. I was trying to come across as self reliant and liberated. I’m afraid I just made M want to take care of me.

Maybe I was too honest. I hardly know the bloke – maybe it’s inappropriate to tell someone I’ve only met twice why I’m not interested in love. Hopefully it hasn’t freaked him out and he’ll still want to become friends, because I could really do with more of those at the moment.

*****

There’s a strange feeling at work at the moment. Naturally it’s because I’ll be leaving in just over two weeks. The team in Bulgaria are bombarding me with almost non-stop questions now, trying to pick as much of my brain as they possibly can before I leave. It reminds me how monstrously complicated the system that we use is, and how many years of experience it will take them to feel really confident.

What they don’t realise is that they won’t be able to get that confidence until I’m gone. I couldn’t learn properly and make the mistakes I needed to make until my predecessor was gone. Before he left I thought it would be a complete disaster without him, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

It also reminds me that I’ll be so fucking glad when it’s all over. I honestly can’t spend any more of my life worrying about this job.

The other day the boss asked me what I wanted to do for my leaving celebration. I must admit I wasn’t expecting her to bring it up. She suggested drinks at a local pub near the office, maybe inviting some of the old team to join us. I weakly agreed to the idea, because it would have been strange not to, even though the last thing I want to do on my last day at work is draw any attention to myself. The boss said she would send a message out to the gang on Facebook on Friday but there haven’t been any messages since then and I’m really hoping she’s forgotten. Given how busy her life is it’s an actual possibility.

Luckily she didn’t suggest inviting anyone that still works at the office to the event. For someone else maybe it would be a bit sad after six years not to have any colleagues they could consider a friend, but the people I really considered friends at work all left months ago, and that’s the whole reason I’m leaving now.

*****

My plans for the autumn have been finalized. Finally! I will be moving around Portugal, Spain, Italy and Switzerland for three weeks until mid November, when I’ll be settling in the south of France for two weeks.

I can’t describe all the things I’m feeling about the trip I’m about to go on. Excitement, anxiety, joy, fear, all seem to sum parts of it up. I won’t get the three month stay in France that I was dreaming of earlier this year – in the end I decided to sacrifice that so I could see more of Europe, and seeing places like Rome and Venice was a much older dream of mine, if I think back a bit further. I’ll get two weeks in France, at least, in a beautiful city. I’ll be staying in a succession of lovely apartments and hotels, and I will have a blast (at least I’ll try to.)

As a life long anxiety sufferer, there isn’t much more I could do to directly challenge my condition. The old me would be terrified of the huge journey I’m about to embark on, not least because I’m doing the whole thing on my own. Four years ago I managed three weeks in California alone, yes. But as fond as my memories of that trip mostly are, it wouldn’t be true to say there weren’t a few hairy moments.

Look, in spite of the fact that I’ve always thought of myself as an anxious person, in the last few years I have kept doing things that directly challenge the fear. There must be a reason for that. There must also be a reason why I keep surviving unscathed.

I haven’t got a clue what to expect from my European odyssey. I’d like to get a bit better at French, and I suppose I’d like to make a few friends on the way if I can. There are many people out there who could do such a thing without thinking – these people would be extroverts – I find it difficult to believe such people belong to the same species as me sometimes, but they do. I definitely, definitely won’t ever be an extrovert. But wouldn’t it be funny if I go away and surprise myself a little?

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