How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
I have a wonderful, wonderful friend whom I’ve known for the past 2.5 years. I met her in the summer of 2008 — she had also gone to the U. of St. Andrews, and while we hadn’t known each other there, she was friends with a roommate of mine at the university. When I moved to Edinburgh from St. Andrews, I lived at first in a huge apartment, all by myself — four bedrooms and me, floating around them like a bubble. I was unemployed and completely broke. Looking for work, trying to finish a thesis, trying to survive on £10 of groceries per week, and not knowing a single soul in the city. It was fun times.
Anyway, in August of that year, my former roommate mentioned to this woman, who was also thinking of moving to Edinburgh, that I had some space in my apartment if she wanted to crash for a while. And that’s what ended up happening. She stayed with me for a wee while until she found another place closer to the beach. (I eventually ended up following this friend to that same beach — isn’t it funny how life goes, and where it can take you?) We bonded over a love of good food and the same kooky sense of humour. We went on nacho-hunting expeditions through the city. When we were both in Portobello, a little over a year later, we discovered that the best nachos in Edinburgh could be found here.
This friend of mine — she’s truly amazing. She’s lived all over the States, from Alaska to LA, Detroit to Wisconsin, and a whole host of places in between. She’s an amazing artist. She gave up a settled, happy life in Seattle to embark on a Masters degree in Scotland, and now she’s living and working in Edinburgh, singing and playing and generally just being fantastic and hilarious to all who know her.
She’s a bit older than I am — not by a great deal, but she’s had enough life experience to seem like a veritable Yoda next to my neurotic, often freaked out, often workaholic Skywalker. When I realized that I needed to move out of my first Edinburgh house, the apartment described above, and into something that fed me on a creative level, she was a huge champion of the change. She was a huge champion of my life in general. You’ve got to realize, she told me once, that you already are a writer. You keep saying that you want to be an author when you ‘grow up’ — but you are. You write every day. This is what your life turns on. This is what you are.
When I didn’t get into McGill, she shrugged it off. It’s disappointing, but it’s not really what you want to do. You want to write. McGill — it would be fun, sure, and challenging, and all of those things. But it’s also just a way for you to make your life (ie. the writing, the experience) viable on a financial level.
Most importantly, when Life in Scotland was beginning to crumble, she was both incredibly supportive of my desire to stay and yet cautiously optimistic about the possibilities that a new life in Canada could hold. As time went on, she veered more into the optimism for the Canadian future, and away from the “stay in Scotland because you like it” train of thought altogether. And when I finally decided to leave, she took me out for nachos and said this: I think it will be really good for you to just go home for a while, and rest.
Me being me, I instantly disagreed. But I’ve had plenty of time to rest here! I (foolishly) said. I live on my own, and I spend EIGHT HOURS A NIGHT doing nothing else other than sleeping! I come home from work and watch tv. (When, of course, I wasn’t working on the novel, or proofreading, or doing sleepover shifts.) I have a lot of time to myself. It’s not that bad.
Naturally, she of course pointed out the error in my thinking. Amanda, she said. In the past year, you’ve revised a novel, worked and finished a contract fundraising job, worked as a high level executive assistant, proofread, done sleepover shifts, and dogwalked. All five of those things could be full time jobs in and of themselves, and you did all of them together, all at once. You need to rest. You just need to … be.
So she said this, and I acknowledged it, and filed it away, and somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I thought (guiltily, like a child contemplating a video game marathon or the like) ooh, wouldn’t that be nice, just to go home and veg out for a while. But I didn’t think I’d actually do it. I figured I’d get home, start looking for a job right away, find a job by January at the absolute latest, move to Toronto/Vancouver/Montréal/somewhere, and be back into a 9-to-5-and-other-jobs-on-the-side kind of rhythm by February.
And then the New Year came, and with it a particular type of resolution, and suddenly I find myself resting and thinking and writing and resting some more, letting my debt and my other worries just exist alongside me instead of on top and within everything I do. And folks, let me tell you — it’s fantastic. It’s really, truly, bloody fantastic. So I suppose we could say that this change in perspective was both gradual and a sudden burst, in that the seeds of the change were planted months ago but truly burst into life at the beginning of the new year. Resting. Being. It’s beyond glorious. And I know it won’t last forever, and also I know (believe me, I know) that I’m incredibly privileged and blessed to be in a situation where I can take a few months out at all. I know that so many people don’t get this kind of opportunity. I wonder if my friend, as wonderful and blessed as she is, has had the chance to experience this kind of rest — it’s been a hard slog for her, too. Being an ex-pat in the UK isn’t the easiest thing in the world for a lot of people right now.
And so, from this newfound place of rest and calm, I am writing about my friend. My wonderful, hilarious friend, who is a truly lovely person and deserves nothing but good in life. I wish her much happiness this year, and all the years following. I am unutterably thankful for her wisdom and her advice, and for how this advice has put me back in touch with my creativity and allowed the words to flow.
Here’s to wonderful friends, and the stories that they bring us. Three cheers!