Back in high school I was part of a big group of people called the “geektree”, named after the tree around which we congregated in the school yard, which was named after us… Richard Stallman would be proud. 😉
[Sidenote: I really should document the famous geektree at some point; remind me in a few days if I forget]
Anyway, we were the geeks, the misfits, those not cool enough or outgoing enough to survive in the larger world. By and large, anyway. And while there were some good friendships amongst the group – I’m still good friends with some of them, all these years later – we were really only together by default. So it was a dangerous environment to be in, socially.
At the start of year 12 I started going out with Sarah, which came as no surprise to anyone who hadn’t been living in a cave in Afghanistan at the time. Sarah was very outgoing, very nice, and very loveable. She was a natural leader, although she didn’t ever fully take advantage of her ability – adorably, she always liked to get others involved, and defer any power she had. So of course being her boyfriend meant great privilege and access to pretty much any party or event – heck, she organised half the things back in high school herself. Which was great – there was nary a good party in our group I didn’t go to.
And life was good. I loved high school – the work was easy, there was plenty of time with friends and for general socialising, and the majority of girls still had self respect. Then, it ended. Shit. Off to uni I went, as did many people. But I made the immensely intelligent decision to go to La Trobe, too far away from my high school home to commute each day. So, I moved into Glenn college, on campus. And that was cool. But, of course, being that far away from everyone you knew made socialising a wee bit tricky.
For the first year or so everything was cool. Everyone was busy, but still hanging on to their high school days – there were parties most weekends, and I was able to come down for most of them. But nonetheless, being away from everyone so much started to take it’s toll. People I’d only ever been distant friends with fell off the map, and my closer friends weren’t so close – how could they be, we no longer shared a significant part of each others lives.
Second year of uni, it got a lot worse. There weren’t as many parties – too many people had work, uni, or had shifted their position within the social strata. Sometime there, Sarah and I started to go downhill. I guess she was getting more stressed, as her general failure to make a career for herself started to hurt, and she started to have “desires”… you know, the sort that sees you buy a three bedroom house, a station wagon, and start getting up every two hours through the night to feed things. With me out of contact for so much of the time, we couldn’t stay close. It just wasn’t possible – I was no longer in on the in jokes, I never knew the latest gossip, and was never at the best events. We began to fight a lot, about the same stupid, trivial things, over and over. I think we loved each other, but maybe were no longer in love with each other.
The general situation was exemplary of my social life in general. By the end of second year, I had regular contact with very few people from the old group. I was no longer coming down every weekend… I was starting to find reasons why I “had” to stay… I guess I was feeling more distant to everyone, although I wasn’t really truly aware of the extent of my problems at that point. My natural reaction to such distancing is to pout and be stupidly childish, which is hardly constructive, and indeed typically makes things worse.
Then of course, third year of uni, things went really to shit. Sarah left me for the close guy friend, Terence – shit, she may even have cheated on me with him. Of course, the irony is everyone but me saw this coming – hell, people were warning me for months before. But, I choose to trust her blindly. I really wanted us to work, and I knew that trust was so important in that. I’m usually pretty good, otherwise, at seeing such things coming. I foresaw my parents getting divorced – although it was still hard to accept – and other such notable events. And hell, I’d been the close guy friend to her while she was with her previous boyfriend. History repeated itself. I always figured it would end that way (if it did end; I wasn’t that cynical back then). Still, it surprised me when it did… or more precisely, exactly how it did… but that’s a story for another time.
The problem was, by the time we broke up, I was well and truly… the +1. You know, the boy/girl-friend who keeps turning up at all the events because their significant other brings them along, even though people long ago stopped actually inviting them. No one likes the +1. They’re the worst type of gate crasher – the one you just can’t stop coming, or throw out.
I already knew that was my place in life before the break up, but until I was forced to deal with it full on, I never really gave it much thought. After the break up, I didn’t speak to a single person from the old group for six months. Six entire months. Not one email, not one IM message, not a phone call, not even a bloody SMS. I felt pretty much like shit. Although, okay, I lie – I did see Damien occasionally, although he had by that time already been similarly “banished” from the old group. I find it ironic that Damien was more or less there for me when no one else was [from the old group].
It’s not of course that I didn’t have any friends – Tony and Rob have been good to me always, and of course there was Alise… sigh… yet another story I may begrudgingly tell some time. Anyway, I dealt with it. Focused on uni, all that. It was a pretty shit time, but I survived. I did all right, really.
Of course, I got over it. Eventually I got back in touch with Sket and Bobo, and am now closer to them than ever before. I see a few of the old crew every now and again, and then for a moment it’s just like old times, but it’s always fleeting. There are others, like Bron and Alco, that I see a bit, and like a lot, but it’s once in a blue moon sorta thing..
The problem now is, I’m again the +1, just now with a slightly different group, and shared across Sket & Bobo instead of Sarah. I never get invited to anything – I just message those two when I’m in the area, and tag along to whatever plans they had. It was the funniest thing when I turned up to Alco’s birthday drinks at the Irish pub in Frankston… my god, the whole table of twenty people all looked at me in silence as soon as I walked in with Sket. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Even funnier was when Kim left, later in the night. There was about ten of us sitting in a horse-shoe shaped booth. She went right round the whole booth hugging everyone goodbye. Except me. I was sitting more or less in the middle. She skipped right by – didn’t even say anything. Ouch. 🙂
Still, that was amusing more than anything else; Kim’s always disliked me. I’ve gone to quite some efforts to change that – hell, she was the only person I brought anything back from America for – but to no avail.
But I digress once more. The point is I really don’t want to do the whole +1 thing again. In a few weeks, I’m off to California for three months. I’ll be back – if nothing else my VISA won’t let me stay permanently – but I don’t think I’ll be at all attached to here anymore. I’m about ready to pack up and leave for good. There’s not much left for me here anymore. Sure, there’s family, which I’ll miss greatly, and yeah, there are a few close friends I’ll hate leaving behind, but in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s over. Melbourne, I’m dumping you. It’s been a good 21 years, overall, but it’s time to move on. You’ll get over me.