I have only just recovered.
It happens the same way every time: we come together in a Spritz-drinking, “Let It Go”-singing mob of hand holding and late night talks, causing a scene everywhere we go, from the kitchen to the bar to the early morning whispers amongst too many people in a bed, and the emotion – the love – is dizzying. Disorientating. Fucking insane.
Some people have their high school crew. Others their university pack. Sometimes it’s a sports club or toddler group, a happy coincidence or deliberate choice, but it’s always a shared experience. For me it’s my international teaching family, and for ten days over Easter we were reunited – housemates, BFF’s and siblings also thrown into the mix, everyone we collectively love invited for the ride.
Only now, two weeks after the fact, am I able to process our time together – altering me, every time, as it does. For so very long I didn’t know what those love songs meant, the ones about love transforming who you are, but my international family taught me. Teach me. Present continuous, not past perfect. They know more about me than the people I see everyday. They’re my north, my all.
But also: they really piss me off.
In amongst the singing and dancing and crying and laughing-so-hard-it-is-actually-painful-ing there was not a single moment in our time together last month where I didn’t want to desperately inflict a good hooter-beating. This one can’t EVER find her bus pass, and that one REALLY SHOULDN’T HAVE woken up next to my housemate, and they really need to learn how to pick up a tea towel and do some goddamn dishes. She keeps making the same, painfully unfunny, joke. He goes a *teeny* bit mental at the mere whiff of gin. WHY IS THERE ALWAYS SO MUCH NOISE?
Knowing this, though, doesn’t make it any less shocking that I errrr… well. I can piss them off, too.
To think! I can be bossy! And self-righteous! And very sweary when I’ve had too many cocktails and sometimes use the c-word and it upsets people! AND DESPITE ALL THAT I TOO AM STILL LOVED!
I talk too loudly; take my own word as final. I’m moody when I’m tired or need some space. I like to do what’s best for me, not the group. I’m missing the part of the sensitivity chip everyone else has and either stay tee total or get royally sloshed – there’s no middle ground. I’m a woman of extremes and it can be a “bit much”, which is a euphemism for LAURA. WOULD YOU JUST FUCKING LISTEN TO YOURSELF FOR A MINUTE PLEASE?
As our unit grows into itself more and more, with every passing trip, every next reunion, the realisation has hit me like a Whitney key change at a power ballad club night: friendship isn’t pretty. It’s hard, dirty work, and feelings get hurt and you hear things you don’t want to hear and it all comes from love but it can feel, sometimes – no matter how momentarily – like you shouldn’t even be friends at all.
There are fights, and struggles, and frustrations. My whole life I’ve walked away from those who push my buttons, citing “love me or leave me alone” like a manifesto. And in turn, I’ve avoided calling bullshit on crappy behaviour or demanding a different kind of dynamic from somebody because who the hell am I to ask people to change?
Well. I’ll tell you who I am: I’m your sister, and I know you, all of you, and sometimes that means I’m gonna say stuff that is hard to swallow because it’s my job to be your mirror. And know what? You’re gonna have to do that back, too.
This collection of special, vibrant, opinionated travellers has not only demanded, loudly and unapologetically, that I cut through my own bullshit to reveal the person I never knew I was capable of being, but have also made me want to do the same for them. I’m… invested? I think that's the word.
Between us we’ve fought to knock down the walls we’ve all built to protect ourselves, holding one another accountable in being better versions of ourselves, and sometimes it drives me insane. I want to hide away from it all. When people know you better than you know yourself there is nowhere to hide, though. You have to face your demons. You have to see the demons of others. You have to rise to the challenge and declare that you’re ready to see and be seen, and to love wholly not in spite of that, but because of it.
I’ve been single for a very long time, in the conventional sense. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s death ‘til we part with the house that made me. These are the loves of my life, and they irritate all the hell out of me. They’re my family.
And I'm so very, very fortunate to have found them.