I've always felt that I've always been on the periphery of things.
A wonderful word, periphery.
Periphery n , pl -eries 1. the outermost boundary of an area 2. the outside surface of something.
It's described how I've seen myself as a part of social groups for most of my life. Skirting the outside of things, though still a part of things as well. Not all in, but not all out either.
Most of this has been self-imposed - though it's taken years to realise this. An exile of my own making, my defence mechanisms keeping me from diving into the large friendship groups that university college afforded many two decades ago. When I fled to London in 1991, I left most of these people behind. I still have good friends from college with whom I'm still in regular contact - Geetangeli, Flora, SJ, Kath..., but I was always in envy of those who were a part of the larger group - the in-crowd, the popular kids.
I had a hypnotherapist who once described me as a lone-wolf eskimo, living out on the ice flows with the penguins and polar bears, dipping into civilisation every so often for supplies and thinking that everything is all to hard, I'd go back out to the ice flows until necessity or bravery sent me back into the town again. This was something I had to work on.
Twenty-five years on from university, I've got the benefit of hindsight - and facebook (and the marvels of a great therapist), I've reconnected with a number of people from college - and I'm in fairly regular contact with some of them. I feel as if I can go back to Adelaide and not just visit my family as I have done for the last decade. I have people to go have coffee with, talk to and socialise with, making Adelaide a lot more attractive to visit. It's not that I don't love spending time with my family on the two days that I go back once or twice a year - it's just great to know that there are more people over there to go and have fun with. Fun isn't something I generally associate with Adelaide.
It's strange looking back on these friendships of old.
Case in point, Kip.
I met up with Kip a few years ago and we catch up when we're in the same city. I had a small crush on Kip back in the day when he was doing Law and I was a lowly Arts Student. Then he found his girlfriend in second year, now wife, and I remember letting the crush all go as a lost cause - but forever a nice guy. Kip now works for a Federal Law Enforcement Agency, father of two, member of the school council type.
"I always wondered where you'd got to. What became of you." he told me when we first met up a few years back.
"Funny, I didn't think anybody noticed me back then."
It was strange, after nearly twenty years, we could tell each other stuff about the other from way back when, like knowing that he grew up next to Flora's grandparents in an Coonawarra town, that my birthday was in August, his in October, and that I came from Myponga - that I used to have an old, green EJ Holden and worked at the local department store on Friday nights and weekends. Silly the things you remember like watching the sun come up on Mount Lofty after a college ball, six of us driving up in dressed in our finery, drinking flat Fanta of the bonnet of the old green Ford Fairlane.
There have been other encounters with others. Meetings where you're comfortable from the outset. There are a few standard questions on meeting. Where have you been? What happened to you for twenty years? Are you still writing? Are your folks still in Myponga?
I think I will be tagged at "That Girl from Myponga" for the rest of my life.That's me, the girl from Myponga who writes stuff. Not much has changed.
These meetings, the rekindling of old friendships has also brought a sense of inclusion - a strange sense that these people, who I haven't seen in near on two decades, are back in my life in a small way - and I do like it. People you have a chat to, who you arrange to meet when you're in town, who are now back in your life as if they never really left completely. I hope they know that there is always a spare bed if they need one. For me, it's the knowledge that I have people to have dinner and a beer with all over the world - I like that.
I found myself posting on my old back pack to one of these friends this morning. My travelling bag, it's been around the world a couple of times, a 70 litre back pack that can hold 30 kilos of luggage, or just enough for a week away, depending on how you arrange the straps. This bag has now been replaced with a wheelie suitcase. I like that it's going to live out it's life in France with Annie and her family, who now live in Brittany. Annie and I edited the college newsletter in my second year. It feels like a natural progression to send it on to her.
I've always admired Annie's confidence. We bumped into each other on Baker Street in London twenty years ago. We both remember the meeting well. Strange coincidences. Posting the bag to her parents in rural South Australia (where she will collect it later in the year when she's over), the address was the same as the one I sent her Christmas cards. Her parent's address, like so many other things, burnt in the back of my mind, along with other old, strange facts that only people who knew you in your late teens and early twenties would know. This knowledge becomes incorporated in you, like a small birthmark or scar. Never thought of until it's brought to the fore.
The last few days have been interesting to watch in a way that only a perch on the periphery can give you.
There has been a passing. A woman from the group who I remember fondly from twenty years ago, vibrant, popular, intelligent, friendly. I know she's been a close friend to many of those with whom I'm now in contact. The complete bastardry that is cancer took her.
The message was sent out yesterday. Attached to the message, names not seen or thought of in years. It's a very sad state of affairs - devastating for those who were closest to her. As one on the list said, we're united in grief and thought. I had a chat to the woman co-ordinating the messages. Was she doing okay? How were her family? Showing real concern, but not wanting to intrude either, it felt comfortable to talk to this woman I hadn't seen in twenty years, but again in contact with the magic of social networking.
From my perch on the outskirts I see a bunch of wonderful, caring, feeling people - all deeply saddened by this news.
She is one of the first to go. Unfortunately, she won't be the last.
And I feel blessed, that even in a small way, that these people are around.
And the edges that make up the periphery don't feel so big any more.