Given I have lived with only family interaction for so many years, I have absolutely no idea how I am going to answer this question. Do I take a dip into my past and write about the 10 People I couldn’t live without in 2006? Or do I just skip this question as it’s just going to trigger my loneliness and send me spiralling into a flaming pit of perpetual pain for an indefinite period of time?
But if I were to do that I would be failing in this challenge, and that would trigger all sorts of even more unbearable pain, so…
…I will tell you the ten people who have left a gaping hole in my heart, the ones I miss each and every day, the ones I’d have been able to keep as friends if it weren’t for my insanity and selfishness.
I once described Annie as being the first person in my life that I had an instantaneous connection with. Normally, upon meeting someone new, especially someone as ravishingly beautiful, my anxiety would rocket into the stratosphere and I’d be rendered either mute or able to communicate only in monosyllabic grunts and humphs.
Not so with Annie.
We first met at a backpacker hostel in Canada and talking with her was easy. I’m not sure if it was the alcohol or the fact I was feeling overwhelmingly confident because of the travelling, but gone were the grunts and in were the comprehensible questions and sentences. After that first night we made arrangements to visit the hot springs the following night, but she became trapped up a mountain so we altered our plans for the third night, only the car ran out of gas so we had to cancel once again. By now we were spending most of the day together – hiking the wilderness, boating, consuming subways – and on the fourth day we finally got to the hot springs.
After farewelling her I continued my travels but the thought of our time together lingered, and after completing my west to east coast travels, turned around to spend some more time with her. For a little over a week I crashed at her place. We watched random movies, went on tourist trips, hiked up a mountain and camped together. She probably knew I had a massive crush on her – and if she didn’t, she certainly does now – as I’ve been fairly vocal over the years on this blog about the amount of time I’ve spent scolding myself for not sharing my feelings with her all those years ago. But, as I’ve said before, her boyfriend interfered with my annoying ethical code.
I’ve long believed that if we’d lived in the same country I could have had a wonderful friendship with Annie, perhaps this is just looking back with rose-tinted glasses on one of the people who made my Canadian odyssey so special, but whenever I think of her, I think of how happy I was and how, for the first time, I communicated with someone without being held back by my anxiety.
My biggest memories of Annie: she was the first woman I ever applied sunscreen to, her minor panic attack when she realised we may run out of gas in the middle of bear territory, hugging her goodbye, when I used my rancid socks as a fire starter whilst camping, the fact that she made me laugh more than anyone I’d met up to that point and she was responsible for my first taste of cherry. In terms of the fruit! The fruit people!
It should go without saying that I miss both Rachel and Stephanie. Over the years that I’ve been writing this blog I have spoken of them both regularly. Rachel, whom I met in Canada, took her life in Autumn 2000 leaving me reeling with answers that I will never know the answers to.
My biggest memories of Rachel: endless drinking in Halifax, drunken karaoke of Northwest Passage, a public Shakespeare rendition and the fact she physically slapped the anxiety out of me.
Stephanie, meanwhile, took her life in Spring 2009 after we connected online via my blog. Both women are people I sincerely believe I could have remained friends with – Stephanie, especially, as we shared a similar history and odd sense of humor – but alas it was not to be. As I have said before, I blame myself for both deaths, and no matter what that guilt will never leave me.
My biggest memories of Steph: long email & MSN chats and hope.
Both Timothy and Lisbeth are people I didn’t know all that well, so perhaps the ‘left a whole in my heart’ tag is a little over the top, but both are perfect examples of how my anxiety affected my ability to make friends. Timothy and I went to the same school and shared a few classes but didn’t really spend much time together until we ended up working together after school finished.
My biggest memories of Timothy: driving to work, and sharing the shock of Stanley Kubrick’s death.
Lisbeth, on the other hand, I worked with at a hostel much later in life and she had an innate ability to make me laugh. Very intelligent, she had fantastic personality and was always someone I’d wished I’d been able to get to know outside of work.
My biggest memories of Lisbeth: a brilliant shift we worked together in 2006 with lots of laughs and pointless fun.
Louise is another name that would be familiar to readers of this blog. She holds the honor of being my first relationship and a woman whom I sacrificed pretty much everything in my life to be with. Unfortunately, the relationship did not last, but I have long hoped that her life became something wonderful for after spending so many years living with, it’s hard to want for anything else.
My biggest memories of Louise: too many to list here!
Deborah, meanwhile, was my first real friend. We met in a backpacker hostel in Scotland where we were both long-terming over the winter. A source of great knowledge and compassion, Deb and I slowly developed a friendship that carried on via letters for years. I haven’t heard from her in years, and probably never will again, but I’ve always cherished our friendship.
My biggest memories of Deborah: seeing her again in Canada, lighting a fire for her at 4am, endless late night conversations, wondering if she saw the porn on my computer when she walked in unannounced one evening.
Sammi was the last friend I made in the non cyber-world. I’ve written of the night we met (and my shame over how) in the past but have yet to truly explain the gift she brought to my life. Although we only knew each other for a short period of time, face-to-face even briefer, she taught me that the most important thing in life is to accept who you are and not be afraid of whatever that may be.
My biggest memories of Sammi: the night we spent together in Adelaide and the time we had in Glasgow.
Russell, on the other hand, taught me many things as he was one of my teachers – one of the best I ever had! Often maligned within our school as an easy grade he was a delightfully eccentric man who I often wish I could catch up for a beer to thank him for the support he gave me in my early years of writing and for the bullying I received.
My biggest memories of Russell: the conversations we had over the various scripts and stories I would write.
It’s hard for me talk about Grace; on the one hand she is a source of great admiration, respect and inspiration, on the other, she is a trigger that has the power to shut me offline for days.
I first met her in 2004 when she worked for me for a brief period before she became a full-time colleague in 2005, and then friend the following year. I’ve never forgotten that, until Sammi, she was the only person who seemed to accept me for who I was rather than the myriad of labels that had been applied to me. After my breakdown in 2007 she was the only person to offer me support, rather than the endless stream of criticism and ‘advice’ on how to ‘cheer up’ that everyone else was giving me.
Unfortunately, to my shame, I failed to reciprocate this support in 2008 and I deservedly lost her friendship and sentenced myself to the lifetime of guilt that I have mentioned previously.
She has the honor of being the smartest human being I’ve ever met and to say I miss her would be an understatement. Like everyone on this list, she deserves all the happiness her heart desires.
My biggest memories of Grace: a drunken duet at my leaving BBQ, numerous lunches around Melbourne, numerous heart-to-heart conversations, the fact that she metaphorically slapped the anxiety out of me and my failures.
It should go without saying that my old friends were not Alyson Hannigan, Serena Ryder, Amber Tamblyn, Jenna Louise Coleman, Zachary Levi or the numerous other celebrities I’ve used to illustrate this post. I chose these images for, whether it be physical or personality, these celebrities always remind me of those people who helped shape me into the man I am today. People I miss, admire, respect and feel privileged to have known.
Tomorrow: 9 Movies I love…