I really like the Minimalist’s post for Day Seven – it’s heartwarming, and I don’t mean that in a sardonic way. They talk about family, friends, relationships – the people who support us throughout our lives whether we realise it or not. Now, I’ve already written about how interconnected we are, how everything we do will always affect others, even if only in the tiniest of ways. But today, I want to focus on those closer to home – both literally and metaphorically. I want to talk about relationships, family and friends, old and new.
I am incredibly lucky. I couldn’t ask for a better family – they might not suit other people, but they are more than perfect for me. My brother is – and always will be (despite how it feels sometimes) my best friend and I can always rely on my parents for their support. I have so much respect for everything they do and continue to do for me. There is love here, and there is joy. We are not without our difficulties, but we muddle on through and I am exceptionally grateful for that. The same goes for my friends. We may not be fantastic at keeping in touch with each other – this has become trickier since going off to uni – but we try. And I know even if I might not see them every day, they are still there for me as I am for them. That’s not to say I don’t get lonely, everybody does, but I appreciate this network of fabulous people around me.
The concept of Minimalism, from the all-knowing Minimalists, does not just cover how you go about buying things or filling your home. It is not just about white walls and spartan interiors. They believe that it should go deeper than that – you should grow emotionally as you get your life in order. Yesterday, I covered the topic of fear and how it can hold us back. I’m thankful to say that I have not woken up full of regret for the things I got rid of. I think that fear has a lot to do with today as well, if we are talking about relationships. I feel a lot of us are scared of being completely honest with the people around us, whether that means realising we don’t actually want to be friends with someone or not pursuing friendships and relationships for fear of rejection.
It’s this second part that I want to focus on today. I’m worried I might find myself in some pretty deep water if I start discussing letting go of the friendships that might not be working out for me (there probably is such a thing as being too honest…)! As I’ve mentioned countless times, I’m home from uni for the holidays. This has been a delight in many ways, getting away from my hectic course, getting some much-needed rest, earning some money. But in other ways it has also had a tinge of sadness. I study in London and I live in Cambridge. Not much of a disparity there in terms of distance (after all, the international students are in an even more extreme position) but still, it’s far enough to make a difference to how I’ve been keeping up with people from university. Train tickets are not cheap, either.
So it’s with a twinge of melancholy that I think about the friends I’ve made this year. Because, quite frankly, I haven’t really made an effort to keep up with many people over the holidays. I’m sure I am not alone. But that’s not how life should be – you shouldn’t just switch these relationships on and off depending on whether you’re in the same locality as someone, can you? Imagine – you’re out of my five mile radius, therefore we cannot stay in touch – ludicrous! Where does that leave you when you come back from the holidays? Will we all be back at square one, rebuilding our relationships or will we just be able to glide on, pick up where we left off?
I think we all feel like we’re more social than ever, being able to message people instantly, Snapchat, follow their holidays on Instagram etc. But really, I don’t think that does count as being social. Aren’t friendships about more than sending the odd Gif now and then? Why have we let them get to such a derivative point? I am concerned that we are losing our ability to keep in touch, that the more we use these social networks, the less social we are becoming. There is, after all, little need to travel to see someone face to face for coffee now when you can just message them to see how they are and check it off the list. So, socialising has become a formality – an almost robotic mechanism. It’s heartbreaking.
I know I’m looking at this in an overly critical way. After all, before Facebook messenger there was MSN, before that, texting, before that calling. And a lot of people find endless joy in messenger (God knows why, it’s infuriating). Even before all of this reliance on technology there was the second post that let people send each other post-cards throughout the day to keep up with each other. The concept has always been around. It’s just, without wanting to get into a grass-is-always-greener debate, there has been something more personal in the methods people previously used for short-hand socialising. They had to put pen to paper, or actually talk into a moutpiece to keep up with each other. Now we just tap and go. It’s like contactless friendship, and that doesn’t feel like enough to me. That feels like a loss.
The Minimalists action priority for today is to note down everyone important in your life to give them a call and tell them about your journey into Minimalism. I’m not sure I’ll manage to do that, but it has got me thinking – there’s a lot of time between now and going back to uni. And that time should be filled with more laughter and fun, less sitting about whittling and worrying about myself. So I’d better book myself in to see some people. Which probably means firing up Facebook messenger. After all, you can’t have everything.