I’m 34. And if you’re 34 it means that it’s been about 4 years since you turned 30, and if you’ve turned 30, that means you’ve got no chance of making new friends. If you haven’t got good friends by 30 no one would blame you if you just gave up. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got better odds than winning the lottery, but Gosh it’s hard. It’s very very hard.
You can imagine as someone in their 30s travelling alone can be a pretty lonely time. Especially if you can collapse into a nervous wreck like I do at the notion of making a new friend. All those years of not making new friends teaches you that you’re not good at making new friends. This is what many of us call, anxiety.
So, because I’m a confident person I’ve got pretty good control of my anxiety. I’m lucky. I’m able to go outside and be in the sun and smile at the birds singing songs on my shoulders like any normal person can. I’m still out there trying to be a sociable human being.
One of the things I like to do so that I don’t become a hermit is go sit in a cafe and have a coffee and read a book, even though I don’t read anything more than 5 pages before I get bored, or I write something, even though I don’t write no good, or I sketch something, even though I end up scribbling it out out of embarrassment, or I edit photos that I’ve taken. That’s something I think I’m pretty good at! My mum tells me so much that she even framed one of my pictures. I’m very proud and humbled that people seem to like the photos that I take.
Truth be told I go and sit in a cafe because I’m hoping someone will talk to me. I’ll engage the waiter or waitress at a bare minimum, out of the social contract that exists between us, to at least ask them how their day is going. Good? That’s great! Is it busy? Oh, well I’m sure it’ll pick up. One latte please.
On the super rare occasion they’ll break it up with ‘I love your hat’ even though I just grabbed it so I didn’t have to do my hair or my favourite is when they ask me what I’m reading and I get to pretend for a few moments I’m learned and really really smart and good looking. One time, I explained the book I was reading was about a pessimist, and the waiter asked ‘Who is your favourite pessimist?’ This sent my anxiety into overdrive. I couldn’t think of one on the spot so I just said the one I was currently reading about. He said his favourite was Rust Cole from True Detective. Damn. That’s such a good choice! He’s so learned and really really smart and good looking.
Recently, I was in London. No where on earth has made me feel as lonely as London. Arriving in London for the first time in your 30s feels like you missed out on an entire decade of exploration. There’s so much noise with all sorts of people walking around, or hanging outside of pubs laughing and having a good time and everyone vapes. Why?
On my fifth and final day there I had a routine going. The loneliness of London was a bit too much for me by then but I would still find some coffee shops and work away in my own world, ever so slightly being broken up with a friendly chat with the staff of a shop, but I really found it hard. Every interaction was so brief and fleeting, nothing more than a ‘What’s good on the menu?’ ‘The chicken.’ I wondered if I had something on my face, or my beard was not groomed right or if I should have blown vape smoke in their face before asking. The waitress at this one cafe knocked over a chair with someone's bag on it as she was bringing over the menu to me causing a huge commotion and noise. I got up and helped lift the chair back up and said ‘You wasted so much effort, I just want a Chai please.’ She laughed and said the whole thing was my fault. Yes!
30 minutes later at the same spot I’m editing some lovely photos I had taken in Scotland a few days prior. These are amazing photos, filled with emotion and terror and modesty if I do say so myself. If I had of seen someone editing these photos I would have said how beautiful they were. Suddenly I felt someone tap my shoulder. That’s new. ‘Excuse me.’ Said the waitress. She leant over the chair next to me and says ‘I don’t know if anyone has told you this…’ At that moment I remember feeling my eyes widen and a smile start to creep across my face. ‘but, we don’t allow laptops in here after 6pm.’
Defeated, I hurriedly packed up my laptop, paid the bill, tried my best to thank the staff without looking them directly in the eye and walked back to the hotel. I wished of having my headphones so I could distract myself from the thoughts that came up but instead I was forced listen to everlasting sounds of the city and all the people walking around. Everyone looked so busy. I wondered where they’re going and if they’d like to have a conversation as much as I secretly do.