This weeks writing challenge was about lost art. It seemed rather prescient as I had recently been thinking about the lost art of the catch up. Meeting up for a coffee, afternoon tea, evening drinks, dinner with friends, even long phone conversations. I’m sure plenty of people still do this, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I did. And a quick survey of my friends reveals I am not the only one that draws a blank. Which is strange, as in my late teens through to my mid twenties, I was a constant fixture at my local cafes (and it wasn’t like it is now, all hipster and shit. They were still daggy 90’s style with cappuccinos so frothy you’d put a flag in the top like Everest). But, slowly, as life started to get more hectic, work become more demanding, time just started slipping away. The friend I used to meet weekly for coffee, I then saw monthly, and then we were lucky if we met up every couple of months. The semi-regular dinners with one group of friends turned into a twice yearly thing- Easter & Christmas get together. Meeting for drinks on a Friday or Saturday night just disappeared off the radar together- the victim of a combination of a lack of interesting (read: non RSL club) drinking establishments locally, terrible traffic to get into the city to better places and an overwhelming desire to simply stay home in my trackies with takeaway.
But we were still catching up, right? On the phone, via text…but then the long conversations on the phone phone that were a weekly thing to replace the coffee date turned into a quick text. Then the text turned into a short Facebook wall post after perusing that persons profile to glean details of the key events in their lives.
Then came parenthood and all bets were off. Sure, there was the occasional paying a friend a visit, or texting back and forth, or in the case of a few close friends, a game of phone tag, where after three days of a constant stream of missed calls (and one you ignored because your kid was screaming blue murder and had no intention of stopping and you didn’t think it fair to subject anyone to that), you’d just give up.
It seems that I am not alone in this. I don’t know wether it’s endemic of my age group or just our generation in general, or society at large but all too often you hear people lamenting how its ben so long since they saw this friend, or they haven’t spoken to that friend in months. We can blame social media to a point- Facebook and Instagram have made it all too easy for us to feel like we have already seen what people are up to and have “virtually” caught up with their life in their timeline, but that is only part of the problem. Another factor is the “busy syndrome”- everyone’s every waking hour seems to be filled. Are we really that chronically busy that we have let friendships fall by the wayside? Most people I spoke to seemed to have core group of a few family/friends they spoke to and saw regularly, the rest kind of drifted into a sea of “sometimes”. But no one, myself included, could put their finger on just when or how we got so “busy”. And what it is exactly that we are busy doing.
All this came to head for me last week. I was in the city and I walked past a place where there was once a bar I frequented in my misspent youth. It’s no longer there and I can’t even remember the name of it, despite the fact it was one of our favourite and most visited venues. But it reminded me of the good times (possibly too good, given the memory loss) I had and one of my very good friends who was part of those times. She moved interstate years ago and for a while we had been good at catching up- infrequent visits punctuated by long calls and texts. But then we kind of lost touch and I realised, while standing in the middle of Pitt St, that I hadn’t spoken to her in over two years. It wasn’t like we had a fight, or drifted apart due to vastly different lives, it was just a case of us both being so caught up that we kept thinking “oh, I must call her” and never getting around to it. And I did exactly that and kept walking.
Then the following day I was at a local coffee place getting my morning elixir of life (incidentally one of the many hipster hidey holes which didn’t exist back in the day when I actually used go out for coffee) and as I was waiting for the takeaway flat white I did what we all do when killing time waiting for our barista: scrolled through Facebook. And another friend, whom I used to work with, and loved dearly, cropped up. And I also hadn’t had a conversation with her in two years either.
The kicker for me was that neither of these two people, who I really valued and cared about despite the circumstances, had ever met my daughter.
So I stopped scrolling through the pictures of acquaintances’ holidays and videos of cats and wrote them both a message. I decided then and there to revive the art of the catch up. Be it a good, old fashioned ear burning phone conversation or after work coffee or a lady lunch, I was going to get through the list of people I wanted to see, starting with those two beautiful ladies. One of them I managed to organise lunch date with this long weekend and the interstate friend, after a few long messages and some phone tag I finally managed to have a hour and a half phone conversation with, with a definite long lunch planned for Christmas time. Then when I got home, I called one of my closest friends whom I haven’t seen in two months and finally had a chat to her and organised a play date for our kids. Then Monday after work I stopped by another friends for afternoon tea.
I haven’t got to everyone, but I think for a week I’ve made good headway.
So here’s to reviving the lost art of catching up, whatever from it may take. Long lunch, afternoon tea, fancy dinner, pub crawl, bar hopping or simply a coffee.