Olds Friends

The week after I finished my journalism course I became a business reporter.

It was not a great time to be alive. 

I'll insert a Venn diagram to explain it:

As part of my job (the only bit that was remotely bearable) I covered social events in the business world.

I met Daniel at one such event, a charity dinner. He was the PR guy for the organisers. I didn’t want to like Daniel because...PR...but he turned out to be alright. 

We were put on the same table as the evening's entertainment: a magician. The magician seemed to be very on edge and emotional. I overheard as he explained to a child that he used to be a very famous actor.  Grim. After the meal, he pulled ten pence from behind my ear. He was pretty good, I mean, how did my salary get behind my ear?

Daniel was a bright spot on the evening. He was funny and thoughtful and we had enough in common for a viable friendship to commence and so we did that. We lived in the same neighbourhood and hung out on the weekends in Hyde Park and Holland Park.

Daniel gave me Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds when it came out in 2012. It's a collection of poems about the end of her marriage and hope that comes with healing. Olds won the T.S.Eliot Prize in 2012 and a Pulitzer prize for it in 2013.

I changed jobs, flats and some life stuff happened. We lost touch and three years passed. 

About a month ago I had to travel across town to a meeting. Mid-meeting I remembered that he worked in the same building. As I had no other means of contacting him, I sent him a message through Linkedin (who knew that would be useful?) 

Anyway, to conclude the story, he’d moved to China and wasn’t in the building. We're now back in touch. Good news. 

Parting gifts

Easyjet sent this email recently:

Far from being freaked out that the company still held this data, I thought fondly of that Easyjet flight, which cost just £10.

Flights on budget airlines aren't typically things you get nostalgic and dewy-eyed over, but this one was different.

I was making my way to the university of my dreams and I also met one of my best friends on that flight, Julia.

Julia was a visiting student from Canada. We were assigned to the same hall of residence. After we landed in Edinburgh we boarded a university-bound bus. On the way to our hall, our luggage got lost.

Julia and I had to go to our first formal event that evening (dress code: black tie) in Birkenstocks and flip flops, respectively.

One of my favourite memories was at an Ancient Greek-themed ball, instead of dressing up as a toga-clad goddess, which is what every other girl did, she went as Medusa. She wore a brown dress, Birkenstock sandals and clipped long rubber snakes into her hair. It was so weird and so funny. 

The day before she returned to Canada, she gave me Birthday Letters, a collection of poems about Sylvia Plath by Ted Hughes (I like Sylvia Plath) I think it had just been released and I hadn't read it yet. It was really thoughtful. 

The message on the inside cover of the book had a summary of our greatest times and a quote by R.L. Stephenson.

“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”


Dealing with ingratitude

‘There always will be homicides, tyrants, thieves, adulterers, ravishers, sacrilegious traitors: worse than all these is the ungrateful man.’  - Seneca

It hurts when someone is ungrateful.

Story time: I gave an ex-boyfriend's mother some chocolates on meeting her for the first time. I thought long and hard about what to give her and then lost my mind. I ended up spending two hours and  £40 on chocolates from Fortnum and Masons (I know this is ridiculous, I was young and my mind wasn't fully developed)

When I handed the box to her she said: 'Oh, God. I really don't like these!' and then handed the box back to me

I could've cried. I can't remember if i did actually cry, but i do remember that hot burning feeling at the back of my throat, the kind of feeling you get before you're about to weep yourself into dehydration. 

She was (and still is presumably) exceptionally rude, there was no doubt about that. 

I couldn't change her behaviour, but I could certainly change mine. 

I came up with a tongue-in-cheek series of questions to help me deal with ingratitude. I will share them with you:

1.   How good was the gift?

The gold-standard of gift giving is donating an organ

The silver standard of giving a person is something they want

The bronze standard is giving someone something useful

Does your gift win any medals?

2.    Can I change the way I present gifts?

If you give gifts with great theatrical fanfare and make a spectacle of it, then it's likely that any response will disappoint you. If you give in a sensible, humble and quiet way, you are more likely to be satisfied by the response you get. 

3.    Should I stop giving this person a gift?

Know when to cut your losses. It’s difficult to know when to strike someone off your present list. Sit down and work out whether you have, on balance, spent more thought on them (in life, not just in the gift-giving arena) than they have on you. If that’s the case it’s not good enough! Cut them loose! 

If you feel that you have to give them a gift, asking them what they actually want could benefit you both.

And my final thought:

Don’t ruminate on ingratitude

After you’ve figure out your plan of action to either improve your gift-giving game or to cut someone loose, don’t think about the past. If you think about any negative past events too much, you’ll become depressed. Focus on the future.