A few weeks ago, before Sydney’s last lockdown, I went out for dinner with a friend. Not just any friend. She’s a woman I first met when we were both six and my family moved into the house across the road.
We had recently emigrated to Australia from the north of England. She is obviously my oldest friend. We might not see each other for years, but every time we do, we pick up where we left off. Yet she is very different from me. She’s an old hippie (I’ve always been way too pragmatic for that) and an anti-vaxxer (a topic we carefully avoid) but our shared history trumps these differences, even during COVID-19.
Another old friend from elementary school and his wife joined us. He is an excellent practitioner of family law and while we agree on most things (we are both equally uncomfortable with our hippie friend’s anti-vax views, for example), I suspect he thinks my feminism is going too far. Nonetheless, we get along very well and always enjoy each other’s company.
As we shared some great food, wine and conversation, I took a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come since we first shared a crowded classroom at Frenchs Forest Public School at most. strong from the baby boom in the mid-1960s. I felt so grateful for both of them and for the decades we shared with each other.
I’m usually not that thoughtful, but I’ve found myself having more such moments of gratitude recently. Is this a positive effect of this strange COVID world we occupy now? Or is it something to do with the unexpected gifts that come with aging? Or a combination of both? I do not know.
What I’m sure of is how much the tenor of my friendships has changed over the past year and a half, especially with my old friends. Such friendships seem to have acquired a deeper sense of calm and acceptance. None of us are perfect. Some of us have had it easier than others. But then what? When you reach the (hopefully) refuge of your ’60s, when the pattern of your life is more or less defined, for better or for worse, maybe the last little puff of rivalry evaporates.
It hasn’t always been that way. A lot of my friendships were very competitive when I was younger. We clashed over who was the coolest (my hippie friend was a lot cooler than me back then), who had the nicest boyfriend, and sometimes who had better grades. I remember going to my 20 year old high school reunion (we’re approaching our 50th now) and hated it. Everyone was comparing the size of their houses and how much they were earning. No more. We seem to have finally accepted ourselves as we are. Maybe it’s related to being in your sixties.
Maybe COVID has helped many of us – not just those of us who are aging – re-evaluate our priorities and stop chasing after false gods.
Or maybe it’s more than that. Maybe COVID has helped many of us – not just those of us as we age – re-evaluate our priorities and stop chasing after false gods. Many people have had to accept a smaller income and a curb on their ambitions, and we all have had to accept more realistic and achievable goals. No one’s life is as glamorous as it used to be. We no longer brag about traveling to exotic places on social media (I used to be a serial offender). Nowadays, a trip to Orange or Bendigo would be greeted with enthusiasm and enthusiasm! And again, for many of us, we find that just having enough toilet paper in the closet is cause for celebration.