Friday, 9 May 2014

Just a little change...

Since beginning my job in London six weeks ago sleeping in my own bed has become an increasingly rare occurrence. Between tube strikes, dodgy train times, Chip moving to Magaluf (and therefore being unable to drive me anywhere) and the other members of my family having their own social lives, I have found getting home from work safely every night of the week to be impossible.

It's a nightmare.

I now carry a bag of underwear, makeup remover, toothbrush, toothpaste, pyjamas and deodorant with me all the time, and have paid Boots an absolute fortune in replacement makeup as I continue to leave it at various homes and hotels in and around London.

Whilst this has been a huge pain- and it has- I am a very independent person and hate having to rely on others and be a nuisance to them, particularly when there is not much I can do to help them in return- it has become something of an adventure.

Each one of these adventures has led me to think about change...change in my own life, change in other people, and change in the world in general....

1. Hudson Hornet

Thanks to a combination of the events listed above, this time last week I found myself knocking on the front door of a very old friend. Hudson Hornet was my boyfriend between the ages of sixteen and nineteen and, although it was an easy, happy, friendly break up, until the tube strikes brought my life to a halt last Tuesday we had not seen each other in almost six years.

It was surreal.

Not because it was weird, or because we felt like strangers, or like we were still a couple. We didn't slip back into our old ways or struggle to find things to talk about.

It was surreal because it was like no time had passed at all- but we were suddenly grown ups.

And we've changed.

I didn't realise I had changed. In fact, I would go as far as to say I almost prided myself on the fact that I haven't changed.

I don't think I've changed hugely. My manner and nature and general personality haven't particularly changed since I was about 2 really.

But little parts of me that matter more than I had ever considered are different from when I was 19, and sitting there, on Hudson Hornet's sofa at 2am on a Tuesday almost six years on from when we had last seen each other, those tiny changes became more apparent than ever.

I should have known.

I actually was given a huge hint that those little things had changed last year when I was in America- and the suggestion did throw me at the time before I brushed it aside and didn't give it another thought.

I was always Monica from Friends.


From when I was about 14 I was compared to her.

I was bossy, insanely tidy, compulsively organised, slightly controlling, amazingly self disciplined and had a ridiculous amount of energy at all times.

Then last year we were discussing which Friends character each person in the group was and someone casually commented 'Rebecca's obviously Rachel', before everyone murmured in agreement as though it was so obvious it didn't need discussing and moved on to the next person.

When did I become Rachel?

I mentioned it to my mum as a weird thing for everyone to say then moved on and didn't really think about it again.

Until I was sitting on Hudson's sofa.

He asked me what time I started work on Wednesday morning.

"Mm well I thought I started at 11 but thinking about it nobody ever starts at 11...must be 11.15 or 11.30 maybe. It's written in my diary but I'm not sure which of my bags it's in...I'll check in a minute..."

Hudson looked at me open-mouthed and shook his head, before muttering "well you've still got a diary, I suppose that's something..."

I should probably mention that in the six years we've been apart Hudson has earned a degree and built himself an extremely successful career in banking and is now living in a very posh flat in a trendy area of London and offered to 'leave the keys with the concierge' if I needed to get in during the day.

All of which perhaps magnified the lack of organisation and order in my life.

He asked me what I do when I get to work so early.

I sit in coffee shops and write.

"Oh no you're one of those." 

"One of what?" I brushed my wavy-because-I-slept-in-plaits hair out of my eyes and looked at him indignantly.

Suddenly I felt like another of Jennifer Aniston's characters- the one in Along Came Polly. 

He caught me up on six years of building a steady, successful life in London and I told him about my six years of bouncing around the planet; of my adventures around the world.

He said things like "It's a bank holiday in most of Europe tomorrow so I'm manning ten desks on my own. Nightmare!" whilst I nodded knowingly and shared my own nightmare stories like "I was massively held up today because the elephant's trunk broke so I chatted to its leg while Zazu decided which merchandise he would buy if he were a guest."

I shook my head in amazement. Why was the seventeen year old boy that answered to the wrong name to my Grandad for two and a half years because he was too scared to correct him manning desks for banks across Europe?

He looked at me with equal confusion.

Why was the girl who had named her children by the age of seven and treated her degree like it would change the universe wandering around the world's coffee shops writing?

How are we both almost 25 and how have we changed so much? 

Overall Hudson, like me, hadn't changed at all. He still had the same manner, nature and general personality and yet...he was so different. We were so different.

2.Madame Adelaide and Pumbaa

After two nights at Hudson's my next adventure was to be to stay at Madame Adelaide's with Pumbaa.

It started, as most hilarious nights do, in a most sophisticated and sensible manner.

Pumbaa picked me up from mine and we spent the entire journey discussing a combination of weddings and a certain very entertaining friend I have, then arrived at Madame Adelaide's absolutely beautiful home for pizza and wine.

We talked, laughed, reminisced and planned until it was finally time to book the taxi and make my first foray into the real Essex.

Sugar Hut.

What. A. Treat.

I actually had a fab time but I think perhaps that had more to do with the company than the hordes of suited and booted men crowding around us and attempting to rap the words to Baby Got Back.

Apart from being reminded that I have the most beautiful, funny and entertaining best friends in the entire world, my night in Sugar Hut also reminded me that some things never change. It did this by reminding me of two core facts that are unlikely ever to change in my lifetime....

a) Drunk men are terrifying and hilarious in equal measure.

They display things about themselves (like the fact that they know every word to the rap in Waterfalls by TLC) that they would never dream of admitting without a few jagerbombs. And they look proud of it.

Drink also seems to give them the idea that they are invincible when it comes to girls.

They could approach any girl, with any line, and if that girl is not immediately falling at their feet there must be something wrong with her. 

The first lad came over with a Flynn-Ryder style half grin on his face, clearly prepared to bring out the charm and watch me swoon. When I didn't react to his very impressive rapping along to Hotel Room Service he shouted in my ear that I 'must have a boyfriend.'

As it happens I do, but I don't think that Dale has taken away my ability to appreciate a man who decided to wear a wedding suit to a club and rap in my face.

I don't think I had that ability in the first place. 

The second lad was so sure that Pumbaa was definitely interested in him- despite the engagement ring, and the fact that she, and then Madame Adelaide, and then I had all told him she wasn't, that he proceeded to half hover over her shoulder for the entirety of the night.

The third lad has actually won me a dare.

Years ago, I was sitting with my friend Timon (who I sincerely hope is reading this) making a make-believe list of qualities the man I would marry would have, when I said 'he's going to be tall.'

At this, Timon burst out laughing and replied 'I dare you to find a man shorter than you. There aren't any.'

Timon, it took me six years, but I've found him. And I believe he's interested.

Because on Friday night he came up to me, gestured for me to bend down so that I could hear him (yes, he was that short) and said seductively in my ear 'I'm Matt, how old are you?'

I wish, really wish with all my heart, that I could tell you that I replied 'I'm Rebecca, how tall are you?'

But I didn't think of it quick enough.

I am aware that I sound very much like a moaning feminist here and that my little brother would be outraged if he read it back. But that's not how I mean it.

As I was standing there in the club surrounded by these classic nightclub idiots, I realised that I had been here a million times before. All the way through uni, the nights out in Italy, the random odd nights out I've had when I've been back in Essex, the nights out I had in America....nothing's changed. The next morning I shared these stories with my mum and she told her own stories of the same thing happening when she was my age. I expect my Grandma has stories of stupid men making ridiculous decisions when she was my age.

Having spent the past few months moving countries, houses and jobs; preparing to move houses again soon, preparing for my friends to all be married by the middle of October, preparing to settle in Essex for the first time since 2007, I found it strangely reassuring that some formulas can't be messed with. Which leads me to....

b) The second thing I learnt- well I didn't exactly learn. I was already perfectly aware but it was a nice reminder such as I have not had since our trip to Dublin in 2010: Pumbaa is also terrifying and hilarious in equal measure when she's drunk.

I won't bore you with everything she did but my absolute favourite moment of the night- potentially my favourite Pumbaa moment ever: was when we asked whether she needed to text her fiance to let him know she was safe and sound back at Madame Adelaide's.

"Yes. I need to make sure all of the radio producers in Essex get drunk."

"Um...sorry Pumbaa?"

"All of the radio producers in Essex need to get drunk."

"Okay. Pumbaa, why do all the radio producers in Essex need to get drunk?"

"I don't know, who said that?"

" did..."

"Did I? When?"

Madame Adelaide and I caught eyes and stifled giggles and laughed hysterically regaling this story to Pumbaa the next morning.

At this point I looked at the two of them and felt the total opposite of what I had felt at Hudson's.

How are we all almost 25 and how have we managed to not change at all?

3. Tigger

Later in the week Tigger came down from Banbury and out with me and my friends from work before the two of us stayed in a hotel in London together.

When we were still in America there were a few suggestions from people that it's never the same when you meet your friends from abroad back in the UK. I have never found this when I've met up with friends from jobs abroad before but perhaps it's because I never expected it to be exactly the same.

It's a bit like when you're in Primary School and you have your friends round to you remember that? It never feels the same talking to them when it's just two or three of you in your own house as it does when you see them in the full classroom in school.

Anyway. A year is the longest I've spent in one place away from home so I did wonder whether this might be the time that everything feels different.

But I spent a lot of time on my own with Tigger in Disney. In parks, resorts, restaurants, supermarkets, housing and on buses...and it was always the same. So there was no reason for this to be any different.

And it wasn't.

We had already Skyped for almost two hours earlier in the week and still managed to have a million things to tell one another in London.

How did we even manage two months apart? Nothing's changed. 

4. Jiminy Cricket and Rex.

The next night was spent with one of my favourite couples ever (I came up with their aliases separately and am aware that they are slightly strange together. Just go with it.).

I came out of the station, saw them sitting in their red fiesta ready to pick me up and felt as though I had been whizzed forward in time to experience a day in the life of their daughter.

I hopped in the back and they told me that they had originally thought that the girl waiting at the bus stop was me because she looked like she might be wearing a Lion King costume.

She was in fancy dress.

(I did have a brief moment of wishing the merchandise cast members were allowed to dress up lions...I might suggest it....)

They drove me back to their gorgeous house in Rayleigh and I had another rush of realisation similar to the one I had had whilst staying at Hudson's.

Jiminy Cricket had become Monica from Friends. For some reason when we discussed it at college she always came out as Julie (perhaps because Rex always came out as Ross), but now she was so clearly Monica.

I went through the front door and sat on the sofa where Jiminy almost immediately brought me a glass of water and explained that she had set up two of the guest bedrooms so I had the choice of the comfier bed or the double bed. I feel I should also tell you that Rex brought me a cup of tea in the morning just as my alarm went off. Just like staying at Monica's. 

As with Hudson, Madame Adelaide and Pumbaa, we laughed, chatted, reminisced and planned, swapping stories and catching up, leaving me feeling both impressed and proud at having such wonderful friends, mixed with a pang of when-did-they-grow-up-and-leave-me-behind?

I told Rex and Jiminy about staying with Hudson and about how the ways I've changed had become so apparent when I was with him.

Rex suggested that perhaps it isn't me that's changed; but everyone else. He said that he quite often thinks that I never change; that he was certain I never have, it must be something else.

I thought about this over the next few days. I definitely have changed: those little things about me are different. I've become Rachel.

But I do think Rex might have a point.

I think perhaps it isn't that I've changed, as such, but more likely that I have accepted what I am and am happy to just be....this.

Maybe I've always been Rachel.

I think perhaps I always thought I should be organised and bossy and self-disciplined and so tried my absolute best to be but actually...I'm not. And that's okay.

I had an amazing time on my night out with Tigger but there came a point when I thought: that's enough. I want my bed and a hot chocolate now.

So that's what we did.

We left. And when everyone called us boring and told us to stay, we said, Miranda-style: No thanks. It's hot drink and duvet time for us.

How am I almost 25 and when did I become so willing to admit that I'd rather be snuggled up with a warm beverage for a chat with a friend than throwing some drunken shapes to Beyonce? 

5. Facebook.

The final realisation in my acceptance of change came in the form of those ridiculous '25 things about me' posts that were the height of fashion in 2008.

2008 was the year that I last saw Hudson. The year that I apparently began to change.

That year I was nominated (or whatever the word was back then) by Pumbaa to write down 25 little known things about myself and post them in my 'notes' section on Facebook.

I recently found them and was hugely surprised to find:

21. I want to work in Disneyland, Italy, Greece and Spain when I finish my degree. 

So maybe even the ultra-organised, named-all-her-children-already, self-disciplined, determined-to-be-successful 19 year old that said goodbye to Hudson in 2008 would have been delighted to find this 25 year old version of her sitting on his sofa six years later; flyaway hair, unorthodox life and all. 

Then. Just as I thought I had thought this one to death and it was time to move on, I got sick. And had all the time in the world to analyse life and all its mysteries. 

So to while away the time I decided to start watching Friends from the beginning, and discovered something I cannot believe I had never discovered before. 

The whole basis for the first series of my favourite tv programme of all time is that all six of the characters are going through a quarter life crisis. 

There's a moment in which Monica tells Rachel that everything 'just will work out', and Rachel says 'but what if it doesn't?' This is the thought that has been going round and round in my head ever since my crisis started back in March. 

But the magical thing about being a Friends fan in 2014 is that we know that everything works out in the end. 

So maybe when I see Hudson again in 2020 I'll still be finding my way like Rachel. Maybe I'll be a happily married, working mum like Monica. Or maybe I'll keep going with this hippy thing I seem to have going on right now and I'll be a full blown Phoebe. 

What I do know is that as much as I might worry that I've changed, as much as I might stress that I'm going to change- or that I'm not- and as much as I might go on about not knowing what's going to happen next, I know that one day I will look back on these young, free, unpredictable days with a huge amount of nostalgia- perhaps with Hudson, Pumbaa, Madame, Tigger, Rex and Jiminy sitting on my sofa though ;) 

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