“Adronitis” – (n) frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone
Do you remember when you were a kid dressing up as Peter Pan and assuring all your new found ‘Lost Boys’ that this was Neverland and none of you would ever grow up? You struck metal with your imaginary swords and ran through the streets caw cawing at the top of your lungs and promised each other you would be friends forever.
Kids have no inhibitions, they approach life whole heartedly and people without ambivalence. Their language is different to ours. It isn’t chipped with sarcasm or hardened with layers of meaning. To ‘play’ really means to play. They see things differently. Where we see an empty cardboard box they see a spaceship, what is seemingly an empty room is actually a portal into a world under the sea. They build secret hideaways and fortresses through the power of their shared imagination. Everything they touch turns into something magical that transports them far away to a place that grown ups can’t access. Within minutes of meeting this other kid they have already embarked on more adventures than they ever will for the entirety of their adult life.
Meeting people and making connections when you’re a grown up is hard. Stepping into a party on a Friday night where you don’t know anyone is like trying to blend in amongst a parliament of owls. It’s not a hoot. You scour the horizon of well groomed heads for a familiar face and failing to find one, search for solace at the bottom of the punch bowl. With your fresh cup of orange coloured rocket fuel (gag) you stand in the corner of the room and whip out your smartphone. When not one of your friends have replied to your frantic texts of “where the f*** are you?!” and “why didn’t anyone tell me that fancy dress actually means a f***ing ball gown? #awkward #saveme #edwardscissorhands”, you have to resort to approaching a group of strangers. Like a gazelle approaching the waterhole crowded by buffalos, you sidle your way up to the group and casually lean in to the conversation. You can barely hear what’s been said over the music but you smile earnestly and laugh when everyone else is laughing. You tread carefully, answer questions politely and make sure you’re really listening to their answers. After dozens of conversations like this you’re looking for the nearest exit or sharpest object. Hopefully, by the end of the night you’ve exchanged phone numbers with at least one potential candidate for the role of ‘friend.’
That’s only the first hurdle. Then begins the ever so graceful “let’s go for a casual drink” and “I’m not invested in this at all” dance. If you manage to tee up a friend date then you have to choose a venue that strikes the right balance between casually hipster and artfully cool on a shoestring budget. In adult land, alcohol is your imaginary spaceship, your transportation device that keeps the conversation moving and kicks your confidence into gear. Amongst all of the arbitrary questions you’re looking for that one tiny seed that could be nurtured into a flower. Something that you both share – a common hobby or a sense of humour or a shared awareness of the comedy of your situation. That magical spark reminiscent of your childhood. There’s nothing like having a rapid fire connection with someone where the conversation is coming in hard and fast and you’re so in sync that all you want to do is change into your Peter Pan costume and take the second star to right and straight on til’ morning! Of course, you have to remain more composed than that so you retract the crazy and harbour it for a more appropriate time. That’s when the adronitis sets in – the realisation that you’re still in the initial stages of a friendship and of the effort required to keep it afloat.
Every time I move to a new city I have to start again – pitch a tent and cast my net out into the masses hoping to retrieve that magical spark. Sometimes, I ache with how much I miss my friends back home. That comfortable familiarity that can only form after years of knowing each other. Where you can sit around in your pyjamas eating ice cream and watch hours of TV, throwing cutlery at the characters on screen and yelling “don’t run back into the house you idiot!” Other times, I’m grateful for the opportunity to put myself out there and meet people I never would have met if I stayed within the safe confines of my high school circle. It’s a rare find but when it happens it’s like a never ending holiday – suddenly everything is hilarious and the most mundane activities can become an adventure. Eventually, as time moves along and people move around these friendships we make as we grow older are harder to cement. We can’t stay in Neverland forever and we all have to face the harsh reality of growing up. For now, I try not to think about it and I embrace all of my friendships – both new and old, real and imaginary.