I missed a Tweet from my employer yesterday about a death in the workplace, and the launch of a mandatory investigation. I groaned to read it; for two reasons, firstly in relief because I’m on leave and uninvolved, but second, because I’m close to all involved, and for them it tops off a year that has already been record-breakingly shit.

Some people’s work and home lives are inseparably mixed. For me the formula was always simple: I didn’t want the awfulness of my job tainting my precious homelife, so I didn’t bring it home. Not once. As a result, the friends I left behind when I began moving states back in the 80’s were the last I ever had. It’s easy to forget that I always had one growing up. Aways someone outside my family I could talk to and rely upon. But not now.

A big part of it is geography. The most populous, lonely city in Australia, Sydney is not a place that offers up easy friendships willy-nilly. This place is insular on a grand scale. People move to Sydney, they don’t move from Sydney. It’s like Hotel California. People are coming through the door every day for the beautiful harbour, the culture, art, music, food, sport, jobs, the pink champagne on ice — but is it friendly? Nah, not so much.

And nobody leaves. Start reaching out, and you quickly realise that while everybody is friendly, nobody wants to be friends. Everything is set and fixed. A very common Sydney Christmas conversation goes like this:

Me: “So, what are your Christmas plans this year?”

Them: “Same as every year. We always go up/down the coast to our shack/van/unit/beach house with a groups of friends. We’ve been doing it since we were kids.”

Me: “So can I bring my little family along too?”

Them: “Hell no, loser! I don’t have room my social calendar for a new friend!

I made the last part up, but it’s the point I’m making. There are no empty friend-slots in a Sydneysiders list. I have a list of acquaintances, borderline-friends, that I see often and confide in, but who I’ve never invited to my house (and vice versa). My social calendar, except for an increasingly busy family life, is one big empty slot. Is this as good as it gets?

Maybe at some point in the past decade I could have used a friend. I know my wife could have, and probably still does. But family has become the centre of our universe. What I struggle for now is time to myself. I know for an extrovert, living like this would not be enough. But to me, their excess of friends (to be honest, mostly just acquaintainces) would be a prison. Superman needs his Fortress of Solitude, Batman needs his cave. Not just to protect their identities, but to heal up and think.

So to get back OP, I’ll touch base with the affected parties at work, make sure some welfare support is in place. Then I’ll retreat back to my biome and make sure that the thousand tiny cuts I endured this year all heal up, that I’m whole and healthy and ready to launch into 2021 and be the best that I can be for everyone, without being anything special to anyone.

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