Musings on Friendship

A few months ago, we bought the box set of all the Harry Potter movies. I’m one of those people who likes to watch the special features; I like to see how they managed to achieve all the amazing effects, and in the case of Potter I enjoy hearing how they went about adapting the books. So I’ve been watching the special features over the last few weeks. Last night, I was at the end of the whole series – and therefore listening to the cast and crew talk about reaching the end of this period of their lives. Many of the young cast have grown up and reached adulthood over the course of the series, and they were commenting about the many close friendships they’ve made and how much they will miss the routine of seeing these people every day for most of the year.

Most of us regular people won’t ever have that experience of working on a movie – let alone a series of movies – ever in our lives. But I was struck as I listened to one cast member (I think it was Rupert Grint) talk about how they all had these movies in common but now they won’t have that reason to see each other regularly and they have to adapt to a new way of relating to each other. Really, this is an experience we all go through, simply from attending a particular school and then not going there any more because life moves on and we’re not school children forever.

Stop and consider for a moment. How many of your friends from school are you still in contact with? Is that because they still live near you? Is it because you still see each other through some other kind of mutual activity, such as church? Have you had to put in an extra effort to see your friends, compared with the days of just seeing each other at school, and maybe suddenly you’ve found you don’t have much to talk about because the things you have in common are few and far between?

Andrew & Michelle_0729

For myself, I’ve gone through this a number of times in my life. I left the UK, where I’d lived since I was almost 4, a few weeks before my 15th birthday, leaving behind all my school friends and church friends. The internet was only just gaining a hold in the average home, and for a while I had to write good old fashioned “snail mail” letters in order to keep in touch. This didn’t work out too well, and with only a small number of exceptions, I fell out of touch with these friends (until the advent of Facebook but more on that topic later). But, I was in an exciting new country, at a new school, and had a choice of local churches to attend. I made new friends. Four years later, high school came to an end and I left the small town I’d been living in. The first six months after school ended was a time of transition – I was still spending most of my weekends going back to see my parents and attend my old church, so I still saw my old friends a fair bit. But after that I spent 6 months living in the UK, and then returned to Sydney to go to university. My life experience had now moved on quite a bit to what my old school friends had been up to, and I had new friends at university demanding my time.

University itself was an interesting friendship experience, now I look back on it. I was involved with the student theatre society extensively. This meant I met quite a large number of people over the four years I was an undergrad student (and a fifth year, when I still lived in the area after I graduated). I’d be very tightly connected with a small group of people over a short period of time: the months of rehearsal and the week(s) of the show. But after the show finished…then what? With the people I really connected with the most, friendship continued beyond the show experience, but for many they became just another show acquaintance. And now, a collection of Facebook friends.

But then I left that part of Sydney – after spending 10 months in Melbourne (and collecting another two distinct groups of friends through my studies and my church) I moved to a whole new part of Sydney. A new job, a new church. What of the old friends?

Now, I could say something like “sometimes I think it’s big moves like what I’ve been through that help you sort out who your real friends are”. But how do you define friendship? What makes one person a “real friend” when someone else you just happen to hardly see anymore is still a really lovely person who you would love to see more often but life events and commitments just make it really hard to do so?

I recently took a six week overseas holiday. One of the great things about this break was that I got to visit with two of my best friends: someone I went to high school with in the UK, and someone I only ever got to see every once in a while when I went to South Africa on holiday. When I think about these two, and what makes them such good friends, it cannot be measured by frequency of contact or by shared experiences. But, whenever we do manage to land ourselves in the same town, it’s like no time has passed at all.

Now let’s reflect briefly on Facebook. Others far more eloquent than I have already written about the impact of Facebook on friendships. Then just today, I read an email quoted on postsecret.com where someone admitted that they don’t call their friends now they have Facebook. Has Facebook impacted on how you communicate with your friends? For good or for bad? I like the way it has connected me with old friends from the other side of the world, but I don’t like how it seems to have decreased the quality of my friendships with those who live nearby. To some extent, it feels like Facebook allows me to keep “up to date” with what is going on in my friends’ lives, leaving me no need to have an actual conversation with them. But is that really just a false sense of connectedness? And does it really allow me to get into the deeper and more meaningful conversations so I can feel supported and loved by my friends?

I’ve rambled on for long enough this morning. I blame the virus scan which is taking ages to run and stopping me from doing my work.

If you’ve read this far, I encourage you to add your own thoughts on the topic via a comment below.

Photo credit: from my wedding album on Flickr.

I want to know…

Some of you reading this will be familiar with my stance on this issue. Some of you won’t be. Some of you will disagree.

I’ve just seen this video for the first time. It’s beautiful.

Yes, I’m a Christian who supports Gay Rights. Let me state this here clearly: I believe in a God of love doesn’t hate those who are only trying to be true to themselves – true to how they were born. I’m not going to engage in a lengthy treatise on the theology of this issue right now. Because, to me, the most basic fact is all that matters: God is love, and loves everyone, no matter what.

I love my homosexual friends dearly, and hope to one day (soon!) live in a world where they have equal rights. So I can go to their weddings and celebrate, just as they came and celebrated with me. A world where they don’t get bullied or treated unfairly or disowned by their family and faith community. A world where we can all be accepted for who we are.

Here’s a handy link for Australians: http://www.australianmarriageequality.com/wp/

Afternoon randomness

I am listening to all sorts of random music this afternoon (via a trusty old version of Winamp) while writing about breast cancer risks and gene faults. This track just played and I decided I had to share it with you all. Youtube was happy to oblige.

Australia Day

On April 15, 1997, I arrived in Australia as a Permanent Resident. On June 25, 2001, I became an Australian Citizen.

Today is January 26, the day that Australians are supposed to celebrate their great country. Now, I’m pretty fond of Australia. It is quite a good place to live. The weather is generally good (except for the month of rain we’re apparently just about to experience) and the job prospects aren’t too bad, but cost of living isn’t fantastic. The natural beauty is great (although I do really love the mountains in the Western Cape of South Africa and nothing in Australia comes close to those). Things are a lot better than other developed countries – and far, far better than the developing world.

However, we still have a long way to go. And in particular, we have a big gap to close between the quality of life many indigenous people live and what most nonindigenous people enjoy. Today I pray that we can see more money, time and effort put in to making things better for every single person who calls Australia home – not just the ones who have arrived in the last 200+ years…

Flag

What am I doing today? Writing up case studies. And hoping our roof doesn’t leak with all the rain we’re getting. And being thankful it isn’t flooding around here.

Photo credit: from my flickr collection, taken in Melbourne in 2007.

Not really a resolution *edited

Yesterday my husband and I were out for a walk, and there was a classic “hummingbird” moment. We were talking about needing to get more exercise and to make sure that when we go for walks, we actually get moving fast enough to raise the heart rate etc. I was in the middle of a sentence about the need to keep the pace up when I spotted a cat sitting under a car. I stopped in my tracks and exclaimed “kitty!”. Husband laughed. Writing about it now makes me think of this xkcd cartoon, but let’s not get distracted any further…

A little bit of history: in 2000, when I was in my final year of high school, I had pneumonia. Mycoplasma or “walking” pneumonia. One of the consequences was that I lost a bunch of weight. I’m not going to get into the exact figures, but as a rough guide my BMI at the time would have been around 19 – just within “normal weight”. It would have been around 23 before I got sick, I think. I put a little bit of weight on gradually over the next 3 years, eventually getting back to my pre-pneumonia state. This is a photo from the end of 2003 (in a “fallen angel” costume at a masquerade party…mask elsewhere when the photo was taken!)

But it didn’t stop there. I was living in shared accommodation near university, I wasn’t eating terribly well, and my exercise was purely the walking I did to get around between home and the campus. In 2005, I moved a little further from campus and stopped walking as much, and my diet became worse, and I put on more weight. In about 2007, my BMI went past the “normal weight” upper limit and has just crept up and up. I stabilised for a while in 2008-2009 but after my wedding in April 2010, I’ve gained another 5kg and my BMI is 27. There is just too much delicious food in this world, and insufficient exercise in my routine!

I should probably insert a disclaimer at this point. I’m still quite within the realm of not terribly fat, but I’m heavier/lumpier than I’ve ever been in my life and have been keen for years to make some serious changes to my lifestyle and habits so that I can get back to the “normal weight” range. I’m very lucky compared to many out there – I’ve never battled with an eating disorder and I don’t have a health problem which makes it even easier to gain weight/harder to lose it. I’m just bad at exercising regularly (and shouldn’t always blame my dodgy knees) and have little self-control. I’ll also add that I know BMI isn’t the be-all and end-all of measures when it comes to this sort of thing, but it’s a simple gauge most of us are familiar with.

So, here I am, in January 2012. I’ve recently returned from 6 weeks overseas holiday (which will feature in future posts) so while I was pretty determined to make some positive changes late last year, I was also realistic that while I was away I wouldn’t be able to stick to major diet. However, thanks to the combination of a relatively active holiday and a bout of gastroenteritis the day after I returned to the country, I don’t have any extra “holiday weight” to shake. My husband is also very keen to decrease his girth, so I have a diet and exercise partner right here.

I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to the kind of figure I had in 2003 – after all, I was 21 then and now I’m almost 30! Shape changes over time and that’s ok.

I guess you could say that this post is about making myself accountable. I’ve downloaded the “ShapeUp” app on my iPhone and I told it that I want to lose about 0.8kg a week – and it says I should reach my goal weight in 16 weeks if I manage that (and the app provides assistance with tracking kJ/calorie intake).

So now all my friends (…I’m not just sending this out into a black hole, right?) who read this blog also know that this is a priority for me. Please understand when I say “no” to the delicious dessert you’re offering me!

———

Further to the above… having just read this LJ post (strong language warning if you follow that link), I feel like I need to come back and say something more on this weight related post.

I agree with what Naamah writes. I think society needs to stop idly judging others on the amount of flesh they carry around. And for most of us adults, we have the capacity to make an informed decision about what weight we are happy being.

I believe that the evidence is out there that there are many health benefits to be found from being within a “normal” weight range (but that what constitutes “normal” isn’t going to follow some magical formula). I’m not going to judge you if you decide not to do what you can to remain within a healthy weight range for your body – that is your choice and you are beautiful regardless. But if you walk into my clinic room, worried about cancer risk, once I’ve talked to you about what your genes are or are not going to do to your risk (and what we can do about that), if you then want to know what else you can do to reduce your risk – I AM going to tell you about the importance of a good diet and enough exercise to maintain a healthy weight. If you’re a women and you’re overweight, you are increasing your risk of uterine cancer, in particular. How you take my advice is, of course, up to you, but if you solicit it, I will give it.

So my choice, as an informed adult, is to work harder and get myself into a healthier weight for my body. I’m not doing it because of any pressure from society about what constitutes beautiful. I’m doing it because I work in a hospital where I see, time and again, the consequences of not looking after yourself (including being underweight). Since I’m lucky enough to have this element of my life in my control (and not in the control of medications I’m taking or hormonal imbalances etc) – I chose to do what I can.

Starting how I do not intend to continue

I work as a genetic counsellor (wiki has a good explanation of what that means, if you need to find out.)  As part of being a genetic counsellor in Australia, I have to complete “certification” with the “board of censors” in order to call myself a certified genetic counsellor. I have already completed a graduate diploma in genetic counselling, but that is only the first part of the process.

This evening I am meant to be getting myself organised at home for the certification process to actually happen. But I’m a procrastinator, so instead of working on that right now, I am writing about needing to do it here. Because completing certification is something which will be taking up a LOT of my time between now and the end of March, and since some of my friends might read this blog, it might help them understand why I’m going to be scarce ;)

Certification is a 3 step process, made in distinct submissions. The first two submissions include a number of case write-ups and some other written work. The third stage starts with a simulated consultation with an actor, which is recorded, and you then analyse it and submit your essay as your third submission. There’s also an interview.

I am making my first submission at the end of March. I have to write 3x long case studies (about 2,000 each) and 50 short cases (a page each), I have to record a session with a real live client and submit an essay analysing it, and prepare various other education reports and stuff.  I have a seriously large amount of research to do, lots of reading, and then writing. I’m probably going to take a week off work and completely disappear from the world (except my long-suffering, supportive husband) in order to get it done. And my first deadline is to get my first case to my supervisors at the end of next week.

So, maybe this wasn’t the best time to start a blog. In my defence, though, I think that by having this outlet ready and waiting, I’ll be able to “get it off my chest” when some stray thought/rant is taking my concentration away from the work at hand.

To my friends reading this and thinking to themselves “here we go again…” – no, I’m serious this time. Certification is my top priority and please give me hell if you see me slacking off.  I turn 30 in April, at which point all the hard work will be over (for this submission) and I intend to celebrate both things thoroughly.

Once Upon A Time

One day in 2008, I was sitting around with some friends at one of their homes. One of these friends (who also happens to be my third cousin) decided to go around the circle and give everyone a single adjective that she felt summed up their key characteristic. When she got to me, she said that she couldn’t think of a regular adjective and was going to have to break her own rules for this game, saying that the one word she wanted to use to describe me was “hummingbird”. She said that this word came to mind because of the way I intensely focus on something but also the way I quickly moved between ideas/activities/thoughts. Some might call it “distractability”.

This blog is a place for me to come, to pause – to have a rest – and get out in writing the things that matter to me/interest me/amuse me.

What can you expect? Stories about my life with my husband, trips we take and things we’re doing around the house we bought in mid-2011. Soapbox posts about topics which matter to me. Musings about living as a follower of Jesus. Book reviews. Bits and pieces relating to my work in genetics. And once we adopt some cats in the near future, I’m sure there will be plenty of kitty pictures. After all, what would an internet blog be without kitty pictures?? :)

Comments are welcome. If you disagree with anything I say, don’t feel like you can’t express that opinion, but please do so respectfully. I don’t have much to say about politics, usually, but religion tends to get tempers flaring on occasion ;)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.