At a dinner with a bunch of old school mates in 1993, Johnny Fahey, one for controversial statements, boldly made the following announcement.
He said, “Ten years from now, none of us will know each other.”
The table erupted, we all scoffed at him, and continued with more pressing issues, like figuring out what bottle of wine we should order next. Those words, however, hung thickly in the air that night. Johnny sounded like he was being over dramatic, but nevertheless, something struck a nerve.
Dislocation is the natural enemy of friendship. Most of our group of 13 people had been friends since the age of ten when we started school together (some earlier), and we naturally thought that we would always stay very close. Despite this, there are so many obstacles and developments throughout life that can erode your connection with close friends. It’s not rocket science. After secondary school ends, people move in different directions; attending different universities, moving interstate and overseas, starting different careers, settling into relationships and starting families. Old friendships can tend to take, what you think of it at the time as, a temporary backseat. We were all in our early thirties by this time, and with many of us now with young families, and different career paths, we were ripe for erosion.
“Unless we do something about it now, we will all drift apart. We need to stick together.” The new bottle of wine arrived. Then we set about manufacturing glue.
Over the next year or so, we set up 3 annual “anchor” events, set in concrete, scheduled for the same time every year; so it didn’t matter what else was going on in your life, you always knew with certainty where you would be on those 3 key dates. The events were spread apart so there was never more than 6 months between them (late November, mid February, mid July). We set the key event as a weekend away (this soon expanded to 3 days) on a farm or coastal property where we could play loud music all night and not annoy the neighbors. One person was designated as the central point of contact, initiating all correspondence for each event. Within a few years, the glue had well and truly set. The events were so much fun that they became compulsory and long awaited. The email and telephone banter usually started a few weeks before the event, and often required additional mini gatherings, such as testing potential eating venues. We called these “reckkies”.
The anchored events kept us in regular contact, which then extended to a host of other sightings during the year (football games, birthdays, dinners, BBQ’s, concerts etc).
Johnny’s statement started out being correct but finished up being totally wrong. It is now 22 years later, and after 43 very long lunches and 21 three-day weekends away, the same 13 regular attendees are still getting excited about the next event, some flying in from interstate to attend. The 44th lunch is in two weeks, and I can hardly wait. The emails and phone calls have already started.
Our kids are now in their teens and twenties, and probably think that we are being overly dramatic when we try to reinforce the importance of setting up a structure. Our advice to them is that If you have a good group of people, don’t just let it slide. Make it stick.
We will still be having lunches and weekends until we are all pushing up daisies, with only one person left standing. At the moment there are 13 people hoping that person is going to be them.