Never under-estimate the value of the things you have. I want to share two stories with you just to show the power of one of the most valuable things around: friendship. As I’ve mentioned many times (because I’m a boastful pain in the rump) I went to Thailand. And I had a good time. Not an amazing time, not a great time. It was good. I also went to Austria, and I had an excellent time.
People are a powerful influence on how you feel. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, if you have someone around that makes you feel miserable then nothing is going to make up for that. In Thailand, I had that. I had one person (I shall call her Gert) who I could rarely get away from that made me feel really miserable. Just the one, and that’s all it took. Gert didn’t click with the closest friend I had in Thailand (who I shall call Felix. It has to be said that Gert didn’t know that Felix didn’t like her. He was a good enough friend to hide that). That meant that on top of having Gert, who always made me feel bad, she (accidentally) excluded me from seeing Felix.
Some of my highlights in Thailand were truck journeys into work. To give you a rough idea of how weird this sounds I want you to consider what the truck in Thailand are: the trucks are actually called Songtaos; someone has taken a flatbed truck and converted it so that it can run a bus service. On this songtao it was morning, and it was often already 30°C, and the songtao would often be filled to the point that I was standing and hanging off of the back. Despite being too hot and surrounded by resentful Thai people, I had a great time with my insane friend Lucy (again, not her real name…). We used to do weird stuff like come up with songs (the highlight of which was a cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t no Sunshine”, called “Anal Sunshine”), and we used to whine about a colleague who only deserves to be known as Cartoon Face.
The summary to take away from that is that with a good friend even a bad bus journey can be great fun.
Compare that to a stay on Koh Samui. Koh Samui is stunningly beautiful. There are nice bars, nice restaurants and lots of things to do, including doing absolutely nothing on the beach. But with bad company none of that matters. And I was there with Gert. Gert has a great ability to suck the joy out of things and then blame me for the fact that I don’t enjoy them. Gert tends to take all the responsibility on her own shoulders and then when it falls through, she blames someone else. Gert is the kind of person I’m surprised has many friends at all (unless it was only me she used to treat like that). Gert could ruin Heaven (except, by definition, I wouldn’t be able to meet her in Heaven). So there I was, on an island where everything about it was perfect. I was miserable.
In Austria only good people surrounded me. Felix was there! But I also met Ruth and Abi (their real names, as I’ve spoken about them already in another blog). I went to Bratislava with Ruth and Abi, and to be polite to Bratislava, it is not a winter city. It was a very boring place and slightly creepy (I blame the nuns; I’d just played Hitman Absolution before I went out, and so nuns were creepy). But with good company Bratislava became a highlight of my five-week adventure. I didn’t need Vienna for a good time (although, I had a damned good time there as well). All I needed was some close friends (and Ruth and Abi became close friends very fast).
In Vienna Ruth, Abi, Felix and I all went to the worst Aquarium I have ever seen: Haus der Meeres, in Vienna. There sure were a lot of Lizards for an aquarium, and it was too hot, and the fish were kind of boring. Did I have a good time? Well, I was with Abi, Felix and Ruth! So, of course I did.
So, what’s my point here, that I don’t like Gert? Well, partly. But it runs deeper than that. People you don’t get on with can ruin your experiences. Friends are worth something. Friends are worth a lot. Good places don’t matter even nearly as much as the people you’re with. Good food and expensive restaurants might seem like a good tool for happiness, but it’s all about who you’re with. Your friends are some of the greatest assets you have, recognise them for it.