Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

A Change of Tactics

on January 31, 2013

Visiting Melbourne is normally stressful for me. I have a lot of friends from different groups, and arranging to see people winds up with me driving all over the city until I am exhausted and grumpy. I rarely find a way to visit everyone that I would like to spend time with, so then I add guilt and frustration to the mix. This is a bad combination, and I usually spend the trip home quietly stewing about it to myself.

One of the most frustrating aspects for me in going home has been trying to manage the perceived expectations of others. I fear that some people expect me to continue seeing them with the old schedules and routines that I used to see them with. This is the path of least resistance for them, and I have felt unable to vary my side of the arrangement. As a consequence, there are people I see often who have not realised that I spend most of my time away from Melbourne. This means my time with them has no special significance for me, and clearly it has none for them.

Last month I went to Melbourne for my birthday, invited 60 people to spend the evening with me, and had perhaps half that number respond. Of that group, half bothered to turn up. Many of the people who cancelled at the last minute (assuming they cancelled at all) had been the people most vocally excited to see me again.

It was a disappointing experience, and I spent a few weeks rationalising what had happened. Ultimately, I spent over $200 to visit people who then did not bother to keep our date. I had no idea what happened to most of them, and no intention of chasing them to find out.

This time, when we went to Melbourne over the long weekend, I decided to change my tactics. Only my parents knew that we would be there, and I asked them not to tell anyone. I took the time to visit my grandmother. She was the only person I drove to see, and it meant I was not losing hours of my weekend. It was much easier, and surprising her was fun.

I still wanted to see my friends, but I also wanted to keep it casual and on my terms. Instead of sending out a Facebook invite that would be hit and miss, I decided to call people. This is something I haven’t done for years, and it really felt like kicking it old school. The invitation was simple: come at a certain time and bring a plate of something to share. I invited people until we had a full table, they turned up at the specified start time instead of 3 hours later, and I had a good idea of who was coming.

Most importantly, I knew who would not be coming and why. I didn’t spend the entire evening worrying that something had happened to someone, feeling compelled to wait around for hours just in case they were running late, or playing through scenarios in my mind where being forgotten was the best available option. The emotional turmoil of going home was gone, and the weekend away felt refreshing for the first time in a year.

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