SOMETIMES, THINGS GO WRONG. I SAY THIS FROM CONSIDERABLE EXPERIENCE. My life has run the gamut of spectacular wrongness over the decades; starting from age six when I tore my M&S knickers falling out of a tree in a packed pub garden, right the way through to sending a WhatsApp screenshot back to the same person a few months ago.
I once had dreadlocks, went out with a drummer called Maverick and allowed photographic evidence of both. I have owned what turned out to be very ﬂammable inﬂatable clothing. Recorded over my parents’ wedding video with Ghostbusters 2. Got into a carful of squaddies that I met at a bus stop, and discovered that our family nanny was moonlighting as a loan shark with a very proﬁtable, yet illegal, side-business in selling homemade doughnuts. Things going belly-up in a variety of colourful and creative ways is something that I’ve just come to embrace. And thankfully, most of the time – after a good stiff lie down and some screaming into a pillow – I’ve even found myself able to laugh at it all.
Sometimes, though, things happen where laughing no longer seems like an option. They don’t just go wrong. They veer wildly into the dark places you never thought you’d ﬁnd yourself, where you feel crushed, or numb, or like your lungs are ﬁlling with water and there’s nothing you can do about it. Something happens that makes everything that came before seem trivial in comparison, wrenching you from sleep, or playing the cruellest joke of them all; allowing you to forget for a minute, only to suffer the pain of remembering again moments later.
These are the perspective-givers. The true, gut-twisting life lessons that – if you’re lucky – drag you from sleepwalking through your days to ﬁnally understanding what it’s really all about, promising yourself that when the light at the end of that tunnel ﬁnally appears, you’ll be carpe diem-ing the living daylights out of every single thing. But let’s be honest. The journey to get there? That can be wholly, excruciatingly, bone-achingly awful.
I won’t bore you with the details, but I recently had one of these delightful experiences myself. It was health-related – never great – and would have been topped only, perhaps, by the pain of it happening to someone I love instead.
Ensconced in bed, trapped in some kind of enforced, Netﬂix-watching purgatorial quagmire (I have now watched all the shows. All of them. Quiz me, I can handle it), there was only one thing stopping me from throwing one giant pity party for myself – my girls. For as much as I lean on my mum in times of strife, there’s nothing that can replicate the love that comes from a group of people who you know are there purely because, well… they just quite like having you around. Mark my words, that can pull you through quicker than any medicine, therapy, or chicken soup ever could.
Let’s just take a second to think about the power of female friendship at the best of times. The times when you’re dancing on the tables, or laughing so hard that you choke on your Nando’s. The giddy, morning-after debriefs over cold pizza, and the road trips where you listen to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection on repeat. It’s no secret that your friends become your family here, but one that you can actually choose, where no one starts telling vaguely racist jokes at Christmas, or keeps asking when you’re going to make them a grandparent.
When you’re putting roots down in a new city, that respite and emotional support you get from a strong group of female friends is vital. Those high times are all well and good, but you need your mates not only for the belly laughs and the brunches, but for the homesickness and the heartbreaks, too. We’re all in it together out here, all doing something pretty brave. And if you have a sisterhood around you – or even one amazing girl – who you know that, even at 3am on a school night, would run over to prop you up, make you laugh and remind you exactly how much good stuff there is out there, then you have already won at life, my friend.