- Time This is a biggy. There's nothing like having a couple of year's of minimal work to give your creative juices free reign. We probably didn't actually do much on a per-hour basis, but when you can sit around all day mucking about, that doesn't matter. I think that combination of boredom and a slight panicky feeling that you ought to be doing some work was extremely conducive to pleasurable displacement activity: we needed something to take our minds off work, but almost anything would do.
- Enthusiasm It surprises me to realise now, but there is a certain amount of evidence that we both had a certain amount of... I dunno... call it joie de vivre. I guess that we had plenty of spare time to start up projects, and the end of our university careers loomed sufficiently far that we didn't have to worry but close enough to give us a feeling that progress was inevitable, that things would change, and might well change for the better. Maybe it was as simple as me enjoying the making grandiose plans and starting projects as ends in themselves (and only as ends in themselves), and Archie, blessed/cursed with actual ambition, just not having realised that yet. Still, it was fun planning our comedy radio show, TV show, stand-up career, sit coms, website... And we actually got a reasonable amount of material written down, albeit in the form of alternately hilarious and cryptic notes for small morsels of 20 different projects.
- An audience Attractive women in college were like rats in London: we were never more than a few metres away from one. And a reasonable number of them were quite happy to have me and Archie wander round to their room on a pretext and hang around being entertaining for half an hour. Some found us entertaining, some baffling, some (no doubt) tiresome but were too polite to say so, some (equally undoubtably) found one or more of us compellingly attractive, but were again, alas, too polite to make this known. I don't mean to give the impression that we just went round showing off to girls, just that we spent a lot of time hanging out with similarly listless people chatting, and having an audience (especially one containing pretty girls) seemed to bring out the best in our conversation. Without some else there as a focus to question or confuse, entertain or mock, our conversation was never at its best, and once we were in a house, the ease and social acceptability of randomly visiting people when bored was lost.
- Us Finally, I can't avoid the fact that he and I have changed. Inevitably, we are no longer the people that we were. I hinted at this when discussing enthusiasm, but I fear that the roots lie deeper. Since we left college I have become more... settled. I had (and still have) a perfect girlfriend that I'd met through university who would still be there for me once I left, and a kick-ass peer-group that would do likewise. Maybe I just don't feel any particular need to impress new people now.
Granted, my CV may seem to argue that my working life has never been settled, but a wider look will reveal that what I have settled for is a succession of jobs that I didn't want to do much, drifting into one, leaving when my bosses realised that I was never going to care, staying in bed for a month or two until I was completely skint, then starting the cycle again. I suspect that being in this comfortable rut, in its own way, has pissed on the barely warm ashes of my energy and ambition.
And Archie? Well, I can't and don't want to speak for him of course, but his life has been pretty much the other way round. No girlfriend or unruly posse of mates to drag him out into new experiences; and a steady job, but one that means working from home alone and doesn't actually quite pay enough for him to survive, let alone live. No wonder our interactions have become less light-hearted. It was actually painfully symbolic when we moved out of Cranham Street, me to live with my girlfriend and cat in a nice house surrounded by our mates, him to a (mostly) spare room and a shed in one of the more distant parts of town to rely on the charity of a friend. Neither of us are care-free any more, but that's true for me in a good way. Archie seems to have gotten the care with none of the benefits.
I've always felt that he and I are much more similar than our diverging paths might suggest. I'm not quite sure where the difference lies, but I suspect that it is a question of approach. I tend to be slapdash and mildly nihilistic. This 'fuck it, eh' attitude has lead me into experiences which a wiser or more cautious person would perhaps have avoided, but through which I've discovered interests and people that have enriched my life. Similarly, my lack of ambition means that I'm (normally) happy doing just enough to get by and rarely worrying about the future. Archie's much more of a perfectionist, which means that tends not to take risks, and also that he makes plans and is dispirited when they don't work out. In the end, I think it's only chance that has meant that things have worked out better for me.
I don't mean to give the impression that we're growing apart, or that I think we will. I still think of him as my best mate, and I hope and believe that when his life picks up, as it surely must, we will rediscover the cheerful, playful tone that has been lacking of late. I just wish that there was something that I could do to help.
Oh, and if you're reading this, Archie, sorry. I don't want to embarrass or further depress you, but I didn't know where this was going when I started and it's taken me by surprise. Good luck, and see you soon, mate...