My heyday was in about 2009. I had am-dram rehearsals several days a week, parties every weekend, and on my quieter days I’d have friends over to watch Rent for the eighth time that month. I was 17 and living the dream – my social life was, as the kids no longer say, “popping”. Now, I’m 30 and my social life is not popping; it’s barely even sizzling. And there is a little part of me that’s OK with that – I like my dressing gown and box sets, sue me.
But apparently (and this might come as a shock to you), it’s good to socialise and stimulate the brain. Who knew?! So I’ve decided that in 2023 I would like to have more of a social life. Which sounds a bit tragic really, doesn’t it? Yes, Amy, yes it does. Let’s look back at where it all went wrong …
When I was little, I missed out on a lot of school because of health issues and hospital visits (spoiler alert: I’m a wheelchair user), so when I set my sights on drama school, I knew I wanted to be as present as possible. I was determined to make the most of my studies. To put it bluntly: I spent three years being an introverted nerd whose only interests were jazz hands and Sondheim.
I didn’t have time for anything else, so I made sacrifices. The first sacrifice? My fledgling social life. I think I went “out-out” about four times in those three years. I’d wave goodbye to my fellow students on a Friday afternoon and head home to spend my weekend studying music theory and learning monologues. Like I said: nerd. There were occasions when I’d try to socialise – there was that time I got spiked at the local pub; that night my wheelchair tyre got a puncture in Camden; and that day I didn’t drink anything because I knew there wasn’t going to be an accessible toilet at the house party that evening … Ahhh, fun times.
It would be remiss of me not to recognise that lack of access has had an impact on my social life. I can’t just go out for a spur-of-the-moment night of fun because I need to call the venue to check access, investigate accessible travel options and make sure that I’m still giving my body the rest it needs. It’s a lot of effort and, as an 18-year-old, I felt embarrassed to make such a fuss.
I realise now that a mixture of childhood insecurities and access issues brought my social life to a premature standstill. I truly regret not going out more at drama school – I was surrounded by lovely people, and I know if I’d made a little bit of an effort, they would have gone above and beyond to make sure that I was comfortable and included. I still have to gather all my courage to say: “I can’t get in that bar, can we go somewhere else?” but maybe 2023 is the year I’ll learn to say it a little bit louder.
After drama school, I started working as an actor and writer, and you know what? No one ever tells you about the dangers of loving your job. Work and leisure blur into one and before you know it, every hour is filled with work, and you don’t even notice because you’re having such a lovely time.
This sounds great, right? It is. It’s also a trap. I wouldn’t change my job for the world, but if I had a time machine, I’d go back to 17-year-old me and say: “Amy, stop straightening your hair, it’ll never make the cool kids want to hang out with you.” I’d also say: “Find a hobby that you don’t want to monetise. You need to switch off, socialise, re-energise. Join a craft group! Take up knitting! Go birdwatching! Meet people outside your usual bubble.”
Unfortunately, time travel has yet to be made available to the general public so it’s too late for 17-year-old Amy, but I think it’s about time that present-day Amy tried something new. Hey, maybe I could write about my new hobby in my next article! (You see what I did? I turned it into work. Once again: a trap.)
Do you remember that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie learns to eat alone? That was pivotal to my growth as a late teen, and apparently, I took it a bit too far. I love my own company – honestly, I’m a catch. But I seem to have forgotten about my Mirandas, Charlottes and Samanthas. I worry that when I next see some of my closest pals, they won’t recognise me because to them I now only exist in voice-note form.
I love my friends; I just have an awful habit of prioritising listening to podcasts in bed over meeting them for coffee. Am I a terrible person? Maybe. But I’m sure if I had more time, I could do it all.
In 2019, the world saw a brief resurgence of Social Amy – I was on tour and finally finding my social rhythm. I was making plans, going on nights out and being the last one to leave the party. Then March 2020 happened. No parties, no nights out, no plans, no rhythm. So what did I do? I went full-on nerd again and started writing like a lonely, reclusive fiend. This isn’t a terrible way to spend a pandemic, but needless to say, I didn’t bounce back from lockdown with the vigour of some of my peers.
I found myself repeatedly making excuses for skipping gatherings. I’d say: “Sorry, I can’t, I’m working, I don’t have time,” and would you like to know a secret? I could have taken time off, but I didn’t. I was basically the dad in a Christmas film who skipped making mince pies with his kids because he needed to crunch some numbers at the office. Did those numbers need crunching right at that very moment? Probably not.
The truth is that work is not what’s stunting my social life, and neither is lack of time. As Taylor Swift so wisely said: “It’s me. Hi, I’m the problem. It’s me.” I’ve got to stop making excuses, because I know what I need to do – I need to take time to smell the roses and make the mince pies. And maybe watch Rent again with my friends.