I found myself living alone on the cusp of a new century. Friends enquired if I was coping. I had to admit that it felt no different; I’ve always been on my own.
However, things changed. Few friends remained but they were true. I was grateful for them and for those who let me go. Someone told me that you can only fit so many people in your life. True.
It is daunting to launch a new life but I’d never been one to look too far ahead. I was a competent chess player once but never plotted the moves ahead. I played to play and didn’t play to win so triumphs were almost always surprises. When I lost I conceded with grace; which irritated my opponents.
Needless to say I never played sport, or tried not to. At school I was last to be picked in a team and spent most of the sports period reading a book under a tree or marking homework for Sister Mary Michael. Sometimes Fossil (our science teacher) would come along and drag me into the Science lab to feed her rats. She loved her rats and never let us dissect them. Their population exploded and one day we had to box them up and send them off to other schools, by rail. Poor Fossil was near tears.
Back to the future. I tried to make the most of life. While I was confined I read and learnt. When I was free, I travelled; starting with a trip with Intrepid Travel at the dawn of a new millennium.
At 47, I was the elder in the group of mostly university students (“you’re older than my mum!”). One did pay me a compliment at the end of our exhausting but exhilarating hike through the hills of Northern Thailand: “When I grow old, I want to be just like Mary”.