Take 8, Call a Mate

By Monique Conibear

Last semester as the minute hand ticked over to 5 o’clock my brain began to pound at my skull, screaming to be let out. The pictures on my screen were blurring into one, diagrams of the lungs and heart forming into something else entirely. Eventually, I slammed the computer shut and flopped onto my bed, pressing my fingers into my temples. Maybe I could get out and go for a walk? No, it’s almost dark. Maybe I could call someone? No, they’re probably too busy, and I don’t even know if I have the brainpower to make it through a conversation. Instead I put on some slow songs and closed my eyes, trying to take a quick powernap.

Suddenly, the music stopped. My phone buzzed. Shooting up, I grabbed it off the bedside table and glanced at the name. With a big smile I answered it. It didn’t even make sense. Two minutes ago, I couldn’t even sit up without my head thundering yet now, as I talked to my friend, I felt excited, happy.

Has this ever happened to you? Unfortunately, in this day and age it likely hasn’t. Or if it has, it is likely quite rare.

We hardly talk on the phone anymore. If we want to talk to someone, we often send them a message, or a Snapchat, or maybe even feel too awkward and decide it isn’t worth them getting the wrong idea. Maybe they are just someone that was in your Anatomy lab last year and you only ever spoke to them at uni. Or maybe you’re close friends but you usually just text or talk in person. You have never had a need to call them. Is this more accurate?

That is how I felt at the start of the year. As I was driving away from my on-campus accommodation towards my rural hometown, I realised I would likely not be speaking to my friends for a while. I would probably text them or talk to them on group chats but calling them? No, that would be too weird. They might not like talking on the phone.

I had a thought. What if I put a post on my Facebook? Put out an offer that anyone who wants to chat can just message me or comment and I would give them a call. It was simple enough, but it would give me an excuse to talk to people I wouldn’t usually talk to and if anyone was struggling it would give them an opportunity to reach out. For the rest of the 4-hour drive home I kept thinking about the details. How would it work? What if I only got one reply? What if I got hundreds of replies? Eventually I realised I didn’t mind if I got too many replies. People would understand if I couldn’t call them for a few weeks and I could keep the calls short.

So, I did it. I took a leap of faith and posted it later that week. I ended up receiving about 6 replies. It wasn’t much but I was still incredibly excited. Two of the people I hardly knew, I had only spoken to them once or twice before and this was a great chance to get to know them more. Another two were friends from Uni that I would stop and talk to if I saw them on campus but would never message them outside of that. The final two were closer friends of mine and I was excited to have an excuse to call them for a chat. Regardless of who they were, I knew they genuinely wanted to chat and that alone made me excited to call them.

For the next two weeks I called everyone on the list, even going out of my way to call my closest friends too. Even though I was hundreds of kilometres away from campus I still felt just as connected as ever. I eventually told my Dad about it casually one night over dinner and he inspired me to take it further. During this time, so many people are feeling alone and often just the thought that someone else taking the time to call can mean the world. So, in the dim light of the kitchen table one Thursday night, ‘Take 8, Call a Mate’ was born.

The idea is simple. Take 8 minutes a day, 5 days a week to call someone and check in. In practice it usually won’t work quite like this. Depending on the person I might talk to them for 5 minutes or 40. I might call 3 people in one day and then no one for a while. Some people I would call randomly and others I would schedule a call. Either way it was keeping me connected and was made me feel as though I was making a difference despite being stuck at home. I could never know how many people it actually reached but if just one person benefitted from it, I had done my job.

One of my friends had an incredible testimony. She told me that she hadn’t spoken to her stepdad all year and their relationship was on the verge of breaking point. She shared the ‘Take 8 Call a Mate’ video and he heart reacted so she gave him a call. They ended up speaking for an entire hour and she came away saying she felt closer to him then she had in months. If that was the only person this helped, then it was definitely worth it.

Who in your life can you reach out to? Who might be struggling? Who might be going well but would still be keen for a chat?

Send them a message. Maybe something like “Hey … just wanted to check in. How are you going?”.

Or if you feel comfortable give them a spontaneous call. Or try and plan a call.

There are so many options, but the idea is simple. Reach out. Check in. Stay connected.

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