Over the years, throughout the six or so cities I have called home, a letter or email would come from my high school reunion committee. For awhile, they even seemed to lose track of me—not a hard thing to do—as I have moved more than any one person I know. I was fine with that. I really had no desire to revisit an extremely awkward time in my life—and all the players seemed frozen in time-just as we all were then. That was fine by me, too. In a way, it made me feel better. At least back then, so many people expected so much of me—so many high hopes. If no one knew differently, I had achieved everything I was supposed to. So much so that I couldn’t be bothered to make it into town for a visit with old friends, past acquaintances, and school crushes.
The truth was, of course, completely the opposite, at least in my eyes. I imagined a party—all the familiar faces, and whispers behind plastic drinking cups about one another. How wonderful so-and-so looked. How so-and-so hadn’t changed a bit. And of course what people would think of me. Not married, a bit uncertain of my future, and weighing a few more pounds than I would have liked.
So when several close friends began encouraging me to join Facebook, I wasn’t the least bit interested. At the time, the only real social networking I was familiar with was My Space, mainly through my friend’s teenage children, and the thought of anyone my age spending time online for such a purpose seemed ludicrous. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to do such a thing. What a waste of time.
As one of my friends went on to explain status updates and how you could share what you were doing at any given moment—I thought surely she had lost her mind. Who does this?
I can’t remember when I finally took the leap, although I think it might have been to prove to that very friend (and myself) what a bunch of nonsense the whole thing was. And at first, it did seem that way to me.
Then, a few friend requests popped up. Some faces I instantly recognized, others sent me to my bookshelf to find my yearbooks, turning pages—remembering—and a bit shocked that some of these people remembered me at all. I had felt invisible for a lot of high school and there was something revealing in knowing I was seen.
As my friend list grew, I rekindled relationships with people from my past, kindergarten classmates, friends of friends…acquaintances I met through past jobs, through travel, and through the other random moments in life. I found children I was a nanny for in college, all grown up with the same three year old grin hidden somewhere in their expression, and magically recreated in their own toddler’s faces.
It became all a little bit—captivating. No longer were all these people frozen in time---judging me and what I hadn’t done—it startles me to think how self centered and more than a little paranoid that thinking was. My own fears made me believe no one could see past well, the past, when it was me that was stuck in time, forgetting that we all step through trap doors, miss our chances, take new directions. We all do. And we become who we are because of it.
Even my closest friends that I stay in constant contact with have become dearer to me. I do know what they are doing at any given moment when they feel like sharing, and it is a gift. I no longer just hear from Judith through emails or the occasional call. I know that she just got great news, or shares pictures of her son’s visit from college, and I get to be a part of her life again—just as I did when I lived around the corner from her in Atlanta, even though we now live five hours apart.
I join in my friends' joy as they add to their families and share pictures of moments I would have otherwise completely missed. I see us all growing up, doing everything all over the map. And all my paranoid visions of judgment are laughable now. The love and support from people I once only knew from Algebra class and school field trips now encourage me before a job interview or send snarky comments to me when I need to laugh. My heart swells when someone is in crisis, or worries in the ER for a sick child, and a group of Facebook warriors from all across the globe keep thoughts and prayers flowing through message after message lighting up the screen at all hours. It has been a learning experience, and for any naysayers about social media, there is something so connected, real and genuine about it all, and I can honestly say it has enriched my life.
In those small snippets of text that grace the main pages, there is humor, wisdom, sadness, and acceptance. And for me, there has been more. It is how I met the person I love. Through careful steps, shared memories, and more than a little trepidation, we got to know each other. And I am absolutely certain I would never have been able to open my heart any other way. Coming from a shared background, knowing his past, him knowing mine, others knowing both of us (and encouraging a romance)—it was the perfect formula for me to step back into the world of trust.
And I did, one status update at a time.