Friday, September 13, 2013

It’s Only Been, What, 25 Years?

I used to curse Facebook. I claimed I thought it was the stupidest thing ever. I had completely resisted myspace, opting instead to spend several years on Livejournal, which if I had any spare time I might revisit. But Facebook? Nope, was not going there. Truth? Too many people I did not want to find. Too many people I did not want to find me. Too many people, period. So many people. So many people I was curious about. So many people around me finding old friends. So many old friends I wanted to find. Maybe they would be ok with that. Maybe not.

I didn’t know how I would feel about this. I didn’t know how I would feel about where they were in their lives. I’ll confess—some of them were exes that had not ended in drama or disaster.

I caved. I signed up.

I started slow, friending current, real life friends. Fine, no problem. Then I started branching out into older friends. Mostly fine, a few never responded. Then I went farther back in time—and former relationship status.

It’s amazing who you find, who they are, and what you connect over. Not every jock remains a jock. Not every party-hardy-good-time-Charlie is still drinking and cussing. Not every gamer geek is still having three-day LAN parties, not every Alex P. Keaton is still sleeping in a suit and tie. Some of you are saying, “Well, of course not!” Some of you who still bear the scars of high school are nodding smugly. Some of you who look back wistfully at, “Remember when?” still wish they were. Some of you are so, so glad they are not.

I found an old dance company buddy after we hadn’t talked for roughly 20 years. They were a stellar singer/dancer/actor AND an elite runner. We have long chats now about what’s up with TV’s current dance shows.

I found an on-again, off-again boyfriend of several years who is married with a bunch of children. He was the life of the party. His life now centers around his baby girls. He’s also gone quite gray and bears little resemblance to his high-school self. He reconnected me to several other friends whose lives have gone in unexpected and utterly fascinating directions.

The eternal bachelor/boyfriend who swore he would never marry, never have kids, has a page covered with pictures of his daughter. If there is anyone who will max out his allowance of pictures, it is him.

I ran into a childhood friend at my father’s memorial lunch. He had been in and out of trouble as a teen but is now a music producer. We connected on Facebook, and I am so happy to see that he is still working in an industry he loves.

Two gents with whom I’d have to say, “It was complicated,” found me. We don’t talk very often, but there’s never been any mention of what was, or might have been, or could have been. I think it just doesn’t matter at this point. We relate to each other as the people we are now, not the people we were then.

An old roommate with whom I parted on very, very bad terms, who at the time had no goals and no direction, is in law enforcement, and about the last person I would have expected to go into that field. He is also a seasoned traveler, and has given me much advice since I’ve upped my time away from home.

I made a lot of acquaintances when I was on stage my many moons ago. Most of my fellow performers are on Facebook, and I’ve also gotten to know several of them far better in writing, online, than I ever could have in a noisy, crowded, backstage dressing room, or when we were jockeying for time and tips. A guy that I admired but barely spoke to back then is someone I now get to have lively—and sometimes utterly frustrating—arguments with.

I think that’s been the best thing about using Facebook as a way to reconnect. It’s helped me get over my fear of people from my past, made me more open to getting to know them again, because I’ve realized we are not those people anymore. We’ve grown up, moved on, and if any of them are holding a grudge, they’re not bringing it up. Myself, I’m not seeking out anyone I have a grudge against. That just doesn’t make sense to me. And it’s not just the men, but the women from my past that I’ve reconnected with—friends, roommates, exes—even when our old relationships were complicated, now the connections seem to have a lot less baggage.

Maybe it’s the fact that we don’t see each other in real life. Maybe it’s the arms-length friendships that technology allows. Maybe it’s that we have the luxury of not having to respond at that moment, or be forced by distractions to cut our answers short or not think about what we are saying. Maybe time has polished the rough edges of these old relationships and mellowed them, or erased the memories of whatever made them complicated in the first place. Maybe our use of technology to communicate, the ability to fine-tune what we say, has helped us master the art of avoidance.

I can’t answer for everyone, or anyone.

But in getting over my fear of communication with the past, I’ve opened myself up to a much more interesting present, and future.

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