“You are shorter than I remember. And what’s that growing on your face?”
The man leaning against the railing on the street in Walnut Creek was an Army buddy from 45 years ago. I hadn’t seen him for at least twenty years but who else could it be. The voice hadn’t changed. In 1966 we were both 25 year old draftees into the Army doing Basic and Advanced Training at Fort Leonard Wood. Being 25 and in basic training with 18 year-olds is culture shock and finding someone in the same boat helped keep me sane through those traumatic months. It is amazing how just a few months together at a critical time can form a bond even if life and my personality flaws made it difficult to maintain that bond over time.
I had lost track of John until last year I found him again on Facebook – or he found me. Connections were cautious at first. It seems that I dropped the ball and John was cautious about making too much of being friends on Facebook. Then he posted that his wife and he would be making a trip to the West Coast ending in the Bay Area and I responded that I would like to get together for breakfast or lunch. This week I drove the 80 miles and we met, caught up with our lives and renewed the friendship we shared at Fort Leonard Wood long ago.
The miracle of social media to the rescue
Many people will tell you that Social Media is just a big waste of time or it is something just for kids. They joke about people relaying trivial events in their lives that no one cares about and make fun of people like me who are on Facebook at my age. They are wrong! I used to feel uncomfortable with those comments but not any more. Facebook has provided me a way to connect with people from my past and make my social life richer by adding interactions with people I don’t see every day. It even helps socially tone-deaf people like me become a bit more relatable.
I’m a loner by nature
I have never been a people person. I am uncomfortable and guarded with people. I don’t generally show emotion and I always find reasons to limit relationships, usually without being conscious of doing it. I don’t accumulate friends and manage to lose track of those that persist but now in the last part of my life I begin to see what I have missed. I am trying to be better with people and Social Media is helping me do just that. Today was a good example of how Facebook allowed me to reconnect with someone who was a good friend when I really needed a good friend and lost track of when life got complicated.
I wanted to cancel
My old fears took hold on the day of our meeting. I thought about all the reasons why I should just cancel the meeting. After all, at this stage in my life. what difference would meeting John again and talking about life then and now make? Clearly we would both go back to our regular lives after the meeting and with John in Illinois and me in California, we weren’t going to see each other regularly. So why bother?
This is the kind of limited thinking that has shaped my life so far; cautiously avoiding entangling relationships and uncertainties. It is the response of someone who is not a people person, someone who walks every path alone and doesn’t share. It is the person I have been all my life – needing people but not letting them into my life so that I won’t be let down. I can see that this behavior has limited my potential and at the tail end of life, I intend to fight it. So I went.
We reconnected easily.
John was easy to talk to- as always. He remembered much more about me than I about him. It was embarrassing to discover the old, selfish me and know that in spite of my shell, I had a real friend in John. Without Facebook, I might have lost that connection forever. We talked for two hours over lunch and then walked down Locust Street. I was reluctant to say good by but John had to get back to his wife and I had the long drive back home. So we shook hands and said good by.
Nothing is more important than relationships
My lesson from this meeting is that nothing matters more than relationships. I have discounted relationships all through my life, avoiding them and abandoning any that happened. It is a safe and controllable life that you create when you keep others out but empty and meaningless in the end. If it took me sixty years to learn this lesson, at least it wasn’t a lifetime. I have only let a few people into my life so far. I can’t afford to lose any of them now.
But this is not about me. How have Social Media helped you with relationships?
This was my personal reflection about friendship and Social Media. If it touches you in any way, I would love to know about it. Also if Social Media has made your life better, please share that as well.