‘Social media’, as they say, is an interesting thing. A fascinating communication tool. I am certain there are very studious types out there writing dissertations on it at this very minute. . . .
For me, social media has reconnected me with people I, with no ill feelings, had probably expected never to see again. Sometimes, those connections were short-lived: that funny cool guy from high school is actually a vile racist thug, thanks-but-no-thanks; friends of my parents who clearly don’t respect my space as an adult, maybe-best-to-keep-it-with-the-folks; super cool girls from college, turns-out-we-still-have-nothing-in-common. . . .
Sometimes, though, those connections bring a whole new pleasure to my life: friends, real friends, I had had bust ups with for stupid reasons are now back to my enormous joy; people I never really knew but always knew of are now people I feel quite close to, supportive of, and supported by; and people from the depths of Alabama are now back in my life. . . .
But, communicating, no matter how intensely, via a screen and the interweb is never ever going to be the same as sitting down for a chit-chat in real life.
So, when I point the car south on a warm September morning, heading for lunch with one of these new-old friends, it’s not without a fair degree of nervousness.
I get nervous about having to have face-time with anyone but the man. My head is not designed to allow interpersonal communication to wash over me. Approaching these situations requires pep-talks and deep breathing. Recovering involves full blown adrenaline rushes and hours of recovery time.
There is a reason I keep to myself.
But this, this today, this I am excited about. Nervous, but excited.
The man I am going to meet – because he is now a man, just as I am now a woman – I have not seen in 30 years. Literally. 30 years. I find it difficult to accept that I have existed for longer than 30 years, let alone that I can be reconnecting with someone after that long.
Our communication during this time has been exclusively via the facebook – and that has been only over the last four or five years.
Neither of us has any idea what to expect.
But, you know, there is something about sitting across from someone with whom you share a history that wipes away a lot of years.
Especially when you have a history like ours.
Of course, our history is different. I left our small town when I was 14; he finished high school there. My family moved from that town the year after I did; his family is still there.
And, there is the fact that I am ‘white’, and he is ‘black’.
Still, our history is more alike than it is not. The fact is we grew up in a town with no hope. Small, very small, small in so, so many ways. Poor. Poor like people don’t realise ‘America’ can be. Closed off. Ignored. Invisible.
And now, we’re not there.
And we’re happy about that.
And that makes us feel odd.
So sitting across from each other, catching up, filling in the 30 year (30 year!) gap is bizaarly easy and comfortable and safe.
I meet people now, in my new life, who can never understand where I came from. It’s not that they don’t care or don’t try, they are simply incapable.
I see people now, from my high-school years, people also from Alabama, who still comment on my accent or the hick-town I came from.
There is none of that here. Nothing to explain. No fear of judgement. Just a shared and common history and a lot of years to talk about.
We’ve done well, he and I. Our present is better than our past, and we both look forward to a future that is even better.
Despite the post-face-to-face adrenaline rush and the exhaustion of person-to-person time, I am happy I’ve done this.
I am grateful someone would give up hours of his day to catch up with me.
I am delighted by our shared ‘success’.
I feel optimistic.
Then, I continue my drive south. . . .