Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Facebook, therefore I am...

Okay, perhaps that's a mite on the hyperbolic side, BUT, I do have a crazy mad love affair with Facebook. Not only because I can pop online for 30 seconds and see that my friend Kathleen, who works at the Smithsonian National Zoo in DC , has just let the zebras out into their yard, or because I can send 'get well' soon wishes to a high school class mate I've not seen in almost twenty years, but because Facebook reminds me of who I am, both past and present.

I'm probably like most people in that I've gone taken lots of different paths to who I am today. I've lived in a variety of places, taken up quite a range of interests, and held several different jobs. Along the way, I've encountered hundreds of people who have become little pieces of my history. Finding those people, or being found by them, on Facebook, has created for me a glimpse at my life story.

I look at Cristyn, my oldest friend, who lived down the street from me in Milford, NH. All of my earliest memories have something to do with Cristyn; either staying up late at her house while our parents played cards in the basement, or trying to sing the entire theme song to Laverne and Shirley without dissolving into fits of laughter. Her garage door once closed on my head as I tried to roller-skate under it. We fell out of touch by the time we were fourteen years old. But I typed her name in early on in my Facebook days and POOF! After decades, here she is, back in my life, and we're posting notes about silly things we used to do as children and finding pictures from those days, doing a whole lot of "do you remember this???!!!"

In some ways, remembering my own childhood through the eyes of this long-lost friend (who, incidentally, only lives about an hour away from me here in LA now), is helping me appreciate Ethan's childhood more. Who will his best childhood friend be? And what kinds of memories will he be laughing about should he have the good fortune of reconnecting with that person years down the line? Or even better, if he never loses touch with them in the first place?

High school wasn't necessarily the "best years" of my life, as many people claim it should be. I struggled to find a place to fit, and given the fact that my class consisted of forty-four girls, forty-four teenaged girls, it, shockingly, had the capacity to be lion's den of cattiness and back-stabbing. Fitting in wasn't always an option, even among the group of girls I considered to be my closest friends. I found one or two of them shortly after joining Facebook, but initially I cringed when an Alumae group was formed and suddenly my "friend request" box filled up with requests from girls I hadn't seen in almost twenty years; some, girls I hadn't really been all that close with back then. Some girls who had been, at one time or another, outright mean to me.

But what does twenty years do if not soften over the scars of adolescents? Now that many of us are mothers, we have found a new common ground on which to communicate. In adulthood, and given the passage of time and the spans of distance that separate many of us, there is no "in" crowd, there are no "nerds". We are all just women who have a shared history of those four years and an endless supply of hilarious pictures with which to utterly and totally embarrass each other in a good-natured way we could never have appreciated when our egos were so young and fragile.

The one thing high school did give me is the prerequisite "love triangle". The best friends in hot and heavy "like" with the same guy. And of course, it has to be the alternative dude with the groovy 80's hair, a la Pretty in Pink "Ducky". Yes, it is the cliche, the story for the ages. In high school, my best friend and I competed for the attention and affections of the same boy. Thank goodness we all went to different schools or it could have been a bloodbath of teenage angst and malaise. Best friend and I broke up over said boy. Said boy broke up with best friend for me. Then broke up with me for best friend. Then broke up with best friend for some other girl entirely. Best friend and I made up. Said boy comes skulking back. Lather, rinse, repeat.

And yes, both said boy and said best friend are on my "friends list", integral parts of my daily "what's up with so-and-so today?!" We've even had glib little back and forths, the three of us, laughing over those days and how ridiculous we all were. Not that any closure was really necessary, but I really believe that laughing at yourself is good for the soul. Having them both close at hand, even if only via a series of tubes (that is what the internet is, right?), makes my heart happy.

Scattered throughout my friends list, there is also the jumble of people who make up the memories of my professional life. Although, after over a decade of teaching, I sometimes have to think for a second--"is that a former co-worker or former student?" when I get a friend request. Receiving messages from people I still think of as 14 years old, to find out that they are now in their late 20's, married, with kids---wow. I guess, given that I was their English teacher, it does my heart good to see complete sentences and coherent thoughts (not that I can brag about always having those things in my own writing, but still...). It makes me feel old. But old in a good way (is there such a thing?)

As a teacher, you generally see the same 120 faces for 180 days and then they disappear--off into the world of either someone else's class room, or some other school, or college, or wherever their lives take them. As the years go by, those 120 students turn into 1000's of students whose lives move on without you and from whom you will most likely never hear again. It's been nice to get that rare opportunity to reconnect with the life of someone you hopefully inspired or influenced, or at least educated, in some way. And to see them as adults, having made whatever they have out of their lives, whether its a fabulous parent, or the head of a law firm, or a humanitarian, it is beautiful to see who they have become.

True, I mostly use Facebook to check on the status of playdates for Ethan or to touch base quickly with close friends both here and back in DC or even NH, but even that has woven it's way into my daily sense of who I am. Sure, it's just one more way of communicating in our technologically bloated society, and there'll probably be something that comes along in the next few years that makes us all chortle that we ever engaged in something as pedestrian as status updates and "friending" people. But for now, I'll happily pop on a few times a day and see what everyone is up to, maybe take a few minutes to comment here and there, and let anyone who's interested know what we're up to. And at the same time, I'll spend a moment or two to remember and appreciate all the paths I've taken to bring me to who I am today. I can find them all in that one little space.


gringa said...

Finding you on Facebook is a whole new side of you that I'm enjoying getting to know.

Leap Year Dad said...

Yes, it was amazing how clueless we were (okay, I was) back then and the squandering of friendships and the heavy "likes". The payback is that I have a daughter now, to be protective of, and to hear how her heart was trampled on by some clueless clod.

Someplace, I think I still have Sally on a swing, looking for a push from her big brother.

Amy said...

You know I love being your FB friend! And the high school pictures have been HILARIOUS to see. :)

KMW said...

Wouldn't it be awful if we peaked in high school? I don't trust anyone whose best years were their high school years! Maybe that is an overstatement, but you get my drift:)

Alice said...

I am a total facebook addict. I love "seeing" people I haven't in years. You are so right, it's like a mini history of your life on the internet.

Tress said...

I blame you wholeheartedly for my fb addiction. Thank you.

And Ducky? Well you may have had Ducky, but I still have the arm of a movie theater seat around here somewhere...and Breakfast Club in my living room...and a rose from 7-Eleven...oh wait, is this rivalry supposed to be over now? :)