Last year we had a flood in our basement which lead to opening boxes that have not been touched in 20 years. As I tried salvaging what was not ruined, I looked through piles of high school and college memorabilia. I found old journals, photos, report cards, trophies… my past life. It made me stop to reflect on who I was and who I have become. These were reminders of memories and people I cared about long ago. Important friendships. Teachers who inspired me to believe in myself and do my best. Coaches who made me work harder (in volleyball and lacrosse). It is amazing how much you do and do NOT remember. Embrace it all, the good and the bad, which helped mold you into who you are.
How embarassing to admit that I did not have email upon graduating from college. Living and working overseas in London, United Kingdom, for 10 years, also contributed to the time lapse and lost friendships. Having lived in 3 Countries, 5 States and multiple Cities, and countless number of homes, I have no roots to speak of. I am uncertain of how to answer the question, “Where are you from?” I did not realize that I grew up compartmentalizing different stages of my life and moving on without looking back or even saying goodbye.
With the help of LinkedIn (a high school friend found me) and finally joining Facebook after years of reluctance, the floodgates literally opened. FB instantly connected me to people I have not been in touched with… people I have wondered about and people I may have forgotten (since my high school yearbooks have been lost in transition). I posted a photo of my family of 4 and a synopsis of our life in the last 20 years on FB. However, I use my FB account primarily for business purposes.
George Orwell, is this the “Big Brother” society you described in your novel 1984, which you wrote in 1949? Perhaps. Alternatively, on the positive side, I am using social media to make some of my renewed connections MEANINGFUL. How ironic.
My husband said to me, “Don’t you think your friends would be happy for you (learning what has happened in your life)?” His advice was invaluable and helped me get pass my apprehension of reconnecting with people.
I exchanged emails and phone numbers with friends. Spoke to old friends over the phone, as if time had not passed. Visited with friends in person to introduce them to my family and to meet their respective families. Such reciprocated and genuine feelings of appreciation for finding each other and being happy for one another. I realize that the majority of people have lost touch with their high school and college friends.
I organized a college reunion and invited people I found in a photo album I had made of my freshman and sophomore years. Even a friend who lives in Hong Kong is coming. Inside my album, there were photos of a freshman friend from Vermont. I will always remember him because he asked me what I would look like “without all that stuff in my hair.” I said, “I don’t know?” Yes, I grew up in the suburbs of New York City and my true sense of self was hidden behind the lofty perm and hairspray of the 1980s era. That summer I cut off all my permed hair and I am relieved to say that I have been hairspray-free ever since, plus I met my future husband that fall of sophomore year. Thank you, Nathan.
WHY NOT REVISIT YOUR PAST? Think of it as a FRIEND Challenge or FRIEND Detox – whatever works for you. All the bad that happened in the past? How can you even remember it after all these years? If you did something wrong that you may not remember but your friend does – APOLOGIZE. Perhaps there is someone you did not know well and you will be surprised to find out how much you have in common. This is your second chance at friendship. Set aside all your preconceived ideas of who you thought or think the person is. You will hopefully be pleasantly surprised and wish you can get to know him or her better. I have proved to myself that it is never too late with affirmations such as, “How could I forget (you)? I forgot plenty of other things, but thankfully certain people make lasting impressions.”
It was a pleasant surprise to discover how a past crush felt about me, “So after all of these years, I feel the need to apologize to you (or at least to myself). Back in high school I was such a dork and so awkward that I never let you know that I had a crush on you… And even if you didn’t have mutual feelings, I thought you’d like to know that you have that affect on people.” Such unexpected honesty especially from a man? How ironic that we admitted our feelings 20 years too late with both of us married with children. Alas, it was not meant to be, but there is a lovely innocence about revisiting the past. I appreciate my old friend’s candor. My husband is secure enough to encourage me to have male friendships. As you read this, your significant other may not approve.
My advice – FIND THAT OLD FRIEND.
Invite a friend to connect on LinkedIn and/or send a (FB) friend request
Write an email or FB message (then ask for an email address)
Make plans to talk on the phone or better yet, meet in person
If you do not take a chance and follow the simple steps above, don’t you think it’s kind of creepy looking through a ‘Friend’s’ photos without even saying hello? Yes, it is. Whatever happened to etiquette or shall I say, netiquette? A FB friend is not necessarily a real friend. You know the difference, right? Fiction vs. Reality (or a false sense of it).
I found a friend through FB. Learned that she owned a bakery near where I went to high school and watched her how-to videos. Called the bakery to ask if she would be there. I was taken aback when she actually picked up the phone. I said, “Hello. Not sure if you remember me (from 20 years ago).” She said, “Of course, I do.” I hung up the phone, got in the car, and my family and I drove 2+ hours away. There we were with my old friend, who gave us a tour of her bakery, and introduced us to her husband who she met at the bakery, and now manages their family business. I then proceeded to show my family the house where I lived, my high school, the town, etc. – they loved learning about me prior to becoming a wife and mother.
I shared a journal entry that I found about a former college roommate. Her reply to me was, “Although I have never been one to keep a journal (sigh), I still have the same feelings about you. I truly value your friendship and am so happy we have reconnected.” Words to cherish and not take lightly. I’m very thankful to have found my old friend, who married a mutual friend from college. It was comforting to learn that we both married our college boyfriends. What a shame that we lost touch for so long, but we are looking forward to a future of being a part of each other’s lives once again. Our children befriended each other quickly as if they were old friends.
MAKE THE LEAP AND TAKE THE JOURNEY
If you make an effort and your old friend makes a mutual effort, then that was a friendship worth salvaging and one to continue to nurture. If not, move on. There is nothing worse than a one-sided friendship.
Step outside of your chaotic life, reach out and tell someone you used to know that you have always wondered about him/her. At the very least, you will make him or her smile. Our lives are enriched and made purposeful through our relationships with family and friends (new and old).