I tend to share a lot of personal things on this site and there’s a good chance if you are in my life, your stories might find their way here. I always try to do my best to obscure the originator, since I’m just relating their story based on my own lens. That’s what people have done for centuries. They share each other’s stories, they tack on their own bits and push this collection of things to the next person. Entire civilizations have been built this way.
I contacted my friend last night because I was working on a chapter of the book that sampled heavily from a conversation we had at a New Years Eve party a few years back. We hadn’t visited in person for probably sixteen or seventeen years at that point, only keeping in touch via social media or Messenger. When I arrived at the party, it felt strange because everyone aged so rapidly from my memories of us all being in our early twenties to all of us being middle aged. I was like hanging out with everyone’s parents, pretending to be those kids I knew from so long ago.
As the night progressed, I was in the middle of a FOMO attack. That’s Fear of Missing Out. The woman I was dating at the time was off with “Friends” for New Years. Always so vague. It’s hard to be with someone like that, especially if you have trust issues. Especially when you find out later that these friends wanted to be a lot more. As I was moaning over not being included in this woman’s life, yet again, my friend–always the cool one of the group who did her own thing, made her mistakes, and somehow turned it around to seem like she had everything under control–gave me some perspective.
She said, “You used to be so cool and confident. Now you are sweating some basic bitch. What happened to you?”
It was a psychic ass-kicking, which I probably deserved from an evening of whining about my disasterous romantic interests. Back then, I was irritated by it. I had been through a lot. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was really worthy of anyone’s affection. It was always a constant struggle with my kids, who were caught in the middle of a high-conflict divorce. My oldest was peeled away from me the year before. The “relationship” I was in was toxic, since it mostly depended on whether or not she thought she wanted to spend time with me. I won’t even get into how my marriage served to break me down over the years to where I doubted everything about myself, and was still healing from that.
I had a lot of stuff going on, I guess. No, I wasn’t that cocky, confident guy at 20. I too had aged. I had my battle damage and I also wanted to know what the hell happened to me. In the years between getting married and finally filing for divorce, I lost everything. My friends. My family. I was isolated from all of my support systems, and made to think it was my decision. When you come back to people you lost a long time ago, your confidence is shot. It’s almost like you are apologizing. Asking for permission to be around them again. Not worthy of the love and respect they probably have waiting for you right where you left off.
She is living in a beautiful country right now, and I sometimes see the gorgeous photos of her travels in South Korea, with its colors and life that look like they are straight out of National Geographic. You see something like that and it’s hard to think they aren’t just having a blast. Last night as we were chatting, I caught up on a lot of her life via her blog. I’m a multitasker. I hadn’t even known she wrote one. Since this pandemic bullshit started, she has been physically cut off from friends and family, so she keeps up online. Like the rest of us, she has been segregated from her personal connections there too, with the hopes that social media and texts can still overcome that solitude. It works about as well as you’d expect. I mean we’ve all had our share of Zoom meetings.
Texts and emails are great, but they are no great substitute for a hug or sitting down and having a conversation. She really didn’t sound okay. In some ways, it was difficult to get her to engage in the conversation. I felt for her. Yet in some ways, I knew that it was like that New Years party. We were all catching up after a long hiatus. I remember that night and thinking “How come nobody checked to see if I was okay during those fifteen years?”
They didn’t know. When people are silent, sometimes the rest of us figure that they are just out there living their best life. We are hoping for that anyway.
We’ve gotten lazy. We rely on algorithms to deliver the news of our friends and family to our newsfeeds every day. Sure, we see a little bit, once we scroll through the ads for mattresses, soap, puzzle games, political punditry, and so much other static that permeates these little places we think are ours. Once in a while a crumb falls through the cracks, and we think of an old friend, and we click on their name and get to see this distorted reality of what their life is like. Usually the extremes of morose, desperately hopeful memes of encouragement, or sacharine pictures of their perfect lives. The truth is someplace in the middle.
I know that through my blog, I’ve seen the level of apathy we all have for each other these days. Back when I wrote on a LiveJournal account, we had networks of people dropping in to read each others’ posts. We would comment, have conversations. Some of my best friends are people I met that way and we have followed each others lives for over a decade now. There were no algorithms then. Just everyone’s stories laid out to share. What a time that was.
Very rarely though do people share like that anymore. We Tweet. We post one pretty picture on Instagram. We vomit our politics onto Facebook. We don’t call. We rarely text. And especially during this pandemic, we aren’t going to coffee or hugging or laughing together like we once did.
I was glad I reached out to say hi, to catch up a little bit.
Check on your friends. They probably aren’t okay.