The digital age has enabled us to stay connected with people much easier, or being able to re-connect with someone from your past. In the dark ages (pre-digital), if you had a friend that moved away (especially as a kid) you probably never saw them again. You might get a letter or two, but after a while your life moved on and they began a new one. In grade school I had a best friend and we swore we would always be friends. One summer I went away to camp and when I returned found out his family had moved out of town. That was it. Friendship over. The comet has left the solar system.
Today, if someone you know moves away, or changes jobs, or if you are a kid and make a friend at camp, you can still make instant contact with that person anytime. You can stay in the orbits of each other’s lives, and thanks to social media can passively keep track of each other, wish each other happy birthdays, hook up at a concert, etc. Basically, still be a part of the other person and their life.
Facebook is the great contributor to this new phenomenon. Today, you don’t have to wonder about that old high-school friend and how they turned out. You can check if the girl you had a crush on in 10th grade is still hot, or if the jock who bullied you got fat and now drives a truck. Thanks to Facebook, you can be “friends” with people that you grew up with that you never thought you would see again. And the irony of it now is that most of the people who didn’t like you or vice-versa, are actually pretty nice to be friends with. You share stories online, comment on each other’s family pictures, wish each other happy birthday, etc., something that would have been unheard of when you were growing up.
Some mysteries have been solved, thanks to Facebook and other forms of communication in our digital age. I may not actually SEE the people I grew up with, but we are now back within each other’s orbits and it has helped complete our lives. Perhaps we will get together again, and actually witness in person how we all turned out. Or maybe we will keep our distance, continuing with our current lives, content in the knowledge that not only did we turn out ok, but everyone else did as well.
It’s ok to look back, but don’t stare. The past is always back there, keeping a step or two behind.
They are in the corner of our eye.
People that come and go, in and out of our lives.
We may not see them every day, or even think about them more than once a month, or sometimes even less.
But they are always there, hanging on the peripheral of our daily activities.
We often forget about them, but then something happens that brings them back into focus.
Perhaps it is a memory, or a picture we see, or something they post on Facebook.
Or we see them at a wedding, or at the store and we are polite and make promises to get together.
Maybe we get a “hey, ‘what’s new, how are you” text.
And then we find out what has been going on in their lives, while they have not been part of ours.
And we find out that they are sick, or lost their job, or their mom has passed, or their kid did something great or perhaps got into some trouble.
And we weren’t part of it, or there to help them, to comfort them, to help get them through it.
And we feel horrible about it.
Not because we weren’t there, but because we were too busy to be there.
And then we feel guilty, and bad, and lament that so much time has passed.
Because it is not that hard to keep in touch with the people that mean something to us.
No matter how peripheral they may be.
A quick email, a quick text, a quick call.
Hey, how are you? Hope all is well. Let’s meet for lunch, dinner, coffee.
No pressure. Just a quick connect, let them know that they still mean something to you.
We should all do it before it’s too late.
Happy birthday to me. Woo friggin hoo.
Another lap around the sun. Another lap getting lost, wasting time, being productive some days and others not getting a thing done, and wondering what I want to do with my life when I grow up. Another lap of laughter and tears and happiness and grief and hard work and absolute amazement of the good and the bad in this world. Another lap wondering how Plan A is going, and thinking about Plan B, C, D, etc.
Being overly reflective? Yes. Less work years ahead of me than behind. Wondering about the career choices I made in my life. One kid out of the house and thinking about a different future for himself (and we told him, take the chances now before you get old and regret it, just make sure you can pay your bills), and another kid that will leave the house in the fall to start the next phase of his life.
I think it’s ok to reflect now; after all it’s MY birthday. I think its ok to wonder where it all went and what I could have or should have done differently. I know I am not alone. Not only us, but all of our friends have kids that our moving on and parents (those of us that still have them around) that are really aging and we are getting those aches and pains and sprains and tears and torn cartilage and more gray hairs, and we are beginning to see that we are not young anymore.
I DO have a lot of gratitude. I have an amazing wife, and two wonderful boys who make me proud, each in their own way, have a lot of close family, and am blessed with many dear and close friends.
We continue to take the laps around the sun. We don’t give up. We continue to go through the everyday grind of life. We get up in the morning and go to work each day (paraphrasing The Boss), we take care of our chores, and we pay our bills, and fold the laundry, and call the plumber and go to our kid’s games. And in all of that chaos it is so easy to forget to take a minute and smell the flowers blooming in the spring and pull out of the bottom of our pocket the good things in our lives that often get pushed there by all the crap that we have to do.
Enjoy life, it’s too darn short. Today is my birthday. Happy birthday to me.