In 1979 I graduated from Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, Virginia. Even though I was a nerd and a rather obnoxious Jesus freak for most of my high school years, I still have very fond memories of my time at KHS. But as I’ve written before in this blog, I tend to do a pretty poor job at maintaining old friendships. Some of my high school friendships lasted through my college years, but by the time I was in grad school my life had pretty much moved beyond Hampton, which had become to my mind basically just “where my parents lived.” I did go back for my 10th anniversary reunion in 1989, but haven’t made a reunion since… by the time I got married in 1993, not a single high school friend was at the wedding — not because of bridges burned so much as the sheer inertia wrought by the passage of time.
Anyway, about a year or so ago I discovered that two networking sites: LinkedIn and FaceBook, seemed to be fertile ground for re-connecting with old friends. And of the two, FaceBook is the better. Currently, I have FaceBook links to no less than fourteen old high school friends and acquaintances, ranging from several of my closest friends, to a couple of girls I secretly had crushes on (I was far too shy to actually act on anything like that back then, and no, I’m not going to say who they are now, either) to a few people I barely knew back then, but nevertheless felt a quiet thrill of kinship when adding them to my friends list today. And these folks are not just friends from my teen years: one I’ve known since I was in kindergarten, another since the third grade.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m suddenly reorganizing my social life around a bunch of people I haven’t seen in 30 years. I suspect that if we were to all see each other at a class reunion, we’d spend some time reminiscing and finding out whatever happened to so-and-so, but before too long the reality of how different our lives have become would settle in and we would retreat back into mostly polite small-talk. No, I’m not trying to be cynical here; just enough of a realist to accept that old friendships and present-day intimacy are both rare and precious gifts, which makes it all the more rare and precious if they should happen to co-inhere within the same person.
So the joy I’m taking in sending “Hi there!” emails to old friends and high school acquaintances is not so much about who I am now, as it is about perhaps redeeming myself from that bad habit I developed over the years — a willingness to let relationships go. I’ve always been the kind of person who had one or two close friends rather than many casual friends, and I think I just never figured out how to let old “close friends” gracefully evolve into casual “old friends.” Maybe it’s time for me to learn that it really is okay to let that evolution unfold with people who have meant a lot to me in the past, but who are no longer a part of my daily routine. It’s okay that friendships evolve that way, and it’s okay to stay in touch just here and there. The important thing is that we remain visible to one another, even in so casual a way, just so that we can take a small but genuine pleasure in checking in from time to time as the years continue to unfold. I think there’s some wisdom in there, that probably I couldn’t have figured out when I was 18. But this year I’ll turn 48, and so life does look a bit different now.
So to all my newly-re-connected friends on FaceBook: it’s good to be in touch. And if you run across anyone else from the great class of 1979, send them my way.