Doesn’t anyone stay in one place, anymore (pt I)

6 04 2009

‘Not all social networking stuff is bad, you know.’

C. may have even raised her eyebrows as she said it.

‘I know,’ I mumbled. ‘Hey, I blog, don’t I?’

Still.

Two things lead me to this point. One was this post by Meghan O’Rourke at XX Factor, how those of us old enough to have a past can be thrown off by the jumbling of time when one is friended by a memory. Sometimes I find it reassuring; at other times, extremely destabilizing, a vortex forcing me to contemplate years gone by, loves lost, friends I let go of without fully intending to. Sure, there are class reunions and gossip through whatever thin vines are left connecting one back to the old days, but reunions are fixed in time, recognizable as the artifacts they are.

But a poke from the past? As cool as I find quantum mechanics (what I can understand of it, I mean), I am utterly turned-off by the wormhole aspect of Facebook. It’s not that I hate everyone, or even anyone, from my past; it is that I am content for the past to remain so.

Yes, I rootch around in it, and sometimes memories come, unbidden, but I am ever aware of that distance between then and now—and of the panoply of feelings around that distance. Sometimes I am sad, sometimes relieved, or confused, or embarassed, remorseful, and sometimes I feel nothing other than I am not who I was.

There can be a poignance to this recognition. I am mortal, and will lose and gain and change as I move through this life, until there is nothing left of me at all. I can’t gather all my life in, live simultaneously as the happy third-grader or shattered teenager or tentative new adult. There are people I knew then who I don’t know now; what would it be to have them here, with me, now?

It’s not that there must have been a Reason for us to have parted; time and physical distance are as good an explanation as anything. We simply lost touch with one another, that’s all.

So why not get back in touch? I am, after all, still friends with two women who I’ve known since kindergarten, some others from high school, college, grad school, post-grad. . . if I can hang on to these people, why not throw another knotted rope to the past, in hopes of enticing the others to grab on?

I don’t know, really, that I have a good answer to that; I think it’s a why/why not choice, that is, one made less through reason than a shrug.

Perhaps I can only justify my choice after-the-fact, to say that this is what seems appropriate to me, what works for me. I need to have a sense of time, and to remind myself of the inevitability of loss inherent in time. It’s not about despair—some of what was lost deserved to be shed, and I am the stronger and saner for it—but about understanding, making sense of the trajectory of my life.

Would friending someone I knew in, say, 10th grade foul up that sense? I do wonder about some people, about KB and CM and SP and how and who they are, today, and have even thought about trying to get in touch with them.

But then what? We were tight then, and now we’re not. I am curious, but do I miss them? I miss what we had, but would we have it again? I don’t think so.

So why not take the chance, track down the old running buddies and confidants to see if there is still something there?  Am I afraid?

Again, I don’t think so. It’s more that my life is here, today, in New York City in 2009, and I need to make my life stick here, today, in New York City in 2009. Time spent with those I’ve lost is time not spent with those I’ve hung on to (and who’ve hung on to me), and those I’ve found.

And the people here matter. I like them and getting to know them, and letting them getting to know me. We can’t take anything for granted, can’t call up a shared past or a ‘remember when’ as we huddle over our beers. I have that with some people, but with these new friends, there is the frisson of wondering what to reveal and what will be revealed, of risk and anxiety and the delight in discovering that, yes, there is more than mere proximity to our relationships, that we are, in fact, friends.

O’Rourke noted that Sometimes I have an almost physical need to touch the screen and get past the pixels. I understand that longing, I do. I also understand the necessity of bearing such longing, and remembering that not all can be reconciled.

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