strangers

One of the things I like about the Internet is connecting with people. One of the things I hate about the Internet is how easy it is for people, people you hurt or who hurt you or those casual acquaintances you never really knew well, to find you. I've recently started reading a blog called Ordinary Courage and I simply love what Brené says about this very thing. The process she talks about, the one where you try to figure out how to be a whole person instead of these little pieces of yourself is something I've struggled with for a while. When I remember time periods in my life, or friends from the past, I have a tendency to see myself frozen in time as if I were playing the role of myself at the time instead of thinking of how I've carried that version of myself and her experiences into my life in the present moment. I see myself in fragments, categories, labeled with dates and archived away in my memory.

I see myself now as a different person in practically every way than the timid high school poet with ponytailed hair and grass stained t-shirts who hung in the art room despite the fact she couldn't draw or sculpt or do very much artistically or the woman who fell in love and moved across oceans only to be ultimately disappointed with the person she was becoming. I separate myself from these versions of myself without realizing admitting that I am very much still the girl who wants desperately to fit in somewhere, the woman who depends on validation and love to feel alive.

I've written here in a way that purposefully distanced myself from experiences that, quite frankly, made me look bad or that I felt bad about. I did not want to still be reckless and irresponsible, though I did want to feel that alive again, only without the consequences or the hangovers. I feel, at 31, uncomfortable with how I've treated people in the past. I thought that at 24 I should have known better. And maybe I should have, maybe other people were more responsible, more together, more dedicated. Maybe they were a better friend. But does that mean I should discount the decade between then and now? I thought it did. I thought those versions of myself needed to be strangers. That I could not be Dr. Fitzgerald and those scared, wild, silly, desperate girls who lived with abandon and without apologies. Here I am, apologizing for them. I've always had trouble reconciling myself, afraid, I think, of who I would become if I did.

When someone sends me a friend request, I think about how they know me, which version of me they know. I recently accepted quite a few high school pals as Facebook friends and I wondered if I weren't being false in some way by doing so, particularly considering how happy I was to leave high school... why make those connections now? However, the requests I accepted were from people I did kind of like and I actually ending up seeking out a few people to say hi. One in particular, I really wanted to reconnect with because she helped through a really difficult time without knowing it and I felt that being Facebook friends was the least I could do. But it's weird, I admit, to see my "friends" list littered with people from various points in my life. I went to two different high schools and was, for the most part, two separate people. Yet, none of that seems to matter. I do not know if these people see me as successful or happy. I don't know what they think of little pieces of information they're fed. how these people see me or how they saw me in high school. Being a Facebook friend is like being a voyeur. I can see others' photos, updates, connections, to whom they're married or involved; I can peek in on their lives and allow them access to mine, controlled access, mind you. I can limit how much of my own life I share and I do. It's important to me to have some kind of handle on how I'm represented. I shape a version of myself that is me, but maybe not the entire, complete picture. Since I also have some of my students as friends, it's essential that I categorize which information which group can see. I think about it in this way: what would I tell the person if I ran into them at the grocery store? And that's the amount of information I let the categories see. I certainly wouldn't lead with my relationship status, though some absolutely do... "I Got Married... SQUEAL..." never appealed to me. Perhaps because it's a right denied me but that is a different story for a different day.

I suppose I'm thinking through this idea on a personal level as I've already theorized it in my dissertation. My personal take on being a Facebook friend and somehow a stranger is something I'm experiencing only as I've allowed acquaintances back into my life, well virtually.