Monday, March 2, 2009

Facebook and old friends

I bought my first computer in 1995. One of the first things I did on that computer was sign up for AOL. Chat rooms were popular and It was cool to be able to talk to people you didn't know about subjects you were mutually interested in. It was obvious how the personal computer would change the way people socialized and how it could be used as a tool to meet new people. But what I had no idea of then, was how the computer would be used to reconnect with "old" people, people from your past.

On February 2nd I had a reunion with the classmates that I went to school with from 4th- 8th grade. It sounds odd that anyone would care about those years (and I have had to explain it to more than a few people) but perhaps a bit of history may help. I was in the MGM program. It is now called GATE but then it was MGM which was an acronym for Mentally Gifted Minors. I remember being tested in the 3rd grade and deemed "gifted". There were 2 MGM schools in our district. Robinwood was 4th-6th and Circle View, 7th and 8th. Instead of some programs where you might have an advanced class for 1 or 2 periods at your normal school, all of the kids were bussed to a different school and all of our classes were "MGM" classes.

It is interesting to look back now and try to analyze how this affected me. I can tell you that when my oldest daughter, Brittany, was tested and accepted into GATE, her mother and I decided not to put her in the program because I wanted her to grow up "normal". This was a good 15 years ago, so perhaps my memories were fresher in my mind and I could tell you why I thought the cons out weighed the pros. But I do remember that it wasn't easy being segregated, even if it was for positive reasons.

There were plenty of positive things about the program, however. We went on amazing field trips to Catalina, Death Valley and Yosemite. We had great teachers. A few in particular that really stood out as creative and nurturing, and from talking to my former classmates, made real lasting impressions on us and shaped who we have become.

"Who we have become" I guess that is really what has been so interesting to me. Since we were all bussed to that school, once we graduated 8th grade we largely went separate ways. There were 4 or 5 different high schools in our district and we all scattered to them. We had BIG high schools with mine having close to 4,000 students. So unless you stayed friends with someone, there is a good chance you would rarely see them again. I didn't keep in contact with anyone from my MGM years except for one person, Alison, and that was because she was dating a buddy of mine from my new group of high school friends. The funny thing about high school and those friends is that we have stayed in contact and a lot of them are still my friends. But my MGM friends stayed locked in a sort of time capsule. I would only think of them in a fleeting moment when I would hear a certain song or, you know, when you smell something that triggers a memory. Yet I spent so much time with them and at such pivotal time in my life. Junior high, that awkward time when everyone is insecure and feels like an alien and everyone gets made fun of. There were other times when I would think of them and it would go something like.... "If they could see me now" or "I'll show that girl who laughed at me". Well, as you grow up and have kids of your own you understand how hard of a time junior high can be, and now, thanks to the internet, you can go back and see all of those people that helped shape who you are.

About a year ago, my friend Alison emailed me and said that she had found a couple of people on Classmates and was wondering if I thought anyone would be interested in having a little "MGM" get together. Her best friend, Jeanette, who was our classmate as well, has been coming out to run in the Surf City marathon the last couple of years and she was planning on coming out this year. Alison thought that it might be fun to see if we could get a few people together since she would be here. I said that that sounded like fun and I would see if I could get in touch with anyone as I had a Classmates account as well.

Wow! I had no idea what was about to happen, but I have one word for you, Facebook!

I'm not really sure how it happened so quickly but it was truly amazing. Everyone just came out of the wood work. I have been on Facebook for over a year but didn't really use it much and certainly had no idea it would become so useful. Each person seemed to know at least one person from our class and they would add them as a friend and then they would suggest them as a friend to you and it just kept replicating like a virus. I sat down one day and scanned in our 8th grade yearbook and a few class pictures and tagged some people. Well, then other people started tagging people and posting pictures and it was crazy. People I haven't thought of for years were right there. I never thought it would be possible to get in touch with these people again. I mean, high school reunion, yeah. But, that would have taken me going to 5 different reunions. I never thought it would happen.

Alison planned the reunion and we invited as many people as we were able to find, which I believe ended up being around 60 people. We had 42 students show up and 4 teachers.... yeah teachers! Someone figured out that we had 60% of our class there. We would have had more if we were able to find everyone. It was incredible. I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face. The strangest part was talking to people and having close to 30 years completely melt away. Now, understand that I am a pretty cynical person and actually think reunions and things like that are silly. I have no intention of going to my 30 year high school reunion. But, this was different. I have tried really hard to figure out why, and the best that I can come up with is that, since we spent 5 years together and then went our separate ways, it is more like we are army buddies or something. Almost like we all shared a common experience that bonded us somehow. We all knew what it was like to be "Special" (good or bad) for those 5 years and then go to a normal high school and have to readjust. It was fascinating to see how it affected us. I always assumed that all the smart kids would have ended up being doctors and lawyers. It is interesting how many of us ended up in creative fields, which now that I think about it, makes perfect sense since we were continuously encouraged to explore our creativity. Little things to, like I had forgotten that we played drums in the 4th grade. I only remembered starting in high school and I had completely forgotten about that. And all of the plays we did, it is no wonder why I became interested in music and acting. It is good to be reminded of who you are and where you came from.

It is also good to start new friendships, even if it is with people from your past. I have gotten such a kick out of talking to my new "old" friends. I have hung out with some of them already and it appears that we are going to all stay in contact and get together when we can. Next time, hopefully we will have all of the people that we were not able to find in time for this one.

Facebook is a great site and I have seen a lot of other people now posting elementary school pictures. I am happy for them because they are about to start on a wonderful journey. It does make me wonder though, as I was discussing with Brittany the other day. Now that kids are growing up with this technology, they will never have that same moment that I had, when I saw that first picture of my old friend from 30 years ago.


No comments: