“You don’t realize who’s thinking of you at any given moment,” wrote my friend Stephanie, who I met in the sixth grade about three decades ago, in an online message. When I told my 10-year-old daughter I was going away for the weekend to visit my friend from junior high school, she asked, “What grade would you be in now?”
“Um, the 41st grade?”
Well, let’s not talk about THAT, shall we? Come to think of it, I wasn’t a whole lot older than my daughter when I met Stephanie. We’ve managed to stay connected through all these years. In fact, I have quite a few friends like that, including the great guy I married after we’d led separate lives for 30 years. But I didn’t know so many friends ever thought of me until we connected on social media. It’s not like the old days where you kept in touch with people by writing letters – if you were lucky enough to have their address. Now we can monitor our friends’ lives by simply trolling their FaceBook pages. There’s no need for a lot of catch-up because we’re pretty informed of everything that’s been going on. Stephanie was planning to fly to South Texas in the coming weeks. Since I was regularly traveling to Central Texas from my home near the Dallas metroplex, I thought we could meet halfway for dinner.
“I’ll drive to you if it only means we have time for a hug,” I messaged Stephanie. Little did I know, I was committing to a seven hour round trip. As it turned out, we spent three unforgettable hours together. Social media cannot possibly replace this connection.
The drive home gave me time to reflect. There was a period in my life when I was struggling with suicidal depression and honestly believed there was no one out there who cared about me. It was nearly impossible for me to reach out to anyone because I was experiencing so much emotional pain. In the beginning days of my recovery, I learned to reach out to only two people. Slowly, over a few years, I began to connect more. Finally, I’ve reached a place in life where connecting with people is effortless. It has taken a lot of work.
If you’re feeling like it’s hard work to reach out to other people, I encourage you to look for just one effortless connection to a friend. Maybe you have to be the friend first. Maybe you have to practice on a stranger in a grocery store. That’s the work! The key is to figure out how to connect with people in a way that makes you comfortable so that repeating the process becomes effortless. Your best connections are the ones that energize you. You feel glad you made the effort. It’s like a good workout at the gym – it exercises your body and gives you energy at the same time.
There’s a bookmark that I keep in the top drawer of my nightstand, given to me long ago by my friend Stephanie. On the back of it she wrote, “remember me always.” I have done that. But I had to make the effort to find out that through all these years, she had remembered me too.
This is a repost from an earlier version of my blog. Thanks to Stephanie Patterson for permission to use her profile picture. Photo credit: Josh Patterson