Don’t You Wish You Had Facebook Memories Your Whole Life?
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I essentially blame it for completely "dumbing down" our society and contributing to a perceived (but real, to a degree) division in our unity. However, I do appreciate its power to do just the opposite. It can and routinely does connect us to the people of our pasts. Unfortunately, I was living a significant part of that past just before the explosion of the internet and I left behind a life I am struggling to connect to- even in this age of social connectivity.
I graduated from the University of Louisville in May of '95. Within three weeks of graduating, I packed my bags and headed off to San Diego, California with my then boyfriend. His friend Suzanne (or did she spell it "Susanne"?) was living in her brother's townhouse just above Mission Valley. He was in the Navy and was living on a ship for a couple of years and Suzanne needed a roommate. With us, she got two. So, off we went. I literally called my parents and said, "Uh, hey. I am moving to California at the end of the month."
And we did. Just like that. We packed everything we could into two cars (a Geo Metro and a Ford Aspire), drove across the country and set up a new life in southern California.
Because we had both worked at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Louisville while we were in college, we were able to transfer to the location in downtown San Diego. That was certainly a plus. We were guaranteed jobs when we got there, immediately started forging new friendships, had a great townhouse and were quickly settling in to our new life on the coast.
And that life was great until it wasn't. A very unexpected decision to end our relationship lead to a crash course in soul searching and life planning. I made the decision to apply to graduate school at NYU. Speaking frankly, I wasn't convinced that I cemented enough roots in San Diego to justify stay there. So, when I was accepted into grad school in New York City, I made the decision to pack up my car and head back the way I came. I said goodbye to a few of my friends (not all of them) and I left. Vanished, really. And now I can't fully remember those friends to find them. I want to though.
I never lost touch with my friend Beth. Shortly after arriving in San Diego, I applied for a job with J*Company, the youth performing arts division of the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla. Beth hired me to be her assistant. We hit it off instantly and she and I are still great friends today.
Coincidentally, Beth rolled out of San Diego shortly after I did. She moved to Brooklyn, married her high school boyfriend and set up a new life of her own. Thankfully, I get the chance to see her at least once a year and it's always a blast. I'll be seeing her in a couple of weeks.
Thanks to social media, she and I have also been able to find some of the kids who were in our theatre program and shows. Beth and I spent endless time with those J*Company kids. We taught them theatre and music, directed them in shows and show choirs, held summer camps for them and took them on field trips.
We have this photo from Six Flags Magic Mountain just north of Los Angeles. I am pretty sure we snapped this photo in the line for the ride Superman.
We were there the day that MTV was broadcasting live from the ride's big debut. Beth, some students and I ended up in a segment with Carmen Electra. The kids were PUMPED!
Those kids are all now adults. A lot of them, and this is genuinely hard to fathom, have kids of their own. Social media has given me the chance to stay in touch with some of them and beam with pride over their accomplishments.
There's Lauren (a new mom and filmmaker), Samantha (who's a professional actress and about to tackle a role in the musical Ragtime), Carrie (who played Dorothy for us in The Wiz and now is a mom to multiple kids of her own), Katie (who moved overseas and built an amazing life for herself in Asia) and Mark (who recently married Mateus, whom he lovingly refers to as his "panda"). There's also Sara Jacobs (who's now a U.S. Congresswoman).
These kids lived up to our expectations and hopes for them. I can't say enough about them and I love being able to share in their lives via social media. But Facebook can't bridge that gap in my memory because it wasn't around then.
There are the people that I am struggling to remember and can't. There's my friend Nancy. She came to our townhouse for Thanksgiving. She couldn't wait to eat some turkey that day and watch football. In her words, "I need to hear the crunch of helmets." We also went to the race track at Del Mar together. I specifically remember that she developed colitis and was homebound for months because of it. When she was finally able to get out of the house, I drove to get her and took her to eat her very first "restaurant" meal in months. I even remember where we went. We went to a burger place in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood. Nancy was amazing and funny and fun. I want to find her and connect, but, for all those things I do remember, I cannot, for the life of me, remember her last name.
Then, there are Art and Gail. I worked with them at the Old Spaghetti Factory as well. They were working there while Art was going to law school. At the time, they had a newborn too. And, much to Gail's dismay, Art bought a BMW motorcycle. Before he bought the bike, I used to give Art a ride home from work. And I am pretty sure he had family in Kentucky or Tennessee. Again, I remember much about them. But I can't remember their last names.
There's Dan. I worked with him too and I distinctly remember him going south of the border one weekend and getting arrested. I am pretty sure my memories of that are more hilarious than his. He spent a few days in a Tijuana jail and came back to work convinced he should never make that mistake again.
There was Omar, who was training to be a professional wrestler. And Elaine. She and I used to play tennis together. There's Gavin. He and I did too. He was a classmate of Alexandra Stevenson, who went on to be a semifinalist at Wimbledon.
And, then, there are the folks that I used to work with at the JCC. There's Sandy and Gwen and Linette (spelling?) and Neeley (spelling). It was Neeley who introduced me to the delicious "apples and honey" tradition of Rosh Hashanah. I wonder where they are and what and how they're doing.
San Diego seems like a lifetime ago. I suppose it was. But I still have fond memories of my friends there and wish I had a way of conjuring up the past so I could bring them with me to the present. I wish Facebook Memories could reach back in time beyond the advent of Facebook. Of course, it can't. And, sadly, all those memories I have seem like they're destined to remain memories. I wonder if those people from my past think of me like I think of them. I wonder if they ever think, "Hmmm, I wonder what that Chad guy is doing these days."
I have so much I want to share with them about me and things I would love to find out about them. I suppose the first step is actually finding them and making that connection that broke over 25 years ago. I remember a lot of things from that life and I cling to those memories, because the reality is this. I don't remember enough.