Lately I’ve been reconnecting with a lot of old friends and acquaintances via Facebook. Seemingly every week there is a new friend request from my best-friend-from-4th-grade’s younger sister, or someone whose name I immediately recognize as belonging to one of my junior high school classmates. It’s funny how in the excitement of coming across someone you haven’t seen or spoken to in 15 years (and in the eagerness to see what their grown-up version looks like – I usually go straight for the photos after I add a new friend), the actual relationship you had with this person doesn’t seem to matter. I may remember that my new Facebook friend ditched me in 5th grade to hang out with the popular kids, but I don’t harbor any resentment now. Time has made us all equal in a strange way, and while some of us have racked up multiple degrees (and yes, that does make me feel a *tiny* tinge of resentment *sometimes*) we are all in that limbo between youth and adulthood known as the mid-twenties.
As a twenty-six-year-old who married this summer, and who was the very very first of all her close friends to do so, it’s interesting to see that a healthy number of my grade school classmates have married as well, and a sprinkling even have young children. Having been in the same grade in school, we are now in various phases of life, but many of us seem to share the same dilemmas, as well as accomplishments. One friend, who went to the same schools as I did from Kindergarten to eighth grade, moved back to the Bay Area to be with her boyfriend, but is working 13-hour days at a corporate job that doesn’t always float her boat. Another is trying to get a photography business off the ground. Yet another is an attorney who claims to loathe her job but is engaged to a man she loves and generally seems happy about life.
The typical exchange goes something like this: after the ‘friendship’ has been established in typical social networking style, one person writes on the other’s wall something like, “Wow, it’s been so long! What have you been up to?” The other person summarizes the last 15 years in about 300 words, and returns the serve. The other person summarizes similarly, and comments that the other “looks great” in their profile photos. Usually contact does not proceed beyond this point.
I bring this whole topic up because I’ve been interested in how I’ve summarized my life when communicating to these old acquaintances. Usually it goes something like this: I went to college in Washington state. I moved back to the Bay Area to finish up my degree in Oakland. I’ve worked in various capacities in education, but right now I work at a web technology company. It’s a cool and exciting place to be, but somehow it’s not lighting my fire right now, and I long to get more education, possibly in the area of English. My husband teaches high school English, so it’s not, um, an entirely original idea, but that shouldn’t get in the way of my dreams, right? Well, I’m not really sure it is my *dream*, but I do know that the more time I spend in the business world, with its trade shows and booth girls, and strategic espresso makers, the more I feel like my home might be in academia or in a classroom. Maybe this is the logical progression for anyone who can’t seem to stomach meetings or corporate speak, or even comprehend it. Sometimes I think that for me, going into the world of education is a cop out. Not because it promises an easy career (as I know teachers work their tails off) but because it doesn’t require any stretch of the imagination for me. I can see myself in a classroom (indeed I’ve taught in a few) whether it be in diverse community college setting made up of students of all walks of life, or in a nice high school somewhere where the kids won’t rip me to pieces. What I cannot imagine (not because I don’t want to, but because I actually have trouble forming the mental picture) is me in a business suit giving a Powerpoint pitch to a bunch of investors.
Ok, so I digressed from my typical Facebook email: usually it would include references to my two dogs (whom I adore), my June wedding (which was fantastic fun), and my new husband (whom I adore and whom I will write more about in the future). However I’ve noticed the career crisis/WTF-am-I-doing-with-my-life theme seeping more and more into what should be polite and superficial email exchanges with people I haven’t spoken to since junior high. Why do I risk TMI with people I barely know? Because I think they can understand. Being my age puts them in the same boat of struggling to support themselves, wondering if it’s worth incurring a decade of debt to acquire a new degree, and navigating new levels of adult relationships. It’s a frightening, sometimes depressing and sometimes exciting territory and I long to find sameness with others who are going through the same thing.