Monday, October 19, 2009

The Magic of Social Networking

Wilkes Blvd 1972

I've had the most interesting thing happen in the past few months. I'm trying to process it, because it really is pretty amazing. I had a large group of very good "hippie" friends...some of which I met when I was a senior in high school and others of which I met in college. They were all sort of interconnected. We drifted apart after graduation and I gradually lost touch with all of them. I would think about them off and on, wonder where they were, what had happened to some of them. They were mostly "back to nature" type hippies and not very involved in drugs (at least by those day's standards!).

Well, one of the girls had a letter to the editor published in the New Yorker (!) a couple of months ago and that seems to have started something. I went on a very determined search for her online and finally found her using LinkedIn. I sent her an email and she replied! From her I was also able to get in touch with her sister (they're only a year apart in age and so we were all friends). At around the same time another person from this group found me on Facebook and we started catching up. From him I was able to get back in touch with two other people from this group, and it appears that this is going to lead to finding even more of them!

I'm kind of in awe of this happening right now in my life. These people were a huge part of my coming-of-age-and-growing-up process. I'm very happy to have reconnected with them and it seems that so far the ones I've found are happy, healthy and doing well! It’s funny far it doesn't appear that any of them are living anything close to a hippie life-style. We’ve all become middle-class members of society! Our 40th high school reunion is coming up in 2010. They are seriously talking about finding as many people from this group as possible that went to Parkway Central in St. Louis County class of 1970 and encouraging them all to attend.

1969-70 was really a volatile year to be a high school senior. It was the year of the Moratorium (protest marches for Vietnam), the year we broke the dress code (all the senior girls wore pants to school on the same day; they couldn't send ALL of us home, so the administration just sort of threw up their hands), the year of all the demonstrations and strikes on college campuses across the country, the year of Kent Parkway some of the "hippies" in this group decided that they would run for school office. These were people that had never been involved in school politics before, but to many people they represented all the outcasts, geeks, dorks and ignored kids that were looked down on by the "good" kids (or that's how we felt anyway, I know now that's not really how it is, kids like me were just invisible)....anyway, they won - president, vice president, etc of the senior class; all the major offices were taken over by the hippies!

The kids that had always won those offices in the past were very annoyed. They complained to the administration, saying it wasn't fair since the people that won didn't "deserve" to win because they had never participated in school politics before, but the administration said they had won fair and square and let the results of the election stand.

It’s funny to think of all of us showing up at a class reunion. I remember the night of prom (none of us went), we were all over at one girl’s house, very aware that it was prom night. Part of me would have loved to have gone to prom, and I think that at least among the girls there were similar unspoken feelings. We laughed about going to where the prom was being held and “crashing” it. Back then it was unheard-of for anyone to go to prom without a date, and even more unthinkable for a girl to ask a boy out. I’m very glad that times have changed this situation for teenagers now.

Most of the people in this group went to college at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. None of our parents had very much money so the state University was the obvious choice. By our sophomore year we were all living together in houses on a street called Wilkes Blvd. There we hung out together, rode our bicycles where-ever we wanted to go, smoked too much pot and dropped a little acid, and occasionally went to class.

As our college years continued, things began to change. People fell in love; some even got married. Some people started to excel in school and chose careers or graduate school as their next steps. It was harder for me in some ways. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I didn’t really want college to end. At the time I would have liked it if we could have gone on forever living on Wilkes and being college kids, but of course this could not be. Eventually even I made choices that took me away from Columbia, toward a new life.

Since this was before the age of email, some of us stayed in touch via letters and phone calls for awhile, but time and distance made this increasingly difficult. If not for email and Facebook I probably would never have talked to any of them again.

And now we are back in touch, exchanging emails and family photos. It’s kind of thrilling in a way. I’m so grateful for these tools that have reconnected me with old friends. Sometimes people kind of sneer at Facebook and other social networking sites. Granted they are a great way to waste time, and I’m certainly as guilty of that sometimes as the next person. But when something like this happens I find myself just amazed. Technology can be annoying at times, but it’s also magical. Our lives have been transformed by computers and I’m very happy to be able to experience its benefits!

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