I stumbled across a hashtag on Instagram this past weekend which read: #onlinefriendsareREALfriends
I found it humorous because obviously a hashtag like that wouldn’t have been created unless someone felt the need to validate an online friendship to a ‘non-believer’. Back in the mid-nineties I was a firm non-believer, myself.
Remember when AOL was the only provider in town and chat rooms were all the rage? Back then one could request an online penpal simply by posting a message on a ‘board’ which I did. Within a week I received a response from a young woman who lived only a few hours away from me and we began an instant exchange of emails several times a week. After a couple of months we began talking on the phone (which as you know, not the easiest thing for me to do) and that led to an invitation to meet in person.
To make a long story short, our friendship ultimately turned into a unfortunate termination of communication, initiated by me. ME – the one who hates confrontation. Me: the one who’s most likely to stay in a job she dislikes only because she’s more fearful of the unknown. It was a total train-wreck because, well….while I was truthful about things happening in my life, she was not. I held on though, giving her the benefit of the doubt. I even made a second trip out to see her but the entire experience was based on a foundation of lies which continued to unravel faster than I could keep up.
I am terrible at confrontations and avoid them like the plague, but I knew that continuing this relationship was out of the question. I broke it to her as nicely as I could but like most break-ups, it did not go well. In fact, the emails that followed which ultimately led to the deletion of my account were downright threatening. That mess affected me so deeply I remained pretty quiet on the Internet for years, always the lurker but never really wanting to interact for fear that true friends simply couldn’t be found online.
Then I decided to start a blog.
September will mark my third year at Fat Girl Wearing Thin, and for the first time this year I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few women that I that I’ve been in contact with since my blog’s inception – all women are fellow bloggers and each of them whether they knew it at the time or not, gave me the gift of gladly being proven wrong: Online friends ARE real friends.
First there was Roxie; then, Vickie. Then, this past weekend I had a tremendous gift bestowed upon me: Lynn from Learning Curves who, along with her husband, happen to be a full-time travelers were driving right through my hometown on Thursday, and staying in the area until Monday.
Lynn first connected with me shortly after I published a post back in November 2010 about my mother nearly dying from a hit and run car accident. Lynn reached out to me to let me know that she too, was experiencing heartbreak from a recent accident that involved her parents. From that email blossomed a very special online friendship. For nearly three years we’d never spoken on the phone, never texted one another, and only occasionally emailed – but there was always something there; something I couldn’t quite put my finger on; something wonderful that kept us in touch, whether it was a supportive comment from me via her Instagram feed as I viewed photos of her daily yoga challenges, or her leaving an uplifting comment on my Facebook art page regarding a painting I was working on. When I learned that she was coming into town I could barely contain myself. In usual fashion I was a bundle of nerves, anxious and excited all at once.
We decided to meet on Friday morning at my local Panera restaurant. I waited impatiently outside and posted to Instagram this photo:
Underneath it read: Impatiently waiting to meet one of my dearest online friends whose travels have taken her to my neck of the woods! Hurry, @lynnbonelli!!
Not more than 30 seconds after posting this, I heard her voice. We immediately hugged like long-lost twins, separated at birth. We’ve always known there were similarities in our lives and we are so alike in so many ways its uncanny, yet the differences between us leave me in awe of her so much of the time. This is a woman who’s finished marathons, completed the Tough Mudder Challenge in Tahoe and has mastered yoga poses that I cannot imagine doing (by the way, Lynn was gracious enough to do a few of her daily challenge poses in my yard yesterday:
What lifts me up is the fact that like me, Lynn also has a back problem. Yet with diligent yoga practice,
she’s been able to not only diminish her chronic pain but she’s grown strong enough to master poses like the one above, called Scorpion.
Here Lynn is doing Camel Pose while my water fairy, the ever diligent one, watches the water below.
If you’d like to see the other few poses Lynn completed in my yard, you can view them here via her Instagram feed: @lynnbonelli
Between Friday and Sunday I was fortunate enough to visit with Lynn three times, and each time we saw each other we talked nearly non-stop. Sunday we brought our guys along for a nice lunch:
This morning they left for their next RV adventure and I already miss her.
The other day I saw one of those articles that reminds we ‘old-folk’ of just how old we are. This one, from the Huffington Post was titled 23 Things your Kids Will Never Understand.
…things like floppy discs and record stores, dial up Internet and having to get off the phone in order to even USE the Internet.
Yes, things have certainly come a long way. Technology evolves, and fortunately for most of us, so does our way of thinking. Thank goodness I didn’t allow one bad experience stop me from connecting with some of the kindest, supportive, kindhearted people I have ever known in my life. Whether I’m 2 hours or 2000 miles away from my friends, it is the best feeling in the world to know that no matter what kind of day I’m having, there are people out there who truly care. To me, that’s just magical.