Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Worlds collide

This past weekend, while I was watching television and aimlessly scrolling through Facebook on my cellphone, my cousin shared a photo on my timeline, without explanation. It was of a middle-aged guy, grinning directly at me through the camera.

My first thought (which I typed out as a comment) was "Am I supposed to know this person?"  He looked vaguely familiar, and my first thought was that it was possibly another distant relative of ours. I found myself focusing on the university sports team shirt he was wearing, and trying to figure out how both my cousin & I would happen to know a person from that geographic area.

Then it all clicked.

I DID know this guy. I went to high school with him, some (mega-gulp...) 40 years ago now...! What's more, I knew/know his wife, from an even earlier part of my life in yet another town. We all wound up at the same university residence together, & I watched in bemusement as these two people from totally different parts of my life struck up a romance. Several years later, they showed up, married, at my 10-year high school reunion. It turned out they were living in the same town/area where my aunt & a couple of my cousins lived (and still do). It's a pretty small place and I kind of figured they all probably knew each other.

So it wasn't all that surprising that they would eventually wind up at a party together and figure out they had me in common. Still, it was a weird feeling when it finally happened.  I tried to imagine how the conversation unfolded that led to my name entering the picture, and what they told each other about me (!). ;)  My classmate is a good guy, one of those people that everyone liked. We just moved in different circles and never really had much to say to each other.  (You know what high school can be like...!)

Naturally, I wound up creeping both his and his wife's Facebook pages ;) and while most of their information is private, I saw enough to figure out that they have two grown-up kids -- including a daughter who appears to be exactly the same age that my Katie would have been.

Of course. :p  Ouch. :(

The world is a smaller place than we think sometimes, and smaller still since the advent of the Internet. For the longest time, I was used to living a life that was divided into neat, separate little compartments. There were all the different places where I lived, growing up and going to school.  There was my life at university and my life at grad school. (People who had only known me in high school and encountered me at a university party were shocked to find out that I could actually be kind of fun...!).  After school, there was my life at work, and the people who knew me there. There's my family, 1,000+ miles away, and dh's family closer by (and within those categories, various sub-categories:  my mom's side, my dad's side, his mom's side, etc. etc.).  There's my public identity -- a middle-aged retired woman without children or grandchildren -- and my private identity as a bereaved childless mother, which has flourished under pseudonyms in various outlets on the Internet over the past 20 years. Each compartment comes with its own cast of characters and presumably its own perceptions of me, and seldom the twain has met.

Or did. The advent of the Internet, and social media in particular, has brought together the various strands of my life in sometimes weird and sometimes wonderful ways.

For example, for a long time, I resisted accepting Facebook friend requests from coworkers -- and blurring the lines between my personal and professional lives. Eventually I did accept a request from a former coworker. And of course, it wasn't long before I realized that we had a friend in common -- a woman who had attended our pg loss support group. Eventually, of course, my coworker friend noticed too and asked how I knew this other woman. (They had known each other for years and played and coached soccer together.)  Gulp. So I told her. She was shocked, of course, and practically in tears over it the next time we met for lunch.  We hadn't started working together until a couple of years post-Katie... then she got pregnant.  Bringing up the subject of my own failed pregnancy seemed like rather poor taste, and obviously nobody else had ever mentioned it to her (turnover being what it is, many of them probably didn't know either), so she had no idea I had lost a child.

Once, two of my friends -- one from high school, one another former coworker -- started a somewhat heated debate on FB. I suddenly realized that they (plus yet ANOTHER friend who wasn't involved in the conversation) actually had something in common: all three of their mothers came from the same very small rural town (I knew that at least two of the moms knew each other).  One way to change the topic in a hurry. ;)   

Some people are used to this, of course:  they have lived in the same small town for all or most of their life, where everyone knows everyone and half the town is related to each other.  Even in a big metropolitan area like this one, it's not that hard to figure out that you have mutual acquaintances. For example, dh quickly figured out that he'd once worked with the sister of the woman who co-facilitated our support group with us. Another support group example: not only did one client's parents live just down the street from FIL & stepMIL, they all frequented the same social club. The sister of one of dh's coworkers on FB is FB friends with one of his cousins. And on & on it goes... The Internet has just made it faster & easier to figure out those connections.

I will admit that I haven't always liked it when the different parts of my world collide... but that's the way of the world, it seems...

How about you? Have you ever had your worlds collide like this? 


  1. I grew up in Chicago. Then I moved to a small town 300 miles away. In that town, I discovered...the priest who married my sister and brother-in-law was the priest at the local Catholic church AND my mom's friend's daughter lived one street over from where my husband and I lived. It was the strangest thing, especially since there's not really much to speak of in that town (i.e. nothing to really draw people from that far away - we moved there because it's my husband's home town.)

    In terms of FB connections, I occasionally see some weird coincidences pop up. I sort of enjoy working out how those people know each other.

  2. So strange, when worlds collide! Sorry for the ouch on your former classmate. And tricky when facebook "outs" you -- I'm glad you felt okay to explain your connection to the pregnancy loss group member to your coworker, but that is definitely a land mine of facebook. I feel like all these connections make the world infinitely smaller. I see things all the time where there are odd connections -- the wife of a coworker of Bryce's is somehow connected to a woman I know from fertility at our first clinic, and they are about 15 years apart in age so I really don't know what the connection is. I often see circles merging where I don't know the connection but I'm like, "huh, that person knows that person, I wonder how?" I am a verbal vomiter with no secrets of my own really, so I never have to worry about someone crossing paths in an awkward way. Except I never friend students' parents or students themselves. That could get real sticky!

  3. Oops, I read this, then must have forgotten to comment. I'm like you - I haven't added colleagues as Fb friends, unless they really are friends.

    I had a situation a bit like this when years ago, when someone received a business referral to talk to me. The guy receiving the business referral went to high school with me, in some of the same classes, and we even dated once. We had both ended up in similar businesses, though we took very different routes to get there. (He took the make-lots-of-money route, and I took the public service/helping people route. Sigh.)