Thursday, August 12, 2010

People online are closer than they appear....

Here is one of those "wrapping up loose ends" blogs I promised. Last November I did one of those things you hear about "other people" doing and you think they are nuts. And I said I would write about it when I was done and I never did, and since I am about to do it again, I figured it was time to write!

I want to start by talking about why I didn't write about it right away. You all know from reading other blogs of mine that I believe my blogging is just that, mine. It represents my stories. They are my life, my views, my experiences. If you happened to be in my life at that time you end up in the blog. Sometimes it will be flattering and sometimes it won't. But since they are my stories I feel like I have the right to share them.

But sometimes in life as you are experiencing your little story you intersect with someone else's big story. This was one of those times. At first I tried writing just my story and leaving out hers, but it was such a big part of the experience I couldn't do that without the whole thing falling apart. So I put the blog aside for awhile. But I really wanted to tell the story so it kept banging around. I wrote and rewrote it in my head from every angle I could think of, but the only way to really talk about the experience was to include everything. So I sent off an email and I asked what she would think about me talking about her story in the middle of mine. And luckily for me, she said she would actually love if I did since the whole experience was sort of a blur for her this would be a way for her to experience it again. So here we go...

A couple of years ago I started working on my own at home. I was still doing some advertising work, but part time and from the kitchen table as the agency I was working for is in Salt Lake City. I was just starting on building my massage practice and even when I did have a client it's mostly quiet work. After Brent left for work and I dropped Christopher off at school for the day I was alone. For the first time in a few years I was totally alone during the day. I wasn't in an office with a group of people, I wasn't in a classroom, I wasn't anywhere but home. And it was weird. I missed chatting with people about nothing. You know the stuff, how was your weekend? Where did you get those shoes? What's for lunch? And honestly, I was lonely. Which is an odd thing for someone who is basically a loner to admit.

So anyway, during this time a friend of mine in Louisville (Chris this is all your fault) sent me an invitation to play a game on Facebook. Mousehunt. Anyone who is friends with me online knows that I play and play and play this game. Now. But it didn't really start out that way. I accepted the game invite and started playing. It's a simple little game, bait your trap, catch a mouse. There are different kinds of mice and different places you can go. It's really basic and I probably would have lost interest in the game but one day a few months after starting to play I clicked on the button that said, "Forum". Now, I had steered clear of any forums online for the most part because in my experience they were full of people being rude to each other. Just not my thing. But for some reason on this particular day I was bored enough to start reading some of the threads. And I saw people chatting and talking with each other, not only about the game but about their kids and their weekends and what they were making for dinner....

Chatting about nothing! And as I read I thought that everyone playing the game must have known each other to start and that I had just stumbled in by being a friend of a friend of one of these people. So I just read their posts, I didn't post anything of my own. I kind of felt like the new kid at school who didn't want to barge in. But just reading their posts was fun. Then here and there I would post something. And people would post back! It was amazing! I was having conversations with people again, now granted they were all...someplace else...I had no idea at the time where they all were, but we were chatting! Brent and Christopher would come home and I would tell them all of the goings on on the boards. Who was doing what and when...and...yes, I know, this is the point where people say, "But they aren't your real friends, they are just people online."

But what makes someone a "real" friend? Are you telling me that my morning cup of coffee with Teri, Corrie and Ashley didn't count as coffee with friends just because Teri was in Florida, Corrie in Pennsylvania and Ashley in North Carolina instead of all of us sitting at a table together in Oregon? Or that my jokes with Jessica weren't funny because she was in her office in Ohio while I was on my computer in Oregon? Or that the design work that Sam did for my anniversary was any less sweet because it came from Canada instead of downtown Portland? Nope, sorry, not buying it. Over the months these friendships grew and more and more people were added to them. Then the one year anniversary of the game came.

Melissa (a player in Australia) came up with the idea of meets all across the world. There wasn't one near me and I wasn't up for setting one up but when the pictures started going up online of everyone meeting and I got a chance to "See" the people I knew interacting together...well...I thought next time I am going to do that! Then the "invitation" came. The developers of the game (devs) were hosting a dinner in Toronto and everyone was invited. I really wanted to go. I looked into tickets, I talked with Jessica about maybe flying in to her home town and then driving up with her. I talked to Karen about ticket prices and how she was affording the trip (lots of connecting flight and red eyes!) I donated some money to a fund to bring one of the players up from South Africa (we raised enough money to buy a ticket for a "stranger" to make a trip to meet other "strangers" but that is another story) but in the end I backed out of taking the trip. I let that voice in my head that said...This is out.

Then the pictures came in from dinner. Seeing KJC and Justin laughing so hard that they were falling over. Seeing Aurum for the first time! Seeing Sam and Nadine and knowing that it wasn't crazy to want to visit friends, it was normal. So NEXT TIME I wasn't going to back out. If I could afford it, I was going to do it. Turns out that a lot of people felt the same way. So a next time was already being planned.

The Nibbler, if you don't play the game this means nothing to you, but if you were a player during this stretch The Nibbler was your daily go to. You read that like you read your local paper. It gave you updates on the game but more importantly it directed you to the funniest, smartest, more entertaining threads in the forum. Oh and there was quote of the day...if you got quote of the day you were an instant MH celebrity. Crazy right? But it wasn't. It was a group of friends finding something that they all had in common and making a game within the game around it. Anyway, Karen (KJC) and Jessica (JCS or Juice) had started The Nibbler and it's one year anniversary would be a perfect excuse for a trip to get together again!

This time I wasn't going to miss it. I planned with Steph up in Vancouver, BC to see if she was going, I planned with Corrie and we decided to share a room and a ride from Buffalo to save money, I planned with Lisa (Skippy) who was flying in from Australia to see if we could fly across country together (her dad is in Washington and she would be going there first), I planned with KJC to see when she would be arriving, I planned with Justin on rides to and from Buffalo, I planned with Sam and with Aurum and with Nadine on when they would be arriving since they all lived in Canada and would be coming in from closer distances. And I planned with Juice to make sure she was coming since she and I had both backed out for our own reasons on the last trip we had vowed to each other that we wouldn't miss the next one.

So plans are in place. I was flying in to Buffalo Thursday night, Corrie would get there Friday morning and we would drive to Toronto where we would pick up Jared at the train station and then pick up some supplies for the party. The rest of the group was going to get there Thursday and would go to the devs office for a tour on Friday morning and then meet us back at the hotel. I was nervous and excited and couldn't wait to get going. I had heard from a few people that they thought I was nuts to fly across country to meet a stranger to go to another country to meet other strangers so I had sort of stopped telling people what I was doing. But it didn't stop me from looking forward to it. Or stop me from wishing I could afford to fly to London for the UK meet that was happening a few days later! Karen and Vikki and Ben and Steve get the picture. Lots of people to meet and so much fun to be had!

Then Wednesday night I got an email from Juice. She wasn't sure she was going to make it after all. She had just gotten word that her father had taken his own life.
And this is where her big story intersects my little one.

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