My 35th birthday was on Thursday. Hard to believe, I was just in high school (some days I feel like I still am). My birthdays are pretty typical, not too much excitement surrounds them anymore and honestly, that is fine with me. My mom, my friend Mary and my brother in law all call and sing Happy Birthday. I look forward to that every year. Trevor always gives me my present early because he can't have the gift and not give the gift. I love that about him. My phone will ring a few times from my brother, my parents and both my brother in laws. I'll get cards from my parents, my brother, my Grammie and a few friends. But all in all, its a pretty normal day.
A few months ago, I found facebook. You may be familiar with it - it is a social networking site that is changing the world. I also believe it is changing the way our brains work.
On Facebook, you make "friends". These friends tend to come from every part of your life - people whom you have forgotten about are suddenly a part of your daily life - telling you what they are doing at any given time, posting pictures of themselves, their children and their pets. Messages come to you about things you have long since purged from you conscious memory.
I have found facebook to be life altering. I have not been very good with keeping in touch with anyone from any part of my life. I have a hard enough time connecting with the people I see every day. I have spent a lot of time remembering things and people from my past and have felt sad that those times are gone - knowing those memories would also be lost.
Facebook has a feature where it tells you who's birthday is coming up in a few days and who's birthday is today. On my birthday, I got over 35 Happy Birthday messages from all kinds of people. Friends from the 4th grade, 8th grade, high school, college, the job after college, New Jersey, Colorado, Texas, Oregon, all sent birthday wishes. With every one came a memory of a day in the past, spent with these people who have shaped who I am. People who know me for different reasons, yet all know the same person - the one that deep down inside never changes. There is something so amazing and comforting about this. To have my best friend from the 4th grade - whom I grew apart from in high school and didn't even talk to at the 10 year reunion, send me a birthday wish, was just about too much to handle. That was followed by a friend who was there when I celebrated my 21st birthday, a friend who's birthday is a day after mine (we used to write the countdown on the chalk board in school), a friend I've known since kindergarten, but never truly known until now. The list goes on and on. I could pull up every message and tell you a story about that person, what they meant to me and what part of my life they fall into.
When I said facebook changes the way our minds work, I was referring to the memory portion of our brain where we store all the things we don't need anymore. It is crazy to know that all those memories are in there and we can tap into them with the right stimuli. To think that all these thoughts would have spent the rest of my days stagnant and unused is sad. That fact that they are now being brought back to life is a gift. It makes me feel so much more connected to my world and my life than ever before. To know that all who have passed through my life are not lost is a very grounding feeling.
I lived with the same people all 4 years in college. They were my best friends and my family. They were there with me for many of the most important milestones in my life. I moved away and lost touch with all of them. I have thought of each of these people on a very regular basis over the years and have never tracked them down. Facebook has allowed me to get back in contact with these friends. Next week, I will be in Denver and my husband and I will meet three of them for coffee. I know I will cry when I see them because I honestly expected I would never see them again and that has always made me incredibly sad. I cannot wait to sit and laugh with them, the way I know I will. My brain will release memories long forgotten and my heart will again beat with the joy of youth - the excitement of new adventures. I cannot wait to see Tom, Shellie and Matt. I know that this is the first of many such meetings, that I will get this same opportunity with people from other parts of my life.
This 35th birthday was the best birthday ever because I got to relive every great memory from birthdays past. What a blessing.