It’s really weird to think of it that way, but it’s true.
When I was 16, I lived with my parents in the middle of Podunkville (not literally). The community where we lived was so small it didn’t have a post office, and we just assumed the zip code of the next closest (small) town.
So when we finally got internet, I maybe went a little crazy. Not in like a “looking at porn every morning and night” kind of way. But more of a “stay-up-all-night-looking-at-all-the-cool-stuff-on-the-interwebz” way.
I was really into the Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (so reflective of who I was in high school. I can’t really imagine picking those books up now.), so when I found a website and message board for them, I was immediately hooked. I think it was the first message board I ever joined, and I was 16 at the time. This was in 1999.
Honestly, Jen was on my radar as someone else on the boards, but we weren’t close. At some point, as they tend to do on the internet, things changed and people moved on. I was invited to join a couple of offshoot message boards, one of which was called The Pizza Parlor. It was a much smaller group, and Jen was one of the regulars.
I sort of gradually got to know her in that setting. I think at some point I was interested in an internship at the company she works for and e-mailed her about it. More recently she and I became Twitter and Facebook friends. She’s a lot of fun and someone I look up to a lot. She has a couple of crazy cats and a pretty sweet job as a graphic designer.
One night earlier this week, I had a dream that she came to Tuscaloosa to received a design award. I thought it was really funny, so I sent her a tweet about it. She responded that she had been thinking of getting in touch with me because she was going to be in Tuscaloosa on Thursday. She lives in central Tennessee, so this was fairly unusual. We took it as a sign that we were meant to have lunch.
It was sort of surreal, meeting someone I’ve known online for that long but had never met face-to-face. She was pretty much just as I had imagined her. We ate ribs (and I got loads of sauce on my face) and chatted and laughed, and in many ways it didn’t feel like a first meeting.
I think it’s interesting how the world has changed since I was a child and teenager. How online friendships are so much more common, and it’s not that unusual to meet up with someone when you happen to visit the city they live in. It definitely makes the world feel like a smaller place.