As I was driving out of Baltimore at dusk on Saturday, “A Face in the Crowd” was the first song to come on Pandora shuffle.
In another place, another town
You were just a face in the crowd
You were just a face in the crowd
Out in the street walking around
A face in the crowd
Out of a dream, out of the sky
Into my heart, into my life
And you were just a face in the crowd
You were just a face in the crowd
Out in the street, thinking out loud
A face in the crowd”
As I’m writing this, it’s my classic favorite – “Safe and Sound” and I needed this. I really needed this. My mind and heart are all a-flutter tonight. And I’m really, really tired. I had been looking for a song title to describe my mood on Saturday, and sadly, all I came up with at first was “Achy Breaky Heart” – which is not necessarily true or even the whole story of how I felt/feel.
Maybe just a little.. A little achy, breaky heart. Isn’t that always the way? The push and pull of people in and out of your life, your computer, your life again, back into your computer, but now firmly lodged in your sight-line and your memories and your heart. Never the same, but maybe the same? The push and pull in your mind and your heart, and the imprints of hugs.
It’s the perfect song for me. “A Face in the Crowd.” It’s funny how our lives intersect and how we find ourselves together. It’s funny how I left one kid in western Mass, took one to New Jersey, left for Baltimore, kept earth-shattering company for two days, came back a night early to sneak into bed with Scarlet (who missed ME more than the rest..curious), and wound up going to a theme park and riding a ferris wheel with Scarlet and the family today. Not to mention we went into a haunted house, in June, and talked to Santa in his barn, in June, and all around watched my mom scream her head off on roller coasters, get completely soaked in a wading pool/pirate ship. We had a nice conversation when we were suspended on the top of the ferris wheel – Scarlet and me. She said, “I’m scared. Up here.” I said, “I’m not scared. Up here. And it’s one of the few places I’m not scared sometimes.” And she reached for my hand, as we glided to the ground and then she went around being not scared.
And all I can do now is tell you my story, in 13 stories, actually. These stories make up the heart and soul of my experience at BlogU. There are notes. There are lessons. There are strategies and more. Mostly, it’s about what’s in my heart and all of the things that will not change. Sometimes you have to change to realize all of the ways you want to stay the same too.
1. Kristi was the first friend I saw. I lugged my suitcase up two fights of stairs and smiled at many unfamiliar and vaguely familiar women. I was breathless but it wasn’t from being out of shape. Or it wasn’t just from being out of shape..I walked through the door and locked eyes with Kristi. It was a lot of hugging and gazing and being like, “Wait, yeah, you, yeah…look the same..first person I saw..so glad it was you..you’re cute..this is cool.” I’m glad it was her. I thought I might want to vomit.
But I didn’t. I didn’t vomit or want to vomit.
2. After Kristi helped me to shakily and spazzily get officially registered, I dropped my stuff in my room. Then I ran to Dana and Lisa’s room and knocked on the door. A familiar and unfamiliar, and yet unfamiliar and familiar voice rang out, “Come in!” I went in. It was like walking into the dorm room of two lifelong friends. It was like nothing. It was me. It was them. We hugged.
I was giddy.
3. Tricia was commuting to the conference and I didn’t have a chance to meet her until the cocktail party on Friday night. I was with Iva for a lot of the day/night and she helped me to get dressed for the party. As we were walking into the gym, I saw a figure in a red dress in the distance. I was wearing red too. I’m nearsighted. I said to Iva, “I wonder if that’s my friend.” I’m nearsighted. The figure in red said, “Hi!” I said, “Tricia?” She said, “Tamara?” It really was her! Two ladies in red.
..but she’s not wearing red in this photo.
4. All weekend long, there were free cookies, candy, cupcakes and more but I had very little appetite for sweets the whole time.
5. On the first night, a group of us went outside to talk and it was such a connecting talk and it made me feel all warm and glowy inside. It cemented my decision that being there was a wonderful decision..
6. ..and yet after nerves and a prison cot of a bed kept me up nearly all night Friday night, I almost left. I thought I couldn’t go through with any of it. And I’d just run home. But I didn’t. And all of your words resonated in my head. And I wanted to be there and be better for all of you.
7. We kept running into a photographer when we wanted group shots. She used both my phone and my camera. I owe her one, someday.
8. For the first night, I felt like the experience was so giddy and surreal. I was able to overcome most of it by the next day, but only because the feelings of comfort and friendship had taken over.
9. Stephanie and I shared a joke that had me sloshing my drink (just spa water) and laughing so hard my face hurt. It involved an internet troll, a rude reply eight months later to a rude statement, and use of the word “penis” on twitter.
10. At midnight on the first night, I realized my blinds were stuck all the way to the high ceiling. I wandered the halls until I found a kind soul and she went and found four more kind souls, and somehow five people came back to my room to help me and we started talking, and two were on my bed, one in a corner, and one almost accidentally stole my phone. It was a party.
11. During one of the classes, Scarlet got hold of my mom’s phone and was sending me icons of toilets. Repeatedly.
12. Hearing Tara’s commentary on the food there.
13. On the first day, I hung out a lot with my friend Iva. On the second day we had different classes so I didn’t see her at all. I was feeling a bit down that night that we hadn’t connected that much and that I was just the man behind the curtain in “Wizard of Oz” and maybe she thought I was a total dork in real life. And then I saw her to say goodbye and she complimented me and told me she had gotten me something – a beautiful, delicate moose necklace. And we hugged and I’ve been on the verge of tears (happy tears) since. Thank you. You have no idea what this (you) have meant to me.
Those were my fears. Lost connections. Losing what we have, or stopping it from growing. Yet being together was like..old friends. I want to be a writer. I am a writer, but that’s with or without blogging. I want to be a photographer. I am a photographer, but that’s with or without blogging. This is something else entirely. I make my money in other ways but this is a vehicle for so many things I hold dear – photography, writing, a little bit of money, a whole lot of love and ambition, memory-keeping, and perhaps the most unexpected part of it all – friendship. So surprising. So powerful. I just can’t see that changing.