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Finding who you are — through who you were

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

When you find someone you once lost, it’s like hitting the lottery. You type their name in the search field, hit enter, cross your fingers and wait. Suddenly a page pops up and your eyes desperately search, either finding the gold you seek…an address, a picture…or that too-familiar message: “Your search has found no results.” Or worse, an obituary.

But you go on to the next, with the same intense hope that this time, maybe, you’ll hit the jackpot.

I’ve hit the jackpot many, many times over these past 10 years. I’ve been re-connecting with old friends. Childh

Maria Parisi-Pennello

ood friends, high school sweethearts, workmates.

And each time I do it makes me want to find more.

Why? Why this sudden interest in my past?

I’ve thought long and hard on this and I’ve come to realize that, in finding old friends we find ourselves. In remembering who we were, we get a better sense of who we’ve become. In searching for them, we’re looking for a way of connecting the dots to show us how we got to where we are now, what shaped us, what guided us.

These are the people who “knew us when”, before we were successful (or decided failures), before we became who we are now. Generally speaking, they know more about us than our spouses, family members or current friends could possibly hope to know. They were the ones we cried to, dreamt to, hoped to. They knew our heart’s desires before we ever acted on them.

It is treasure that we seek, the treasure of our past, buried within the memories of our long lost friends.

oh…. THAT girl!

I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t remember me, and I believe that’s telling, in and of itself. It means I made an impact on the people that I knew, even if only briefly, and in remembering them, I’m giving them the same gift.

It’s nice to know that you made an impression on another human being, enough of an impression that they remember you fondly. The ones who have many memories over a long period of time make you want to reminisce. The ones who have few memories, but strong ones, who make you want to reflect.

There is a difference. That difference is that, in reminiscing, you re-live a moment in time. In reflecting, you look inside yourself to see how the moment shaped you. Both are good. I invite both constantly.

I’ve also found that I try to find friends with whom there was a falling out. I’ve gotten closure on many a lost friendship and even gained them back again in some cases…not all, sadly, but most.

I think these are the most fulfilling finds of all.

Even if all I get is a short e-mail saying that they’re alive and well and I never hear from them again, it’s worth the trouble of searching, just to know they’re out there somewhere and that they remember me. And perhaps, even forgive me. I learn from the mistakes I’ve made with them, and this makes me a better friend today.

There is one more set of friends that I’ve come to find: Those are the people we actually didn’t know back then, but who grew up in the same place, at the same time with the same memories as you have, but from a completely different perspective.

We knew the same people, but somehow we never actually met. I find these people through others whom I’ve had a relationship with, usually. Or sometimes I find them by accident.

But always, when I find them I find a kindred spirit, someone with whom I should have had a friendship with. The reminiscing is certainly different, remembering these places and people and times, but we still share these memories, and that is a special connection, to be sure. To remember the same exact things, but not to have known each other… it’s almost spiritual. Almost ethereal.
I treasure these people most of all.

Yes, it is a great gift that we receive when we connect with our past. But in receiving we’re also giving — which makes the greatest gift of all.

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