The internet is a brilliant tool that has changed my life in so many amazing ways. For most of my life I didn't feel connected to others. I struggled to feel 'loved'. I knew I must be loved but I couldn't 'feel' it. I never understood why but I just felt disconnected.
Perhaps it had something to do with leaving the UK as a 6 year old child. What happened later in life seems to point to that in some strange way. When I started university in my late 40s, I had my two teenagers living with me, and of course, we got a computer. That might not seem such a big deal now, but it was quite a thing at the time. We had been living a simple life for many years including some years on a sailing boat, and had for the most part eschewed modern technology. As part of my studies I had to learn how to use a computer so it was all rather exciting and new. My kids took to the computer like ducks to water, and my daughter soon set up a Myspace page. I was fascinated and just a tiny bit curious to know what she was up to on there, so I got her to help me set up a page of my own.
It felt very cool being a mum with a Myspace page! I used to trawl through the search pages looking for members with similar interests, especially teaching as that was what I was studying and I was beginning to understand the value of networking. One day I came across the profile of a woman who was a teacher in another state of Australia. She also had something on her profile about a family member having cancer. My husband, whom I had recently left, had cancer and we had been following an alternative approach to cancer management for six and a half years so I decided to write and offer some encouragement and the possibility of information sharing if she was interested. We chatted online and messaged a few times then the woman, my new friend, decided that Myspace was not her thing, so we exchanged email addresses and kept in touch that way. Some time later, after lots of emails to and fro, she sent me an email that was like a quiz, including all sorts of 'favourite' things, where you were born and so on. She had already put in her responses and I was to replace hers with mine and return it and send it on to other friends. Kind of a grown up chain letter.
As I was filling in my answers, I noticed that she was born in the same town as me in the UK. I didn't even know she was from the UK before that! I was excited of course. I asked her where in the town she had lived and it turned out that she had lived on the same street as me too! A few hurried phone calls to our parents and it was established that our fathers had played darts together as young men! We were both so excited by this news and as my parent were heading off to be grey nomads for a while, they were able to travel and meet up with her parents and share some reminiscing. Better than that though, I later travelled interstate and met my beautiful Myspace friend. I can't really explain why but it was then that my sense of disconnection began to fade. It was like I had met a family member - someone to whom I belonged. It has helped me to understand the importance of shared history. Our friendship is so special to us both.
Unbelievable (almost) is the fact that a few years later, when I was living in Queensland, I attended a Baptist Church for a while. There at a social event I was talking to a woman who said she came from the UK to Australia in the same year that I did...then the same month and on the same day. We were gobsmacked as we shared the story of our flights - and overnight stay in Singapore due to engine troubles - the sights seen from the bus driving at night through the slums. Yes, we had been on the same plane! Any doubt was removed when I said that I had a big doll that my grandparents had given me at the airport when we left England. She remembered the little girl with the big doll because she had not been allowed to bring a big doll her uncle had given her - and she had been heartbroken.
By some magic means I have met these two beautiful women who have connected me to my roots at home in England. After meeting them I have felt more grounded and more connected than ever before, even though I had my Mum and Dad and my brother and even my Grandparents had come to Australia to live. Somehow I needed to meet these women who are about the same age as me, to feel like I belonged. Life is very wonderful, the surprises it brings! Now I keep in touch with both of these precious ladies through Facebook! I'm a modern woman, and Myspace is 'old hat' these days!!
Mum and Dad went back to England for several visits over the years and on their last trip they brought back photos of the town where I had been born and lived as a young child. When I saw the photos I burst into tears and felt so emotional. It was really unexpected. We all have connection to place in some way that is hard to explain. I am so thankful for that knowledge and for the fact that I can now 'feel' love and connection in a whole new way. I also hope that one day I will be able to visit my 'home' town in the UK...it would be amazing to actually be there again. I don't have any memories of the place, but I wonder if being there would bring some back that have been buried too deep for me to access them. It would be great to go and find out!