Gradually my friends and family migrated from MySpace to Facebook (sorry, Tom!). My attention to my Etsy shop ebbed and flowed over the years and most of those initial "friends" were deleted as I used Facebook for more of a personal use. However, there were a few of those initial Etsy shop friends who I found interesting and kept around to see what they created.
Over the years, I started interacting more often with two ladies from that Etsy bunch. We would comment on photos, comment on each other's statuses, etc. I bought some photos from one of them. An online friendship began to develop. From there, they introduced me to other friends they had online with similar interests.
We started to have long message threads of conversations until one day, one of my brilliant friends created a private Facebook group for us to interact regularly and privately. It is a very personal and sacred place for me so I will only refer to it as The Ship. Initially we had a larger group of women but life happened, cattiness happened, and some of them jumped ship. Then there were six of us aboard The Ship. One of them is my sister who I brought aboard to grow closer to her as well.
Over the last couple of years, I have checked in with those five ladies every day. We know intimate details of each other's lives. We've helped each other through difficult life changes and problems. We've shared a lot of laughs and had a lot of ridiculous conversations. We are located all over the United States but geography does not dictate our level of closeness.
We've texted, talked on the phone, sent notes and packages to each other, and some have actually met in person. I'm writing this today because one of my shipmates is in town visiting her father, who just happens to live in a neighboring town to me. She and I are going to meet face to face for the first time this afternoon and I can't wait! We all talk about one day finding a way to all get together in person. It's tough with geographic distance and busy schedules but it will happen. One day.
I write all of this because these ladies and this ship have helped me to grow in ways I would not have imagined. They are all so very different from me yet somehow we have commonalities. I have learned how to be more open about my feelings which has helped me with other relationships in life. I have learned to look at life differently and to be more open to experiences and people. When I am feeling out of sorts and can't figure it out, I just type a rambling, jumbled mess and my girls help me pinpoint what is bothering me. They inspire me to be more creative. They make me laugh. A lot. They've helped me to become a better friend to my oldest and dearest friends. Their encouragement also helped give me the confidence to make a new friend in my town last year. When I was completely dorky and excited about this new friendship, my shipmates joined in and encouraged me. As a result, that new friend is one of my closest friends.
The Ship has been afloat for over two years now and I think it will exist in some shape for a long time. While I believe that we may go through times where we don't chat as much, I know if I called out with a need, those five ladies would be there in a heartbeat.
Those who know me in person would probably be surprised that I have developed these online friendships. My husband was skeptical at first but he has grown to know these ladies through my stories and has even become Facebook friends with some of them too. He has seen my growth as a result of these friendships. I think he's somewhat excited (or at least curious) to meet one of my friends today too. It's weird to refer to it as "meeting" her when I know so much about her already.
For all their faults, technology and the Internet have definitely provided me with an opportunity I would not have had without it. An opportunity to develop strong friendships and to grow as a person. The Ship is a big part of my life and I wouldn't change it for anything. Thanks, ladies (you know who you are).