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This may be a little shocking, I know, but I never had that many girlfriends.

I do consider myself lucky, though, that of the girls I’ve dated—and I say “girls” because none of them had achieved that murky milestone in life of “womanhood” any more than I had passed through the turnstile on “manhood”—I remember them to be smart, funny, attractive and talented.

I learned and grew and changed during each relationship, and from time to time, I find myself wondering what has become of them.  I think you might feel the same curiosity; it’s what drives us to reunions, it’s what motivates one of my friends to look through phone books whenever he’s in a hotel room in a new town.  And now, I think it drives people to type names into search engines, names from their past.

When it comes to searching the Web for old acquaintances, I have a few advantages.  I use Web search engines a lot, and know better than most how they work.  I also have a degree in journalism, and learned more than a little about how to find people.  So when I look for an old friend online, I tend to find him or her. Of course, there’s one other helping factor: many of my friends are Web developers or journalists, and it’s a lot easier to find those people than to find, say, a theater major who last lived in Ottawa.

Well, there are two friends I’ve wondered about as years have passed.  Out of the blue, one contacted me, and now I’m debating whether I should look harder for the other.

I dated Karen (last name withheld) in high school.  She had curly red hair (dyed) and brilliant green eyes (contact lenses) and if my life was a movie, it would have ended with me found by police holding a smoking gun over the body of a complete stranger while she escaped off the balcony with a black velvet bag of diamonds.  Not that she was evil or mean or even impolite—just that she was dangerous, exciting, and didn’t live with her parents. True, she lived with her grandma, but that was still pretty “awesome” to me in the ‘80s.

Karen’s a little different now.  She’s changed her name to a Native American tribal name, and she’s researching Native American spirituality, having witnessed several Sun Dances.  She working on a novel, and has fought battles with the Canadian legal system that I can only shake my head at.

But the point I’m trying to make is not who she is now or what she’s been up to since we broke up and parted ways.  It’s not about how many cats she has now or what country she’ll next live in (Guyana).

The point is, she _has_ been up to something and she _is_ different now.  She’s not a peach-colored teenager, I’m not in high school driving my first car, and California energy crisis aside, my biggest concern isn’t finding gas money and getting home before curfew.

The difficulty in learning who Zen is now is that it murks up the memories of what we were then.

She wrote me an abstract of the years I’d missed, and added this: “ps- in real life i am not this intense, actually i am rather pleasant. do you remember what i was like when you knew me?”

I remember her better than I remember me at that age.  I have had years of new ‘me’ that obscure the earlier Travis.

And so now I’m thinking—do I really want to find, reminisce, catch up with that other old girlfriend of mine, Sarah Dickinson?  I’m confident she’d be wired and dramatic, an successful actress, full of grand ideas and rebellion, now as she was then.  But what if she isn’t?  Or what if she is?

Nostalgia’s never as good as the box it came in.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

Comments

 

 

 

 

 

ok 3 years later



did you look her up?

how many years gap was there?



I feel that with losing family members at young age the

drive to search/keep alive memories of past friends of both sexes is strong.



but maiden names sure gums up the search!

 

Posted by nick
  at 9:30 pm on Apr. 19, 2004

 

 

 

I have looked her up, but haven't found her. sigh. Still, one day Google will find her for me.

 

Posted by Travis Smith
  at 12:36 am on Apr. 22, 2004

 

 

 

What are the tricks you use to look for people that you have learned as a journalism student and user of search engines that an average internet user may not know?



p.s. I hope that you don't mind me googling [name removed], I could not resist the temptation. I could only find her fissure poem and it's is kind of ooky - but there is something for everyone I guess...too bad she did not leave her email for comments on that page.

good luck!

 

Posted by Carly
  at 3:40 pm on Apr. 27, 2004

 

 

 

Tricks? Just to try a number of different search sites, and not just Google, Yahoo, etc. For instance, USC has a special alumni directory that only alumni have access to. And classmates.com has good search tools, that lead to pages that don't appear in major engines. Also, Try different nicknames and combinations. Add terms that would appear in a resume or bio, like ("Travis Smith" editor) or ("Travis Smith" Calgary) or ("Travis Smith" 1990) -- I graduated in 1990. Good luck.

 

Posted by Travis Smith
  at 7:45 pm on Apr. 27, 2004

 

 

 

A trickier question is why we look. True, there is simple curiosity. However, I'm wrestling with the dilema of submerged feelings (a moot point, since she wouldn't have anything to do with me - I know she must've changed because I have...I'm not a dick anymore).

 

Posted by Michael
  at 2:04 pm on Apr. 7, 2005

 

 

 

Nice post, Travis.

Ah, nostalgia. I think that the more we think about the world and the more that we remember the world, then the more intimate we are with nostalgia. Nostalgia itself used to be diagnosed as a sickness and treated just as we treat influenza, with bed rest and fluids. I had heard of cases of nostalgia diagnosed right up until world war one, but wikipedia seems to contradict me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostalgia

No matter when the diagnosis ended, the feeling will never end.

 

Posted by James
  at 3:21 pm on Apr. 11, 2006

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