By Cristy Garcia
Editor’s note: It is a fairly long read but hopefully worth the time.
Actual editors note: Almost 23,000 views to date! Written earlier in 2022.
It used to be that, in my generation, we made friends first at our neighborhood, then at school/college and finally at work, or by pursuing common interests like sports, hobbies or artistic activities, to name a few. Then the Internet appeared and soon after, social networks. We were then able to connect with our current friends at a level in which physical distance was no longer an issue. We were reminded of birthdays and were able to witness, virtually, anything that our friends wanted to share. They also provided the means to find people who shared a common interest, all over the world.
For those of us who had a very important yet extremely private and “unaccepted” interest, the Internet opened a new world of information and realization. We were no longer alone and the fact that we could share something so private with someone who was continents apart, would create a special bond that, in my case and many of you, was stronger than the one we had with lifelong friends.
The next step was to try to meet these dear online friends in person and make the virtual bond something real and tangible. I will not expand on this as I wrote extensively about my experiences at the first conferences that I attended. However, after not going to a large conference for over 7 years, my attending Keystone in 2022, helped me realize, again, the importance and relevance of giving that online friend a real hug. Yes, I continued to meet with close friends, from previous events, every year, but in small groups in which almost everyone knows everyone from before. Being able to talk to and hug friends you know online but have never met in person is something that I had missed for some time and found gratifying in Harrisburg, last month.
There are no emojis that can effectively express the satisfaction of a real hug, a smile, or a laugh from a friend! Nothing beats laughing together and seeing friends’ expressions as they smile or tell a joke or an anecdote. An emoji is generic, you see it and then forget it, but personal interactions are indelible memories that will last a lifetime!
If you ever have a chance to attend any TG conference, I encourage you to do all you can to be there and experience what I am trying to convey here. I am sure that if you never attend any other again, you will never forget it, and if you have the chance to attend again, you will do it for as long as you can.
You may have noticed that after Keystone I had focused on posting photos where I am with friends and not of myself, because that is what mattered the most to me. Yes, I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of exciting adventures and took a lot of photos of Cristy by herself, but those photos, although I will eventually share them, are mostly relevant at a personal level. On the other hand, photos with friends are reminders of that bond that becomes stronger with each face-to-face encounter with someone you don’t see often but feel closer to your heart and soul than most of your longtime friends from the “normal” life.
People often ask me how I manage to dress only for that one time a year and then put Cristy in hibernation. Well, the memories I gather through that week along with a continued online interaction, mostly with the friends I have met in person, make it easy to deal with the long wait.
About the photo: It was taken by the queen of selfies, Miss Jamie Kendall. I am not going to identify who is featured in it to protect Jamie’s, Christina’s, Nora’s, Sophia’s and my own privacy. 😛
The Keystone Logo is used without express written consent of the Organization but I hope they understand 🙂
Actual editor’s interjection: I treasure these photos and this friendship! In what other circle of life can I be friends with an amazing person from Guatemala?