So I mentioned in one of my many Dragon*Con posts that I attended the "Online Interactions" panel scheduled by the Young Adult Lit track, and in doing so I was actually inspired by some of the discussion to write not one but two blog posts...and this is the first of those posts, going up on "Writer's Block Wednesday" because I'm really in writer's block mode right now...sigh.
Anyway, at said Online Interactions panel one of the panelists began discussing how she didn't fit in at her school when growing up. She explained that she found a sort of haven in the internet, a place where the things she was interested in attracted others as well, a place where she was able to meet friends and truly feel a part of something. Now I am of course paraphrasing this, but in general it made her less scared to be open about who she was and about her interests.
This made me think. A lot. Maybe too much ;) You see, I grew up without internet. I mean, we had dial-up starting when I was maybe fifteen, but I had next to no idea how to use a computer at the time and only ever signed on late at night (when I wasn't supposed to) in order to chat with friends via instant messenger. And by friends, I mean people who I already knew in real life.
The thing is, it wasn't until much later - halfway through college, really - that I met *most* of the people who I call my true friends. And most times we didn't seek each other out; they were people who ended up as my neighbors, completely by chance. People I ended up working with, completely by chance. I grew up feeling always out of place, and to be completely honest I've felt out of place many times since then. Still, if I hadn't randomly run into and become friends with so many of the amazing people that I know, would I have always continued to hide who I was, and my true interests?
I didn't have the haven of the internet back when having it would have mattered. I had the books in which I buried my nose, my personal journals, the notepads in which I scribbled my stories. I had X Files on TV on Sunday nights, and Star Wars and Jurassic Park on VHS. Mostly I watched these all by myself; generally I had no one with whom to discuss Mulder and Scully's relationship or argue over which original trilogy installment was the best.
I envy that girl her internet and the experiences and friends she gained from it. I'm not saying I would change anything, because I'm sure the friendships I have are closer - and I appreciate them all the more - for the fact that I didn't have any haven like that when I was younger.
But I do have to wonder what, if anything, would be different had I known that type of online community - or even a similar group of friends to the ones I have now - back when I was 14, 15, 16, and even beyond.