I've been thinking...
My therapist likes to say, "you've been thinking about things, working on things, unraveling things," during our conversations as I spew some rhetorical flourishes which give her some insights as to what is going on inside of my head and in my soul. It's true, over the last two months or so, I've been in an interesting mental place - and spiritual place - triggered by several life changes and whatnot which I'll unpack here in the coming days in the hopes that if you are going through something similar, you might be able to find something which will help you through some of the stuff life brings your way. I've got so many areas, and, in the "book" I keep online, in the form of a Google Doc, I've kept a list of things I've been meaning to write to you about...
... and that's what this is... right here, right now. So welcome to the first post of many you'll see coming over the next few days...
Welcome... because I've been thinking.
I've been thinking over the last couple of weeks about life, and the people we've encountered who have come and gone. Specifically, I've been thinking about friends and colleagues I've lost touch with. I've been, I think, a pretty shi**y friend over the years. I've lost touch with people I've loved, who were "thick as thieves" and who were genuinely amazing members of that circle of friend which is more than just an acquaintance. I've got a list, but rather than running down that list here, I thought I'd share a couple of examples from "life" recently which have helped me to understand that no matter what I think in my head, friends - and true friendships - just have a way of persevering no matter what.
You may or may not know this, but I was at Disney World to celebrate the 50th Anniversary recently. I was one of THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of people who were in the Magic Kingdom on that Friday night to celebrate the birthday of the park, and, I spent the weekend there to relax, take in the weekend and to celebrate all things Disney and Mickey Mouse.
I had no firm plans to meet up with anyone going into the weekend. Yes, I spent significant time in Florida, living and working near Disney and such, but, my plan was just to sneak into Florida, hang at Disney with my partner, and get out so I could get back to life.
That's when life... showed up.
Saturday morning, after the fireworks of Friday night's celebration ended, we were up early and headed to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The plan was to beat the crowds and to ride two of the newest rides, themed around Star Wars, and so I could see the land of Batuu. Randomly, while in this immersive outpost on the "edge of the galaxy," I decided to engage some Imperial Storm Troopers... when I heard a voice I'd not heard in 18 years yell out across the plaza....
"Hey that's Toby Knapp!"
I turned to look, surprised at hearing the unexpected voice... and saw Shaun "DJ Structure" Smith standing there, watching me with the Storm Troopers, taking some photos. It was the first time I'd seen him since I moved away from Tampa so many years before. Structure was someone I worked with daily - weekend in and weekend out at club appearances and more - while I was in Tampa.
"Structure!" I said... as we moved to greet each other with a hug... two soldiers in Batuu... there because life had brought us there in the way life does. He told me he thought he saw me the night before in the Magic Kingdom... and then, at random... there we were in Hollywood Studios running around Star Wars land. In the moments which followed, I met his wife. His son. Heard about his work for Apple. Found he was - and is still mixing in clubs. He and his family met my partner, we caught up for a bit about life and work and more... it was as if time... didn't pass at all. We picked up where we left off. And as we parted, it was understood, I think, between us, that we wouldn't be strangers anymore...
Life. It just has it's own agenda.
Jerry Houston, whom I worked with from the day I started in my current posting in 2006 to now, moved during the pandemic, to Florida. Living in the Orlando-area now, I'd not seen him in real life since this COVID scattered us all to the wind back in March of 2020 or whatever. Houston and I have had a storied relationship, one full of ups and downs, pot stirring on my part and, yes, frustrations, as well, because, well, pot stirring on my part. Through it all, and through all of our shared life and work experiences, I had grown to genuinely love my colleague and friend with whom I'd been through so much with. I also knew he loved all things theme-park... and that he couldn't get into the 50th events on Friday because he's got a Florida Annual Pass... and I guess those get blacked out or whatever. Jerry and I had texted back and forth about meeting up, or about trying to see if my partner and I could get him and his husband into the park somehow or whatever... but we had no firm plans.
Enter in life... once again.
While in the park, something told me to get a couple extra commemorative maps and posters Disney gave out to those who were a part of the celebration of the Happiest Place On Earth. As we made our way back to the hotel that evening, I texted Houston to let him know I had grabbed some for him... knowing how much those momentos would mean to him.
"Now we have to meet up!" he texted me.
Sunday, before we caught our flight out, Jerry and his husband, Chris, joined us for lunch at a sports bar restaurant at Coronado Springs. Again... it was like life - and times - had not changed. We again - picked up right where we left off... as if no COVID had happened. As if no remote work had happened. As if he hadn't moved...
Life. It just has... a way.
"I'll see you again, soon, I said to Jerry as we waited for our car to take us to the airport." We snapped a few pics and soon we were on our way to the airport, as he and Chris went, as day guests, to explore all the great things Disney's Coronado Springs has to offer. I mean, why not? Right?
As I've lived life over the years, I've moved from market to market, city to city, place to place or station to station. I've let friendships and relationships go as I've moved for whatever reason, mostly because of distance, and because I tend to live life fast and hard. I've had opportunities to reconnect with friends along the way as the world - thanks to social media and such - has become smaller, and for many reasons, I've been insecure or afraid to re-engage. I've been ashamed that I've gained and lost and gained weight along the way. I've been afraid to revisit things, to re-engage in things, even to say, "I'm sorry" for things I've done to wrong some of those friends at times, including, saying "sorry" for falling out of touch.
But over that weekend at Disney, life taught me something... that friends - true friends - and friendships - endure. No matter what. They keep no record of wrongs. They have a way of making time stand still. They will sit... on standby... until you choose to re-engage.... or until life finds a way of re-engaging you... at a time of life's own choosing.
One of the things I want to do, going forward, with the time I've got left, is to reconnect with those friends - who are friends, forever - whom I've lost touch with along the way.... because, as an old song I know says, "a lifetime's not too long to live as friends."
I'm Toby. I've been thinking. And thanks for reading.