There is a section of Craigslist called Missed Connections. There people post about encounters that didn’t quite happen or got cut short without any way to get back in touch. Like that cute guy you locked eyes with at a concert but then lost in the crowd. Or the bike messenger who sped off before you could ask her out (and be rejected – she’s too cool for you, Bill).
When I lived in Philadelphia in my early 20s, I checked the section regularly, always convinced I would find myself. I loved the idea of a stranger being so enthralled by me that he turns to the internet in a last ditch effort to connect. How special that would be, I thought, to be so viscerally wanted. (The fact that this is my idea of romance may be partially why I’m still single). I never did find myself on Craigslist, despite being consistently enthralling. Luckily I found connections everywhere else. Friends, boyfriends, coworkers, acquaintances, I was never lacking for connections during my years in Philly. It was the best of times with the best of friends. When I moved to New York City, and later to Baltimore, I found more connections and eventually built networks in each city, but it never felt as effortless as it had been in Philadelphia.
[Editor’s note: I spent 20 minutes trying to find pictures from my time in Philadelphia that were appropriate for a blog that (only) my mother reads. I failed. Let’s just say, I really enjoyed my 20s]
Before I moved here I took a 2 month trip through Central America. Travel is the ultimate connector and during that trip I quickly bonded with people from around the world. The ease and depth of those connections reminded me of my days in Philadelphia.
I arrived in New Orleans envisioning a city full of potential new friendships. Instead, I mostly found missed connections. The old friend who suddenly disappeared. The well-meaning classmates I couldn’t click with. The friendly but insular locals. Friendships that served their purposes but never penetrated the surface.
It took me a long time to get to the root of the problem. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a lone wolf. I love making friends but I’m also fiercely independent, perpetually single, and cherish my alone time. I can also be stubbornly optimistic when things aren’t going my way. I refuse to believe that hard times will last. I am aware of my many privileges and how much worse things could always be. And there have been so many good times here. Something was just missing.
Over the last few months, some of my closest friends from Philadelphia have visited. Having them here felt like being jolted awake from a long strange nap. I felt more alive and more like myself than I had in a long time. I didn’t know I was sleeping until they arrived and shook me awake. I didn’t know I was disconnected until I reconnected.
These aren’t the people I grew up with. They’re the people I’ve grown up with. From a single recent college graduate trying to find my way, to a single recent college graduate trying…wait. Okay some of us have grown up. They are some of the deepest connections I have, and sharing a city with them again was the revelation I needed.
At brunch before I drove her to the airport, my friend/sister wife Lisa asked me, “After all your moves, where do you consider home?” I didn’t have to think about it. It was Philadelphia.
After everyone flew back home, that old feeling returned. That dull aching for something I could never identify. But I finally recognized it. It was a longing for real connections. It was a longing for home.
So that’s where I’m headed next month. I’m packing up my whole life, and I’m moving back. To my people, to my city, to my home.