Growing up among strangers

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strangers

I am 18 years old. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a bright and lonely kid.

The fact that I was originally from the countryside did not represent an advantage for me because I would often feel like I didn’t belong anywhere else. I was also quite profound. Back home, the kids didn’t read, ask themselves questions or live everything so intensely. At least, that was how it seemed to me, but it certainly accentuated in middle school. Here’s how I grew up among strangers!

My loneliness intensified and I would often prefer the company of a good book and social media rather than the company of my friends.

Back then, I was dealing with some problems and dilemmas that were overwhelming me and I couldn’t overcome them until later on. I was chatting with my parents and classmates, I was laughing, hanging out with them but only to the point where I was feeling more and more exotic in my very own home, as though nobody could help me and make me feel understood. I was feeling trapped, hopeless.   



The evolution

In a moment of despair, I started writing poetry and reading more but most importantly, I started talking with people I met online. It all started with groups about bands and singers. We were hundreds of people, from all over the country. We were posting all kinds of stuff about ourselves, about the singers we loved, talking about our lives and asking for advice. From trivial topics to ”how often do you wash your hair”, to more complex ones, such as LGBTQ+ rights. We were sharing every small detail and ordinary thought that was crossing our minds. 

And we’ve learned a lot. We were like a family, we knew each other so well.

Everyone couldn’t wait until 12 o’clock to post what happened to them and talk about it. I was 13 years old and felt connected to those my age, who were more complex and profound than me. I’ve talked with a lot of people and this radically changed my life. It didn’t matter that we were so different and so far away from each other. Everyone believed one thing: you can have long-distance friends and they can be better than those “close” to you. We genuinely loved each other.

Some of us would organize meetings in the big cities, but only the lucky ones were able to come. When they met each other for the first time, they would post who they met, where and how happy they were. Those who couldn’t come were also happy for them, but the sadness was still there, because we knew we had people we wanted to meet, but couldn’t.

It hurt a lot, but it was also beautiful.

I had to wait for years until I could see my best friend face to face because my parents didn’t understand the concept of long-distance friendships. Up until this day, they still don’t. They thought it was a waste of time and that I was crazy, that there could be the risk of me talking with a catfish.

“Friends are the ones who help you with your problems, the ones you can rely on when you are in need of money.”

It saddens me to see that most people care about the material side of relationships, rather than authentic feelings. They don’t understand that the ones who help you the most are those who mend your soul, those who can offer you something priceless – their time and support.



People care too much about the physical appearance.

When we were little, we were taught that personality matters the most. We didn’t care how someone looked – we all went through that phase when we didn’t even have a profile picture of us. Actually, we only sent pictures of us when we felt close enough. We cared about our friends’ dreams, passions and problems. However, appearance wasn’t important. It was the final piece of the puzzle. We already knew each other very well, without knowing how we looked.

The focus was on our personalities, without giving a second thought to our looks.

We showed one another who we really are, without any shame. There was some kind of safety behind a fake photo or a fake name. Nevertheless, you could show your true self. We weren’t afraid. What kind of pedophile or criminal would have the patience to talk to you every day for months, to understand your problems, to help you, to get to know you?

That’s what we thought, that if you talk with someone in a field where the physical presence doesn’t exist, there are no judgments and constraints.

On the Internet, the only thing that matters is your way of thinking, because the image can be edited, but not the mind.If you do not cling to the looks and open yourself with the best intentions, only the pure essence of a person remains on the Internet.

I am still in touch with people I met when I was 13 and people I met, later on, that became great friends of mine.

When’d randomly meet at the Olympics or educational projects, we’d behave as if we already knew each other, and we really knew each other, although we had changed. There are people without whom I cannot imagine my life because they have been by my side since the beginning of my adolescence and although they have watched me grow and change over the years, their feelings towards me remained the same.



How could I be so sure online relationships are authentic?

Two years ago a person from those online groups died. Her name was Oana, she killed herself.

I was speechless. Even today… I cannot explain why it affects me so much because I barely changed a few words with her while she was alive. But it made me question everything, value life more. We had close friends who were destroyed because they talked more with her. I felt empathy for what they felt, and somehow Oana’s death united us.

Nobody knows why she gave up on her life, but we all regretted that we couldn’t talk to her anymore, that we couldn’t be there, that we didn’t realize she was in trouble.

We lost one of us from our large family. How did she bring us together? Because we all knew why we took refuge here, that we all had problems that we escaped with the help of our friends here, we all knew that we have people here who will accompany us for a good part of our lives, that we would be extremely different. With these groups, somehow, we all felt connected. And what happened to Oana awakened us, we regretted that we could not help her, that someone who believed in the story of unconditional friendship has died.

But, in the end, we realized that friendship is more than physical closeness, friendship connects you even to a stranger.

Messages from Oana’s remote friends:

 “Sorry. I realized everything too late. You were already on the front page of your city newspaper. I realized too late that the universe didn’t treat you the way you deserved. You deserved to live a long life, to finish high school, enter the desired college in the desired city with all your friends. You had to live your life to the fullest, to continue to enjoy the little things as you always did.

I still remember when you were telling us about a day when you felt happy.

Just finished cleaning your room, you opened the curtains and noticed that it was warm and beautiful outside. You have eaten the Nutella and bananas and I swear, at this point, I want to think that now you enjoy a hot chocolate and you look on the glass at the street lights and appreciate that it is autumn. That you resisted for another season. That you will overcome all the pain for another year. But two years have already passed and you are no longer here.”- Denisa, 18 years old.

 

“It’s on November 22nd. It’s evening. I am sitting between a lot of people humming, dancing, smiling. I gather the tears that form my tears at the corners of my eyes. Then I hear Brenciu confidently telling me that he wants to be in a world he doesn’t know, that he wants to be, and no, it’s not too late. But I can only think of the fact that for some it is actually too late. I can’t help thinking that it’s never too late. It’s a lie.

If it’s not too late, then why can’t I refresh my voice?

Then why can’t I take your face in my hands and kiss you on the forehead like a younger sister? Why can’t I start my day with a message from you? Then why can’t I drown in a sea of ​​sounds from which to select only your laughter to guide me? Why can’t I see your smile in anything other than a two-year-old photo?Then why does everyone tell me that you are dead?”- Paula, 18 years old.

 

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