I live in a voicemail world.
"Hey friend, it's me! I was just thinking of this one time..."
"This is Dad. Just calling to see what you were up to."
"Hello, hello, happy Tuesday..."
That icon almost permanently sits at the top of my cell phone. Rapped up into that strange little symbol (what is that thing, anyways?) are intermixed feelings of happiness, of regret, of nostalgia, of guilt, of hoping for better days, of sadness.
I moved far from home last year, leaving behind the majority of my VIPs, who are scattered across the Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic states. I essentially became a new person as I navigated my way through a mostly-terrifying-yet-sometimes-exhilarating life in a new city.
I think I've adjusted well to the delicate balancing act of trying to enjoy my new prerogative without letting memories become stale. I sit on the train and scroll through pictures of friends on my phone. I smile when a song reminds me of my mom as I walk through the park. I live by a planner carefully marked with countdowns of a visitor's arrival.
But I still can't shake those feelings every time the voicemail icon pops up.
I live in a semi-constant fear of making sure my relationships actually center on living through experiences instead of just playing catch up. For example, my best friend and I haven't verbally spoken to each other in two weeks. Since we have one of those "talk thirty times a day about the most asinine things" kinda friendships, it really feels like it's been forever.
I'll give her a buzz and it automatically goes to her voicemail. I silently sing along the words to the memory-committed recording. I begin a long rambling that might vaguely be considered a message. It ends with a "welp, gimme a call whenever you get a sec." She'll call me back, leaving a message mirroring my own, and we continue a round of phone tag that fiercely rivals an Olympic ping-pong match. Eventually, weeks later, we'll connect sometime. So much time will have passed by then we'll forget about many of those little daily nuances that make up the fabric of a friendship.
I know that I'm not alone-- a billion people go through the same situtation. Living in a world full of emails and text messages, Tweets and Facebook-ing, technology helps us keep tabs on each other. But when you're far from home, or far from your old life, you're just looking for that golden thread to connect you. For me, that's only obtained by talking to my people.
Just about the time I'll be cursing the voicemail universe's very name, karma will make its way 'round. You see, as much as I hate relying on these messages, I also love them. I save my favorite ones for years, keeping them as living records of my favorite people.
I take a listen when I'm homesick and want to hear a sorority sister tell me that she's lucky to have me in her life. I laugh when I listen to my childhood best friend rap her happy birthday greetings to me on the day of my 21st. My heart smiles when I hear the pride come through my mom's voice when she tells me she made it home safely after watching me walk across the stage of my college graduation.
For that minute or two, as those familiar voices race throughout my ears, all is right in the world. I remember who I am. More importantly, I remember those amazing people who -- no matter the distance -- make me who I am. And I guess I have my old frenemy, the voicemail world, to thank for that.