Wow. Just over 30 hours ago, I left my hotel and walked to Steamworks to meet a group of people I had been meeting online for almost 2 and a half years. I had meet a few of them before, but the idea of meeting 15 of them was a little nerve wracking to me. I was already pretty nervous about presenting my Masters of Education project, and the idea of finally being in the same room with these folks was adding excitement to the nerves.
Wow doesn’t seem like a big enough word. Hugs, lots of hugs happened when I walked into an already large gathering. People who I have only seen on screen were much taller that I thought. MUCH taller (I may have had some hobbit feelings) and holy cow, was it ever FUN to be in the SAME ROOM with them. I wonder now why we didn’t do this sooner.
The nerves stayed till I presented, but man, did I laugh and hug last night and, honestly, not once did I have my usual “awkward” moments that I am prone to in a large group. Folks can say that online connections aren’t the same as “real” connections, but, well, I can’t honestly explain it. I just knew these people. I had caught glimpses of their lives over the hours we spent together online. We worked together, learned together, laughed together and struggled together.
Every so often last night, I had to stop and look around and just realize that I was sitting beside Alison, or Harprit. That I could just walk over and talk to Heidi and discuss Marvel comics with Jake-IN PERSON! These were surreal moments for me. See, I always feel a little “outside” of groups at parties and gatherings, and last night I just didn’t feel that at all. The hardest part of the entire thing wasn’t actually giving my presentation, it was saying good-bye to these people. I felt like I wanted to keep talking to them. I wanted to call them up today and meet for coffee. It felt odd to see them onscreen this afternoon as the presentations wrapped up.
I don’t know if words can ever explain the gratitude I have to Val for bringing us together. I don’t know if she knew the connections that would be made as tiegrad grew. What I do know is that I am so thankful for these people in my cohort, my tiegrad family. Each of them has such greatness, such amazing brilliance, and they have so much heart. I can’t wait till the graducation meet up!