Your Friends in Life (and Medium) Will Come and Go
As the ball smacked against my perfectly aligned wrists that rare but familiar surge of exhilaration coursed through me.
Just by the feel, I knew I’d done my job. Beautifully, even artfully.
I didn’t even need to see him jump or his body arch. Or hear (much less see) the result: his relentless, unreturnable spike.
The point would be ours.
Decades of playing volleyball hadn’t made me the best player — I would always be a little spazzy and never capable of spiking the ball.
But I had a solid bump set that, when paired with the right partner, created magic.
Our chemistry was so strong and his skill so great that I knew exactly what would happen just from the feel of the ball as it made impact with my body.
If I delivered the perfect bump set, he would deliver the perfect spike.
We were a divine pairing.
I’ve played with some great volleyball teams over the years, but there was something very, very special during the time that he and a small group of us played on a local, informal volleyball team near the University of Texas campus.
(To be clear: our league was never affiliated with UT in any way.)
In fact, I met my closest Austin friend, Anne, during those days. She remains my best Austin pal to this day.
I looked forward to Thursday nights — the camaraderie, the laughs, the talent, the good sportsmanship.
I was just old enough and experienced enough to fully appreciate the ragtag group that assembled each Thursday night.
The oldest of the bunch, Mike. He was well into his 70’s, but still a solid player. He was kindly and affable. We all adored and respected him.
The friendly but competitive Mark. He ran the entire program and I’ll always be grateful to him for his passion for the sport and our tiny league.
The other main female player, Anne, who I mentioned above. She’s several inches taller than me and had a heck of a spike on lucky nights! We shared a love of music and the arts. She was the needed estrogen to add to mine!
The handsome but shy — oh, my gosh! I’ve forgotten his name — I secretly had a bit of a crush on him. He was the best player of the bunch in terms of consistency.
Rounding out our group was Austin.
I don’t know what to tell you other than the fact that he is at least 15 years younger than me, but we had…it.
I had assumed that it was one-sided until Anne blurted out one day: “It’s so obvious that you and Austin have chemistry. Neither of you could hide it if you tried.”
I was married at the time and was embarrassed by any mention of chemistry between me and some substantially younger dude.
She reassured me that she knew that neither I nor Austin was guilty of anything. (We weren’t.)
Eventually, Anne’s health prevented her from playing, Mike aged out, the hot guy moved, and Austin entered an MBA program that kept him from being able to play very often.
Of course, there were some other lovely people including Mark, but it was never the same.
I would come from time-to-time, but leave disappointed every time.
Eventually, I had to throw in the towel.
There was something special about our particular group.
It couldn’t be recreated. Once it was gone, it was gone forever.
And I stopped playing volleyball.
By about this time last year, I was caught off guard by a delightful realization:
That there was a small group of writers on Medium that felt like a community. My community.
This was rather shocking to me for a lot of reasons, but mostly because: (1) I never considered myself a writer and (2) I hadn’t started my blog, Bonnie’s Mixed Tape, with any expectation of finding friends out in Mediumland.
But it hit me last summer that I had a team of peers in addition to lots of great followers. My support team and following certainly were not legions. But my peers and followers were authentic and beloved by me!
It felt like we were in “it” together — we understood the unique challenges to writing on Medium, together we exposed our vulnerabilities, and we offered sincere advice and unfailing support to one another.
That all came to a crashing halt this past spring when there was a fracturing of our group. Everyone handled it differently.
But for me, it felt like a repeat of my magical volleyball team evaporating.
Unlike my volleyball league, though, our splintering was fast, cantankerous, and even cruel.
I don’t regret how I handled myself in the fallout, but in the end, I took a side and paid the price. I’ve been entirely written out of one of the writer’s Medium life. One of my other dear friends is no longer on Medium at all.
The summer of 2018 might not have been perfect, but my group, my support team, my friends on Medium were intact and I felt like I belonged to something that inspired and protected me.
I’ve shared a bit elsewhere that the fallout impacted my desire to write. This spring I was reeling from that pain and confusion plus other personal things in my life.
And then something happened right before I left for my European vacation a few weeks ago.
My pal, George J. Ziogas, wrote something that triggered a beautiful epiphany:
It may be true that my Medium community has changed due to what transpired, but it’s not truly gone. It’s evolved!
And that realization has been such a blessing to me — I’ve been sitting on this for a month because I was out of the country and it was important to me to share this story in a thoughtful manner once I was back home.
My “new” Medium community is a hybrid of some of the old crew and the addition of some fresh voices, too.
Even more importantly, George unwittingly made me realize that my community here might continue to change over time. But there’s no reason for me to feel that my community will go away entirely.
This has shifted my entire view of writing on Medium.
Writing on Medium may have started as writing about music and other passions, but it’s become something even more personal than I could have ever anticipated.
I care about the people here. (Well, at least some of you!)
I can’t possibly acknowledge everyone, but I am compelled to give a happy shout out to my longstanding Medium pals as well as my newer (I use the term loosely) friends.
I’m grateful to count you as #teambonnie and I hope you know I’m proud to be a part of your team, too!
A thank you to longtime #teambonnie members: Iva Ursano, Dick Millet, Jeff Barton, Gutbloom, Michelle Jaqua, Stella Guan, Deb Knobelman, PhD, Fierce Force 💃🏼, Niki Marinis, Jeremy Roberts, and Jon Scott.
And finally, I have to mention Alison E Rogers and Eleanor Sweeney. I haven’t heard from them in ages, but they were some of my earliest and most supportive pals. I still miss them and think of them with great affinity!
Thank you to all my fellow writers and followers who support me and my writing!
Until her 40’s, Bonnie’s worst nightmare included writing and sharing personal stories publicly. At her friends’ suggestion, she bemusedly started Bonnie’s Mixed Tape on Medium in 2017. She remains shocked that anyone reads her stories and that P.S. I Love You, the Writing Cooperative, and the Ascent have published her work.
She is moving to Mississippi in the coming months and is trying to embrace the fact that she has no idea what she’s getting herself into.
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Thank you for reading this story
I know you are busy and have lots of ways you could be spending your time. You using your time to read my work means the world to me — my sincerest thanks!