I have been thinking a lot today about imaginary friends. My sister had one who was quite a terror…was allowed to do everything Melody wasn’t, and had no real limits at all. She came to a bad end. My brother had two…a giant and an elf. I remember hearing him playing with them in his bedroom, having conversations using his normal little kid voice, a deep voice for the giant, and a high squeaky voice for the elf.
I didn’t have — or need — an imaginary friend as a child. I had my mother all to myself until I was five years old.
Fast-forward nearly sixty years to the spring of 2013. The company I had represented for 10 years filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, turning my life and the lives of thousands of other consultants upside down. The company-sponsored social networks were sharing information about the process on a need-to-know basis, and they didn’t seem to think we had a need to know very much. Kool-aid seemed to be the corporate drink of choice, and unicorns and rainbows the corporate logos. Facing the end of what many of us had considered a life-long association was a painful, frustrating, and grief-filled process.
And in came the imaginary friends to ease the way. One brave woman, realizing the need for a “safe zone” for conversations, information sharing, and grieving, set up a secret group on Face Book, and over the space of several months I found myself the proud associate of over 1,300 friends. Some of the women I had met “in real life”, many had names I recognized from company events and public relations pieces, but many became real to me in our countless heartfelt conversations over the internet. These, my imaginary friends, filled a void I hadn’t even realized existed, and I will be forever grateful.
The time of crisis for our company has passed, and life is beginning to return to a new normal for most of us. But the bonds of caring and sisterhood that we forged through the miracle of social media will continue. Our community of women (and a few special men) has come together to support families who have lost loved ones, families with breadwinners out of work, families affected by natural disasters…in other words, families just going about their day-to-day lives. And we will continue to do so.
Long live our friends, imaginary and otherwise.