Casey receives a monthly Newsletter from Sandra Magsmen. This image was attached to the letter she got yesterday, which she then emailed to me.

It’s crazy that I can say that I’ve been “living” in Wilmington, NC now for 5 days. Five days doesn’t make it feel like home, but every day gets better and better. But what really brings a smile to my face is looking back on the 6 week drive I created to get here! During the time I drove cross country (4850 miles to be exact), I stopped to visit 11 states, stayed with 28 different friends and listened to 3 books on CD (big fan of the book, Connected and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – both recommended to me by great guy friends 🙂 )

Along my “Stranger to Friend Journey” (that is, the friends I visited paved the course I chose to drive across the good ol’ US of A), I did my best to be IN the moment. But with this I had a lot of inner conflict as I knew I should be writing and recording all the memories. On my car rides, of even better… late at night when all I wanted to do was sleep, I found myself reflecting on the on the days gone bye. All the little pieces that had to come together to form the whole. I left my familiars and friends of San Diego to embark on my next chapter in life,  recommit to writing this blog and developing the mission for Turning Strangers into Friends. When I left it seemed so very simple…   and two months later when I arrived, it felt scary. Liberating, but lonely. It wasn’t long until that ugly voice in my head, that I can honestly say, had stayed relatively quiet during my decision making process, started interjecting her opinions on my idea to let go of my life in the Corporate World and pursue my passion. To leave the sunny beaches of California and move to a city in NC that I had never visited before, to bid farewell to friends I consider my family and arrive in a small town… alone.  And now that I was here, there was no one to create the accountability to follow my passion… but myself.

Which brings me to yesterday 🙂

Yesterday was the first day here that I woke up feeling confident and very excited, well… slightly hungover from the oysters, clams (all local) vodka and vino consumed the night before with my new STFs, Leslie and Mike York, but nonetheless, ready to explore my new turf with Leslie!  She took me to Mixto, her favorite Fish Taco spot for lunch that also had delicious jalapeno queso. She introduced me to Tidal Creek Co-op where I will now buy my fresh fruits and veggies. She brought me to three beaches, Wrightsville, Carolina and Kure. It’s hard for me convey the sigh of relief that washed over me when my eyes caught their first glimpse of Mother Nature in all her glory… The Atlantic Ocean.  The Pacific’s other half, smaller, warmer… and filled with wonder! It was in that moment that the world became small again. I felt grounded. I felt reassured on my decision to travel to the other side of the country (literally, San Diego and Wilmington sit on the same parallel!) Wrapping up our day with a beer at The Fat Pelican I could feel the smile creep across my face as I had vision of summer time beach trips flash through my mind. Leslie had given me the gift of a glorious day! But, at the same time, that little voice in my head began to nag me. It began asking me what I was going to do next. I knew I had to start writing. The stories were were beginning to unravel themselves right in front of my eyes.

Casey at the Zoo in Australia in 2009

I arrived home around 4:30 PM. Before settling in to the couch for a nap, I turned on my lap top… and found an email from Casey O’Connell. This is what it said:

Hi Carlyn,
I’m currently sitting in the School of Ed library at IU and after listening to a “This American Life” podcast on my bus ride here I ended up in a whirlwind google search for something that I heard mentioned during the show.  While I didn’t end up on the website that Ira Glass was talking about, I did find yours!  My name is Casey and I’m a grad student at IU getting my intial teacher license and Master’s in special education.  What a small world that I stumbled onto your page through the millions of websites out there and you’ve also lived in good ol’ Bloomington, IN!  Anyway, I love being inspired by the world around me and I definitely find you and your story to be just that!  I’m not really sure what my purpose was for emailing you .. I guess to turn a stranger into a friend .. or maybe it’s just because I have no desire to do my homework that I need to before my 3 hour class tonight .. but either way, I’m happy I found your site!
Reading this email sent chills throughout my body!!! Her decision to reach out to me could not have happened on a better day! It was as if on command, I received a SIGN. Someone… out there… found my site… accidentally… and reading it… made them feel good. That was all the proof I needed that I was on the right track!  The best part, Casey was unaware of where I was in my journey. I immediately wrote her back a fairly detailed email and thus… OUR journey began.  As she said so well in a following email, “My friend came over last night and we were watching TV and I told him about emailing you yesterday and all that came of it.  It was then that I realized your true mission .. that all it takes is one person to connect with another person and friendship can begin. I’ve had some bad friends in the past.  I don’t even think I’d consider them friends with my current definition, but at the time they were who surrounded me.  Every day I feel like I’m coming closer to understanding more and more what I consider to be a friend and working to let go of the bad relationships and friendships I’ve had in the past.  I’ve found that the hardest part is really letting go. But at the same time, I totally agree with your whole timing is everything idea.”

In our case, she was correct; the timing was perfect.  I woke up knowing it was going to be a great day and because of her email, I would fall asleep knowing it was an EXCELLENT day. She and I have continued to email back and forth. Casey is not just an email address.  Casey is a girl from Chicago who went to attended a small liberal arts school in Green Bay, WI. She moved to Bloomington, IN to attend Indiana University… not knowing a soul. She has shared with me about her journey to Australia in 2009 and asked my thoughts on a troubled friendship with a girl friend. I then told her about my trip to Australia and offered, hopefully,  words of wisdom to comfort any of her sad feelings about her friend. But, most powerful, is the the positive energy she unknowingly sent to me through her email. Her decision to reach out to me, to simply let me know she liked my website, the act of one person sharing with another, was all it took to ignite the fire in my fingertips to start writing!
So, a big THANK YOU to Casey O’Connell, a Stranger turned Friend who is living in my old stomping ground of Bloomington, IN. She only did what felt natural– she sent me a note letting me know she liked my work. Little did she know how far her small ripple would go… it was the mighty wave that needed to receive.
The Next Step: plan a trip to B-town. I am DYING to get back to Hoosierland and now I have a friend to visit. 🙂
Casey recommends the book, “The Short Bus” by Jonathan Mooney.  Per Casey, “In it he travels around the country visiting different people that have “ridden the short bus” and he talks about life, love, and special education in society in general.  It’s an easy read and very funny yet moving.  Might help you get jump started on your book ;)”
Also, here is the link to Sandra Magsamen’s Work. Enjoy!