7 February 2016

How I Found Joe, Part One

My exact words upon seeing the paper, "this is crazy this is crazy this is crazy"

Ok, wow. So it's on the front page of the paper. Joe and I from 1998 are on the front page of The Dominion Post. Every time I see it I laugh, because when that photo was taken I never imagined it'd be on the front page of a newspaper in New Zealand!

People suggested earlier in the process to contact media but I didn't think I'd have to. That was a really intimidating idea. Surely I'd find him before having to go to this extreme measure. But on Saturday 30 of January, I woke up eager to take another step closer. I didn't think I'd actually find him; maybe he was living in another country? 

Picking up the newspapers my father left scattered around my house from his visit, I thought contacting The Wellingtonian and asking them to print a blurb with his picture would be enough. When I tried to find who to contact, I only found a general newsroom email. So I wrote, asking if they could help me find my long-lost friend.

Sunday morning the phone rang. A reporter just as excited as I and very willing to help, we agreed to meet. Things sped up quickly from then on.

It didn't take long for tips to come in after the article went live Wednesday night, only hours after meeting with Jessy. Someone contacted her with a definitive “This is Joe Wareham”.  The name sounded so familiar. How could I have forgotten?

My husband and I googled. Facebooked. Nothing. Still nothing, even with a new surname. I found other Wareham’s online but pretty much felt like this was going to be another dead end. Joe Wareham was going to be just as hard to find as Joe Wellington. 

Aaron, my husband, wanted to call the numbers listed under Wareham right then. He was so excited and certain this was going to be him.
I wanted to wait. 
I needed to wait. 
Slow things down a bit.
Comments under the online article were toxic; people trying to turn the story into something it wasn't. I'm aware that’s the risk you take when putting yourself or your story in the public eye. Reminder for the future: Don't read the comments. The good ones will find you
I wanted to wait to see if Joe would reach out to me. This has been about my journey, but now I’ve put him in the spotlight and if he doesn't want to be found, I want to let him make that decision.
So I tried to sleep. But my phone kept buzzing with new information. 
Someone messaged my Facebook page to tell me my long-lost friend from 18 years ago is Joe Wareham. Two people telling me that's who he is. Soon, three. Then four. Five total over the course of 24 hours.
A friend of Joe’s wrote on my blog, asking me to email him. I did, straight away. Two in the morning by the time I finally fell asleep. 

Thursday morning was hectic. More notifications, emails, pictures sent. Two television producers sent my personal Facebook page messages asking to meet- they loved the story and would like to help with the search. It was lovely but I was completely overwhelmed. 

And then, an email from Joe’s friend: Joe knew I was looking for him, would contact me when things settled. My heart was racing. The story could've stopped there and I would've been satisfied. I knew he was here. He knew I was here. That was enough. 
Needing to get out a bit, my son and I escaped to a friend’s house and thank goodness I did. Spammers started commenting on my blog, which really freaked me out. I knew I was taking a risk but I didn’t think I was doing something wrong. Truly. The panic set in. I called the reporter, needing guidance on how to handle it all. 

"This is between you and him. Focus on that. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. It's about your friendship, your story," Jessy said. 

The good will find you.

I received an email from Joe.

Joe Wareham is the Joe Wellington I’ve searched for. Two years of wondering, now over.
We exchanged a few pleasant emails and I was surprised to learn he had known about the blog since December! He offered to meet up. He suggested the lookout at Mount Victoria, with views of Wellington Harbour. He said it’d be fitting for my blog, which he understood was much about my adventure here in New Zealand, and not just about him.

I asked him if it'd be okay to let Jessy know we were meeting and that she'd probably want to be there. If not, it wouldn't deter me from meeting. This was something I'd waited two years for. 
My adrenaline kept me awake most of the night.
Was he upset with me?
Had he read my blog?
Why didn’t he reach out when he learned of it in December?
More importantly, is he getting on ok with all this unwanted attention?

How I Found Joe, Part Two

Trying my best to answer questions
photo by Aaron Carlino

The reporter waved as we pulled into the car park at Mt Victoria, my husband in the passenger seat. They hooked up a microphone to get some clips for the online story. That was pretty cool and all but honestly, my thoughts were swirling. I couldn't even form a sentence. 

Before arriving, Joe sent an email telling me what he’d be wearing so I knew what to look for. Imagine that! Joe 'Wellington' helping me with the search! 

He also noted that if there were cruise ships in the harbour, the lookout would be a bit busy. He wasn’t wrong. Two tour busses pulled in just behind me. This made me very nervous that he’d be a no-show.

Seeing Joe for the first time in 18 years atop Mt Vic
photo by Aaron Carlino
photo by Aaron Carlino

But he showed.
As soon as he hit the platform atop the stairs, I knew it was him.
I waved, in case he didn’t recognize me from the photos in the paper.

I've found Joe Wareham
photo by Aaron Carlino

Both of us grinning, we hugged.
After checking in on how the other was coping with this, we didn’t miss a beat catching up. As comfortable and genuine (although definitely awkward with the media there) as it was when we met all those years ago.

Beautiful Wellington in the background
photo by Aaron Carlino

“Have you been quite homesick?” He asked.
Such a simple question, but one only someone who could relate would ask.
I nodded, grateful for the sincerity, familiar sorrow from when I was 19 returning briefly.
 “Oh, I probably could’ve helped with that a bit when you arrived,” he said. 
We laughed.
That’s just like the Joe I remember. Kind, thoughtful words even 18 years later.

I apologised for making such a big stink of it. He said he should've reached out when he heard of the blog, but was too shy. I don't blame him. Looking at it from his perspective, it's pretty weird that someone would blog about searching for you. But that's how my creative mind works. And anyone who's read the blog knows it's how I've coped with moving here; a creative outlet that's given me a way to keep my loved ones overseas in the loop. 

"But it worked! I found you!"
photo by Aaron Carlino
Jessy interviewing Joe. I think he reveals here he didn't see
the psychic in San Francisco, only waited while I did!
photo by Aaron Carlino

Joe, you've got a lovely home
photo by Aaron Carlino

When the reporter and photographer left, the three of us continued to chat as another tour bus rolled in. I took this opportunity to do a celebratory jig around the lookout in honour of finally finding Joe.

We exchanged mobiles and took selfies. He’s said he’d like to catch up some more soon (we’ve got 18 years worth!), which I’m eager for. He’s even said he may write up a post from his perspective for the blog. I'd love it. 

It's been an amazing week. So much anxiety, uncertainty, excitement, moments of shame, insecurity, but ultimately, the good will find you. There's no expectations on my end. It's been thrilling, I'm very grateful for his openness. It's a fun story to think we met so long ago in the USA and now here we are in New Zealand. 

I couldn’t have done it with you, Wellingtonians. Thank you.

This time I’ve got several pictures, a number, an address, and I’ll be sure not to lose touch with Joe Wareham from Wellington.

Joe and Lissa February 2016 Mt Victoria
photo by Aaron Carlino

5 February 2016

His name is Joe Wareham

And I found him at the lookout on Mt Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand.

More soon. For now, please enjoy watching/reading here.

Thank you!

I've Found Joe Wellington

I’m unsure how to even begin this post. The last few days have brought many emotions; some I wasn’t expecting at all. I’m knackered.

I couldn’t sleep well the past few nights. Partly due to the heat but mostly due to the buzz from leads pouring in. My husband and I stayed up late on our computers, looking up every tip. Even the stupid Moody Blues my husband mocked with (I Know You’re Out There Somewhere) distracted me only briefly for a laugh.

I have to laugh.

This journey is fun. The youthful, carefree energy from 1998 with me even as I wade through comments, trolls, and pictures people send. Because I like to write fiction, I think it gets easy for me to think of him as a character. But he’s not.

He’s very real.

For two years, I’ve blogged about this person. Someone I connected with long ago- we were two kids, really- in a large city, unsure of our place. We clung to the comfort of the other (me more than him, I’m sure). Many years ago I traveled to San Francisco, grieving a significant death of someone I cared about very much, and I began to heal. Joe was a part of that, and at the time, wanted to be. I’m grateful. His meaningful inscription in a book about connection and healing, motivated me to look for him now that I’m living in New Zealand.

Thanks to the Dominion Post for seeing the fun in this story, and to the lovely people of Wellington, I now have a proper name for the person I’ve referred to as Joe Wellington for so long.

Joe and I have been in contact. I nearly had a panic attack when the email hit my inbox. Because he’s real.

So what’s next?

We’ll meet. Today. I have no expectations.

Right now, I have dishes to do and a sunrise to honour. But, I’m happy to finally be able to say:

I’ve found Joe Wellington.

(More to come)

4 February 2016

Thank you!

Thank you, Wellingtonians for your help with this search. You've been most helpful.

Extra special thank you to Jessy Edwards for taking an interest in this story!

It's been a bit overwhelming. I've got heaps of information to go through so I'm going to press pause a bit, while I go through all the new info.

I appreciate this very much. You're all lovely. Will get back to you as soon as I can.