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?

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