Remember that old song? This post has been rattling around in my head for three days now, so I guess I better get it done so I can start sleeping again! I tend to suffer from the opposite of writer’s block…we’ll call it writer’s gush. I had a dream the other night about my dear friend Dennis. (This picture left to right is Susy, Dennis, Lisa and me at one of our state conferences.) The dream was about saying goodbye since he’ll soon be leaving the position he’s in, and we won’t be working together anymore; we’ve worked together for ten years and have become very close friends. It got me thinking about all the great friends I’ve made through my career and the importance of friendships in general. You’ve seen those emails come around, the ones about taking the time to connect with a friend? It really is true, and the older I get, the more important I realize it is.
I think it takes a particular type of person to truly be successful in the work that Dennis and I do. We have to be a little crazy, fairly outgoing, unafraid to get up in front of a large group of people yet still be a very effective counselor one-on-one, and be able to do it all while juggling eight different tasks at the same time…from serving as a shoulder to cry on for a student who’s just broken up with her boyfriend (or just had sex for the first time—I’ve had that conversation half a dozen times now) to explaining yet again to campus administration why you must break fire codes and leave the door to the weight room propped open for the sake of student safety. We are stand-in moms, dads, sisters, brothers, counselors, teachers, mentors, encouragers and rule enforcers all at once. The most successful of us do all that well, and because of our unique line of work, we tend to make some pretty tight bonds. I’ve often heard you make some of your closest, life-long friends in college because that’s a time of such tremendous growth, with new experiences and new responsibilities combined in many cases with being away from Mom and Dad for the first time. I do have several very close friends from college that I still talk to on a very regular basis, now nearly twenty years later. This group that I’ve grown to love from work is much like that….maybe because we were still in that college environment, but as staff rather than students.
There are six of us that became particularly close, and now with Dennis leaving for an entirely different field (he’s getting his doctorate in natural health), I am becoming the Last of the Mohicans. The first four scattered for various reasons….more money, pursuing a doctorate, children. (In this picture, that's me and Jim on the far right with a group of students at Coney Island in New York City.) I’ve shared here before that I’ve been considering a shift over to teaching full-time should the opportunity arise. This is part of the reason. Yes, for the most part, I truly love what I do. I spent Friday writing awards nominations for my students and was reminded why I do what I do; I have a really great group of students this year. Yet I can’t imagine doing this work without this particular group of friends. We’ve grown so much together and shared so much together. We’ve been the perfect sounding boards to share new ideas and vent about frustrations as we’ve all been in the same spot; we’ve helped each other through personal issues and the loss of parents; and we’ve cried together over the loss of a dear friend in a car accident. We’ve even had children about the same time. Like me, Dennis has a little girl who will start kindergarten this fall; Susy has twin boys, born just six months after Sarah and Olivia. Doug has a one-year-old baby girl. Jim’s kids are 9 and 12, and Lisa’s “kids” are all of the feline variety. And we have played together…my, how we have played together. Lots of summer out and abouts and many late night poker games. One night, the six of us were playing poker, and Susy, Lisa and I were all sitting on the couch. It took the guys a good hour to realize the three of us were sharing our cards so one of us could always come up with the best hand and take all their money. We called it “strateegery”. Not “strategy” but “strateegery”. Of course, the guys just called it cheating. I think they were just jealous they didn’t think of it first.
Dennis and I will stay in touch, there’s no question about that, just as all of us still do. (Dennis and Doug in this picture at one of our putt-putt tournaments in Destin.) Susy and I have been on vacation together with our families; I still have hour long phone conversations with both Lisa and Jim, and Doug and I email each other often. But those student government conferences just won’t be the same without Dennis, just as he and I have already been missing the rest of the gang these past two years. There’s an old poem that talks about people coming into your lives for various things…some for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. I truly hope these five are in that last category for me. We've gained so much from each other and have made some great memories. Now that our paths are moving in separate directions, I pray that our bond will be strong enough to create more great memories to come. Now go call all your old friends!