Tag Archives: friendship

Good night, sweetheart, well it’s time to go

I hate goodbyes. It’s better to say “see you next time,” because that leaves all kinds of hope shimmering in the sunlight.

It’s hard to leave something, somewhere – wherever you’ve found yourself for the last while, working and building and arguing and creating. But to everything there is a season, says the Preacher. And this is one of those times.

So I packed up my things today, looked around one more time, gave some hugs. Walked out of my (former) office, bit back some tears, already missing the tall ceiling, not missing the steamy 80 degrees on the thermostat in the summer because our AC can’t keep up, missing the witty conversation I won’t be a part of tomorrow morning, not missing the mundane tasks of office life.

It’s hard to leave people. Really, that’s what always gets me. Places can be beautiful or fun or memorable or breathtaking or functional or inspiring and all that … but People. People are what make this world tick, yannow?  And the four of us had some amazing moments.

Seriously. We were a comedy machine. Just turn the spigot a quarter turn — give us a funny word, an odd last name, an obscure movie reference, a quote from Monty Python, a raised eyebrow, a ridiculous request from some office across campus — and we were off to the Comedy Races.


There’s that time the guys quoted like whole sections of The Holy Grail, so much that we could theme our Student Appreciation Day around the crazy Brits. (See photo, above.)

There were the snatches of ideas for improv sketches that we knew we’d never actually do, but it was fun to imagine doing them…..
– “What if email spam filters became sentient, and actually explained why you were getting that email about penis enhancement but the expense reports from downstairs were always MIA?”
– “What is the waiting room like outside Hell? Are there snacks? A coffee machine? Decent chairs?”
– And does Heaven have an Orientation session where God or some angel answers all the questions they’ve collected for the past 10,000 years, so they don’t have to answer them individually?  “For a presentation on the Noaic Flood, head to Room A at 3pm. For evil and war, a panel discussion will take place in Room B at 5pm. To locate the socks missing from your dryer, see the Steward on Aisle 10.”
– “What if we created a newsletter for campus but called it “Ill-Health Times?” (This was after the sudden rush of “good health” updates from HR on “Wellness Wednesdays.”)
– “Why isn’t there Yelp for drug dealers?”  “Maybe there is but we don’t know anything about it.”
– “What about the Rituals Help Desk, where upset pagans call to complain that they’ve sacrificed the chicken and smeared the blood in a precise 8 foot circle, but no demon ever showed up?”

We kicked around endless ideas for mind games, cackling with glee when we were able to end a sentence perfectly as soon as the boss crossed the threshold and paused, wondering if we’d stopped talking on his account. (Honestly, Cliff, almost never. I promise.)  And I had other great partners in crime: Tobe & I ran experiments to see how many “dapper” comments we could toss toward Cliff before he’d react visibly.  She and her team had whole books of codewords they’d use in text or snapchat to refer to particular coworkers.

And sometimes I’d laugh so hard the whole hallway would hear me, because I do that occasionally, and it’s stupidly loud and probably annoying to half the planet. …But to the other half of the planet, since they all heard me too, I hope you smiled. Laughter is good for your spirit. You should have laugh-cries at least once a month week. Does wonders for your outlook.

I totally screwed up my chance to look badass in this photo. Still kinda chagrined about that. Everybody else is so…Whovian…and I’m standing here grinning like a damn puppy. *rolls eyes*

It’s hard to leave a job you’ve worked at for, say, 4 years. I finally know what I’m doing. Heaven knows it took a solid year for me to even begin to feel like I had a handle on things. Impostor Syndrome – it’s a thing.  Leaving the classroom for a new field made me very insecure.  I didn’t know business culture, didn’t know the marketing lingo, didn’t know the work I was supposed to be doing. I watched, observed, studied every word and gesture so I could claw my way out of the feeling that I didn’t belong there. ….Those were unsettling times.

That, and fighting off waves of fear that I’d made a mistake by leaving teaching, the one job I felt called to do, even if it seemed like I had good reasons. And regret – because it’s a visceral gut-punch not to be with your students who have come to campus for a tour. I know that leaving my classroom in 2012 was the right move because I was bored. But I had to come to know that in my bones, in my head, in my gut, in my hands, in my heart.

This was good. Change was good. I needed to grow. I needed to realize that I should have been actually planning for a career this whole time, but who knew? Nearly every married woman in my address book has dropped out of work or left their original ambitions to be a mother. Few have gone back after their kids grew up. How was I to know in my 20s that I would not also trade work for parenting?  (And in the world where I grew up, there is no higher sacrifice than that a woman lay down her life’s work for her children.) (Leaves the rest of us in a pickle, doesn’t it?)

So I’ve learned some things.

One, I’m a good designer and creative director, but I still talk too much in every meeting. (Working on it!)  I leap too quickly to solutions and skip some of the discovery steps to good design thinking and problem solving… but I’m working on that too. It was great to have such creative thinkers working alongside me. Creativity cannot exist in a vacuum. It thrives within collaboration.

It’s at Erskine that I learned how much I love creative directing, even more than designing. It’s like getting to hold the wheel of a powerful machine, one that can produce amazing wonders like museum exhibits:

Two, teamwork is hard to achieve but still vitally important. Working in a silo is bad. Also, team “culture” is everything. As the dude said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He’s right.

Three, if I can ever spend my days as the literary bartender/barista in the 21st century version of a Parisian intellectual salon, I will know that I’ve hit the career lottery.  I want to talk to people about what they want to do, and then help them make their ideas better. That’s it, really.

Fourth, you need to go do the work that will bring you joy and deep satisfaction. But sometimes employment doesn’t fill that deep hole. Yet you can still find joy in the moment, in the people around you, in a sense of accomplishment. And when you cannot do that any longer, when you’ve explored to the very edges of the day’s work and there are no worlds left to conquer, it’s probably time to find a new challenge.

Fifth, seize every opportunity to get to know people, to find those kindred souls tucked in other parts of the organization, the people who understand that laughter is medicine and kindness is golden and friends are really hard to find once you’re an adult, and hold on to those people. Because they’re priceless. Go “do life” with them.

We “did some life” at the beach with these people a few weeks ago. No, the ocean isn’t running downhill. It’s a cool hipster angle. Hand-crafted, even. Artisanal.

I’m going to miss many things about my work at this little college in Due West. It’s a special place that’s impossible to understand until you’ve walked a mile in its shoes. Wouldn’t trade the last four years for anything….

And that’s why I cried most of my drive home. S’Ok, though. Something new is coming.


Ending well

As I understand it, the Vikings believed that the afterlife was too fuzzy to put much stock in (maybe it existed, maybe it didn’t, but who could know for sure). But one thing a person could take charge of was the way he died.

“Die well.”

For a warrior, that meant dying in battle, sword and shield in use. You didn’t want to exit this world foolishly or as a coward. To die fighting was better than to slink away. To do something meaningful was worth the risks, even losing everything.

While I do think we have something to look forward to beyond this life, I also think we have much to gain from a more Viking point of view. Ending well is worth something.

I’ve had a few endings -of the non-permanent kind- to live out. Leaving a job, leaving a town, leaving a relationship. Often the circumstances are mostly beyond our control, but it’s still possible to “leave well.”  To walk away without torching everything behind you.

We said goodbye to a dear friend this weekend. Tobe has given nearly every adult year of her life to working at the same institution, and she was the face of it for many years. These past several months have been hard to watch, for it seems that she’s gotten the raw end of a very bad deal. But she has refused to let that color her ending. She leaves “with no regrets,” and she means it. Her contributions are clear, and she’s headed into a fantastic new job where it seems she will be supported and appreciated. And when she looks back over her shoulder, she sees hundreds of students and coworkers whose lives she touched.

Tobe's Farewell

Goodbyes are hard. I don’t like shifting a friendship into long-distance mode. (So thankful that we have Snapchat now, and FaceTime, and Skype, and every other amazing communication tool to close the distance of physical geography. What a world we live in!) But I’m thrilled that we got to know Tobe for the past few years, and I love watching people burst forward into new phases of life.

Gives me hope for the future, for my future.


Article: Easter Vocation: I Have Seen the Lord | The Washington Institute

A lovely read about Easter, vocation, and “holy friends” who call us to be all that we are in Christ.  Recommended.

We hope and pray for friends who can help us discern our vocation. Vocation is lived through the grace of ordinary living in family life and daily work. And vocation is lived through an extraordinary witness to the possibilities of a new country. Either way, we can lean into the possibilities for life abundant.

We will discover and rediscover our vocation as we seek to live as Easter people, bearing witness that even in our despair, God finds us, calls us by name, and invites us to tell others: “I have seen the risen Lord.”

via Easter Vocation: I Have Seen the Lord | The Washington Institute.

The Gardener vs The Arborist

working with young adults offers ample moments for reflection.  As I work to understand them, I learn a lot about myself, both my current self and the person I was 20 years ago.

I’ve been thinking for a few years now about the nature of friendship. Humans are wired for companionship — Donne was right that ‘no man is an island’; Countee Cullen declared that one man’s grief is another man’s crown of healing.  But sin cuts us off from each other. Friend-making and friend-keeping are fraught with obstacles, false starts, wrong turns, false hopes, and our own mistakes.

I’d like to think that adults have an easier time in the friendship game, but truth is — we don’t.  Our advanced experience gains us the advantage of avoiding a lot of mistakes that young people make; life itself tends to rub off our selfishness and make us a little more palatable to the average human. On the downside, adults rarely have as many opportunities to build strong friendships. Our years of common experience (college) have passed; our time is entirely absorbed with making a living and/or raising a family.

As I wander the world of adolescent hormones and teen relationships, I have noticed one significant difference between their friendships and mine:   Teens garden. Adults prune.

Kids begin tons of relationships, and do so quickly and easily. Friends of convenience (someone to hang out with at social events); friends of proximity (classmates); friends with mutual interests (music, dance, movies, cars); friends with romantic potential (‘ooooh… she’s hott”); friends out of mere circumstance (sat next to them on a bus one time).  They rarely stop to consider whether the friendship they just began is viable, practical, or long-term. It’s like a garden, and every seed is worth planting. You never know what might grow.  Investment in each other — if its even on the radar — isn’t really the point.  Friendships are almost haphazard, though they bear an incredible significance when they do develop.

Adults (as far as I can tell) have all the same types of friends — proximity, convenience, mutual interests, circumstance, whatever — but we lose that gardening optimism. I’m not interested in pursuing every acquaintance for something deeper. Like a careful arborist, I find myself pruning relationships down to the few that seem to be actually growing.  In the rare occasion that someone begins to invest in me as a friend, I take that really seriously. Growing a friendship requires a lot of work but, done well, yields remarkable joy.  Losing a friendship after it’s taken root grieves me — there’s a literal mourning period.  I hate it.

I’m not trying to make any huge deal out of this; just thinking out loud.

I think these contrasts are thrown into sharp light when an adult and a young person try to build a friendship:  Young adults are used to being invested into; it’s what people have been giving them for nearly 20 years. Adults are used to a more even give-and-take, and we prune out the relationships that aren’t growing (by our definitions).

Putting together a gardener and an arborist can provoke a clash of expectations. An experienced person brings a deep well of experience and hard-earned wisdom to the relationship– a ‘bigger’ soul, in a sense (to borrow from Holmes’s idea in “The Chambered Nautilus”). Young people bring enthusiasm and interest.  They enjoy being ‘poured into’ and getting the chance to start giving back in a meaningful friendship, but the well isn’t as deep (either for giving or receiving).

Young people can come across as apathetic and insensitive when they’re merely investigating a different area of their ‘garden’ for a while.  Adults can pour out so much that they drown a teenager. Smothering isn’t loving.