Sunday, August 28, 2011
Having "wingmen" in my life
When I chart the learning-curves of my life, there are three places where I'd draw a sharp red uptick: Freshman year of college, moving to Prague, and motherhood. Yes, marriage is a key event in my life...but the thing about marrying the right person is you don't really have to change yourself. You marry the person who likes you the way you are. :)
Those other forks in my life-road sliced me open and I got to peer into parts of myself I didn't know existed.
I talked in another post about the box of archived letters I found from college. I've decided that the mind is a very poor steward of details. Yes, there are snapshots of vivid clarity along the way. But the mind seems to gloss over things between those snapshot memories.
Reading the letters and emails from college, I'm reminded what HARD WORK I was doing, figuring out who I was -- now that I was away from home and creating a completely new life environment for myself. I do remember that about freshman year... about motherhood... in sweeping broad strokes of awareness. But reading the words and the letters really exploded the memory for me. It filled in all these little details between the photographs of memory.
As Lauren reminded me today, it is the 15th anniversary of our friendship. 15 years?
I met him the first week of college, when he pulled me into his circle of upper-class guys who lived in our dorm. At first, I was like their token-female...maybe more like a mascot...but as the year went on, I came to really appreciate and absorb that group of minds.
It was like a philosophical and intellectual "think tank", those guys. We'd smoke Swisher Sweet cigars on the roof and talk about existential wonderings, or sit around on bean bag chairs and subject everyone to the Socratic method of friendship. No topic was unchallenged. Just getting Chinese food with them was like being invited to the Olympia Academy.
Lauren and I wrote each other prolifically, including his time in France and mine in Prague, so I have this tome of messages that tracked my life from first-week of freshman year through engagement to Steve 5 years later. Lauren even served as a "bridesmaid" in my wedding, wearing a tux instead of a dress.
When I think about my relationship with Steve, I usually think only about our own interactions and process. Reading those letters, I'm reminded that we weren't ever really in a vacuum of influence. I had these incredible persons in my life, helping steer that path towards Steve.
I have vivid mental snapshots of Lauren: The computer lab where we first met, when he bounced the giant blue ball into Jenny. Confiding in him about everything from sorority Rush to dating issues. Testing it out as a romantic couple, and both realizing we did much better as close friends. Sophomore year, him hollering across the street as I walked down the sidewalk with Steve (whom I'd just barely met): "Is that the guy you think is so gorgeous?" In-depth notes as he encouraged me from across the ocean from France, when I was figuring out what to do about Steve before moving to Prague.
Engaged to Steve, I flew to St. Louis where Lauren was in graduate school, and we sat on a bench and ate ice cream and talked about marriage and commitment and what life would look like for me now. He wrote the music for the song in my wedding, and stood on my side as the attendant. Seeing him again when Jack was only 2 weeks old. And then again in New York City, with my full brood of Steve and all three kiddos. Emails and Christmas cards along the way.
When my children grow up, I'd love for them to find the soul mate they are seeking -- whomever and whenever that might mean. But reading the pile of emails...not just from Lauren, but the entire collection of amazing minds I came to know in school...I'm reminded how much it means to have Wingmen in your life. People who know everything about you...and will commentate on your life and help lead you in the right direction.
Because of the Laurens in my life, I have more clarity about who I am. I'm a much better wife. I mother differently and have a broader spectrum of experiences and ideas.
Some persons, it's just about having them come into our lives at a particular moment -- teaching us what we need to learn from them -- and then moving on to another teacher. But some connections are so important that they span time and space, and you find a way to keep that friendship intact. For those friendships, it's about being known and remembered and having that history. Seeing each other and feeling like no time passed at all.
The friendships that stand out to me most are those that came in the "pivotal times" of my life. Perhaps because that's when I needed that external input the most?
I love how the people around us can mold us into better versions of ourselves.