Do you ever find yourself in a relationship that comes as a total surprise? Maybe it’s just me, but I often wonder how I get so lucky when it comes to friends and mentors. I think my friendship with Mike is a great example.
When I started grad school I was more than a little nervous about a lot of things and one of them was how I was going to fit in with a classroom of traditional grad students. I’m often the oldest face in the classroom but with only two other adult learners as a part of our cohort I thought it might be a difficult two years considering the academic challenges I was going to be taking on. Thankfully Clare, an adult learner like myself, was there to be my partner for those “are you kidding me?!” moments. But what about all of those young , and yes I’ll admit it, intimidating, faces?
The first semester was 8 weeks of what I like to call “academic boot camp”. Two core courses of the program in half the time! It was a wild ride and an excellent chance to get to know the other “off-offers”*. Whew, made it through the classes and developed some excellent friendships. Chad, Frankie, Jeremy, and of course Clare were with me every step of the way. Chad was always good for a smile and a laugh as well as sharing proof-reading duties. Frankie was my hug and debate partner. Jeremy was my surprise. Someone I knew I would get along with but did not expect to develop such a great friendship with. Plus, he is great with my papers! Clare and I were able to turn to each other when the pace got frantic and lament “we are far too old for this”! Which is not true, but sometimes a girl just has to vent.
When the fall semester started the rest of the cohort (on-onners, on-offers*) became a part of our lives. Because they were starting with the core courses we often only saw them in meetings or in Statistics. After a week or two the conversation in one of our off-offer courses turned to the dynamic of the cohort. We were noticing that the off-offers seemed to stay separated from the rest of the cohort. Even during stats class we would sit together.
Being the shy and retiring person that I am I walked into stats class that day, looked around the room, and headed for the back where several on-onners had already formed their group. I smiled, looked at Mike and said “I know you don’t like me, but I’m going to sit back here with you all anyway.” Ryan, Jayne, Becky, and Mike all made room. I don’t know why I thought Mike didn’t like me, but he insists that he did. Of course, now I know he *loves* me! He has become ‘the little brother I never had and never really wanted’. I could always count on Mike to make some smart remark, pinch me, write something on my paper, or in general be a loveable pain-in-the-a… neck. I figured Mike and I would move on after the semester and not make an effort to connect.
Sometimes I’m wrong, really wrong, and I’m not afraid to admit it! Mike and I only had one other class together and that was the following semester. During the last year of grad school we didn’t get a chance to connect often, but if we spotted each other we always stopped to say hi, even if it meant running to the next destination. (And I don’t run… so Mike ran and I walked really fast.)
Now we are no longer “grad students” but new professionals. I’m so glad that I won’t have to wait for national conferences to talk to Mike. He tweets me, I tweet back, we meet up on AIM. I will be looking for Mike when we are going to be at the same conferences, but it won’t be a reunion, it will be a continuation. Thank you, Mike, for being my little brother.
I also have to mention the other surprising relationships I have. These are people that I know will be in my life far beyond grad school and the first years as a new professional. Carolyn P., Carolyn R., Clare, Chad, Ryan, Jared, and Denise. Thank you all for seeing things in me that I miss sometimes and keeping me on my toes.