Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What is the special ingredient??

I have made friends over the years from all over the place-living in California, Washington DC, growing up in Atlanta, various jobs/careers, and also just chance encounters that turned into great friendships. I met my friend Whitney when we went out with a mutual friend one night (Whitney and I had never met) and the mutual friend ditched us to go off with some "hot guy", and Whitney and I ended up having one of the most fun nights that I will never forget. We started off the night as strangers, and ended the night as good friends. We are still friends to this day, and I was lucky enough to attend her wedding last fall. I went to high school for four years with 2400 other kids, but from my graduating class I still keep in daily contact with only ONE person...yet I went on a week long graduation trip with a rival high school, and from that one week's vacation I have been a BRIDESMAID in 2 of the GUYS weddings (the guys had me stand on the brides side), and am very close with a handful of other guys from that trip that are like family to me, still 15 years later. Through facebook I have reconnected with a lot of friends that I both made and lost touch with over the years...some of the exchanges are the typical "How are you, where are you, how are the husband and kids, etc" and then that's the end of that, and no more than seeing their status update here and there...while others have actually rekindled the FRIENDSHIP all over again, and in some cases, they are even stronger than before. So what is that special ingredient that allows for the friend "connection" with some people, but not others? Why does that connection have a limited life span on some people, and others that bond lasts a lifetime? Some people you feel that connection with while you are in similar stages of your life, but as soon as one moves into a different stage, the connection seems to weaken or break. How do you go to school for four years with the same group of people and have one life long friend 15 years later, but go on a weeks vacation and end up with 10 people you still are in close contact with, our families are friends, and we even do holidays together on occasion? Then there is the reverse situation. You were best friends with someone years ago, you think you'll be best friends forever, and then you loose contact for awhile only to eventually somehow reconnect...and find the connection that was once there is definitely gone and you have zero to talk about. That sucks.
I know I am now a much different person than I was in college. Over the last year, through facebook I have gotten back in touch with 3 girls that I have not seen since UGA, 10-12 years ago. Katy and I were sorority sisters, and was definitely one of my two closest friends in the sorority. Last December I saw a post of hers on FB about having to put her cat down that absolutely broke my heart. I emailed her and told her to come to ATL (she was out at Lake Oconee), and we'd go shopping and out to dinner, and just have a fun weekend of catching up. She did, and that's exactly what happened. I hadn't seen her in at least 12 years, and it was like not a day had gone by as soon as she walked through the front door. She ended up coming out to Park city with my family just a few weeks later, and it was like we had never lost touch. Around February my adopted "big sister" in our sorority and I were emailing back and forth and she mentioned wanting to go on a girls trip. Elizabeth was a year older than me, and had a serious boyfriend her last two years of college, so I really hadn't seen much of her since '96. Again, I hadn't seen or talked to her since then until I saw her on facebook sometime last fall. I told her to get on a plane and come skiing with us in March..and she did exactly that. The first time I saw that girl since I was a sophomore/junior in college was at 8am in the Crown Room of Hartsfield in March...and we went out to Park City and had the greatest weekend skiing, catching up, and just laughing and having a good time-just like we used to in school. We are at two totally different places in our lives-she is married, has 2 kids, attends MOPS meetings, and I am...well, not doing any of those things, yet we still had that "connection" that we had all those years ago. Which brings me to my third and final example for the night. My sophomore year in college I was "hanging out" with a guy, (in college its kinda like dating, but not really wanting to label it dating, so you just say you are "hanging out"...lame, I know), and we did a lot with his best friend and the girl he was dating. Her name was Erin, and her smile was infectious and her laugh even more so. This girl was ALWAYS happy, and she made you happy just being around her. She was truly genuine, and there was never any doubt that she said what she meant, and meant what she said. After graduation, she went off to grad school and I moved to Atlanta..without cell phones (we had them, but they were the size of a small carry on, and cost about $5.00 a minute to use) or email (we had email addresses associated with the school, but once you graduated the account was disabled), it was close to impossible to keep in touch with anyone. We got back in touch this year through FB (so for all the people who hate FB, there are days that I agree, ...but I think it does have the power to do good once in awhile), and she is every bit as amazing as I knew she would be if someone had asked me our senior year "where do you see Erin in 10 years?". Erin is married to a surgery resident who works 90-105 hours a month, and gets 3 days off TOTAL for the month, which includes weekends. Her 3 year old daughter Avery lost her sight due to congenital cataracts at 20 months, has gone through countless surgeries, and cannot see without her special glasses..and with them her sight is still far from ideal. She has an 11 month old little boy, that is just learning to walk, and being married to a surgical resident, she is chasing after both of them by herself the majority of the time. She was in grad school to be a transport/flight nurse, but left to follow her husband to St. Louis with his residency. In the years since I last saw her, she has done one amazing thing after another-gone after her pilots license, quit her Phd program mid dissertation to be a pediatric nurse, been a supportive wife and has had the heartbreak of watching her daughter have her sight and then lose it, followed by the struggle of watching her baby girl go through countless surgeries trying to get it back. We exchanged a couple emails and it didn't take more than 1 or 2 to see she was the same ol' Erin I knew back at UGA...and like Elizabeth we are at total opposite places in our lives, but still our friendship "connection" remained as strong as it had been over a decade before. She is a natural athlete, and we were emailing about a half marathon I had done, and she mentioned she would like to try one at some point. After much convincing that she needed to do something FOR HER since she has dedicated her life to the hardest job in the world-being a caring and loving wife and an amazing mom to two small children, she made the arrangements to have everyone at home covered and we decided we were going to Chicago to run a half marathon together. It was much more than a race weekend...it was reconnecting with an old friend, it was Erin getting out of St. Louis and getting to do something for her, it was getting to see her achieve such an awesome accomplishment, and the best part was getting to hang out and feel like we were still the same "Burbage/Straight" dynamic duo we were back in the day, and we always would be. It was like not a day had gone by, let alone close to 4,000 of them (over 11 years). You know you have a special friend when life can take you in different directions, you each can have your own struggles, accomplishments, hardships, etc...and then you can pick back up years later and it's like not a day had passed.

So, my original question remains...why do some people have a special connection that creates friendships that last a lifetime, and then there are other people you think you have that lifelong connection with, but in the end it fades away? Or in a certain stage of your life, when you and another person are in similar situations, the friendship is one way, but as soon as one person moves to a different point of their life, it changes...and yet with others it doesn't matter what changes, or what doesn't-you will always be the best of friends no matter what? I wish I knew, because I would bottle it, sell it, and use it for a business plan for my entrepreneurship class that starts on Saturday.

p.s. Blogger will only allow me to post 5 pictures, so I am going to post more tomorrow about the Chicago race, with more pics.
The pics in this picture are Katy and I in park city, Elizabeth and I in Park City, and the Burbage/Straight with our medals!

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