I recently posted this as a note on Facebook about a good friend and longtime coworker of mine that recently moved to New Zealand.
Friendship is a maze.
At times you may feel confident you’re on your way to the center, but all too often we run into dead ends. In a world of unlimited distractions, serial dating and obligations to family, school and work, we are constantly presented with an exit sign. The energy required to navigate and cultivate friendships can at times seem impossible. We are social creatures but we are also creatures of convenience. Sometimes you just hit too many dead ends. But other times…the maze opens up for you.
Shirley Stevens and I became first day buddies at the DOJ while suffering through six hours of lame orientation videos. Despite not even working on the same floor, we continued to remain in almost daily contact. In those early days we had a few cases together. In one case, my manager came down hard on me for a very trivial mistake and Shirley had my back. I had only known her for a few months at that point but she was already sticking up for me to the bosses.
A few months later, we were furloughed during the government shutdown for three weeks. During that time we bonded for the first time outside of work. And a few months after that we decided to start up a book club together to motivate each other to read more. We decided to host it on Meetup.com in hope of getting a small group together. And that small group unexpectedly took off and now has a membership of over 3,000. And from first day buddies we became drinking buddies spending many Wednesday nights drinking, dancing and singing karaoke. Drunkenly belting out our song, “Islands in the Stream.” Meeting a variety of interesting and cool people. We branched out and organized trivia and game nights.
Providing a space for people to come together and form long lasting friendships, or even romantic relationships. A clearing in a dense, confusing maze.
At some point I would sell out and leave the DOJ to take a job that offered more money in the private sector. And Shirley left the book club. But four months after that a paralegal in my department randomly walked out one night and never came back. I recommended Shirley for the job and was hired soon after.
And we got the band back together. Working next to each other in the strangest legal department either of us have either worked in. An assortment of strong and very different personalities coming together to make it work. Sometimes enjoying trashcan beers on Friday afternoons or lobster beers after work. At times the work was incredibly chaotic and stressful, but a small price to pay to work side-by-side with one of your best friends.
In the past year we both decided that we needed to pursue new endeavors and leave the legal world once and for all. While I went to a coding bootcamp and apprenticeship and now exploring different options, Shirley made the bold and exciting decision to undertake a viticulture program in a completely different country. Diverging paths that may prevent us from ever working together again or even living in the same city or continent. As she’s leaving on her jet plane at this very moment to New Zealand…I’m confident though that Shirley will always be an important part of my life. Once you hit that center of the maze, it’s impossible to go back. And we hit it a long time ago. While it may take different forms over the course of your life…it will always be right there. Just a lobster beer away.
Bon Voyage Shirley Stevens.