I inherited her, like a lucky financial windfall. When a colleague left for another opportunity, I took over a summer program…and it came with an ACHUHO-I intern. It was a program I hadn’t organized, and an intern I hadn’t hired, but here I was, stepping up to the plate.
That was 15 years ago, and I don’t remember very much about the program, but I remember her clearly. Even then, AnnMarie was a Force of Nature, determined and capable, and we were friends immediately. Bound by the glue of sarcasm, our friendship has grown through moves across the country, husbands, children, dogs, and so many on-the-job stories. After that summer, we kept in touch sporadically, but it always felt as if we’d only spoken the day before. That’s the way it is with Meant To Be Friends. By a twist of professional luck, my family moved to Lincoln, where she had lived and worked since that fateful summer, and we immediately resurrected our regular visits and became intertwined in each other’s daily lives.
If AnnMarie was a Friends and First Sight pal, my husband was the opposite. We met the first day of graduate school and detested each other immediately. Thank goodness for the forced interactions of higher ed programs; without them I never would have discovered that my usually keen instincts for people were all wrong in this case. In Matt I found a partner rich in integrity and committed to serving others. While we find ourselves in opposite ends of the field (he in opps and me in direct service), and even working at very different institutions, we share a common love for learning and helping others succeed. This year we celebrate our 19th year of marriage. Along the way, we’ve packed and unpacked our stuff 10+ times, enjoyed a variety of different cities and jobs, adopted a dog, and started a family. Not bad for someone I didn’t even like!
What does it mean to have both a spouse and a best friend who share my professional field? Certainly it makes telling success stories (okay, and complaining) about my day-to-day life easier…having them both understand the culture of higher ed allows us to get to the all-important advice-giving portion of the discussion. But more than that, it means that we share a set of common values for the importance of education and the betterment of students. My work is enriched by talking about my job with them both; we plan, we evaluate, we dream. When I celebrate my Great Moments, it is with them. When I need to unpack a Bad Day, they are both at the ready. And because I know they fundamentally understand our shared work, I rely on their sound informed judgments.
Last week an undergrad headed into SA interviewed me for a paper on Leadership. He wanted to know about the values of the profession, my own career path, and the best and worst things about my job. Then he asked me to tell him about someone who inspired me as a Leader in my profession. I am blessed to have two people from whom to choose, and they are my two closest friends. How lucky am I?