Saturday, June 22, 2013

My colleagues, my friends - Part Two

Do you ever make assumptions about people based on their appearance?  C'mon now, be honest.  As much as I hate to admit it, I do.  Luckily, however, I am always open to changing my opinions based on actual knowledge, rather than impressions.

Ten years ago, my first impression of Jonathan, the second-in-command here in the Admissions Office, was of a stuffed shirt.  Here I was, motorcycle-driving, mixed-race, archaeology-major, child of activists who grew up in a log cabin in Maine, and on day one at W&L, I met Jonathan, probably wearing a pastel-colored oxford shirt with a bow tie and scholarly glasses, clean cut all-American-looking Tennessee native with formal mannerisms, and I was thinking, "sheesh, we are going to have NOTHING in common."

Shame on me.  Behind the proper speech of this English major who uses words like verklempt in daily conversation and expects people to understand his meaning (verklempt = Yiddish word that means overcome with emotion - yeah, I had to look it up!), is a really nice guy with a killer dry wit and an ability to laugh with me when I am laughing at him (true confession time - laughing at him is one of my favorite pastimes).  Upon getting to know him better, we have much more in common than I originally thought.

And then, there is something to be said for working with someone for a decade.  There is regular turnover in the professional staff of any admissions office.  That is normal.  Most of the people I work with are here for 2-3 years and then move on.  The camaraderie and shared experiences take on new meaning when you are the two left behind as others cycle through. What a blessing he has been to be a sounding board when I wanted to talk with someone who "understood" where I was coming from - we are contemporaries, but let me state for the record that he is a good 4 or 5 months OLDER than I am.  I remind him of that every chance I get.  But that means he understands better than some of my younger colleagues the challenges of parenting, of finding balance between your home life and your work life, of home ownership, of aging parents, of so many shared life experiences, and I have really appreciated his open door and his listening ear.

Something else that Jonathan does well is provide feedback for a job well done.  Sometimes that goes unnoticed or unsaid in the workplace, but Jonathan has consistently boosted my self-esteem by letting me know when a program I have planned or a project I have completed was successful.  I am forever thankful for that.

When I opened my gift box from my colleagues, Jonathan's block was on top, the first one I saw.  It took my breath away.  I was immediately reminded of the fibers and weavings and whatnot from my yearly trips to Latin America - both the colors and the patterns.  Those trips were my favorite every year, so I'm touched that he choose to bring that into his block for me, and I'll be honest, folks - I never figured Jonathan for being all that creative.  He has many strengths and talents, but I never guessed that this would be one.  Isn't it gorgeous?

Thank you, Jonathan!