Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Requiem For A Friend

I cried for a friend last night. Those tears did not come because I had received news that some tragedy occurred. In a sense, my tears were tears of anticipated grief. First, some history.

This friend and I are co-workers, separated by some 340 miles. The circumstances of our friendship are potentially the stuff of soap operas. You see, in essence, I was hired to take her place with her in the awkward role of training her replacement. I had, just a little earlier, escaped a similar fate when my previous position was outsourced.

She had every right to be angry, bitter, resentful, insert your adjective here. But she was none of those things. Instead, she was kind, helpful, supportive, and encouraging. Her demeanor was everything you would want from a trainer.

Her position had been moved here as part of a consolidation, and because she had a life where she lived, she was understandably reluctant to move. I had been in a similar type of position years earlier, and having to move is not fun, so I sympathized.

In fact, I felt guilty for, in essence, taking her job, not because of anything she said or did but because of everything she said or did. I began to feel as if a cruel trick had been played on her. Through it all, she remained supportive and helpful, and a mutual respect developed.

My training required her to make visits to my location, so we did meet twice. Both visits were friendly, and we developed a comfort level around each other. But a friendship had not yet begun to develop.

That began to occur, I think, after she returned to her home. As the new kid on the block, I had questions about the work, and I would ask them: over the phone, through instant messaging, via e-mail. After a while, we began to talk about other things: politics, music, feelings, life.

The odd thing about our budding friendship is that, for the most part, it has developed through e-mail. Perhaps that isn't such a surprise given the electronic age in which we live. In some ways, it is the 21st Century equivalent of having a pen pal.

In some sense, that may make it easier to sustain the friendship when she and I no longer have work as a common footing. Yet the same thing that may make it easier to keep the friendship alive may also make it easy to let it die. One day, one of us may decide to no longer answer the e-mail of the other. I certainly don't intend to let that happen, but who can say with certainty what the future holds. Something could happen to one or the other of us, and the remaining friend may be completely in the dark.

This sounds fatalistic, I know, but it is based on my past attempts to sustain relationships long distance. Life tends to get in the way. In my past career in journalism, I lost every friend I had because of moving to a new job in a new city. Because I make friends with great difficulty, each loss was very painful. To this day, I remember each of them with a mixture of good and bad feelings.

Yet I persisted, and I will continue to persist. I do not meet people easily, but I know I need them in my life. I hope this friendship lasts. I want it to last. It may not, but I will enjoy each moment of it while I do have it.

I am not a wise man, but I have finally learned one thing in my time here. The one thing worse than losing a friend is never having had the friend to begin with. Here's to you, my friend.

No comments: