Different Strokes for Different Folks

Different Strokes for Different Folks

They say “different strokes for different folks” but never has this been more apparent to me than now. I just spent a week in DC. The primary objective was a conference for work, but I used this as an opportunity to catch up with people from my past. Haha, that sounds a bit mischevious, but don’t worry, it’s completely innocent.

Thankfully my old college roommie lives near the Verizon Center in downtown DC– prime location for a week in the nation’s capital. And so, with her posh bachelorette pad as my homebase, I met up with a friend from elementary/middle/high school, my supervisor from the engineering firm (circa 2000), our college dormmate, and my grandparents (parents were out of town). I think that I’ve learned a lot about myself on this trip. I really do treat friendships differently than most people. I remember, when I was resigning from the fuel cell startup back in 2007, my coworker commented that leaving the company was like going through a break up. And I totally could NOT relate to his example. He asked, haven’t you ever broken up with someone, and then I kinda realized that I don’t break up with people. I mean, I guess if you consider my one-week “boyfriend” with whom I spent two weeks at summer school (the same summer I met John) then maybe… but other than that, I have never really had formal breakups. Sure, relationships drift, but I was thinking that I don’t let many of them go. And so I started thinking about my past and people with whom for one reason or another, I worked at keeping in touch. Maybe it was just an annual catch-up email, but I can say the relationships are strong enough that I think if I needed something, I would be able to call on them. I would be able to ask for help.

I catalog my life by periods of schooling and work.
Elementary school: there’s J
Middle/high school: N
College: Y, M, J
Grad school: G
CDM: C
FMF: —
Shanghai: P
Oorja: J, K
Current: J, T

I would say in most but not all of these relationships, I’m the initiator. I do the calling/emailing/meetup planning… That’s just how it works; I guess I just stay on people. Maybe the cold hard truth is that I just don’t take hints. I hope that’s not the case here.

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting observation. So this week I had the conference and several meetups with old friends, but I still had a substantial amount of me time. It really made me think about just how many years have gone by. I saw J– we’d met in the 3rd grade, and now she’s a mom. God, I was 18 when Y and I met at Duke. I guess what blew my mind the most though was not the years, but just how we are all in different places now. We all started as naive kids really, and now J is married and has a daughter. Y is a rockstar cancer surgeon. G is a superstar prof/women’s health expert. N is a vet. M’s a dad of two kids. It’s just crazy how much our lives have diverged.

Thankfully, when we get together, things still feel so natural and comfortable and familiar, but the shift is substantial. Especially for the people with kids, all the things I used to identify as being “them” are now no longer. Like M. He used to shoot photography for the campus paper. He played concert-level piano, he was fully fluent in French. Now he doesn’t have time. He hasn’t played piano in ages. And then there’s me: I wonder if people with children think I’m living like a kid, taking all the fun classes I wish I had taken in my youth. I wonder if they judge me or find me to be self-indulgent and selfish. I hope they respect that we all have different choices: like I once said to my sister-in-law: some people have 5 kids; John and I have 5 computers (and 2 dogs).

I had a great visit with my grandparents on Thursday. They are in their late 80s and early 90s and my goodness, I went walking with my grandmother in the neighborhood for an HOUR. Their minds are still so sharp too. Grandma still recalls so many stories. She gave me a new crocheted hat. My mom has the same hat in brown, and she has it in black. Mine is red. It’s like the same hat for three generations of women. Funny.

My grandfather (gotta love the bluntness of my family) asked if I had gotten double eyelid surgery. I was wearing teal eyeliner that day, so I think it threw him off. Grandma also always takes the opportunity to tell me to dress warmly: since my puffy coat was so short, she suggested combating the cold by wearing high-waisted jeans. Then grandpa stepped in to tell her not to give style advice: he insisted that the current style is low-waisted stuff, but “she wouldn’t know.” Their interactions are so comical.

Well the week is coming to an end, and I have to say, I’m excited to get back home. I do love my independence, but I started to miss Bubbey and the pups by mid-week, so I’m happy to be flying back. Tomorrow (Sunday), I climb back in the saddle. Btw, got some dirt from work on the ranch where I’m training. Will have to share that another time.

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