So when you go to college, your best friend goes to a different college, you dont live on campus, and oh yeah, you’re engaged, it’s kind of hard to meet people and make new friends. The University I attended was pretty large, and as you may recall from my previous post, social awkwardness has long been an issue for me. You might go so far as to say, I am not now, nor have I ever been, cool. And guess what? At college, I wasnt one of the smartest either– in fact, I was towards the lower end of the intellectual pool.
So long story short, I joined an organization (campus Emergency Medical Services) and made a friend. Several friends, actually, but one in particular. Ben was a year younger than I was, and possibly even MORE socially awkward! Very smart, extremely capable, cheerful to a fault with an extremely snarky sense of humor. Amazingly, his social awkardness is very endearing, and Ben has always been very popular. People gravitate towards his honestly, his willingness to help, and his knowledge base (he is one of the most knowledgable paramedics I have ever met– and that is saying something!). I still can’t figure out exactly what about ME seemed so appealing to HIM, and that is not exactly false modesty.
Something about the setting of a University encourages rigorous debate– about all topics. Whereas those high school friendships are intense, but rather delicate, with maturity we gain depth of relationships. College wasnt like that for me– people either rejected me completely, or accepted me wholly for who I was (or who I thought I was at the time).
Ben is a Conservative Jew. Clearly, I am a Traditional Catholic. Making friends with a kid who has never eaten a cheeseburger (they aren’t Kosher), especially when the only Jewish person I’d ever met is my Uncle Marty (he married in) who doesnt practice any religion at all, was definately an experience. Ben came from a priviliged background– he never wanted for anything. Quite frankly, neither did I– my parents were able to provide anything I could ever need, and several things that were not necessities– but Ben’s family, at least in my eyes, had MONEY. His parents paid for college– he didnt have loans. His parents paid his living expenses– The Auditor and I both worked and took loans to make ends meet as married college students. I was married and Ben was anxiously waiting for a first girlfriend to appear in his life. Naturally, our viewpoints on most issues were pretty contrary, and we frequently argued.
But the arguing was different– it was at an intellectual level. Even when we were most frustrated with each other, we never once harbored ill-will or resentment. I liken Ben and I to peanut butter and strawberry jam– each pretty good on it’s own, but together, something much better! Ben taught me to be a medic– a good provider, someone committed to maintaining outstanding patient care. He talked me down off of several ledges after running really rough 911 calls– the teenage girl who delivered a baby on top of a literal pile of garbage. The elderly woman who died alone in her apartment and wasnt found for three days. His support and encouragement made me a medic– a GOOD medic, second in my class, and qualified by the county to run solo LONG before the rest of my class.
In return, I think I was functioning as something of his personal cheerleader. Ben suffers from some pretty intense situational anxiety– before exams, applying to graduate schools, applying for jobs, etc. He NEEDS someone to list out for him all the reasons why things will work out alright in the end. Encouragement is something I’m good at (in my humble opinion :)!) I also possess some of the practical skills that Ben’s more priviliged background didnt really afford him– how get into your car when the doors are frozen shut. How to change a tire…do laundry…MOVE from one apartment to another…pack a truck…(how a person can reach adulthood without knowing how to do these things is still beyond me!).
He couldnt necessarily understand everything about me– in fact, years later, I think he probably STILL has some questions about what makes me tick! I dont presume to understand everything about him either. I dont understand why he crushed on Becca for about three years before finally asking her out (they’re engaged now in case you were wondering!). I dont understand his dynamic with his parents. I don’t really understand a lot of things about Conservative Judaism either. We still occasionally engage in what I will label “ferocious debate” from time to time. And that’s my favorite part!
I know he doesnt understand why The Auditor and I so deeply desired children as young adults. I think he was at a loss to offer much emotional encouragement about my miscarriages– it’s not really his area. When we were in the process of adopting the Little Scribbler, he served as our personal reference and wrote a beautiful and touching letter about what kind of parents we would make. He serves as Little Scribbler’s godfather. I have euqal difficulty accepting his priorities :)
I realized earlier this week that we hadnt really “talked” in about a year. Not about anything of any consequence. He’s in the loop about the Little Scribbler and her disabilities, and as he works for the health department now, has offered advice about the Early Intervention system from time to time. I know that he and Becca are talking about getting married soon, and that he’s trying to move to the city to be closer to her (they’re doing the long distance thing at the moment).
So I shot him an email, and as chance would have it, he has a fairly big job interview this Friday, in the city, for a job he’s wanted for three years now. Hello, situational anxiety!
It’s funny how even when you disconnect with someone, you can fall back into the rythm you’ve always known. There is comfort in knowing that while some things change, some things will always be the same!
to be continued…