I waited my turn to pen this. Truth be told I would have written it two weeks ago, however then I would have needed permission. Apparently, we have some sort of “guideline” and/or “courtesy” at the paper by way of penning pieces which include our colleagues.
As a columnist, I just write my thoughts, tell stories and rarely think about the formality. That is until I penned a piece some years ago and included a colleague, unbeknownst to them. It wasn’t bad in the slightest, but they weren’t comfortable with my sharing info regarding something which included them without their blessing. Okay, oh well, lesson learned.
The difference between two weeks ago and now, is colleague Virginia Still now strictly resumes the title as “friend.” In late May she penned her final piece as a staffer and went on to explore new horizons.
I don’t make it a practice to write about fellow staffers when they “move on” as we say. It’s a seldom occurrence which personally has two rationales. The first being out of respect for someone moving on to something new, beginning a new chapter and the like. The second being what makes this piece different. First beginning my post-college career in a corporate environment, work wasn’t a place you went to make friends. Sure, we all worked together for the common goal of business success. Spent hours upon hours with one another over work events, business lunches and dinner events but when the weekend came our personal lives were very separate. In short, work peeps weren’t personal friends.
Our team at the 603 building is unique, for sure. Majority of them have been in my life long before I was a mom or right around the time I became one. Editor Marg Jackson and her family have spent their fair share of holiday meals with my family. My children’s father used to even entertain her daughter each year during the holiday season so we could finish off “early deadlines.” They’re my family and have been for quite some time. Yet it’s different than a friendship. How, one might wonder?
Well, we each have one another’s back, one hundred percent. We support one another, but it’s different than our friendships. Explaining this could take hours so I’ll simply say, if you know you know, as I think this really isn’t an uncommon work environment thing.
It’s always been safer to not get close to those I’ve worked closely with. Creating that bond that’s special to friendship makes times like these both rough and emotional.
It’s not a death, but it sure feels like one. The grieving of a colleague turned friend is a hard one. While we don’t spend as much time in office as we once did, V (Virginia) and I shared a special bond. Both a friendship and understanding as colleagues and women.
It wasn’t always this way and while I would love to only write about the good stuff, I recognize that our fellow colleagues may read this and it would be wrong to misrepresent. No fake news here, even if it is a column.
To sum it up fairly, V and I are both very strong women. We are strong in our craft, as well as our personal lives. Firm in our beliefs and opinions, which early on at the surface clashed. Rather than make this some sort of Bravo TV Reality Show Drama, she and I each worked alongside one another respectfully for years. Neither of us good at the fake thing and both respectful of the fact that not everyone working together needs to be “friends.”
Then along came COVID and for me Cancer. V equally struggled with some things in her family and personal life, which I will leave at that. That, after all, is her story to tell; not mine. It was a time however which I’ll simplify by saying sometimes life has a way of shifting your focus. Reminding us of what’s important and while we may not have been “friends” we are each compassionate humans.
So, as we worked remotely, we each found ways to reach out to one another offering kindness and condolence as we battled rocky (personal) roads independently.
As odd as it may sound, returning to in-person work, we were like two girls reunited after spending our summer in church camp. A friendship had begun to blossom as we worked apart and returning to the building we both took to watering it.
I tear up as I look to the final words of this piece. A heart filled with gratitude for a person who not only came to love me, but I her. A person who appreciated me for my upfront, no-nonsense way of conducting business and continually had my back through a rough season.
For almost eight years of not so great, yet respectful work colleagues, V and I spent the past two making up for lost time. Typing this I chuckle to myself, I’m not sure if the office could have handled V and T as work besties for the past decade. It’s the atypical friendship, as the world sees two opposites, we are in fact similar in many ways. Out of respect for both V and our friendship, I’ll leave it at that.
The purpose of this piece is simple. First to remind one another of the precious gift of time and the fragile nature of life. It just goes so fast. V and I spent way too many years not appreciating one another for who we were. I see that now; strong women can have that tendency and weak women can feel threatened by that. So this can go all sorts of sideways and be a complete road wreck disaster.
That being said, I’m grateful for this woman I now get to call friend. Our silly texts we send one another, the ‘atta girl’ tendency we have toward lifting one another up. Yes! Even strong women need their atta girls and reminding of their worth. We share a unique bond which cannot be duplicated and I’m grateful for that.
“This is why I don’t make friends at work,” I shared through tear-filled eyes, with our work family at V’s farewell lunch. But oh, what a gift this has turned out to be.
Go do big things V girl. What a unique and wonderful blessing we have found through this business known to the world as “news.” Grateful for you and more importantly grateful to know that while we won’t continue to spend our days together, we will continue to spend a lifetime of friendship. That is simply priceless.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 209-847-3021.