One of the only bonuses of having to go to the office this week is that I was able to see, live and in person, my best girlfriend, Alison.
We don’t see each other very often anymore, and we don’t talk much either. When we do, we try to cram in everything we’ve missed. No matter how long we go without talking, or how much time passes between live meetings, we’re always each other’s best friend. We’ve been best friends for over twenty years.
What many people find surprising about us is that even though there were years when we talked on the phone every single day, even though when we were both divorced single moms we considered cohabitation to save money, we don’t buy each other Christmas gifts and we don’t expect the other person to remember our birthday. We don’t keep track of who called who or who initiated plans.
We talked about it a long time ago, when we were both moms of young children and both stressed out about getting our Christmas shopping done.
“Please don’t get me a present,” I said, mostly because that would mean I would need to get her one and it would be one more thing on the to do list.
“You don’t get me one either,” she replied, for the exact same reason.
And we agreed that we were going to be the kind of friends that didn’t add any pressure to each other’s lives. No gifts, no expectations, no obligations. Just friendship.
That’s not to say that we didn’t help each other. We did all the time. Sometimes it was a ride to work when one of us had car problems, or a babysitter, or even worse things like when Alison’s house burnt down or when Gram died. We helped each other move and helped each other with our (second) weddings. But mostly what we needed from each other, what we still need, is someone to listen, someone to laugh with, someone to love us unconditionally.
And, much more occasionally now, someone to have adventures with.
I could tell you some stories. We have giggled uncontrollably together at all the wrong times. We spent nine months being pregnant together. We went to Vegas and Missouri and Denver and Ohio together. We went dancing and spying and, what could be considered, in some states, stalking, together. One time we got simultaneously dumped by our boyfriends, who were friends, together. We have a favorite tree at the state park we hiked many times together. People we didn’t know asked or assumed all the time that we were sisters. We accidentally bought the same shirts on a regular basis, and showed up places matching like twins.
Aside from family, it’s the longest relationship either of us has ever had!
We also work together. Alison was my sisters friend first. She’s my sisters age, two years younger, and my sister suggested she apply at my company after I told sister about a job opening. Alison got the job, and I got to know her. We were already pretty good friends by the time we both found out we were pregnant, but that sealed the deal.
We both worked hard, low-on-the-totem-pole jobs back then, but our friendship made it fun. We spent all our breaks together, and we giggled pretty consistently. People either loved us or hated us (we were young and full of life and some people are bitter) but now they all mostly love us.
We went to all our company parties together, and we worked some high profile projects together. I’m not going to sugar coat it- we kicked ass, together. We made hashtags on secret lists when certain executives praised our work (did I mention we were young?) and we were ecstatic at the opportunities and challenges and a job well done. People literally cheered when they heard Alison and I were flying out to help.
I forgot to mention that Alison during this time, because she had left the company to have another baby and open a daycare, and then come back, had also become my employee.
We talked about what that would mean before she came back to work for me. It would mean I could give her no breaks. If she was late she was late, if she messed up, she messed up. There couldn’t be any freebies because we couldn’t risk someone calling “favoritism”.
She picked up like she never left. She excelled at incentive programs and her QA Evals were top of the class. She took on more work and responsibility than anyone, she was never late, and always ready to give it her all.
It only made sense then, that when I was asked to chose an employee to come with me to Denver for a major project, I chose her. She worked long days with me there that I knew no other single person on my team would have done so willingly, or so cheerfully.
They called favoritism, anyway.
We kicked butt and the next time they needed two people it was not my choice to bring her, she was chosen by leaders the same as me. We were the Dynamic Duo.
They still called favoritism.
Sometimes it really upset Alison, because by doing that, people were dismissing the fact that she worked really hard to get where she was at.
I only know of once where she let someone have it when they suggested she was given a role because she was my friend, but lots of times where she held her tongue. (Another fine trait for a future leader)
“The reward for hard work is more work”, that is the truth. But it pays dividends, eventually. When a job became available in another department for a leader, I was SO SAD to see her go, but she needed to get away from me, and the “favoritism” trap, and I encouraged her and cheered for her when she got the job.
Today we work in separate areas and separate teams, best friends but no longer the Dynamic Duo.
Things changed a lot when we both met our husbands within months of each other, and both got engaged. We stopped talking on the phone every single night, stopped going out dancing and stopped having sleepovers. We still saw each other everyday at work, at first, but I don’t even have an office at our building, now, so that eventually stopped, too. We did, after a time, manage to finagle a weekend together at the lake and we talked the whole way there and stayed up until four am the first night, just catching up. We haven’t done it since.
If I were to text her right now, to talk or to tell her something or to ask for her help, she would be there for me, and vice versa. We don’t stand on ceremony because we don’t need the other to validate our friendship. We know what we mean to each other, and we “don’t add stress to each other’s lives with expectations”, just like always.
We are a lot alike, she and I. Not just that people think we’re sisters or that we have the same taste in clothes, but we have the same sense of humor, the same values, we like the same things. Though we were both not hockey fans before, we both married men who are, so now we are. We went camping together, and we married men who camp. We even learned we had gone to the same orthodontist for braces! We both love fishing. We bait our own hooks and take our own fish off. And people call both of us “sweet” which I think just means we’re generally nice. And positive.
We get each other, in a way that’s unique to us. It’s why we made a good work team and why we have hardly ever argued. It’s why we can understand exactly what the other needs.
It sure was nice to see her this week, I really needed the laughs, and I’m already looking forward to the next time it happens to happen.