She was only 33.
To say that the news was shocking is an understatement. Even though “A” was diabetic and was still grieving the loss of her father two years ago and the grandmother who raised her just months ago, people close to “A” said she had turned things around. She had recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas and, aside from telling people that she felt really tired, she seemed to be in good spirits. Seemed is the key word.
“A” has been on my mind a great deal today because even though she was a very out-going person, somehow, with all those people around her, no one knew how ill she was or how dark things had become in her life.
As I am treating this nasty case of acute bronchitis and an ear infection this weekend, hearing about “A” has made me think more about why nets work. While we live in an increasingly digitized age where social networking has taken the place of face to face interaction, I, personally, need a network for several reasons.
In undergrad, I developed a group of girlfriends who became my besties. We lived in the same dorm, partied together, celebrated each others birthdays, and stood by with four-letter insults and other more destructive tools when we had to deal with tired, no good significant others.. We became women together and after college we stood together in wedding parties and the funerals of our loved ones. It’s a good thing that I don’t need to call them regularly to know that they care, because I haven’t been the best with calling. Fortunately, I know that within a few minutes of talking to them, I’ll be reminded of the convictions I sometimes lose sight of in this work and a bigger purpose in my life that they, as my sisters, know. They keep me accountable even though miles separate us.
Even though I’m an only child and find some comfort in daily periods of introspection and isolation, I could have never prepared for the isolation of graduate school. I was lucky, depending on how you define it, to have two fellowship years where I could be isolated with my thoughts. Had it not been for my graduate network of scholar besties, I would have stayed in my house and been consumed with my thoughts. Through their insistence that I come out with them for coffee, trips to the gym, dinners, or whatever else, they kept me visible in the world and made me remember that someone’s expecting to see me. I needed that then. I hope I did the same for them.
Apparently, the solitary academic life can become worse when you get into the professoriate. I have a small – as in two or three people – network that I deal with on my current job and I’m not happy with that number, but I’m grateful for them. Had it not been for my colleague/neighbor/friend “P” noticing how sick I was this week and insisting that I go to the doctor, I wouldn’t have gone. I would have told myself that it’s the end of the semester and that my students need to more help than they should need at this point. “P” helped me prioritize my own wellness and I’m glad she did.
I’ve been an introvert and I can get lost in my thoughts. Sometimes those moments help me think deeply enough to figure out the things I’ll teach or write. Other times, I need to be guarded against that inclination to be alone. My networks work because they are that guard.
~I have spoken~