I have been thinking a lot about friendships and connections. The COVID Crisis has made it so many of us have not seen our friends for over a year now and connections is almost exclusively via text, zoom, or social media. Variants, spring surges, and relaxing restrictions aside we all know that the light is at the end of the tunnel. Even the most urgent of doomsayers are mentioning late summer as a time we will hit herd immunity and life can begin to return to a new normal. And when that does, we will all be faced with melting back into society and that includes our Higher Ed families. Knowing this is coming down the road fairly soon it would be a good idea to take stock on the current state of your friendships and to try to understand them better, so you don’t misrepresent yourself when you get back to those conferences and meetings.
I say, misrepresent because I have a fear things will be fairly awkward at first. By rule higher ed folk are a fun and huggy bunch. We like to talk and socialize and, look we all think everyone is our good friend, even when they are not. Conferences are a great example of this. How many times have you been walking to a session and two colleagues run and embrace whilst screaming like their friend had just returned from military service? Then, as you listen in, they met at like one workshop three years ago. It can be unnerving. But that’s who we are, we want everyone to feel special.
In order to get ready, I wanted to make my list of the 10 types of Higher Ed friends that I categorize. I am not saying that this means I like one person more than another (wait, that is exactly what I am saying) but I try to keep these folks organized in my head, so I don’t freak anyone out. Your list may vary.
- The Loyal Best Friend
This friend goes with no introduction. You two both know you are best friends, everyone around you know you are best friends, and there are good odds that when you are seen at the conference this person is with you. You both have similar jobs, you have similar research interests, you serve as each other’s sounding board, and you are just normal friends too. Outside of higher ed this is a person you would want to catch a game with, you both like the same music, your families socialize together. This person transcends higher ed and will be there until one of you passes along.
- The Fearless Friend
This is the friend who can talk you into that thing you would not normally do because you happen to be in the area. Like, skydiving was not on the list of to-dos while at the conference but there you are. Scared to do karaoke? Not when she is around. And you are not sure why this person can talk you into things, but they do, and you are better for it. Note, this is not a toxic friend. They do not ask you to do something that is going to get you into trouble but someone who tests your boundaries.
- The Brutally Honest Confidant
We all need this person to. This is the person you can literally say anything to and get an honest response. This person will edit your papers, will help you prep for interviews, and will tell you when you are not at your best. But the best thing is you can trust this person when you tell them something in confidence. Your ideas and stories will go there and die. But unlike a priest, this person is not there to absolve you from sin, no, they give good advice and expect you to make it better. That is the trade-off for trust.
- Your Mentor
This is the person who has been there since day one, is always gonna be there for you and it the person you really need a hug from. They helped you get ready for comps, advised you through job searches and is your go to as a reference for a great job. Your mentor is also a person who holds you accountable and will never lie to you but will make sure you are okay. Your mentor also is where you want to be for the most part. They have climbed the mountain and are ready to hold out their hand for you.
- A Friend from a Different Culture
You need that compass person, a person from a different culture so you can learn and grow. For me, I like having people who are religious in my life. I do not believe in God and do not practice a religion so having people of faith in my life reminds me about the diversity in our world. I can have deep conversations with this person, and they will be unapologetic in their efforts to educate me but still love me when I do not learn.
- A Polar Opposite
This is the person whom no one can understand why you are friends. You see the world in utterly different ways. For me, this person likes hair metal and Marvel movies. They likely are different politically, are into fishing and hunting, and have some different views of higher ed than you do. The Greek Life advisors in my life are often this person. We likely disagree on everything but there we are, enjoying each other’s company.
- The Friendly Conference Face
Look, lets be real, you only see each other once a year, you keep up on Facebook and that is it. But you enjoy seeing each other annually. You take a moment to say hello at the reception, give a few updates, and wave at each other throughout the conference, and that is it. These are good people, and they serve to remind you that lots of good people are in our field.
- The Conference Pal
One slot above the friendly face this is a person you may message a few times a year but for the most part you save the socializing and wedge it into the conference. This person gets s a lunch, a drink in the bar, maybe you are presenting together. The conference pal is a friend but also is not a friend because the distance just makes that less likely.
- The Conference All-Star
This is a person who is everyone’s friend, including you and, lets be honest, you are tad annoyed with this person. They hug you like you have been friends for life, they are the first to rush the stage when a speaker asks for a volunteer, they get their books signed and linger a bit too long, and they are the life of the party. They are also a person who will be a VP at 30 because, of course they will. Look, you are a good person, you get along with most people, but this guy? Meh . . . . .
- The Hey Girl! Friend
The last friend is that person you met once at that one conference and you hit it off. Now, you cannot for the life of you remember their name, where they work (PLEASE HAVE A NAME BADGE ON). And OF COURSE, they know your name and stuff about you with granularity that makes you embarrassed you have no idea who they are. So, you always find yourself saying “hey girl” or “how you doin’” and hope it ends soon.
Honorable Mention – That Person from Your University you see at the conference and never see on campus. We all have this person. The professional you see in Phoenix, but you NEVER see on campus. Where did he go? Why do you see him here? It is odd.
And that is it! Make sure your friends are slotted appropriately.