She already knows this story, but our first interaction scared the be-jeezus out of me. It was the first week of my internship and I had unknowingly screwed up a transaction. Dara whipped into my cubicle, eyed me up and down with a look that said "what kind of an idiot are you?" then very sternly asked "why did you do that?" Shaking in my khakis, I stammered "because our director told me to." She stepped deeper into my cubicle, looked at me pointedly and said "don't ever do that again." And then walked away.
I would eventually learn she was frustrated with management for going around her to direct me to do something she had specifically asked them not to. Nevertheless, I spent the next few weeks of my life terrified of her.
Arguably worse than a scolding from Dara was spending the first year of my internship in the purgatory of a shared office with three 22-year-old male interns. So when a space in Dara's office became available, I jumped at the opportunity. She was my team leader. This was my opportunity to learn from her. To finally do some real work. You see, I had spent the majority of that first year not only listening to endless conversation about video games, but also converting paper files to electronic. Which is a fancy way of saying: taking staples out of old contracts and scanning files for 8 hours a day. On the upside, I never had to get coffee for anyone.
So I moved in with Dara. At 23, the adults in my life up to that point had been teachers, coaches, or some other authority figure. She was the first person who treated me like an adult, not a teenager in dress pants. She broke the fourth wall, as it were. She made me realize adults are just people too. People who tell dirty jokes, people who drink, watch trash TV and make mistakes.
She was shrewd and and honest, but above all kind. She told people what they needed to hear, like "stop wearing that cowboy hat around the office and go get your work done" and in the next sentence, ask about your sick grandma, or how your evening was? Because she genuinely cared. As for me? She usually chided me for my oft wrinkly pants.
She taught me how to stand up for myself and when I wasn't able to, she did it for me. She taught me not to feel guilty for using my leave or saying "no" to high level officials when the time called for it. She taught me to protect myself at work because, we're the ones who could be held financially liable, taken to court, or jail. Her tag line for avoiding prison time? "I can't braid big Bertha's hair!"
Whenever I forgot my lunch she'd share hers, which is how I came to try collard greens for the first time. And when I decided I liked them, she'd bring me my own portion. If I ever forgot a fork, she had an extra in her drawer. She covered for me when I would groggily shuffle in after a weeknight filled with one too many beers. She listened to my many complaints about boys, roommates and of course, work. She let me cry on her shoulder when my dog passed away.
We could talk about anything: from why white girls flick our hair so often (bangs in our face or possibly flirting) to our religious beliefs, and of course Downton Abbey. She taught me the transitive meaning of the phrase "in a minute." We laughed so much together, our boss was convinced we never did any work because our job could not be that funny.
So when Dara officially retired on August 26 this year, I was full of mixed emotions. A horrible cliche but sometimes thats all we have. I am so happy for her to enjoy the rest of her life. To enjoy the retirement she has earned, but I miss her too.
I will miss hearing her bicker with the radio as though the people on the other end can hear her. I will miss her playing jazz music, even though I don't like jazz. I will miss her coming over to show me her latest knitting project while I drink my coffee.
|She made those socks|
It is an impossible task to neatly package 6 years of friendship in one post. Six years, for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I can hardly do the woman justice. She is a legend in our organization and in my life. She is a big sister to me.
I am so grateful she saw something in me, brought me close and gave all of herself to her job and to our friendship. I know I can always call her should I need her. But I know its time for me to stand on my own. I know I can because she showed me how.