What I Learned from Connecting with a Different Friend Every Day for Two Weeks
Updated: Mar 19, 2020
My transition to Amazon has been different than any other work experience that I have ever had. You would think that the technical and environmental aspects would have been the largest hurdle, but I would say the biggest challenge was the social isolation and immediate disconnection from the countless friends and mentors garnered over a lifetime. The almost three decades of suiting up with comrades, battle buddies and peers develops common ties that are extremely hard to maintain while simultaneously trying to learn how to thrive in a business market. So with my first real time off in a year+ I dusted off my old contact list and I started dialing, texting and arranging lunches with as many friends and mentors that had time to reply or an empty stomach to eat.
For a couple of friends and a few family members I actually traveled, and for others I fondly recall the great lunch dates that we arranged. I was happy to discover that even after the months and years of not regularly connecting that I could still draw value from the friendships. And after reflection I found six enduring experiences that will drive me to stay in contact more regularly with both friends and family in the future.
There is nothing more satisfying than a knowing conversation. A knowing conversation can bring both laughter and sad reflection when recalling shared experiences, but the simple act of remembering with someone else other than yourself is in a way cathartic. I met with two Ranger Buddies…laughter, pain and retirement. Three high school friends…military, kids and marriage. Two mentors…challenges and growth opportunities. Two college buddies…family and work. And my Mom and Sisters…
Real friendships endure. The strain that we place on friendships is unfair and would be unnecessary if we just spent an extra few moments a week engaging in the countless methods available to stay in contact. But despite ourselves, the easy and nonjudgmental nature of talking and reflecting with someone that you know and love is fueled by the crucible of your shared experiences. You have pooled your thoughts on infatuations, disappointment, failures and achievements. Recollections may not be exact, but you do remember how you felt and that you sought them out to share the experience. The experiences are the kindling that keeps a flicker of flame going, but why take advantage of the past to fuel friendships that should be stoked by energized by present and future association.
Time well-spent. To have invested two weeks of precious vacation time in this endeavor may have been the single most valuable time off that I have had in this lifetime save the 10-day Mediterranean vacation cruise that I spent with my wife in 2017. Sorry friends – it was the Med. That trip honestly still brings a smile to my face. I traveled to Washington, Houston, ate seafood, Tex-Mex, southern fried foods and hamburgers. We shared desserts, drank sweet tea, swapped pictures, work stories and boy did we laugh. Heck I am still smiling about some of our conversations. Yep it was definitely time well-spent and it should not have taken me years to have done something like this.
Everyone wants to do better. The fact is that I was not alone in my procrastination. Somehow we have slipped into a thought process that liking a post on Facebook and Instagram is staying in contact. That sharing a knowing wink emoji or a heart is communication. But we all know that it falls short of what we want to do for our friends and family, and to the person every one promised to do better. It is hard not to, because we all want to feel that way all of the time. The best laid plans…
Time waits on no one. That fact that intentions sometimes go awry should be dissuaded by the simple fact that we are getting older. And to think of losing one of these friends is a heavy burden. To think that they may not have me. A few minutes a day to share an update and to check in is not asking too much. My wife is great at this and I admire how she always reaches out and stays in contact with her friends. Do not let another day go by without touching bases as my Mom says.
Promise to meet. This assertion is palpable and why shouldn’t we do better when it takes little out of our day to call someone on the way home from work, or to pen or text them a note that you are thinking of them. And why wouldn’t you want to meet when the feeling is mutual and that the emotions are almost always positive.
It has taken me a few weeks to put this blog together, and not because I have relocated to Dallas with my job. I have been savoring the thoughts of our meetings and considered how I can do better. A lunch per month, a call per week, a dinner every three months, a short vacation every two years… To be honest it does not seem a lot, but we find excuses not to do them and I think that it is affecting our health and mental well-being. Do better with me…
Lee Flemming, is a retired Army Colonel currently working in Dallas 3 (DAL3) Fulfillment Center in Dallas, Texas as a Military Pathways Manager. 28-year Army Veteran with extensive operations and management experience. The Boots to Amazon series includes regular installments meant to inform and educate Service Members and the public
about transitioning into employment at Amazon.