I’ve been at Villanova for 33 years, and many of my colleagues have been there even longer. I think part of the reason for the longevity of so many people is the nature of higher education, and part of the reason has to do with Villanova being a great place to work.
But I have to admit, during those 33 years, I have not really made much of an effort to become close friends with any of the people I’ve worked with. Sure, I’ve gotten to know some people better than others by the occasional chat in the hallway or at our departmental dinners. There’s also the occasional luncheon or drinks after work with members of the business school, but I tend to shy away from such events. Such behavior has nothing to do with my colleagues, it’s just that I don’t feel very comfortable at such gatherings.
When I think of attending such events, I get that anxious feeling like back in high school, wondering who I would hang out with. Since I haven’t made an effort to befriend anyone, it’s perhaps no surprise that I would wonder about such things. I also assume that everyone else going to such events already knows who they are going to hang out with, and since I’m not part of any such group, I would be an outsider.
So it’s a vicious cycle; I don’t go to such events because I don’t feel like I know anyone well enough to hang out with, and since I don’t go, I don’t give myself the opportunity to get to know anyone on a more personal level.
Now don’t get me wrong; there are many people at work I would consider both a colleague and a friend, it’s just that I would not consider any of them to be a close friend. I know a few colleagues who seem to be best of friends with each other, and I have to admit I’m kind of jealous when I see such a relationship.
So that’s why it was nice today, after a brief departmental meeting, that I had the chance to catch up with a fellow faculty member whom I’ve known since I first came to Nova. It was just an impromptu conversation on a wide range of topics, and afterward, I reflected how good it felt to have had that simple chat. I also thought that perhaps the cumulative effect of many such small conversations over 33 years has probably enabled me to form deeper relationships with some people than I would have realized.
It also made me want to be a little more proactive in seeking opportunities to engage with my fellow Villanovans. I know there’s a lot of fascinating people wandering our hallways, and it would be a shame not to get to know some of those people while I still have the chance.
So if any of my colleagues notice that I start going up to them and asking about the weather, just realize it’s my awkward way of trying to start a conversation…
*image from Southern Living