Friday, May 20, 2011

Sarah Smiles

I finished my classes in December and thought I felt done then. Tonight is the honors ceremony and tomorrow I will walk in the official graduation. I will collect my diploma in the place where we have gone to see hockey games and concerts. For the few seconds it takes to walk across the stage, I will be proud of me. I took on a challenge and I completed the task.

I started this journey by calling the school one random day and speaking with Sarah. I told her my background and said I wanted to take a few business classes to earn a second Associate’s Degree. She said, “Why not go for a Bachelors instead?” I tried to argue that it would take too long and she said, “What’s another year?” And so began my quest for the degree I always wanted, and my relationship with Sarah.

Sarah was my advisor. She was supposed to figure out what classes I needed to take and when. Basically, she was my tour guide on this crazy adventure I signed myself up for. However, our relationship quickly became more than just a student/advisor one and now I’m proud to call her my friend as well.

She says I didn’t, but I think I drove her crazy. I would email her to sign me up for classes rather than sign up for them myself. I would email and ask for recommendations about different professors. I would email to complain about shit assignments, group projects and hard classes. Through it all, she listened, offered advice and told me about tutoring sessions-the only way I made it through Statistics! My greatest complaint was about a terrible professor. I bitched endlessly and she encouraged me to try to stick with it. Professor Fok was an ass and I finally emailed her and said, “He’s a real fok. Remove me from the class.” I ended up taking the term off and taking the class with a man who would end up being one of my favorite professors.

Somehow, our emails started getting more personal. She told me about her life, I told her about mine. We shared a love of books and writing and words. We both hate the word “syllabi” and would type it in all capital letters when we had to use it. I complained about people in my classes that used words like thusly and irregardless in their posts. We are in college and those are not real words. Let’s try to sound educated here, folks.

She has introduced me to many authors I would never have read. She recommended classes that I tried to hate but ended up loving. But most of all, she laughed at my rants and kept me sane when I was about to go over the edge and quit. Without actually coming out and saying so, the message between the lines of her emails was always, “Suck it up, cupcake.” Her support kept me engaged and my ADD (self diagnosed, of course!) in check for well over two years.

My relationship with Sarah has been mostly electronic. We email daily and have spoken on the phone a few times. Last summer (or maybe the summer before? I’m getting old and time is all running together!) I asked her if we could meet for lunch and we planned a date. The first thing that struck me about Sarah is that she has a gorgeous smile. Now every time I hear the song “Sarah Smiles” I think of her. I realize it’s a love song, and that’s certainly not how I think of her, but I think of her smile lighting up her whole face.

The second thing that struck me was the way she gives a hug. She stops completely and gives a warm, heartfelt hug. It’s not a little pat-pat on the back, she hugs you like she means it. You feel, when you meet her, that she genuinely cares about you.

During lunch she shared with me that she was leaving her position as an Online Advisor, and would start working with regular students. I was devastated to have my tour guide leave, but as always there was an upside. We could now be friends on Facebook! Yay!

She was no longer my advisor, but that didn’t stop me from complaining to her about school. She never once said that she didn’t have to listen to me bitch anymore and continued to offer assistance when she could. She’s read many of my speeches and papers and encouraged me all along to start a blog.

As much as she was part of my journey, she invited me into her life as well. I heard about the many weddings she’s gone to, her trips, her family, the excitement of her sister getting married, the sadness of her mother-in-law’s recent diagnosis. What started off as a relationship based on my education has morphed into a relationship based on how much we enjoy hearing from one another.

And we both still hate the word syllabi, though I may never have to say or use it again. 

Ice Princess


  1. Oh my word, you just made my day. Sarah shared this with me because it made her day.
    Thank you for brightening our day! (did I use the word day too much?)
    Sarah's mom Joanne

  2. Sarah's mom Joanne: You are the mother to one of my favorite people. Use whatever word you want to use as many times as you'd like... If you use anything like thusly, syllabi or irregardless, you may never hear the end of it!!! :o)