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June 2009

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The Friendly Series: Preamble

It is said that a hug is worth a thousand words, and a friend is worth more. It is said that friends are those who know plenty about you, and decide to like you anyway. It is said that friends are those who are there for you when they could rather be anywhere else. And, it is said that friends are the most important ingredients in life.

When you are young, friends were easy to come by: your father, your classmates, your neighbors and anyone who is willing to be your playmate. As time passes, and as we grow, friendship might have taken on new meanings. But, at the heart of friendship is a pair who will partake in one anothers life: sometimes towards encouragement, sometimes to catch each other from falling, and many a times yielding a wealth of influence.

With that preamble, the next series of postings are dedicated to the most influential friends in my life: friends who knew plenty about me, but gave their hugs anyway.


Unblemished

They say that the more battles a friendship survives, the stronger it becomes. To think, it is common for friends not to see eye to eye, and battles, be it exchanges of cynicism, quibbles, or the occasional push to shove are almost sure to come and leave dents behind. But there has been one friendship that has not been blemished for as long as I can remember, and this piece is written in honor of a friend who has partaken in perhaps more aspects of my life than any other.

We first met during a TAs office hour, where she asked many good questions with courtesy and professionalism. After the office hour, I asked her whether she would like to be study partners. She said sure, but that she was not very studious. I chuckled confident, studious and humble. As I would soon find out, she also had this innate ability to churn out little jokes here and there, just in time to relieve the straining of our eyeballs over the endless pool of homework and lecture material.

Come the next semester, we enlisted in a graphics class. The course that promised to be cool and exciting soon turned into a quagmire of programming exercises. We computer students often have a bad habit of keeping our battles to ourselves, which was all the more reasons why we were blessed to have been comrades along the frontier. One night before an assignment deadline, we waged war side by side in front of our lab stations. By the time we managed to minimize our casualties, it was 3am. Where do you live? She asked. And then, oh, thats right on my way home! Soon there was another assignment during which she had to also cope with the stress of internship interviews, but not without her usual touch of humor. I still remember one of her interview questions: If you could be a fruit, what would you be, and why? Her response? An apple, because Im well rounded.

Then came the summer semester. To my pleasant surprise, she too was a tennis aficionado. She was pretty good too, but not out to win or lose. Playing with her on the court never felt like a battle. It was relaxing and entertaining, a welcoming change from the mundane competitiveness that abounds the tennis field. To this day we still would play tennis every now and then, which makes her one of my longest serving tennis chums.

That summer, I was also rehearsing for a church musical. The musical was about twelve brothers, and I, one of them. Because I was the only Asian actor of the bunch, I felt the need to modify my hair color to blend in with the rest of my brothers. Dying hair certainly was not my forte, and whom else did I turn to for assistance? Besides helping me to an even shade of bleach, she lent me her bandana and overall to satisfy the cowboy look and feel of the role. These enhancements to my on-stage appearance were not only captured on film, but one of them also made a cameo appearance in the last short story I sat down to write in recent years.

Fast forwarding now, the ensuing year, I had the fortune of having her as my internship advisor. I still remember that the first time I read a copy of her cover letter, how I wished that I could take it as my own! The prose was fluid, the content was rich, and the presentation was above and beyond anything I had been exposed to. Too bad I cannot publish the contents of that cover letter here. Suffice it to say that since that day, that cover letter became a model for me to follow, and a measuring stick up to this day. Having followed the footsteps of that letter, I have not had a shortage of interviews during periods of job hunting. To think that that letter was drafted many years ago, I cannot help but express my immense admiration for, as well as pride of knowing such a workplace superstar.

Then came ski season, and we discovered our common interest on the snowy slopes. Those were the days when I did not have a car, but she never hesitated to be the designated driver, and often going well out of her way to offer me the convenience of non-stop transportation. On the slopes, she was always going just a tad faster than me. Furthermore, she had a good understanding of the treacheries of the mountainous terrains and had the good sense to tell us not to go down certain paths. Skiing with her was always comfortably challenging, and safe. I have always wanted to synchronize with her speediness. But whenever I expressed that wish, she would humbly retort: Oh Im faster because Im no good at stopping! And sure enough shed be stopping and waiting for me to catch up.

And then there were the casual outings that decorated our leisure over the years. We experienced no shortage of movies and meals. She also accompanied me on a few good trips and helped to improve the quality of my wardrobe. For something different, we even participated in a dodge ball tournament, on the same team of course. Our team might not have done very well that night, but the team work and entertainment value will not be soon forgotten.

To this day, she remains my trusty tennis partner, ski mate, and career advisor. While tennis and skiing keep me healthy, career advice keeps me happily employed. They say it is a blessing to give and she has given me so much. For me it has been a blessing to receive. From her I discovered the motivation to pass on our treasures she offered me advice on career preparations, and in turn I passed that treasure to other friends. When goodness goes around, it will eventually come back to us. I might have first learned about that in Sunday School, but it was her who taught me how that theory works in practice. The humble friend that she is, who has been wrapping health and happiness into unblemished gift boxes and undoubtedly for the many around her will surely be blessed with more!

 

Tai Meng | 孟泰 | Last Updated: May 14, 2013