June 10, 2007
I've had a few people that have had a significant influence in my life. Whether small or on a larger scale, I recognize the value they have added.
This weekend I was able to experience how it felt to be the person of influence. Or at least positive influence.
Ten years ago, I was practically adopted by someone that led a very important role in my life. She had 2 kids, a 7 & 8 year old. I would hang out with them after school and help them with homework until she was done chaperoning one of the sporting events or teaching night classes.
Throughout all of my moves, we kept in touch and visited. Her daughter especially was interested in my going to college, living the dorm life. After college she kept in touch with where I was and what I was doing.
A couple of months ago, I asked her mom when her graduation was and told her I would try to make it.
Well, tickets to Eastern North Carolina are $700+ so I knew I would be making the drive. I haven't been to that part of the country, reliving those memories, for several years.
I had a business trip to Phoenix last Sunday. Thursday night I took the 11:30 red-eye to arrive into Atlanta at 6am. Don't let the time fool you. It was a 4 hour flight that only allowed me about 2-3 hours of sleep. I ran home to pack another bag, got my hair done, and started my 500 mile venture to North Carolina.
I wanted to call and say I couldn't make it. I wanted to send my gift and tell her how proud of her I was through a phone call. I was so exhausted. Red Bull was my friend. Make that 3 Red Bulls.
But I made it; I'm so very glad I did. She was valedictorian and made an excellent speech. She was beautiful and poised, obviously ready to start her next chapter.
After graduation, her mother, her, and I discussed old times. Her mother joked about how I was the only one that was able to help her understand Algebra. She described memories of when I went to college and sent pictures and she told her mother she couldn't wait to do that. And when she was a freshman she told her mother and I that she was going to be valedictorian.
And we joked more about my college boyfriend. The one with the piercings and lack of high school diploma. The one her mother called the big neon sign. She remembers all the good and the bad. And she has plans on how to handle the bad.
Her and I later got some alone time in the car and she told me about her current relationship and how she was smitten with this guy (yes, her word) but that she wanted to stay grounded. She wished that she would have met him later in life because there was so much she wanted to do first and give her attention to. She was open to my advice but I'm not sure she really needed it.
She told me as I left how much it meant to her that I came to see her graduate and that she knew what I went through to be there. I told her how proud I was of her and that I looked forward to the wonderful things she was going to do with her life.
The next morning I left at 11am for the drive home. I drove 16 hours to spend 16 hours there. It was worth it. Very worth it.