With a Little Help from My Friends

Growing up, and even persisting to this day, my circle of friends is relatively small. People sometimes say that I’m a hard person to read, until they get to know me, and then they see me for the outgoing, boisterous, and sometimes irreverent person that I am. 

After high school and college, my small group of friends grew apart. After moves, babies, college, and new jobs, we weren’t so great at keeping in touch. Priorities shifted for each of us, which is totally normal. Now, most of us keep up with each other the way a lot of people do: through social media. 

I talk sometimes about the limitations that I’ve allowed my eating habits to have on me, and one of them is that I’ve isolated myself from a lot of social opportunities. When I began my teaching career, I made a few “work friends," but none of the relationships ever really blossomed into deep friendships. When I moved to Texas in 2009, I spent my first three years here as a sub, at a different school each day, and I didn’t really get the chance to know anybody or make any friends. 

When I got my first full-time position in Texas, I met so many great teachers who helped me grow both professionally and personally. Although I loved my students and the teachers at my school, the way the administration treated me was so horrible that I thought I’d leave the teaching profession. However, they say that when one door closes, another opens, and because of two women that so fervently believed I was a good teacher, I landed at a charter school, teaching middle school. 

Dingle and Jaci (isn't our photography stellar?), who convinced me I was a great teacher and led me to ILT.

Dingle and Jaci (isn't our photography stellar?), who convinced me I was a great teacher and led me to ILT.

Although initially shy around my new “work friends,” the teachers in the Fine Arts departments quickly befriended me and invited me to eat lunch with them each day. I guess I should preface this by saying that my first year teaching there, I did not have my own classroom, so I couldn’t hide out anywhere and conceal my lunchtime routine, as I had often done at all my former jobs. 

At lunchtime I wanted a place to decompress and hang out with like-minded people, and these new people offered a place to vent frustrations and laugh about the hysterical things our kids did in class each day. I think that a couple people may have asked about what I was eating, but I also found that one of my coworkers brought canned soup every day (where I was still bringing peanut butter crackers and granola bars), and another had her own special diet because she had Celiac's Disease. For the first time, I told a group of people that I was a "picky eater," and it didn't really seem to be a big deal. 

I very quickly found a group of people who became good friends of mine. I was invited out for weekly sangria parties and Sunday brunch, and for the first time, I found myself accepting invitations to hang out with people in an environment that required me to eat, and I never felt like the odd ball out with my eating habits. Instead of declining invitations or showing up late, I simply brought something I would eat, and nobody else made a big deal out of my not eating their food. For the first time in my adult life, I found myself enjoying the company of friends, completely able to enjoy myself, be myself, and not feel embarrassed of myself. I don’t think these friends of mine will ever know how truly grateful and appreciative I am for their friendship. 

Mandi and Hilary

Mandi and Hilary

Caree and Jaci

Caree and Jaci

In the last year or so, we’ve gone to different jobs, and we don’t spend the time that we did before together. I miss their friendship and the fellowship that I had with them, and the camaraderie and joy of having good friends. In my new job, everybody more or less does his or her own thing, and ironically, most of them eat fast food every day, when I’m trying my hardest not to! 

I now work for my friend Jaci, who was one of the teachers who believed in me and urged me to continue teaching three years ago, and her husband, Dan. Jaci is a vegetarian (more funny stories about that another time), and Dan is like me! I knew he was my spirit animal when I was invited to Friendsgiving a few years ago, and we had to wait on dinner because his mac and cheese wasn’t ready yet. His friends make the same jokes as mine do about eating off the kids’ menu, but instead of being embarrassed about it, he owns it and has a “this is who I am” kind of attitude, and that attitude has honestly played such a major part in my being able to share my blog. 

Beth and I at Strawn's, my favorite place to eat back home. 

Beth and I at Strawn's, my favorite place to eat back home. 

A few weeks ago, I shared my first blog with my family and my friends, and one of my best friends from college reached out to me with a recipe. I hadn’t seen her or really talked to her in six years, yet we began texting, and when I went home a couple weeks ago, we met up for lunch, we caught up on our lives, and I met her son. We both ordered grilled cheese and fries, because that's what Strawn's (in Shreveport, LA) does best IMO, and a slice of pie. Life has a weird way of circling back around and bringing people back into your lives, and I’m so glad that something I thought was going to be scary for me has turned out to be so positive. 

I don’t have any new food to bring to you this week! I’ve spent the last two weeks in Louisiana with family and then traveling to Boston with my mom and two aunts, and then I got home and have just kind of been in a seasonal funk. I went to the store Saturday and bought green beans, which I think I will try to make this week. One thing I’ve learned about buying fresh produce: if you don’t cook it, it goes bad PDQ! I’m still going strong with the spinach and carrots, and I hope I have something better to share next week.