Thursday, March 22, 2007

My Friend Phyllis

We met in 1994 during a job interview. It was a team deal. If you've had any type of job in corporate America, you know what I am talking about. A select number of group employees get to individually issue a round of questions and then reconvene to decide fate as you know it.

I don't remember where Phyllis landed on the inquisition roster that day but I do recall feeling immensely relieved when she sat down across from me, behind the beige desk, under the the bluest of blue lights. I had just been interrogated by a very high strung, rather unfriendly little waif of a woman. I knew within two minutes that she was voting me off of the show. But Phyllis was different and I knew, just knew, that I would have a fighting chance to get this job if I clicked with her.

The job was doable for me. Unfortunately, my resume didn't reflect that reality. A lot of self discovery, tons of life experience but not a lot of tangible accomplishment. Phyllis gave me the time and space to explain my way around these shortcomings. She listened to me. Sounds simple, I know. But you could tell that she was actually hearing my answers and not automatically formulating the next question while I spoke.

Right away, I liked her. I didn't get the corporate spiel. She told me that yes, this was a great company but that I better be prepared to work day and night, weekends, whatever it took. And I'd better like total chaos because the place was nuts. Prosperous to be sure but a nut house all the same. Phyllis was no sad-sack but she certainly was no cheerleader. A woman after my own heart.

I saw her when I left the building that morning and I could have just given her the obligatory "thanks for taking the time" salutation. But that would not have felt right. I remember firmly shaking her hand with both of mine and thinking that even if I didn't get the job, she would surely be a great person to know.

Yes,I got the job. And we became fast friends We worked together, apart, for, and around each other over the course of the next several years. She guided, taught, coached, and counseled. On occasion, she was disappointed in me. In those few instances, I felt great shame and regret. But I learned and it made me better. And I appreciated her willingness to shake me off of the high horse from time to time. I love to get on my high horse you know. Still do.

Phyllis is accomplished and has a number of interests outside work. I always admired this about her. She loves art, music, gourmet food, and travel. She is well read. And most importantly, she has a heart of gold. She cares about the way people feel and isn't about being the center of attention. I love the way she enjoys simple things, like good conversation and an interesting piece of news.

I've witnessed some of her struggles and I'm inspired by her resiliency. She is always willing to try something new, to forge unchartered territory. I know she would appreciate a partner but her life has not come to a standstill without one. She is a testament to figuring it out and getting it done. I've learned a lot from her these past 13 years.

Even though we are separated by distance and have different life circumstances at the moment, I think of her often and I know she feels the same.

I just love Phyllis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Leigh. I am overwhelmed. I remember that day, remarking to Rebecca after the interview that you had to be part of the team.

I have been fortuntate to have shared so much with you over the years. I have learned from you generosity. You have always been willing to share what you have with anyone who needs it more, no questions asked, no strings.

Thank you.