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2004-02-29 - 8:44 p.m.

A visit from an old friend

This weekend I was visited by a very dear old friend - one whose company and conversation sustained me through many stale years of graduate school. Guy was a senior technical staff member at the research institute where I received my degree, and although he will never have as many degrees as I do, he taught me one of the most useful lessons of my life.

The most important lesson he taught me as a human being is that sometimes thing just happen. Things break. Situations go awry. And they can do this without any help from ourselves. Sometimes things just break, and we don't need to feel guilty for this fact. This does not mean that we do not need to deal with the broken thing. It just means that we don't need to waste our time worrying about why it happened - just deal with getting it fixed.

This may seem like an obvious lesson. But put a female in front of a complicated machine that she has never learned to operate, and then put three sexist grad students (and a sexist advisor) on the scene who refuse to teach her, and inevitably you teach the female that every lack of knowledge and every minor machinery blip is her fault. Guy's most important lesson to me was to escape the trap that was set for me. He taught me to ask questions relentlessly, and not to take blame for any little problem that occurred. Sometimes things just break and we have to learn to fix them.

I will value Guy until the day that I die for this valuable insight into life, not just with machines but with other situations as well. I will also value him for his relaxed presence and his ability to make me feel as though everything will be okay. His visit constituted a weekend of worrying about nothing - not because there are no problems, but because of his ability to face problems and find solutions for them, and to hold your hand through the process saying, "It will be okay."

Guy helped me build and install many shelves in my apartment, making it a much more livable environment. But even more than that he reminded me of what it is like to feel "safe." - not safe from the confrontations of life, but rather like you can face every problem and find a solution.

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