Friday, February 8, 2008

A latte like life

I've been lucky that Manny humors me by still getting together when I'm in town; it's been ten years since I took his Conversation Analysis class. I didn't stay in the field, but one of the great things about true mentors is that their influence goes beyond their realm of expertise. Setting high expectations, finding ways to disagree respectfully, commitment to work, having integrity — as an adult, I learned these things from Manny and a few other demanding professors. By the way, I was not his prized pupil. I found his class difficult. But Manny always respected students who took the work seriously, challenging us to reason things out. Amazing how that's a good life skill, too — learning how to get through a struggle and make reasoned decisions.

So yesterday, we chatted over late-afternoon coffee. Ever a creature of habit, he ordered his medium whole-milk latte with the conviction of someone who always gets the same thing. He regards this not as always getting the same thing, but as getting one thing until he finds something better. I appreciate the precision — it matters when you're a writer or a professor or a surgeon.

We talked about the usual: work, achievement, and professional satisfaction. Though it's been ten years and I'm no longer a student, it's nice to still have a "usual." Things change and they don't. Manny is older and considering retirement but otherwise the same.

Speaking of things changing (and not), the UCLA campus looked mostly the same, but I had never noticed how beautiful it was: old buildings and picturesque courtyards on a gorgeous sunny day. During my grad school days trudging to Haines Hall, I rarely noticed any of that.

As I inched through traffic on Wilshire, I had a chance to reflect on my day. Though we often strive to be better, faster, stronger, whatever — it's comforting to go back to a person or a place and enjoy the sameness. In lattes or in life, I hope we continue to appreciate things exactly as they are.

1 comment:

michelle said...

Well said.

I envy you a person like that, who knows you in a totally different way. You are always adept at maintaining relationships like this one. A truly special gift--and I think, a lot of extra effort on your part.

I'm glad you had a great trip.