People come and people go. Our lives are like a bus, with someone hopping on and then getting off at the next stop. Some might sit close but disembark three stops down the line, while others stay for the entire ride. They are coming and going, in and out of our lives.
Many people affect our everyday lives, some by simply doing their jobs to the best of their ability, and others by being available to join us in our joy and sorrow. These two examples show that there are different levels of intimacy among people with whom we interact in a day.
In nursing school, we took a class on interpersonal relationships, and one chart in particular sticks in my brain. Make a dot in the center of a paper, with concentric circles going outward from the dot. The paper is the universe, and the dot represents you. After all, you are the center of your own universe!
Place people in the circle that is around you, the dot. Since that circle is closest to you, the people within that circle will be the people with whom you are most intimate. This circle will most likely include your immediate family.
Imagine the people who will go into all of the circles. The circle surrounding that one will include extended family. The next would be close friends, with occasionally contacted friends in the one outside of that. The circle out from that could contain colleagues and acquaintances, and the outermost circle should be recognizable strangers, such as people with whom you have frequent or repeated contact. These are people you are not seeking out due to a personal relationship, yet they still have an impact on your life.
Outside of the last circle, I like to put total strangers without a circle around them, because they can come from anywhere and be as far away from the center of your universe as possible, but still affect your life.
I most likely cannot call some of these important people by name without reading their name tags, but when I dine out, I know it will be a pleasurable meal because of the waitress who always remembers my favorite soup. I am relieved to see through the drive-up window a pharmacy tech who is willing to make extra phone calls and faxes to ensure I leave with what I need.
People will enter a different circle to provide help in times of crisis or to celebrate in times of joy. Sometimes people move in and out of a particular circle depending on their current role in your life. Perhaps you become extra chummy for a while with a colleague because you are thrown together at an out-of-town conference or end up being study partners for a difficult class. You notice that she is not only skilled and intelligent, but funny, wise, and surer of herself when her guard is down.
Friendships with workmates can make your daily routine pleasant and help to make particularly onerous days bearable. The problem with workplace friendships is that people change jobs. They leave town. New, completely competent people will fill their spots. The work will continue, and very possibly you will become friends with the new workmate.
The spot your former colleague held in your universe will change circles, but her place in your heart won’t change. So when that bus drives out of town with her on it, watch where it goes. Plan a road trip.
The spot your former colleague held in your universe will change circles, but her place in your heart won’t change.