Rose is my person. We met early in grad school and worked together in the same lab for 5 years. She has been my conference buddy since our first conference together in the 1990’s. In grad school at conferences, we would scout out places to watch March Madness. Actually, not much has changed except the atmosphere of where we watch and the type of drink we consume.
Every academic needs a best friend who doesn’t assume you get summers off or doesn’t wonder what you do with all that free time between the only 2 classes you teach per week. Who in grad school sometimes made you take a break from presentations to go for a long walk or actually see the outside of the convention center (these days, I’m more likely to do that to her). With whom you have code names for other people at the conference (but not for you, dear reader, definitely not for you). Who can sleep right through your insomnia when you share a hotel room. Whom your students are excited to get to meet, and you can say, I know her. It’s so helpful to have someone in the same career and stage as you, but not at your same institution, to check in about prickly work situations. You know you will never have to walk into an intimidating reception alone because you will always have her by your side. It is in conference hotel rooms and on the streets of conference cities that we have confided in each other about many of life’s stressors, whether work or children.
In grad school, we were usually crammed 4 to a room, negotiating shower schedules and bed sharing. These days it’s usually the two of us, going to sleep earlier than we used to, but still having plenty of time to chat and catch up. Or to ignore each other while we get work done or zone out after a long day of professional social interactions. One year we were given a suite, and we invited a friend up to hang out. When she showed up she saw us each with laptops in front of us and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were both working.” But no, that’s just us hanging out in a hotel room, reading emails between conversations about our latest administrative headache or student accomplishment.
When my kids were babies, she was the one who, even though replaced as my conference roommate for a few years by my husband and kids, immediately came up to the room after getting a text that said “help!” and entertained babies while my husband and I packed. She’s the one who, when my kids were toddlers and I had to give a presentation, went to Reading Terminal with my husband and kids and helped chase them down when they took off in opposite directions.
When my kids were 2 ½, I attended my first conference without them since their birth. Rose was happy (I think) to get me back as a roommate. I was feeling very confident. I had presentations two days in a row scheduled, and this was my first chance in years to show competent-conference-Eva rather than scattered-Mama-conference-Eva. On the first day, I was at the front table right before it started, when I wondered, why is everyone from tomorrow’s panel here but no one from today’s panel here? Oh. I had mixed up my talks, and had not only been practicing the wrong talk, but also had the notes for the wrong talk. Rose, from the audience, immediately saw the panic in my eyes, and texted to ask what was wrong. I texted her back. And Rose ran the 1 mile back to the hotel room, texting me from the room to find the talk, and ran it back to me in the middle of our session. Not my most polished presentation, but a lot better than it would have been if I hadn’t had my person there.
I like to think I occasionally do things for her as well. For instance, there are few other people I’d do this for:
“The post Find your lifelong conference buddy was first posted on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on April 7, 2016”