Loner. Flying solo. Not a member of the pack, not a team player. I'm a girl who keeps to herself. Lone wolf. And yet, here I am, again and again, keeping company in ways that I wouldn't have anticipated or hoped for, that I might have tried to avoid if I'd seen those boisterous, difficult crowds descending upon me. My people. My dorm wing grew close, forged bonds that Facebook tells me hold to this day. I got my apartment on the bus line. But I couldn't escape the comradery of the dish room, matching smocks and hats and financial need and the sudden, joyful outbreak of food fights. I graduate quickly from glasses to dishes to trays, and soon I was running the line and was always the one to step in and take on two sessions when we were shorthanded.
I walked into my doctoral program freighted with fear and the conviction that everyone there knew more, and knew more about more, than I did. I was probably right. We argued deconstruction and swapped teaching tips and thirty years later send each other book recommendations and pictures of our dogs. I couldn't do team sports, I was sure, not with all that nasty interdependency and cooperation. I took to my feet and the road and ended up on long distance buses singing decades old songs and cheering on people I shyly called my friends, accepting their ugs and high fives as I crossed my own finish lines.
There were, after all, boys. And some years later, I find myself on another team and this time in a boat, my feet tied in and my hands on the oars, bent on my solo purpose of moving the oars so the boat shoots through the water, and I don't have to think about what anyone else is doing, but if we don't row as one, the whole enterprise goes to hell. Like family.I was initiated into my family on the day of my birth, and they don't let go. every time I turn a corner of memory, I bump into one of them, and if they're not popping up from the dark corners of the past, they're popping up on my phone screen with their incessant texting. That family. But then there's the other one. Having been through the initiation rites of love and marriage and birth, we now have bonds of blood, tears, struggle and survival and I am the one who doesn't let go.
Twenty years and two almost grown children in, I wonder what did I get myself into and why? A state of wonder. One of life's great adventures. Something marvelous, well to be marvelled at. It bears the marks of all my previous team experiences. There are so many messes to clean up and food fights break out on a regular basis. It's all about endurance and going the distance and cheering each other over so many finish lines. If we don't row as one, the boat rocks and twists, but in those moments of unison, we are gliding over calm water, with great trees arching overhead and sound of the wind and birds singing carrying us home. Sometimes the lone wolf circles twice, curls up in a ball and settles into the pack.