Feb 242008
Authors: Anne Marie Merline

Two weeks ago, I wrote about love and what that has to do with a college campus. It only makes sense that I write about a student that in the last four years has become one of my most cherished friends.

Almost four years ago I made the decision to start to eat in the Newsom dinning hall. This was a decision to help me streamline my life. I taught in Newsom Hall, and I was thrilled that I could skip down the stairs to get my vittles.

My daytime nutrition became one less thing I had to think about in the mad flurry of the morning to get my then four-year-old son and myself out of the house for the day.

I actually hate food. I hate thinking about all of the logistics of food, day in and day out. I wish food was like air, that it could just be randomly ingested without all of the preparation and decision-making.

The reality is, I would rather hand someone a card so that I can partake of the options set in front of me, than have to think about it.

So, four years ago I loaded up my faculty identification card with food credits, courtesy of my VISA card. I am a solitary person by nature, so it did not bother me that I would end up sitting alone to eat my lunch while students sat in groups and kvetched about hating chemistry or wished that the chemistry between two students would happen.

My solitude did not go on too long into the semester in the fall of 2004. Two of my then first year students, Kate and Sarah, asked me if they could sit with me to eat lunch.

“Wow,” I remarked to myself, “these students are treating me like a human.”

I could not wait until I got to know these two women. I ate with them the whole semester, and with Kate the whole next semester.

As it turns out, over the course of the more than three years since then, I can count Kate as one of my best friends.

A year ago November, Kate and I went out and did the teenage girl thing — we went and got our ears pierced together. A lot has changed in the ear piercing business since I got my first set of piercings when I was a tween, but that is fodder for another type of article.

This past summer Kate was my indefatigable movie partner, in my home and at the theater. She is over at my home for dinner with my son and me on a regular basis. She trusts my ability to cook food and then she actually eats it.

Anyone who knows my cooking, knows this is a sign of a really, really good friend.

During the course of the summer, I started dating again. I went on a date and reported to Kate that I was not too sure about the guy I went out with.

Kate told me to take a risk, to get out of my very small box that I lived in and open my mind to different people and places. Seven months later, I am still dating the same guy.

Because we live our lives in such mental proximity, I have known Kate’s parents for about two years.

Last May, I had lunch with Kate and her father here in The Fort. Gary, her father, mentioned me as Kate’s mentor.

I cringed at the thought. I had always thought of myself as Kate’s friend, and never thought of myself as a mentor. Most of the time, I think that I am the one who needs a mentor and think of myself just too immature to think of myself as one.

Kate will graduate this May as an Honors student with a degree in political science. She will be much relieved to be done with school, for she has worked hard and stressed over school way too much.

Frankly, I don’t want her to graduate. Life without Kate will seem that much more empty. Lucky for me she is on my cell-phone speed dial: Kate, eight.

Kate embodies the lesson that teachers and students can treat each other like humans, and in the course of decency, can become friends.

Anne Marie Merline is an instructor for the University Honors Program. Her column appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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