Diet Coke and Peanuts: The Art of Leaning on One Another

No matter how long I've been in my profession, I find that I am always hunkered down with simultaneous requests, long emails, and yes, continuous cups of coffee with an extra shot of espresso. Why is it these fall months simply don't get less bombarded no matter how long we've done our jobs? Not to be negative or misconstrued – fall happens to be my all-time favorite season of the year. It represents new beginnings, times to gather, and joy-filled days with long coats and sun peeking through the trees. In academia, however, these months always seem to be full to the brim with activity.

During these busy times then, it’s essential to lean on others. No matter how big or small your task, we shouldn’t hesitate to directly ask for assistance when it’s needed. A couple of weeks ago, for example, a friend reached out to me and asked me if I could do her a huge favor. As I looked through my daily tasks – I'm not going to lie – part of me wanted to cave and tell her no. No, I can’t help. No, I can’t possibly add anything else to my day. But my inner spirit urged me to reconsider, and I responded, “Yes, whatever you need, of course!”

As soon as I said it, my stomach sank. I knew I should have waited before so quickly responding. After all, I had no idea what she was going to ask! But before I could overthink it any more, I received a sweet text back from my friend who, after apologizing for any trouble or inconvenience, submitted her request: a Diet Coke and peanuts. That was it. She was treating herself to a much-needed haircut (as her list was also growing too long to handle), and once she sat down in the comfortable high-rise chair, she realized she hadn't eaten anything all day. Her blood sugar tanked, she knew she had better eat something fast, and she called upon the first friend she thought of: me. (Disclaimer: Okay, so I can’t prove that I was the first person she thought of. But I like to think I was.)

Our lives continue to get fuller. Our plates spill over. And all the while we don't stop long enough to look to our right or our left to make sure that each of us is treading water at a steady pace. So instead of checking another thing off my list, I went to the market, grabbed my friend’s goodies and headed straight for her salon. When I walked in, her eyes lit up with excitement. (Another disclaimer: I think she was more excited for the Diet Coke than the sight of me.) There was something special about that favor. It was unexpected, yes. However, it warmed my heart to be able to help.

Who do you know in your life that needs a Coke-with-a-fresh-lime-break? Chances are there's someone that needs you and she's too shy (or proud) to ask. Or perhaps you need someone. Just follow your intuition and ask your friend for help. Believe me, it will make their day.