I caught up with a friend a couple of days ago in his new practise out in Footscray. We used to work together years ago at a place where we would turn up to work in jeans or shorts according to the weather. He was an accountant, I was the systems guy or something, and we hit it off.
I was remembering that sitting in his office across from him in his suit, looking schmick all the way to the cuff-links. I always knew he was smart – he’s an expert tax accountant – but I had never really seen this side of him. Back in the day we’d get smashed most Friday nights. He was always very popular with the girls, interested and generally successful. He alleges I was the same, though I think he had me covered. Here I was though, still in jeans while he sat there in his pin-stripe suit telling me his plans of world domination.
Lets face it, you fall into patterns of behaviour with people. Initial impressions become attitude, then perspective. You know this person a certain way, and often within a certain environment, and they you. Like an old chair the relationship between you contours to that shared dynamic. You fall into roles unknowingly, you respond almost without thought according to these unspoken orientation.
For years he was the friend I would catch up with for a drink or two and some carousing. We would catch up on old times and perhaps chat about women. In retrospect I felt a bit like an older brother; and in his eyes I was someone he admired and deferred to. Whenever there was anyone present he would begin telling stories of me as if wanting to show-off on my behalf. I would modestly deny everything, but smile indulgently.
He was always great fun, and ready for a laugh or a shout. He was smart in his way and very well-respected in his field, but for the most part had never seemed particularly driven. I was the driven one, the assertive personality, the guy with the big ideas.
Last year he bought a small suburban accounting practise. It turned into a mini-disaster, and we would meet and I would give him advice as to how to fix things up. As it turned out it was a blessing in disguise. He lost on the deal, but it exposed him to other opportunities and people. As he tells it now he seems on the cusp of doing very well. I believe he will.
As I listened to him I felt a shift in balance between us. He was more confident and assertive. Generous with his time and affable as always I felt nevertheless as if something between us had reversed. He was in the position I always expected to be, and probably the position he expected me to assume as well. And yet there I was sitting on the opposite side of the desk to him seeking his help.
I’m genuinely happy for him. We’re catching up for a few beers next week and I expect we’ll resume the usual banter and attitude. It’s an instructive and illuminating realisation that we can too easily presume what has been will continue to be so. The best of us as human beings grow and develop. It’s unwise and unfair to take for the granted friendship, and the individual behind that. Likewise it’s another reminder that the wheel never stops turning, for all of us. There’s opportunity for me as well.