Another mentor from my time at Fort Lewis College died this week. Once again, it was cancer. We said goodbye to Sandy Smith-Lloyd in 2009 and are now saying goodbye to Maria Cristina Grabiel.
I wanted to share the greatest lesson I ever learned from Cristina. She treated us as peers. By “us” I mean the residence directors. We were in our early 20s, mostly single and all trying to find a place in the world. She turned 50 the year we worked together and got the most amazing tattoo to celebrate her heritage.
One night she told us the story of how she’d come to own a couch. Her whole adult life, she’d had futons. Portable and affordable, the futon is for the person who chooses not to settle down. When she got to Durango, she bought a couch.
She told us, “Buy a couch and live like you’re going to stay.” We were in a transient industry. Hall directors move colleges every couple years, in and out of college administration. It is years before you settle down, so a futon makes sense.
Not to Cristina.
She wanted us to buy couches and live like we were going to stay. Volunteer off campus. Date. Make friends outside of the university. Since that talk, a fleeting 5 minutes during dinner, I have always had a couch.
I try hard to live like I’m going to stay. Oh, Cristina, you’re memory is a blessing to me and thousands more.