Unexpected friends meetup during work travel

Since the COVID pandemic, work travel has been pretty sparse for me. I only did one work trip last year, which was in mid February for the same annual company kickoff as this year, and also in Denver. The pros of coming to these big, 400+ person company events is that in-person time that I never get while being remote. I like these events because I get that face time with my colleagues, and I do miss the daily social interaction a lot. But it’s also challenging because this is socializing on steroids in a very confined space for a finite number of days, so you really have to pack in all that socializing before you have to pack up and leave again — to go home and be in front of your home computer all day long as a remote employee. It would be nice if we had more outdoor time, or time to socialize and be outside and actually experiencing the city we were in. Instead, we have to stay inside in windowless conference and presentation rooms. But I guess this is work, after all. We didn’t come for sight-seeing, unfortunately.

But I still made a point to get outside every day this week, even if it was just to walk around the block. And I happened to have a friend from San Francisco here for work, as well, so we met up at my favorite milk tea place in downtown Denver (Milk Tea People, yay!) before our company welcome dinner this evening. I haven’t seen this friend in almost a year and a half. Kaia was only about eight months old then, and my friend was pregnant and due to give birth in just a few months back then. Now, we both have older baby/toddler aged kids, and we spent most of our time talking about our kids, raising them, our relationships with our parents, death and estate planning, and family in general. The conversation felt serious and in some ways kind of sad, like we’re now slowly but surely approaching middle aged and realizing that life is just going by. But in some ways, it felt kind of comforting to have this conversation in person, face to face. We don’t see each other that often, but when we do, it always feels comfortable, like we can just be ourselves and say whatever annoying or stupid things are on our mind, and it’s all okay. No judgment. No worries. No fuss. We just are who we are, and that’s okay. That’s the benefit of having a friend for a long, long time; I’m 38 now, and she’s turning 37 later this year. That means we would have been friends for over 25 years at this point. I’m lucky to have friends still in my life this long who I can just say what I think to, and they just accept me as I am.

What is also funny about meeting up with this friend: whenever I see her, it looks like as time goes by and as we get older, she looks more and more like her mother. And when I look at photos of us together, I realize I am looking more and more like my dad’s sister, my aunt, who I really do not like and have not spoken to since my 2016 wedding, but the resemblance is undoubtedly there whether I want it there or not. I guess that’s what time does to you: we are all aging, even my sweet Kaia Pookie is aging, but in a much cuter way.

Oh, and it also helps that she likes and appreciates really good milk tea, as Milk Tea People is a standout amongst ALL milk tea places I’ve visited around the world. The care these people put into their tea, from hand whisking the Uji matcha to making all their lavender, orange blossom, and fruit syrups from scratch and in-house every day, is incredible. None of my colleagues I asked wanted to come here with me, as they all said they weren’t really into milk tea, or this place was too far of a walk from our hotel….

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