Cheers to awesome friends and the things we learn from them

Sometimes, we meet wonderful people in our lives. Maria, my best friend, is one of these people. I typically enjoy people and I see the best in them no matter what but there are a few people that deeply touched my heart. Maria is one of them….

I met her back in 2013 at an Internations meetup. Internations is a group of people who either enjoy traveling or live in other countries than their own country. I got there a little late, I had just signed in and was looking around to talk to someone.

Next to me there was this girl who was looking at her phone and she seemed busy. So, I was just sitting there wanting to say something but then I thought…oh well. … she’s working…I do not want to interrupt…but wait…we’re at a social event. So – I said something to her. We started chatting and- to my surprise- found out she was Romanian too 😊  Well- now we got something solid to talk about!

I am always curious to learn more about people and finding out she was Romanian as well had gotten me even more curious.

Maria had just moved from Florida to Seattle with a corporate job. She had come to the United States years ago with a Work Student Program, and after working for years in hospitality industry, she enrolled in an MBA Program at The University of Florida. Upon graduation, she landed a corporate job with Burger King- her first corporate job in the USA.

Kind of a big deal for an immigrant who had started in this country in a Student Work exchange program years ago.

Over the years, I got to see Maria in various phases of her life: moving from one corporate job to another, traveling and going on various adventures ( she loves traveling and hiking), watched her doing her 2019 travel around the world trip; all in all happy times, sad times, now pandemic -corona virus -times.

The reason I wanted to write about her is that there are at least a few things that I have learned from Maria, over the last 7 years I’ve known her. She’s an inspiration to me in those areas.

Empathy and humanity

Maria has a big heart. She also has an amazing ability and power to always think about the other’s person position when in a situation of conflict or disagreement. I have never heard her talk badly about anyone.

And for the most part, she avoids talking about other people when they are not present. I mean- I get angry and mad at people but Maria has this thing where she wants to understand where everyone is coming from.

And she does that even behind closed doors, when the other person is not present. She always has a good thing to say about everyone.

Quiet/humble ambition

You see, we live in a world where sometimes the loudest in the room wins.  It took me some time to figure out Maria. I knew she was ambitious, but getting to know her over the years I got to learn what she had been going through and what she had achieved and realized she’s pretty quiet about her accomplishments.

Maria came to the US with a work and travel program and she worked front of the house roles in restaurants. For years, she had been planning to take the plunge and do an MBA.

She had been saving money and finally did that. Upon graduation – she was able to secure a job with Burger King corporate where, within two years, she held an executive Director Role.

I am not sure how many people know the amount of work, courage, sacrifice is behind this. Being able to move from a service role into a corporate analytical one is a big deal.

I am a big believer that in life anyone can achieve what they want to if they are serious about that. Maria’s experience is showing me that any career change ispossible with courage, determination and hard work, no matter how crazy that career change might look like

Unconditional support

2 moments I will never forget:

Spring-summer of 2013:  I was running on high fever, I was alone at home. I had had malaria with high fever when I was in Africa in 2006. That was the first time in my life when I was afraid that I would die. After that experience, anytime I would have high fever I would be afraid I might have malaria again (irrational fear) and die.

So, going back to the 2013 moment, I’m at home in bed with 103 fever, I’m crying for fear I might die. I felt so alone and scared. I’m calling Maria and I’m telling her I’m afraid I might have malaria and die. At the time, Maria was working for Burger King as a Regional Director.

She was working 12-14 hour days. That day, she came to see me for a few hours and brought me fruits. I did not expect that. But she made time to come, see me, calm my fears and talk to me.

February 2019: Maria had started her dream trip around the world and we were regularly checking in. On one of the calls, I was telling her about my plan to start raising money for Connect as loans.

Then, she offered to loan me an amount. She believes in my dream and she wanted to support. I was amazed.

I would have never thought to ask her for a loan. But she offered without me asking; I said yes. So Maria, along with my family have contributed to sustaining financially Connect- my dream- in the last almost two years.

I’m grateful to have Maria in my life 😊 Who are the people you are grateful for having in your lives?

Image credit : Freepik

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