Just a few days ago, I mentioned 9 people a person must have in their lives to reach the age of 30. One of those people I mentioned was a wingman in times of trouble. Most people are lucky to have one such person in their lives. I’m blessed to have had at least 3 on this road to 30. In today’s post to The 24 To 30 feature, I’ll cover the story of Lisandra Jones…
THE BACKGROUND. Lisandra and I first crossed paths in November 2003…at Building 580 on Moody Air Force Base. I had just arrived there about a week earlier and I ran into her while me and my suitemate were hanging out playing pool in one of the recreation rooms. She went by the last name of Riley back then and my suitemate christened her with the nickname of Riles…a play on her being from Chicago and him being a big-time R. Kelly fan. Me and her kicked it off almost immediately…likely because we were both in the same basic military training squadron: the 331st AKA Hell’s Corner. When we both got past First Term Airman Center Program and into our respective squadrons, we became really close. Though she was a member of a rival squadron—the Civil Engineer Squadron-Logistics Readiness Squadron war is like Yankees-Red Sox or Ohio State-Michigan—me and her were as cool as the other side of the pillow. When my Air Force email account got set up, Lisandra was the first person I sent an email to. When I got my first line of credit in the form of a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am SE—the Red Fox, as I remember it—she was one of the first people riding shotgun with me. Our entire first year at Moody AFB—and Valdosta, at large—was filled with a lot of learning about the Air Force, about life as teenagers with real bills, and about each other. We texted, called, and emailed a lot. In fact, a slow day between us was 30 emails and maybe 5 texts. We often had deep conversations about how out of touch some of the Air Force rules were towards us youngsters, about plans for the future with school and career, and about how much Valdosta really sucked in 2004. We sent each other plenty of forwarded emails and questionnaires, including the ghetto questionnaire I created that eventually made its way from a simple email between 5 people to some Internet web site. We mostly had a lot of conversations about my love life…the really ugly side of it, for that matter. From the start, there was never anything romantic between us and because of that, I felt totally comfortable talking to her about my dating and relationships. In fact, it was her I went to when I had eyes on a dame in her unit…had to get the inside scoop. Though Lisandra did a great job of reconnaissance, putting me in great position to steal that woman’s heart, I hesitated in shooting my shot and the opportunity passed me by. Me and Lisandra hung out a lot…at the old Valdosta Mall, at the $1 movie theater on North Ashley, at the Wal-Mart on Inner Perimeter, at the Georgia Pines Dining Facility on base. Things changed slightly when she became pregnant with her oldest kid. Though she had to move “off the yard”, we still kept it close and I stopped by to check in on her regularly to make sure she was good to go. With the exception of Triumphs & Tribulations, nobody knew more about the dramatic fails in my dating life from age 19 all the way into my early 20s than Lisandra. As I write more about the things I learned in the Single Guy Perspective series, I’m sure she’ll be one of the few people who can actually say “that honest to God really happened to him”. When I moved on from Moody in 2007, I didn’t feel much sadness about it. Notice that much is in italics. My sole regret in leaving Moody for Japan was leaving my co-best friend behind. By that point, Lisandra had established herself as one of my closest friends…one of the original Fantastic 4 along with Jeremie, Shermika, and Deondrea. Our friendship didn’t suffer one bit when I bolted for Japan though. We still kept in close contact and even when she moved on to Alaska and eventually to North Dakota, we still kept it close. When I was initially pondering the decision to stay in the Air Force or check out at the 10-year mark, we had long conversations about it and I think she, more than anybody, understood the reason why I was leaving…mostly because she grew up in the lifestyle with me and saw me at the bottom and at the top. Today, we’re still close and we always remark on how the rapid growth of her oldest child reminds us of how old we really are and how far we’ve come as adults.
THE MOMENT OF IMPACT. Because she was the friend who was closest to me geographically as I labored through bad dating experience after bad dating experience, Lisandra was almost always the first person I talked to about how things played out in those failed attempts. She always had an optimistic view of those situations…always saw a silver lining when I was ready to declare war on those chicks. Lisandra’s moment of impact comes from way back in 2007…February 13, 2007 to be exact. I was still reeling from the residual effects of what happened with Chavon and I confided in Lisandra that this was the absolute worst point in my life. Instead of feeling sorry for me, which is what I really wanted her to do, she simply said “you’re at the bottom right now…all you can do from here on out is go up”. And that’s exactly where I’ve gone since. The personal pain and grief I suffered as a result of that abortion could’ve destroyed me but Lisandra’s words kinda lifted me from the ashes.
HOW IT GOT ME TO 30. In this life of mine, I’ve come across many, many great people. Some have stayed around for a lifetime, some only for a fleeting second. For 11 years next month, Lisandra will have had a presence in my life. I once wrote about her in Triumphs & Tribulations X, asking the simple question: “would I be better off had I not met Lisandra”. The answer is no. I’d likely be a far worse person had I not met Lisandra. I’d probably be some dude out there intentionally hurting the feelings of women because they hurt my feelings. Lisandra taught me the lesson of never taking things too personal, whether it was the failed relationships, the E5 snubs, or the times I had to “shut up and color”. As I ascend to the age of 30 next week, everything I learned through our interactions has been important and very beneficial to me. Lisandra has certainly earned the lifetime label of best friend. And when I find myself in that position, I’ll make a special request of my prospective fiancée that she be one of the bridesmaids in the wedding ceremony.