My other speech today, for my dear Jess Sanders.
Sometimes when you meet a person, you can tell instantly that you should be friends. Sometimes the feeling is mutual, sometimes it’s one-sided. The ease of conversation, the quickness to laugh, the curiosity about each other are all part of this immediate connection. This was how it was the moment I met Jessica Sanders. Aside from sharing the most fabulous first name, we had similar families with young kids, older (but young at heart) husbands, and similar interests. I remember meeting and chatting with her my first year (her second) at quiz nights and at the staff gatherings. I remember feeling that pull of friendship, but she was always surrounded by friends.
I have a memory of piling in a taxi cab with Jess and JC and Donnie after the new year’s party my first year. We were on our way to KTV with some other future friends and we had the time to chat and trade stories of how we ended up in Shenzhen. It was later that night that I had a realization. I journalled about it later, and this is what I wrote:
I looked at the faces of people I’ve only known for 6 months, people from all over the world, singing, laughing and enjoying life and I realized that these people will shape my life for the next years to come. It was a moment I felt so far away from everything that had been so familiar just a year ago, but it was ok.
And it would be ok. From there my friendship with Jess solidified into something I’ve grown to rely on and value beyond words. For those of you who also call her a friend, you know how willing she is to listen and support you. You know how fun it is to be with her in all social settings. You know that she has many, many friends in all areas, but always opens her heart to more. She’s an avid fan of her loved ones and will be your biggest cheerleader in times when you most need it. She does small things that let you know she cares in a big way.
She is also fearless. She takes on challenges and makes things happen. She’s not afraid to try new things or make attempts at things she’s never dreamed of doing. In this way, she inspires me, and I know inspires many of us. Her spirit is contagious. She pursues a creative life, creating memories and experiences for all those who are lucky to share their time with her.
There is a quote by one of her favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, that embodies so many pieces of Jessica. It asks the question “What is creative living? Any life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear.” Jess’s curiosity about the world and what it holds for her and her family out measure her fear a million times over. It’s this natural curiosity and willingness to pursue new adventures that will allow her to continue to inspire and befriend everybody in her new home.
QSI Shenzhen, and actually Shenzhen in general, is losing one of its most vibrant citizens. She has made an impact on so many of us, and her presence will be missed immensely. I know I speak for many of us when we say best of luck in Papa, but I really wish we could keep you a little longer. Travel safe, my friend and see you soon.