On Research “Soul Mates”: Or, The Short Distance Between Friendly Chat And Teen Paranormal Romance

By Amy C. Rice

Networking is such a boring word. I am not saying networking isn’t useful or important, but the word itself does not convey excitement. Instead, I prefer the term “soul mates” to describe my most successful networking relationships.

Not the soul mates advertised in eHarmony commercials or portrayed in so many Hallmark movies. Let me give a couple of examples. I have a movie soul mate. Our taste in movies corresponds very well, especially when we want to watch a movie no one else wants to watch (and the others are probably relieved we didn’t drag them to “our” movies!). I have a work soul mate, and we can discuss work issues with ease because we understand each other’s language. And I have research soul mates, those with whom I can collaborate on projects. The research soul mates are most closely aligned to what many people describe as networking, because we help each other in our careers.

Research soul mates seem to appear in the most unlikely of places. One such soul mate I met at a barbeque. As I was perusing her shelves of books, I noticed a lot of books written for teenagers. Young adult novels happen to be a guilty pleasure of mine, and as we talked, she suggested we collaborate on a project. Our first joint project was presenting at a conference at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. The theme of the conference? Christianity and Popular Culture. Our topic? Teen Paranormal Romances and Religion. We were in good company, hearing presentations on The Book of Mormon (the musical), the Reformed tradition in Nick Hornby’s novels and movies, and the Hunger Games and philosophy.

Maybe I don’t like the word “networking” because it seems so dry, even clinical. And my relationships with research soul mates are anything but dry or clinical. They are, in fact, friends. The friendship helps immensely, for instance, when the conference is in 48 hours and we’re still working out the details of the presentation. It certainly helps when we spend large parts of our weekend traveling and waking up in the wee hours of the morning for conference activities and yes, more travel! If I did this with someone I wasn’t particularly friendly with, it would have been a grim weekend. As it was, however, we could laugh about it a little, and later we can say, “Hey, remember that crazy trip we took to present at a conference in the middle of Iowa??”

So, here’s a question for you. Do you know someone with whom you can work on a project, or a paper? Perhaps you can suggest that you join forces to do something beneficial to both of you, and have a little fun in the process. Call it networking if you will, but I hope you do find your soul mate. In a non- Hallmark Channel context (though the Hallmark Channel can have its usefulness too!).

Amy C. Rice is a librarian (her actual title is both boring and abstruse) at Whitworth University. She holds a BA in English from Northwest Nazarene University, an MS in Library Science from Simmons College, and is currently pursuing an MA in Spiritual Formation from Northwest Nazarene University. Amy is a contributor to the Spokane Faith and Values website (http://spokanefavs.com/), where she most often writes about the intersection of religion and popular culture. In her (relatively) short life, she has lived in one country outside the U.S., ten different states, and has moved a grand total of twenty-one times. Consequently, she is an expert packer (but would rather someone else do the unpacking!).

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