The Co-Op Reference Letter

& why I wish everyone asked for one

One of my best friends asked me the other day to write a co-op reference letter for her. I ran with it. I loved that since this was a living situation letter that speaks to the person as a whole, it was fun and expressive, unlike a professional and dry work/school reference letter.

After writing it, it made me (1) miss her even more, and (2) realize I want to write every single one of my friends one, whether they need one or not.

What if we all wrote “reference” letters about our loved ones that speak to why they’re deserving of living wherever their hearts desire?

If we were to write an imaginary co-op board reference letter and share it with family members, friends, and significant others, we’d get a chance to express our admiration and adoration without the sappiness and weirdness of a random letter of admiration and adoration.

Humans possess as basic need to be understood.

Everyone, at the core, simply wants to be seen and understood. But many (most) of us tend to shrink in the face of vulnerability. It’s why so many people don’t express their admiration and adoration — it feels weird. We exist in a society that’s predominantly performance based, not heart based; this is why management and leaders with high EQ outperform those with solely high IQ.

It’s what fosters those deep friendships that last 20 years even if you only see the friend once a year. It’s what form a true community — those friends that drive you to the airport (they are gems; never let them go), are your emergency contact even if they’re 1000 miles away, or that your parents would call if they hadn’t heard from you in 2 months.

These friends deserve that letter.

I never would have sat down and written this for no reason; does that make me a bad person, needing a good reason to write this? I’d like to think not, but I do question it. Anyhow, here’s that letter — some details have been changed for privacy. Use this as a reference letter template for (1) a real co-op letter or (2) just to communicate to your friends and loved ones how much you admire them.

To whom it may concern:

To say Sally has been one of my closest friends for 15 years would be an understatement; we’re more like family, except we have literally never had a single fight the way family does. Which is weird. I wonder if Sally fights with anyone honestly. We first met in our honors algebra class in middle school, as we both transferred into the school at the same time; to this day, we continue to curse our school for thinking it was a good idea to put the “smart kids” in a class that essentially skips Algebra 1… but I digress.

She’s one of those people who will be the exact same person and the relationship will be the exact same even if one of us falls off the face of the earth for 30, 60, 90 days a time due to this whirlwind called life that tends to be all-consuming.

In middle/high school, Sally’s family took me in as one of their own, even though I was a far cry from their multi-sport honor student (I wasn’t a delinquent by any means — after all, Sally and I did meet in honors class, but I definitely didn’t wake up at 5:30AM to swim before school and then stay later for soccer practice until 7PM after school).

There’s something to be said about Dutch humor and lifestyle — both she and her family are hilarious, intelligent, and welcoming in a manner that I’ve truly never experienced with anyone else. And she always made sure to bring back (or have her mother bring back) Stroopwaffles — those dutch waffle wafers with caramel in the middle — before they started importing them to the US. They also have a special kind of chocolate sprinkle unlike ANYTHING you’ll get here in the States, and they’d always bring that back for me, too.

Unlike a lot of people I know, our high school friend group has remained tight-knit, even though every single one of us (6 total) lives in a different state. We have a group chat (I know, how #millennial — but personally I’m grateful for the connection technology awards us when we’re not enslaved to it ) called Spice Girls and Sally is the token smart friend (not to toot our horns or anything, but we’re all pretty smart … so Sally being the biggest smarty-pants — and the wittiest — truly does speak for itself. Happy to provide screenshots of group chats just for giggles. Intelligent, witty giggles).

My boyfriend actually lives in New York (I live Florida, where we all grew up) and his chances of seeing her are much higher than mine, which is something I envy tremendously. They FaceTime me when they see each other, and I can’t tell who I am more jealous of; him being able to see her, or her being able to see him.

I’ve never written a co-op reference letter before (*what an honor*), so I truly don’t know the professional — or unprofessional — format to follow. This is simply a candid account of why Sally should live wherever her heart is set on living. As for Tom: he is a wonderful human, too. I’ve never met someone so polite and loving toward Sally. I love how much he loves her. In fact, before they started officially dating, when they were “just friends” for 2 or so years in college (and Sally was in denial that they belong together), I always said they were/are in love with each other. She may be the token smarty but I am the token intuition reader. I want to find someone who adores and admires me as much as he admires and adores her. Which, I mean, how can you not? Trust me, I am picky with friends.

I realize whoever is reading this isn’t exactly apt to trust me, because you don’t know me. Feel free to call me. I probably won’t answer because I get 25 robocalls a day, but text me and I’ll answer you right back, unless I’m busy with this really time-consuming thing most of us do called work. Which Sally also does a lot of, in case you’re wondering. Which you probably are, since you’re requiring references.

Sally does her taxes, pays her bills on time, has paid for her own phone bill since like, age 13 (not an exaggeration), and does all that fiscally responsible that comes with being an accountable human. That aside, she’s also a genuinely good, kind, and honest person. And smart. Did I mention that already? I remember visiting her in the lab at Princeton for her undergrad graduation and seeing her name all over the lab walls on studies/reports/whatever science-y stuff it was (I’m in marketing, business strategy, and writing — I have zero clue what any of that is) and being in such awe. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to her Harvard graduation but #gobestfriend for getting that PhD. It never hurts to add another smart, honest, kind person as a resident to your building, right?


Operations Director & Project Mgmt at bicoasting MIA & SF

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