The Gift of Friendship

Just as you are cresting some xxxxxxxxx hill on a pleasant evening in May, the magic of shuffle delivers Rufio’s “Above Me.”  You speed up, notice the warm wind rush through your open windows, and begin screaming along. In this moment, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

The stale yellow light ahead rips you back to petty existence. Your foot is now off the accelerator as your right hand reaches for the volume knob. In impressive synchronicity, the counter-clockwise spins on the dial reduce both the music and the decibels of your singing. By the time your car settles at the light, the music is barely audible; your singing is altogether nonexistent. You steal a glance at the driver to your right to confirm that, yes, you have properly saved yourself the embarrassment that would have accompanied a witnessing of your previous state.

A week passes. The weather remains nice enough that windows, not AC, are the appropriate choice. You find yourself at the same place on the same road when, again, “Above Me” starts playing. The only obvious difference between the situations is that you aren’t alone: each seat is occupied by a friend. Together your voices rise. “If I were to walk till time saw no end!!!!” Buoyed by this collective energy, the upcoming yellow light changes nothing. Your car slows, but the volume stays constant. Stopped at the light you look to your right. That other driver wishes he had what we have. No shame. No embarrassment. No behavior adjustment to be a little less yourself and a little more what would seem societally palatable.

You always care what people think. After all, you are a social creature. But the degree to which this caring negatively affects your actions fluctuates. A great gift of friendship is the quieting of the inner voice that worries how everything will be, may be, could be, should be perceived so you become more influenced by what you actually want. Not an easy thing to ever truly know – your unadulterated true desires– but feeling like you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else is surely a wise guide. And friendship offers a two-way shield to help make this elevated state more possible. (1) Part of friendship involves “acceptance,” which means enough equity has been established so that your quirks and blunders won’t leave you isolated. That is, you can do that different thing with significantly reduced fear. (2) There is strength in numbers. Only the most confident would sing by themselves. With friends, such confidence is no longer required.

That’s what I thought about leaving your grand wedding 15 months ago. (Also thinking about that aforementioned acceptance of blunders piece right now given that I missed your anniversary.) And then I thought about how many similarly preeminent moments I’ve shared with you over the years. Sleepovers, Hilton Head, your Acura Integra, snowboarding, stoicism, etc. Not just the “fun” stuff, though – the “down” moments of one’s true self are just as powerful. Like those long phone calls when you were struggling with nursing school. No easy answers … which is proof you were operating beyond concerns of how your predicament might play to an outsider. High and low alike, there are indeed “answers” in not pretending.

I remember when you first met xxxxxxxxx if only because it was so notable how much you, laconic you, wanted to talk about it. Of course your excitement alone guaranteed nothing, but it’s now clear it was shared. Sharing. Even the simple act of sharing space and doing close to nothing is more likely to be something to both your experiencing and remembering selves than doing a grand something by oneself. Undergirding all the romantic parts of “sharing a life together” there is that foundational truth.

And that truth is only bolstered with the addition of a third person to the party. Just look at you now: wife, child, steady career. Infinite spaces to be more yourself, to learn more of yourself, and to have people who are constitutionally required to, every so often, indulge in your artistic tastes.