Growing up, I felt truly miserable. Even based on current memory, I felt like my life was off the rails. I had Type-1 Diabetes, which resulted in many days spent in a hospital bed, all throughout my childhood. I had a sick brother who I lost his illnesses when I was only a child and didn’t understand why such a thing could happen to someone so young. I was also bullied beyond reason. And I don’t mean the kind of modern, snowflake version of bullying where you can do something about it; I frequently found myself in situations where I had several guys beating the living shit out of me, purely for the indignity of being available to them.
It’s not like I didn’t have a life. In fact, between karate, work and personal interests and hobbies, I was lucky enough to have something that not all people get the benefit of enjoying: friends. In fact, I had the best fuckin’ group of friends that a guy could ask for. So good were the friends I had, we could spend countless nights doing very little but still absolutely LOVE the time we spent together. We used to do random things, like sitting on a beach with a fire burning or hanging out in one of our group’s basements, listening to music and laughing at each other.
It was a simpler time; a time when we did next to nothing, it cost us nothing but we still loved every minute of it. So much so, that we spent all our free time together and had the sort of closeness that compares to the boys from the 1986 movie, Stand By Me. If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s based on the tale of four boys who take off for a weekend to find a missing kid. The kind of closeness and bonding that takes place during that trek is heartwarming and can be easily identified with. THAT’s the kind of gang we had. And I took it all for granted…
You see, I was like most teenagers. I was angst-filled and angry. My Diabetes was uncontrolled and I was often prone to mood swings and violent tendencies. This caused a lot of issues for me, especially in my personal relationships. Looking back, I know for a fact that there were no doubt times when the gang thought I was just being an asshole. And to an extent, they were right. But the most important aspect is that I took my friendships for granted. When I look back at the friends I have, I know that I should have recognized and appreciated what I had, when i had it. As that old 80’s Cinderella song says, “Don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.”
Although I was always passively aware of this fact, I was definitely reminded of it a week ago, when I had a video meeting with members from my high school gang. Although most of them were still located in New Brunswick, one member was in the United Kingdom and of course, I found myself here, in Regina, Saskatchewan. For some of us, it was our first contact with each other in over twenty years. It was heart-warming and emotional. What was beautiful about it, is we laughed, joked and bantered with the same enthusiasm and sarcasm as we did in the 1990’s. It was a thing of beauty.
Somehow, we chatted easily for over two hours and could have continued on ad nauseam if not for the fact that it was midnight in the UK and supper time for me. We bid each other farewell, with the promise of getting together again in the near future. When we discussed where life had taken us, we all agreed that we hadn’t managed to repeat the friendships we experienced on our teens since we parted ways. I made the comparison that once you’ve had steak, it’s pretty hard to eat baloney and have it compare. My high school friends were my steak.
Seeing the old gang again awoke something special in me. I pulled out my acoustic guitar and started playing again. In the days that followed, we continued to communicate on a group chat and started gathering music from our formative years. We accumulated 14 songs in total, all of which I put together into a playlist and haven’t been able to stop listening to since. The sense of nostalgia I experienced was amazing. And I owe it all to them. We promised we’d make an effort to get together in Northern New Brunswick, once the world returned to normal.
Appreciate what you have. The value of the friendships you maintain may not always be evident to you, in the moment. But as long as sincere efforts are made on both sides, the rewards will be carried inside of you for all your days. We don’t always understand how we come to cross paths with some of the folks we meet. But they all play an integral part in who we become. Not to mention the fact that sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of where you came from in order to acknowledge where you’re headed. Food for thought… ☯