During my college years, I met a bunch of cool folks and made a lot of great friends. But over the years, 3 of them have stood the test of time. The 4 of us have spent a lot of time together, especially my last year of school. We formed an accountability group, meeting up once a week to share our successes and struggles, usually sandwiched between dinner and gaming. Meetings often ended up in the wee hours of the morning. (I still contend that these buddies were a detriment to my academic career.) Many weekends were spent at one of our houses, playing video games, or board games, or talking about women. Pretty much any activity (except studying) was open season when the four of us got together.
The roster of this ship of manly men are as follows: (Note that the names of the innocent were change for their protection. But since none of these guys are innocent in any way, shape or form, I didn’t change them.)
- Gabe is my oldest friend. We met the summer before our freshman year of high school at a basketball camp. The first day, Coach called for one-on-one drills. Since Gabe & I were the two shortest players, we were partnered together. Once he talked about how much he loves sports (especially the San Francisco Giants), we became inseparable, continuing our friendship at UC Davis. Gabe is the steady one of the group, never getting too high or too low.
- Matt lived in my freshman dorm. While Davis is already a pretty good school, we were also enrolled in the Integrated Studies Honors Program, which put 70 of the brightest students together in the same dorm. Much of freshman year was spent playing Scrabble and Risk in the dorm lounge and complaining about the “steak” in the Dining Commons Steak Night. Matt is the adventurous one, always wanting to experience new thrills.
- Brant is a year younger than the rest of us. I met him through his older brother Chad. The first time I met Brant, he was in his dorm room. I walked in, but he barely acknowledge by existence, keeping his head in his computer. I think he was playing Doom after creating a LAN with the adjoining rooms. We didn’t become close until after watching his favorite movie. Brant is the energetic one, always wanting to play one more game, or visit another friend, or eat another piece of French Silk pie.
(This was not an unusual sight when we hung out.)
The beauty of our bond is rooted in the fact that we are all very different. While we did attend the same church, we had divergent strengths and passions. When one asked questions, the others offered unique answers from distinct perspectives. But we seldom got into any heated arguments; they were akin to brainstorming sessions, the 4 of us putting our minds together to create a consensus solution. Individually, we might flounder, but together, we have a better chance at a success. We comfort each other in times of need, and praise each other’s achievements. There is never any jealously, or malice, or lingering strife. And if there are any problems, we tackle them face on, knowing that harboring resent would bring more harm than good.
After college, we all went our separate ways. Both Gabe and Matt got married soon after graduation, while the marriage bug took a little longer to catch Brant & myself. (When I did tie the knot in 2007, these guys joined me as my groomsmen.) For the most part, we all stayed in Northern California. Unfortunately, life became busy, between jobs, growing families & travel, and we didn’t get together very often for several years. Matt and his family moved overseas for several years, and the only times we met were during their California vacations.
2 years ago, Matt & his family returned stateside, with the intention to stay in country for the time being. They moved to the Bay Area, so my wife & I saw them frequently. But it had been a while since the group got together, and I had missed their camaraderie. Our relationship is the type where we can go years without talking, but the next time we hang out, it’s like we were chilling the day before. Sure, we all changed individually, but our friendships remained firm and stable.
Last summer, the 4 of us (along with our families) rented a cabin in Lake Tahoe and spent a weekend together. For those few days, we recreated our college experience: lots of laughs, game playing, and chilling in the hot tub. Sure, it was a little more crowded, with 6 kids running around, but we are all just big kids at heart anyway, so a few more mouths didn’t make much of a difference.
We also took time to share how we were doing, what was going well in our lives along with the areas in which we stumbled. In many of ways, I was able to unburden myself; while the group knew that I had left the Church, I talked more about the reasons I left as well as my current thoughts and emotions around it. Over the years, I had held these feelings inside, only confessing them with my wife, and I finally found the nerve to disclose this to these friends.
(Occasionally, I would see other friends from high school and college, people who are still faithful to the Church. When the inevitable questions pop up regarding my church life, I would usually evade them. I didn’t know if they really wanted to know how I was doing, or if they were just making small talk. Plus, for the most part, it was awkward and embarrassing for me to verbalize my position without making them uncomfortable. I would just save face and steer the conversation to safer topics.)
One common thread was the present struggle to create lasting friendships. In college, we were surrounded by so many like-minded people, all in the same place in life. We were able to find and identify folks who could relate to us, where we could be ourselves without fear or repercussions. But the after-college experience has shown us that the quest to create new bonds with new people is extremely challenging. Discovering new careers, staring new families, and being thrust into the ocean of new people (with different experiences and perspectives) became obstacles in the quest to find and cultivate fresh relationships. I was thankful that I was not the only one with this issue, as well as grateful for these wonderful friendships that have endured over time.
Earlier this year, our group gathered again, another weekend filled with love and laughs, and updates on our progress. Unfortunately, this may be the last assembly for a while, as Matt and his family have moved recently out of state again (this time to another part of this country). While we haven’t eliminated the possibility of our group getting together down the road, it will not be as frequent as we would like.
Many professional sports teams have an annual “Old Timers’ Day,” when they bring back past players and connect them with their fans. The veterans share the same stories year after year, but the fans soak it in. The retirees admit that they look forward to Old Timers’ Day, since it’s often the only time they see their old teammates, when they can reminisce about the “good ol’ days.”
I am not one to think that my college years were the best years of my life; I hope that I haven’t seen the best years yet. But I acknowledge that my college years have become the foundation for my present and my future. I do not want to live in my past, but I also enjoy taking some time to remember those days, especially with my best friends. I hope and pray that our friendship will continue to endure over the years, despite the distances between us, and through the constant changes of life. Here’s looking to our next “Old Timers’ Day”!