How a guy named Fred changed my life
Real Relationship Advice
…and he did it retroactively.
If you ask me about my youth, I would regale you with stories of high school anonymity, victimization from bullies, fear and loneliness. My self-perception was that of the quintessential geek. I kept my head down, made as little eye contact as possible, and hoped to achieve obscurity. I actually believed that this was me. I thought that no one knew me and that I left a negligible social footprint for most of my life.
With a simple greeting, everything that I believed about myself shifted. Recently, I went to my 30th high school reunion. I had been to my 10th reunion and I loved it. The 10 year was my vendetta reunion. My hair was relatively thick and long with no male pattern baldness. My chest stuck out farther than my stomach. I had a beautiful wife, successful career, and a smile on my face. I will admit that I reveled in the toll that ten years had taken on those that I thought were cruel to me by their shear acts of ignoring me.
This year was very different. A guy named Fred said hi and Fred remembered me. He remembered me, not as a friend, not as an enemy, but as a fellow human being who shared common experiences. It may sound silly to some but the validation of me as a human, even after all of these years, changed the way that I saw others and myself.
I looked around this celebration of veterans in the battle for life and saw my peers as something new, wonderful and beautiful. One was there with his husband and children. Yes, you read the pronoun correctly. I look at this man through my high school eyes, from a time when I feared my own sexual growth, and see someone popular and carefree. My eyes were filtered with jealousy and so I declared him an enemy. Now I look at him and wonder how his life must have been. How many tears of sorrow or joy, has this man shed to become who he is? I find that I want to know this new man, the one that I now see with admiration and respect.
I look at the woman going through some bad times and I know that she will get through it because she is not alone. We are never alone. This above everything is the theme of this article. I look at the man that I have become and I see the world as something to be embraced, not avoided. I look at this lovely woman fighting through her sadness and I want to remind her that she is part of something great. That her sadness is fleeting if she keeps looking for happiness. That the pain is real as is the joy. That this new man that grew from loneliness is there for her.
I look back now and realize that I was not alone. I had friends, acquaintances, and enemies. Some people liked me, some did not, and others knew that they did not know me. In other words, I was part of humanity. Just because I was part of a world greater than the inner prison of my own making does not change the fact that I was bullied and scarred. I do not want anyone to think that these insights negate my sadness. Nor is this a story of regret. I would not change a thing in my life. I have a magnificent life. I have love. My world is full of beauty. I am successful and happy. This is all grounded in the fact that I am the man that evolved from the boy. This is not about regrets but about a man looking at himself and realizing that he is part of something greater.
So I thank you, Fred, for showing me that we are not alone. I was never alone. Just because I did not lift my eyes in high school does not mean that there were no people around me.