This I Believe

Benjamin - Reno, Nevada
Entered on December 20, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I’m a man, and I believe in talking. Not just the kind of conversation involving sports or typical guy stuff; but real talking with real friends. Real friends are the people that define the type of person that you are. Friends help carve and sculpt your soul through hardships. Like the surging heat of the furnace molds metal together, adversity causes two individuals to mold and change the face and character of the other person; but the best part about this process is that if two people can manage to stick together through the tough times, they find that prosperity comes flowing in; making each person more attuned and aware than they ever could have imagined. They have now created a bond together. This is what biographers like Stephen Ambrose attempt to describe when writing books like Band of Brothers. There is a certain connection that two or more people experience during combat or a trial of faith. For me, it was my first taste of personal failure.

I have two great friends in my life: PJ, my old college roommate and former football teammate; and my wife, Julieann. PJ and I were two extremely talented athletes from Southern California and Idaho, respectively. We came to Reno, high school all-stars, met and get along immediately. He was everything that I lacked, and I was everything that he was missing in his life. He had tremendous power and size, while I understood the schemes, techniques, and other details of the game well. I was also blessed with athleticism and a chip on my shoulder to match. We both were brought up in traditional, conservative, and religious families; and we both had the same goal in mind: to go pro and live an exciting swingin’ bachelor’s lifestyle. However, a few ill-timed injuries and two unexpected marriages ended our 10-year plan. Both of us had never experienced failure like this before, and it hit us head on like a truck.

We were both suffering from depression and collapsed egos. But instead of doing what most men do and try to handle it ourselves, we decided to talk to each other instead. I don’t know if I’d call it commiseration or just stupid chit-chat, but whatever it was, it helped. Our wives were gracious, but couldn’t understand the utter failure that we faced. No one could but us. We didn’t cry together, or do anything sappy or girly. We just talked because each of us understood and validated the other’s concerns.

I was worried that I might fail in my quest to focus on school and my wife and son. PJ didn’t want to go back to work for his dad in the auto shop, and live the kind of life that he had before he came to Reno. We both believed in the other, but had a difficult time believing in ourselves. Mutual support enabled us to evolve and make a successful transition into our new lives.

We didn’t go through a war together. We weren’t faced with death and the bloody horrors of combat together, but we did experience a crisis in confidence. PJ and I are now both better and more grown up individuals because of it. He just moved up to Idaho, and we won’t be seeing each other as often, but we still continue to talk. This is what talking does for me. It helps.