I believe in the transformative power of relationships. I grew up in a small, average town in East Texas. While I was seen as a fairly normal kid in a large supportive family, I was often lonely and insecure. There were no obvious overt problems, but as I entered 7th grade and was developing as a teenager, my internal nagging self-doubts were beginning to magnify. Worsening that was my fear and shame of the occasional but regular bouts of being intimidated by a couple of bullies in my school.
While I could often find refuge from these stressors, I still felt beleaguered and despondent over my perceived inadequacies such as with sports and with girls. But in my 7th grade year a peer relationship grew that sustained me for that year and provided me a foundation for growing resilience and confidence that goes on until now. That person was a classmate named Steve in our small private Catholic school, an outpost in a world of Baptists and Methodist dominance.
Steve and I had known each other since much younger. But in that special school year, for whatever reason, we became fast friends. We shared the same interests, somewhat silly now looking back, and developed a Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn simpatico that I found hard to replicate in later years. What I never told Steve then or the few years that followed, how much he meant to me in terms of bolstering my self-view.
I could go on and on about the things we did and our early teen age adventures. But what mattered most was the support and acceptance he gave me that was insufficient at the time (though my parents and 6 siblings were great, and I had other pals, having a close friend seemed vital for me). Steve had a way of being insightful about our social world, of dropping one liners about our everyday existence, and was not afraid to pat my back or offer a word of encouragement to keep me going—support that was not forthcoming from most other people.
From that time on, I did have other great relationships, and cherish the many that followed that also proved to be important for my evolving as the person I am now.
But it goes back to that 7th grade year with Steve, and the subsequent good times we had for a few more before I moved across the country, that I see as emblematic of how important good friends can be.
Steve and I have also reconnected thanks to the miracle of e-mail and cell phones. We have both done so much of 20 or more years of being apart and not in touch and try to rejoin in that level of bonding relationship from the past. So, Steve, thanks for the support and being there that brought about my transformation for me in
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