I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I walked into my managers office and asked if if she had a few minutes to speak. I sat down and thanked her for the opportunity to work at the salon but I was sorry to inform her that I was going to quit. Her initial reaction to ask, “Oh, what salon are you leaving us for?” To which I said, “I’m not. I’m going to try my hand at this writing and speaking touring thing and see how it works out.” After a bit of apprehensive encouragement, she said, “Well, how about we keep you in system so if it doesn’t work out you can always come right back.”
I think she thought of it as generous, but in all reality it was a tad bit offensive. But it was the kind of half-hearted pat on the back your parents give you when they think you’re being completely unrealistic but still do their best to be supportive. Kind of a, well, go ahead kid. We will entertain your delusional and idealistic plans because we don’t want to squash your dreams. Because the truth was, I was leaving my job as a colorist at a high end salon to go write books and fly all over the place hocking my wares. So everyone in my life was understandably skeptical. All but one.
I worked across the street from one of my best friends. He worked on the west side of Michigan Avenue, and I worked on the east. My chair faced his building and I could look right down into the entrance of his building. We would meet for lunch a few days a week and I would watch for him to walk out of his building. He would look up and give me the finger and we would go get lunch in the Hancock building.
I was eating my caprese sandwich and began telling him about my plans to quit everything when he interrupted me mid-speech and in his notoriously baritone voice said, “Christopher, I think this is a brilliant idea.” I stopped a bit stunned. First, because he cut me off and I had planned this very articulate dialogue that I couldn’t even get through – but secondly, because he believed in me that much. He knew what I was going to say before I said it. He told me it was something that I had to do because I couldn’t spend the rest of my life wondering what life would have been like if I didn’t go through with it. And it was funny, because until then I was not really sold on the idea and I had absolutely no game plan.
But he was right. And I did.
And for years, I wrote books and flew all over the place crossing my fingers that someone would show up to my little talky shows.
I guess what I realized looking back at that moment is that I don’t think my friend understood just how much influence he had on my decision. I was so skeptical and unconvinced about taking the leap that he could have easily said, “Yeah, man. I don’t think this is a good idea right now.” And I would have probably stayed at the salon doing hair. And not that it would have been a bad decision, but it wouldn’t have been the right one for me at the time.
Our friends are our friends for a reason. I’m not talking about show friends or drinking buddies. I’m talking about people you can genuinely confide in. People who want to hear about your day and people who don’t need to be drunk to want to help you make sense of the world. Not only a shoulder to lean on but a mentor as well as a sidekick. We choose to keep them in our life for a reason and they become an important part of our world. Because when we invite people in and show them our soft underbelly, we give them a little power which we hope they respect and use responsibly. But we do it because we trust them and their character. We trust their mentality and their loyalty, and we give them trust because they have proven themselves worthy. Because a true friendship is a worth-while investment, one formed to make our lives stronger, longer, and less painful.
Never underestimate your influence. The friends you have, the people who make up your world keep you involved for a reason – because they trust you. Because they have given you their trust. Because they want you around to help them make sense of things. And sometimes we look to our friends for wisdom because they know us a little better than we think we know ourselves.
Understand that you have the power to directly influence a life. Had I not sat down and asked the advice of a friend, you very well might not be reading these words right now. Because sometimes it only takes one person to make you see the right choices.
And sometimes you need to learn how to be that one person.