By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
One night, about nine years ago when I was in between relationships and ballooning in weight, I sat at a friend’s house sharing an ice chest full of beer and stories about past relationships. Sip, sip, chime in; sip, sip, chime in. That seemed to be the rhythm of the conversation—a repetitive and inebriated dialogue that, although surprisingly intellectual considering the topics of discussion and the alcohol consumed that evening, seemed to go nowhere. And to this day, I don’t know what was colder: The icy Bud Lights, Miller Genuine Drafts and Coronas or the memories of icier treatment incurred from women scorned.
Take into consideration that we were fellas who never really expected to find the right girl. Content on living a single life in which there were less hits than misses, we had simply grown numb as a result of one tumultuous relationship after another. I was, after all, quite the pessimist at the time.
Things have since changed for me. I’m now married to a wonderful woman and I’m perhaps one of the more optimistic people you’ll meet. Although there was a time when I thought that I’d be alone forever, which is my biggest fear (well, that and clowns), those feelings are now a distant memory.
I recently shared these experiences with a young friend of mine who came to me with a “girl problem.” Of course, I felt compelled to help him. Besides, you can’t scroll through Facebook or Twitter these days without reading at least a dozen status updates from teens and 20-somethings lamenting over love gone sour. They’re identifiable by the passive aggressive jabs at their former significant others or vague remarks about being stronger and wiser as a result of being in a bad relationship.
So I looked at this as a chance to do for my friend what few people did for me when I was going through something similar: listen.
My efforts to help this young man began by listening to him, and once I felt that I understood his dilemma, I refrained from offering a solution to his problem and instead made him aware of the fact that he wasn’t alone in the way he felt about… well, everything. I shared with him the most shameful and embarrassing moments (we all have them, don’t judge) of my previous dating experiences before diving right into the two serious relationships I was in before meeting my wife. In both situations, I was with someone who I thought I was going to be with for the rest of my life. In both situations, I was wrong… so wrong.
Dismiss these matters all you want, but the truth is that it’s a scary thing to plan your life with someone in it, to be with that person for years and to condition your happiness based on their companionship only to lose it all. It feels just like starting over, and that’s always a terrifying feeling. Throw in bouts of self-loathing and feelings of loneliness and you’ve got yourself a bona fide depression.
Still, you don’t really know who you are and what you’re capable of overcoming until you’ve hit rock bottom. It’s only then that some people can truly identify who and what they want in life. I just happen to be one of those people, and so is my young friend.
Considering as much, someone in a similar situation should come to expect pain and heartache. In my situation, I could then truly appreciate what I have and also vow to never be the person who inflicts said pain and heartache on others. I wouldn’t be that person without those experiences, obviously. It’s just a shame that’s not clear to us when we’re younger.
I guess we have to go through things the hard way to understand, like the way our parents always told us we would “someday.”