We ran four miles just like we did eight years ago.
There are very few people in life with whom you can meet after years apart and have the same conversations you did when you last met. It is rare that you find people in your life who will always be there – not like a lingering, hovering presence that is overbearing and suffocating (like a sub-prime mortgage). I'm thinking more like that tall oak tree in my backyard – I may not think about it or notice it every day, but it ain't going anywhere.
Eddie was the guy I looked up to for 10 weeks during the summer of 2000. He was older than me and had spent many summers traveling around the south running sports camps. I was a rookie; he was a fossil. I was outspoken; he was introverted. But, what developed was a friendship that has remained strong over the course of seven and half years, even though I've only seem him thrice over that time period.
I was in Houston last week to give a talk and had some time to visit with Eddie and his wife. Instead of catching up on minutia and recounting tales of the last 2 years (the last time we were together) over coffee or a beer, Eddie had a different idea: go for a jog.
He doesn't meet and catch up where most of us would – a restaurant, a bar, a coffee shop, or an office. He wants to hear what's been going on as you trod four miles on a jogging trail.
Luckily, I came prepared with my shoes and shorts and off we went, Eddie directing me on a pathway through the neighborhoods and streets near his office. And as we ran, it was as if we were going for a jaunt like we did in Campbellsville, Kentucky or Tifton, Georgia. It was like we were running back in time, to a date long ago when we were both unmarried and uncertain of where we'd be in eight years. It was like it was that summer when we lived out of a suitcase and traveled around with 18 other idealistic do-gooders.
As we jogged, we talked about our marriages, the decisions we'd made that led us to where we were, our dreams for where we'd be eight years from now, and what it would be like when one or both of us were fathers – you know, stuff that matters.
He has the unique ability not just to transport you back to what it was like way back then, but the magic skill to take you to a place down the road, to where you're becoming, to the goals you'd like to achieve and the difference you'd like to make. In that sense, then, it was like I was running to somewhere eight years in the past and eight years in the future at the same time. I was on a metaphysical treadmill, not going anywhere exactly, but still covering the entire gamut of my mind, my hopes and my dreams, my past and my future, all while pounding the pavement for four miles.
Eddies are rare in our life. Even though it's easier than ever to find people nowadays with our social networking sites and search engines, that connection (both digital and real) is still loaded with apprehension and anxiety. Even if we find where that long-lost friend is, we're hesitant to reach out, afraid that if we do, we'll shatter the memory of who they were, who we were, and who we were together.
And so we're somehow content with goodbye. We're okay with letting a relationship end and allowing ourselves to drift apart to nonexistence. We kid ourselves into thinking it's better that way, that the deep bonds forged in a summer of hard work could never be as strong during the other seasons of our lives, such as school, work, marriage and adulthood.
And so we decide to sit on the proverbial relationship couch, always daydreaming about a time that was and hoping for a time that could be, but never will. Instead, we should force ourselves to get off the couch, strap on our relational running shoes and be willing to go a few miles backwards and forwards at the same time.
Scroll through your internal phone book on your cell phone. Who have you not spoken to in ages? Call them.
When was the last time you sent a letter – an actual, hand-written letter – to anyone? Find an address and do it.
Google your childhood friend. Find their email address and reintroduce yourself. Commit to the long emails that will follow as you catch up on what's happened in the last 30 years.
Dare yourself to become a friend again.