When I was young, there were few people that could tolerate me. I was loud, obnoxious, and notoriously difficult to get along with. In fact, I was so loud and so obnoxious that I had few friends for the first ten years or so of my life. Some will call it ADHD, some will say that it’s just because I was a high-energy boy, but the fact is, I was annoying. I have always been the kind of guy that is highly opinionated, and I’m not afraid to say whatever is on my mind, and damn the consequences. I have always said that there is no middle ground with me: you either love me or you hate me…and a lot of my peers hated me for it.
Growing up in a divided household in which my sister (and only sibling) was eleven years older than me did not help matters either.
When I was nine, I made my first life-long friend, Jimmy. Two years older than me, friendship with Jimmy was something that meant the world to me. It was one person with whom I could be myself, and who was not afraid to be himself with me. I learned a lot about friendship over the course of our friendship, most notably how to avoid discipline for the mischief we got into. However, because of that two-year age difference and the fact that we were often in different schools, I often remained on my own.
That all changed for me in sixth grade, when I joined the school band. Because of the way our class schedule fell, I had lunch with my bandmates, and there was one guy that I sat with that year: J.T.
J.T. was in the advanced learner’s program, and as such, the majority of his friends were as well. When he suggested that we join a group of his ALP friends, I followed…it was either that, or eat alone. Trevor, J.T., Bryan, and a few others sat at that table, and for the first time in my life, I sat with a group of my peers, rather than one or two. However, there was one other student that I most wanted to befriend.
That student was one I had literally known since childhood. You see, my grandmother took me to church regularly, and when we were young, he went to the same church as I. He was also in the band. We had never been friends, but then? He seemed openly hostile to my presence.This continued for several years…without a circle of friends to call my own (in school anyway) I bounced around a bit, but I always ended up in that same circle, with that same guy.
When we were in eighth grade, we worked together to start a Bible study for the students in the middle school. We met some opposition, but we finally found a place where we could meet every week to study the Bible with a group of other students. As we continued into high school, this guy stopped being veiled with his annoyance at me and became more open with it. Of course, being used to comments like the ones he made, I just ignored it and stuck around anyway.
Then, when we returned to school after summer break between our sophomore and junior years, I noticed a drastic change. Something had happened, and he was being nice to me. I could not understand the change or where it came from, but it was obvious to everyone. Instead of joining in with the group when they would say less than polite things to me (that I, admittedly, deserved), he would tell them to lay off.
“What?” I thought to myself. You see, at that point in my life, I was just waiting to
graduate and to escape my hometown. “I’ll go to college,” I thought. “Life will be easier then.” But now, this guy that I so desperately wanted as a friend was different…he wasn’t nearly as antagonistic to me anymore, and I came to see him as more of a friend. All that year, we got closer, and by Senior year, we had a fully-fledged friendship.
It was years before I understood what happened. It turns out, he began to feel that it wasn’t very much like Jesus to treat me as he had been for those several years. When we came back to school, he had resolved to just be nice to me.
That (and a few other things) gave me a reason to not be so obnoxious, opinionated, and difficult to get along with. You see, in the years since that all happened, I discovered the reason I was the way I was: I was crying out for attention and I had no idea how to get it. I was a young kid with few friends, and I desperately craved friendship.
Of course, as we grew closer, he began to tell me when I was being annoying or obnoxious: not to be mean, but because he knew that I didn’t want to be seen in that light anymore. He loved me enough to say, “Hey Josh, you’re being a bit of a pain right now, I know you don’t want to be, so fix it.”
After we graduated high-school, he was the only one of my high-school friends that attended my wedding, and I was honored to attend his a few years later. He is actually the only friend that I have from school that I see regularly and keep in nearly constant contact with.
We actually are on the same career path as well…he’s a writer too, and a really good one at that. When he was having his newly finished novel edited, he came to me. Of course, when I finish my first novel, I’ll be going to him. We are planning on publishing a book together soon, about writing and developing as a writer, and we have a podcast in the works too. If you haven’t figured out who it is I’m talking about, it’s none other than R.F. Dunham.
I love you buddy, and I hope that you know just how much I cherish our friendship. Write on, bro.