"Everybody needs a friend"
"My heart is pounding. My legs are tired. My foot hurts. Sweat is dripping off my forehead. I gasp for air to give my lungs what they are begging...screaming for. People are cheering...encouraging me to finish my task. The sense of joy...accomplishment...relief that I feel as I cross the finish line is all encompassing. This was not my first race. This was not my fastest race. I will not get an award or a trophy. My name will not appear on a list, but I am proud. This was the best race I've run...ever.
I've always been kind of a loner. I'm not sure that it was on purpose or really always my choice...but that's always the way it has turned out. I've always comforted myself with rationalizations and lies. I tell myself that I don't care...that I don't NEED friends...that I am my own person, but deep down I know it's not true.
I've met very few people in my life that I've felt truly comfortable with. I am a different...unique person. It seems like I see everything in a different way than everyone else. I fight it and I embrace it. I love it and I hate it. I have people that come and go...from time to time...but for the most part I do most things alone. I shop alone. I eat lunch at restaurants alone almost everyday. I've even gone to movies alone.
A year ago, I met an unlikely friend. I decided to hire a personal trainer at my gym. Maybe I was just bored, because I didn't really think I needed him. I didn't really expect to continue with him when my sessions expired. After all, I knew I could do it myself...alone...like I always do. I was wrong.
He actually did make a huge difference in my overall level of fitness and my athletic ability...if you can call it that. However, his friendship and the difference it has made in my life has been the biggest surprise to me...a bonus...icing on the cake. I've learned something about friends in one year that I hadn't learned in the previous 37.
I do need a friend...a confidante...a sounding board. I do need a friend to laugh with and cry with...to talk with and be quiet with. I need someone to make me want to be better; to push me, and someone that I can encourage and challenge as well. I think my friend and I leave each other better than we were each and every time we meet. He has taught me to submit to things that can make me better and to fight the things that hold me back. He has made me stronger both physically and mentally.
People all fall into roles. We come to expect certain things from certain people. We don't usually step outside of those roles because it feels unnatural...like sleeping on the wrong side of the bed. Our roles have always been clear. We have always been friendly, but he has always been my teacher...my coach. I have always been his student. He is always in control. I do what he says. I never expected to be able to give anything back, but respect. Once again, I was wrong.
We started running together. I've run for years. It is a great release for me. I love being in control of my body...continuing when my body begs me to stop...going faster when I don't think I can take another step. My friend has always played sports or lifted weights. He did not run...at least not very far...or for very long. For an hour everyday, our roles reversed. I became the teacher and he became my student. Through this experience, we learned to trust each other in a different way. We had easy days and hard days, but everyday we ran together was a good day. We had a goal; a 5K. We trained and we ran. He was inexperienced and I was hurt, but neither of us wanted to let the other down, because we are friends, and neither of us could bear the thought of disappointing the other.
It wasn't an easy race. He was winded and tired. My foot throbbed with pain. There was a time that it seemed like we would never see the finish line, but as we rounded the corner and could see the end...the end that we had been anticipating all these weeks...we knew what we had to do. He said, "Let's go!" and we ran as fast as we could, passing other runners to cross the finish line. We did it...together. I ran slower during the race to stay with him and he stopped short of the finish line so we could cross together. It was an amazing, life changing experience...one that will always stay with me...and I hope him too. In different ways, we learned to trust...to be more honest, both with each other and ourselves. I think we both learned that sometimes the people that seem to be the most different are the most alike. We learned that EVERYBODY needs help sometimes and that EVERYBODY needs a person; a friend that is willing to go the distance...to sacrifice their own glory...to do what it takes to cross the finish line together. EVERYBODY needs a friend...even me."