He had cornered me in my den, my sanctum sanctorum. I come to this little coffeehouse every week to write, think, and drink a lot of coffee, mostly because I needed a quiet place to work, partly because I don’t know anyone’s name here. And now he’d found me, crouched over my computer, trying to figure out what to say to a small but determined group of people that read my blog each week. I stand up and smile.
He hasn’t changed much. He’s taller, has a fashionable indie beard now, and can afford Taylor Guitars and organic mocha lattes. He’s the last person in my entire high school class still doing music for a living. We should be friends for that reason alone, but we’ve never gotten along. Over the years, he’s tried to convince potential clients and band members that I’m a talentless hack, and succeeded on a couple of occasions. Why he still feels the need to come greet me in a coffeehouse, I have no idea. Perhaps it’s because he’s one of the cool kids that play music, and I’ve always been that awkward kid in the corner listening to Joni Mitchell mix tapes.
As I get up to greet him, I’m suddenly 15 again, sitting in McDonald’s by myself across from the table where the Artists are eating. Wishing I could be in their band, be part of making music. I’m too serious, to old in the soul, to weird. I don’t have the latest MXPX CD, I don’t wear converse shoes, and I’m not part of the band. They decided when I showed up at the first day of high school that I was never going to be part of the band.
Now they’re all married, moved out, and hardly listen to music any more. Most of them are working menial or corporate jobs around town. They still hang out together, but spend most of their time drinking micro brewery beers, not writing protest songs. I’m still not welcome to attend their social gatherings, although for some odd reason we’re still friends on Facebook. Perhaps they still enjoy the exclusivity of the clique, knowing that there will forever be people like me on the outside looking in.
Why haven’t I let this all go by now? It’s almost 7 years later. Get over it already. You’ve won. You’re the one with the successful career doing what you love, doing what you’ve always been passionate about. Your passions haven’t receeded, they’ve grown more intense. It’s been painful, but you haven’t settled into a comfortable cocoon of corporate life, beer on the weekends, and being bored out of your mind 40 hours a week.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always felt my whole life like I was just trying to be part of the band. Maybe it’s because when you love music, you want to be part of other people that feel the same way, and when they reject you, it hurts like crazy. Maybe it’s because like most artists, I’m deeply insecure about my own talent, and they’re telling me what a part of me has been saying to myself for years. Maybe I’m just a small person that holds a grudge for a long, long time.
And suddenly I’m glad that he said hello. I get a chance to let it go again, to realize that this person is insecure just like me. To care about him for who he is now, not who he was in high school. The doesn’t mean we’re ever going to be friends. But it does mean I have the opportunity to become a different person than I was in high school. To be okay with who I am right now, and with who my friend is.
We had a short conversation about coffee, shook hands and went our separate ways. Nothing’s changed, but somehow, I don’t mind as much. Maybe I’ll be a little bigger person next time we meet. Maybe I’m not done growing.