One time, I called up a girl that I knew had a crush on me, and told her she shouldn’t marry a guy she had just gotten engaged to. It was the right thing to do and yet I would never do it again.
Last week, a friend gave me a motorcycle. Just up and gave it to me. Awesome. It took a little convincing for my wife to welcome it into our home, but she’s warming up to the idea.
Frankly I don’t blame her for being hesitant. She wasn’t in my life when I had my accident in 2009, but she’s heard the stories, seen the pictures, seen my scars get lighter over the years. She was with me when I went through PT in 2012 because I hadn’t gotten proper treatment three years prior. It lingers.
(And my accident wasn’t even that bad–hell, you could call it lucky, considering I was wearing board shorts, a T-shirt, and no helmet. But I digress.)
As I sat on my new Chinese steel horse in my garage, I thought back to the last time I owned a motorcycle, in 2007. I had bought it off of my older brother. It was the bike I learned to ride on, a ’92 Honda Nighthawk 250.
Great size for a novice rider. Plenty of power, but not so much that it would overwhelm you if you didn’t know what you were doing.
When I got that bike in 2007, my life was very different. I was 23, single, working full-time, in college part-time, still living at home and helping my mom with a few bills here and there. My parents’ divorce had just finalized and she was still on meds/chemo/radiation from her cancer treatments. I had a lot going on in my life and pretty much all of it was great, truth be told.
I had a lot of really great friends, too. And if I may be so bold, I was even kind of popular with the ladies in the circles where I ran. I went on a lot of dates but didn’t bother getting serious with anyone, since I planned to go to school out of state later on.
This particular story centers on a girl, we’ll call her Michelle, who I’d known for a year or so, friend-of-a-friend situation. Our mutual friend had dropped a hint or two that Michelle was into me, which I thought was pretty cool, even though I didn’t see us getting together. Major confidence builder, knowing that a girl likes you.
A few things about Michelle: she worked hard and supported herself, even at the young age of 21. She had to. She had a daughter. The daughter’s father was in the picture, but not with Michelle. It happens. No judgment from me, I’d dated girls with kids before.
Still, I knew I wasn’t going to get involved with Michelle, and I had to be careful when groups of us hung out, because I didn’t want to give her the impression I would go after her. Our lives weren’t on the same path.
Then she started showing up to group hangouts with another guy, and there was talk of an engagement on the horizon. I thought that was cool, good for her. She wanted to be married and have a family, all that stuff, and it looked like it was finally happening!
This is where the boldness comes in.
After a few hangouts with the group, and some observations I made, I got the feeling this wouldn’t end well for Michelle. The guy wasn’t necessarily bad news, he was just…well, there’s “settling for what you want,” and then there’s something three floors beneath that, and that’s what Michelle was going to anchor herself to for the rest of her life.
As I went about my life, working, studying, going to school, it kept swimming around in my head. Michelle is going to marry a deadbeat guy. Her life is hard enough without attaching herself to this, and maybe she thinks it will fix her problems, but it won’t.
I prayed about it, I thought over it, and got it into my head that I needed to tell her she shouldn’t do it.
I tried to talk myself out of it, to analyze the consequences and stuff, of what it might do to her if I said that to her. In the end I weighed the cost and the outcome, and decided it was better if I said something to her, if it would have a positive effect on her.
So one day, after I left work and rode my old motorcycle to school (heeeeeey it finally came into the story), I stopped in the parking lot, shut it off, and started to head inside. Then I stopped. I took my helmet off, locked it to the bike, and called up our Mutual Friend to get Michelle’s number.
Mutual Friend knew what I was up to, and had my back. So I called Michelle. I still don’t remember everything I said, only that I prefaced it with a lot of things, and it boiled down to “You might think you want this, but you can do a lot better for yourself, and it would be better for you to find that.”
It didn’t scare me to say that, it just made me really nervous, and I was worried even then that I had done the wrong thing.
Fortunately, to my relief, Michelle was grateful that I had called, and even better, she told me she had already broken off the engagement. She knew she was walking into the wrong situation, even though she really wanted to be married. Big sigh.
We still hung out in groups, and things were great after that. We even went to see Stardust that summer, and had a good time of it. It made me glad to see that she had taken control of her life and her daughter’s life, and to this day she is still an excellent mother, providing for her family mostly on her own.
The point of this story, as I think back to it now, is that I doubt I would be that bold today. And I mean even if I wasn’t a married man with my own kids. I just wouldn’t jump into a peer’s business like that, knowing they might get the wrong idea about my intentions.
I wonder why it is. Maybe cynicism? Maybe I have enough of my own problems? Is it self-interest? Do I lack sufficient altruism? It could be a degree of apathy. As I’ve gotten older, I know that I care less and less for my fellow man in the abstract.
I’ll help a stranger, I’ll help a friend, and yet I find myself remaining distant from a lot of, I don’t know, emotional complications. I find myself thinking that people should reap their own consequences, and they should, but shouldn’t I also care a little more? Reach out more? Give good advice, even if someone won’t like it?
You think that you get smarter as you get older. Me, well, I’ve gotten more information, but I think the last ten years have added to my confusion, not my wisdom. Hell if I know.
Maybe if a friend was going to make a damaging decision like that, I would still say something. I hope I would. Guess we’ll know when it happens.
I just know that there was a time when I would have done it without question. Even if I had to talk myself into it.
I’m getting older, there’s no stopping that. But I can decide if I get better or worse as a friend. Food for thought.