I remember a time in my life when I wasn't the ball of joy you all know and love.
There was a block of time, i'm not really sure of the duration, but let's just say the doldrums were longer lived than presidency of either Jimmy Carter or George HW Bush. I had just been through the emotional ringer, having dated a woman who, upon her calling me up to break up with me and telling me, the first word out of my mouth was "sweet," I had been living in Ogden, UT for over a year, and with each day my spirit was being run through a Cuisinart, not to mention the doldrums of dealing with the death of my dad, which, even after over two years, still had me in the midst of a tailspin. In a world of self-loathing, it's really hard to get yourself on the right track. It seems that everything you're doing and/or trying to do leads to either less than optimal results. i was in an overwhelming rut, and needed to do something to get out of it. I decided, relatively impulsively, to transfer schools, from Weber State University to the University of Oregon. But when I say impulsive, I think you may misunderstand or under-represent what I really ended up doing.
On March 2, I was in Eugene, OR, before a debate tournament, debated the weekend, went back to Ogden, UT (which, if i didn't have around $2000 cash in the room, and didn't trust any of the MF's that would have looted my room while i sent people I could trust to get my stuff back to me, i would have just left everything, and I mean everything, to just wipe that part of my life away, and start new), and on March 17th, I was moved to Eugene, and enrolled in classes at the University of Oregon...
...while the move did wonders for my health (moving from a place with some of the nation's worst air quality to Eugene, which I am still convinced has some of the cleanest air you'll find in a population center in the country, will do that to you), the move didn't really do as much for my quality of life in other aspects of my existence. Although I was no longer in Utah, and no longer felt I was at a technical disadvantage (not being Mormon, being black, being bitter and alienated in general), my overall attitude towards life still pretty much made me a douchebag. After a couple of days, I found a bunch of guys from the dorms to hang out, chill, occasionally drink and always hit the tree with. So, all of a sudden, i have a social circle, i'm at a school that is academically superior, and thus more enjoyable, to Weber, the area is beautiful, with trees everywhere, a river that runs right by campus, and beautiful women, but yet I couldn't seem to get myself out of the doldrums (if this word is unfamiliar to you, I highly suggest The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, an excellent book with a clear description of what i mean when I say it). It was going to take something remarkable to get me out of this, a virtual hurricane to come in and wash all of the shit and allow for a fresh start.
I would have never assumed it was possible for a person to have as much of an influence in the person i am and the person i have become that was not a member of my immediate family, and in the overall time-line of life, our paths crossed for only the blink of an eye. We were friends living in Oregon at one time, and then all of a sudden, i'm living in Missouri and she's moved to Hawaii. Never really mattered, we weren't those people to each other, but we were true confidantes, providing each other sounding boards to help juggle the madness of life.
She offered me one thing that, at the time, didn't seem like that big of a deal, friendship. But Kendra, as a person, was one of the purest people I'd ever met, someone that was genuinely nice. I had not really been around anyone like that before, as most of my friends are a lot like me, they hate. They may not even hate specifically, but will harbor general hate for the average person. Kendra always seemed to have a smile on her face for everyone, all the time. It's the kind of thing I would have assumed wasn't genuine, had I not spent the time with her that I had, thus having a necessary frame of reference to use as a measuring stick. her being really genuine kind of forced me to be more of myself around her, something i had gotten in the habit of not doing, as to not give anyone a snapshot into the soul. I had always been frank, and usually was able to convince the terms were able to be conflated. but the more time i spent around her, the more i figured out it was possible to be frank, but to simultaneously be ingenuine, and once you know it can happen, it's easier to avoid it...
...she also seemed to be willing to call me out about being a douche-bag as a person, and having to answer to someone about it, as opposed to most of my people, who would just let that shit slide, as my general hatred and vitriol almost always provides some modicum of humor. The more we hung out, the more I realized i was being a dick, for really no real reason...
...I think the reason we ended up being friends was because of her patience. At the beginning, I was a real dick, but apparently, she knew there was a (somewhat) decent person inside, who just needed a chance to show themselves. So she just let me be bitter, and just reminded me, constantly, how bitter i sounded, and that i needed to try to make more positive out of the things in life that were happening. In the world of retrospect, i can now realize that having lost someone as important as my dad was to me meant that I was unwilling to let anyone get to know me, at all. I was unwilling to give anyone a chance to get to know me, which means, in my world, they never have the chance to hurt me, either. But that's a miserable existence, with walls erected around you and nobody you can really relate to. The thing Kendra taught me, that I still to this day use, is to be willing to ask for and seek help from friends. One of my biggest weaknesses is a belief that all problems can be resolved, and i can do it with enough brainpower and effort. And a lot of time, this is true. But sometimes, you do need other people, to help you figure out things, to be a sounding board for ideas, or sometimes even a shoulder to cry on, and you need friends to help you through these rough times. Kendra reminded me that we need friends, and more importantly, she reminded me that I had the capacity to be the kind of friend that people deserved, and the kind of friend i could begin to expect, actually demand.
I've been dating my current girlfriend for a long time now, over 4.5 years. I know if my current girlfriend met the jackass i was in what i like to call the former life, there's no way possible she'd still be around. I'm at a really happy place in life right now, and like to sometimes reflect on the things that helped make it happen. I know that Kendra didn't see any of the things she was doing as unique or above and beyond, it was just Kendra being Kendra. And for that, I thank her.