Back in my College years, I was just beginning to morph into what I would start to call "Me". After having some awkward high school years, I met some friends in College on my Varsity Volleyball team that I fit in with, and I seemed to have surrounded myself with good people.
After 2 years with that team, I changed schools and went to our sworn rival across the city and took a starting position on that team. It was a huge move and looking back at it now, I wouldn't have done it again.
It was already putting me behind the 8 ball because the guys who were now my teammates were once the "Enemy" and that was a tough wall to climb. Then it just seemed everything went wrong. My credits weren't transferred over in time, and I ended up having to drop a whole bunch of classes and the volleyball season hadn't even officially started!
Looking back, I can be objective and say that I also didn't drop my ego at the door and TRY to make friends on my new team with my teammates. I was cocky and even worse, I didn't have the ability to go with my mouth and actions. In fact, I hid behind my previous College school's record and not my own ability.
After about a week of being on the team, I began to really rub people the wrong way. I wasn't making my life easy. and it certainly showed on the team. But I never backed down, and I eventually lost my starting position to a guy who didn't even play my position. And it all went downhill from there...
Instead of keeping my mouth shut and working harder, I became more irate and rubbed people the wrong way along my line of decent. In fact, there were only a few people that I could really talk to during that lonely year on the team, and it made for a very long, lonely year.
Out of the few people I could talk to, the one person who stood out the most was a guy that I really didn't like at first. I had no reason to dislike him, but for some reason, he just didn't appeal to me. But this guy never treated me badly. In fact, he almost always went out of the way to be friendly to me and show me kindness. He was a very popular guy, charasmatic, co-captain of the volleyball team, and a bartender at the Campus Pub, so he was friends with everyone; certainly he didn't need my friendship or respect, but he went a long way to earn it from me. I instantly noticed this and was very grateful for his reaching out to me, and his friendship.
On long road trips on the bus, or travelling on the road, I talked to him about a lot of things that weren't just volleyball. Our team travelled to Mexico for a Volleyball tour, and he was one of my only friends while I was down there.
As the year dragged on, I only made things worse, and further alienated myself on the team to the point that at the end of the season in February, I wasn't really talking to anyone and just going through the motions. It made for a VERY lonely time, and I was just plain miserable. But throughout all this time, this guy trooped it out with me, and always offered his friendship to me when I needed it.
That was 15 years ago, and I doubt that he would've realized that he did this for me, and I probably never told him. But he made a HUGE difference in my year, and for that, I will always be grateful. He was a solid guy and even after our college years were over and we ran into each other, he was just the same friendly, open guy. -Very rare to find a man of his character these days. He offered me friendship when I probably didn't do much to deserve it, and he never asked for anything ever back in return, while always showing me kindness.
What a great guy he was...
So where ever you are out there Jeff, thanks for being that big ray of sunshine in a big world of gloom for me during those times. Oh, and Happy Birthday buddy, you are aces in my book...