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How To Save A Life
I guess it all started when I was eleven years old, I was going to a school I loved and everyone was nice. I had friends I could trust, and who respected me for who I was. I could be me; I could be the person I always wanted to be. I’m not saying everything was perfect, far from in fact, but much better than now. Now things are much worse, a dark, rank place where every little corner gleams with false light.
One day a new kid was dropped off in my new school. He was kind of shy and he didn’t talk much, however I really tried to get to know him. He was medium sized and had a short haircut with green eyes. I had recently lost my best friend in a move, so I really thought this was my chance to make a new friend.
Now I think your going to need some background info about me. I have always made it my duty to be the guardian of those who could not protect themselves. I had always daydreamed about having a sensitive friend, who might have some trouble with a bully, and then I would role play through the scenario. I had also been a bit over ruled in my life, I was always either second to my best friend, or the third wheel/ tag along. I had always wanted to be first, but somehow I would always get overruled. I also had a rough sense of humor; I enjoy fighting, wrestling, and sword play.
*Luke wasn’t the most rough-and-tough kind of guy, however. He enjoyed playing the piano and chess, and he enjoyed sports; just in a controlled environment. In any case, I decided I wasn’t going to be second again. I was going to be the tough guy, who could help anyone in need, and thus I started trying everything in my power to do better than Luke. Anything he could do I could do better, and I lived by that philosophy for about a year. After this period of time, Luke and I got to know each other a bit better, but not much. It felt more like he was familiar to me rather then someone I knew. It was just after this time that I realised: even though I was trying my hardest to be better than Luke, I was the one getting beat. I had been out ranked, again.
Some years passed, and I began to become more and more bitter about it. I was constantly trying to show up Luke in some way, but not in the way you would think. Luke always seemed to beat me at everything, and I had to try to win, even if it was just to show people I wasn’t completely useless. I always felt that if I didn’t show people that I was at least better than Luke in some ways, then nobody would notice me, or really like me. I actually made a list in my journal of all the things people consistently said, comparing me to him.The ones that stung the most were the things that I really enjoyed, like swordplay, or fighting. Something that stung almost as much was probably that they hadn’t even seen either of us fight, but just automatically assumed Luke was better.
One thing that I have always prided myself in was my ability to make people open up to me. Not for bad reasons, but to help them get over whatever they were going through. Like at camp, I would always talk to my tent mate, and somehow without even really trying, they would always tell me all their hardships and secrets. I didn’t abuse this either, I told them my secrets and gave them my advice in return. However, Luke was the only person I had ever met who I couldn’t get to tell me anything.
This only fueled my fire as I would spill nearly every secret and hardship of my life to him. The fact that he didn’t return the favor or even tell me why he wouldn’t, wasn’t the most blood boiling part. The most aggravating part was that he wouldn't even help me with my problems. He would either pretend like I hadn't said anything, or just say, “that stinks.” I think this was most likely the part that my turned my irritation into a steady, burning rage. I tried to do better than him at everything that happened, and I pointed out every single fault, no matter how insignificant, just so that I could feel better.
It really tore me apart, and I started to notice the rest of my life going downhill. I felt hatred towards everyone, and everything. I couldn’t stand the idea of being insignificant. After a lifetime of trying to become the great defender, one kid had come in and wiped my entire life of significance. He didn’t even seem to be trying, which only added more pain to my already retched anguish. It didn’t even seem to bother him either, as if all the pain I was feeling was a bother rather than something worth his time.
The fact that may have given me the worst pain though, may have been the fact that I kept telling myself he was my best friend. If my best friend didn’t care about me, then who did. There was no one to talk to, no one to help me vent steam. Just me, myself and I. I was, what I thought of as, completely and utterly alone. It was probably these feelings that lead me to spend a lot of alone time on my own.
In about the ninth grade things started getting better. I began to reflect on the past four and a half years, and on all the things I wanted, and still want, to be. Thats when I realized that my life had gone downhill. I tried to find a reason for why all this had happened, because I didn’t really understand. I don’t exactly have the easiest will to break (I was pretty stubborn that way) and I had been pretty set in that vision of the great defender. After a few weeks of thinking, someone brought up an interesting topic that I desperately clung to. Someone had said “ You know Luke, I think you were a bad influence on Josh, he was such a fun person before you came.” Luke seemed to brush this off like it was nothing, but something about it stuck with me, after all I had been searching for a reason to my behavior.
Even though I had been so good at getting people to talk to me, I had never been very good at asking for anyones advice. So just to get Lukes opinion, even though I was pretty sure he wouldn’t give a satisfactory answer, I asked him his opinion. We usually sat next to each other in U.S history, so it wasn’t like it was hard to find him. Now remember, I said I wasn’t good at asking for advice, so I tried to pose the question as a statement, then see what his reaction was.
I walked over to the table and said “ You know Luke, I think you have been a bad influence on me. I was a great person before you came, and now I’m not very nice to anyone.”
The reaction I got was more than I could have ever hoped for. He said “Look Josh, maybe if you stopped trying to show me up all the time...” But that’s all I heard before I stormed off in mild anger and complete shock. For the first time in our entire relationship he had said something in an angry tone, not only that, but he sounded hurt. I had always considered him to be like a robot; perfect in every way, always being able to get along with anything that came his way, and completely void of emotion.
I sat at a different table that day, I didn’t feel like being anywhere near the new and, honestly, frightening Luke. I spent the rest of the day completely distracted from everything that went on around me. Then after school Luke came over to where I was sitting and...
*Josh was an interesting person, but when I first met him we kind of got off on the wrong foot. I was determined to try and be a friend to him, and I tried the “set a good example for him” method. It worked for a little while, and me and Josh soon began to become friends. I started to learn my place in the new environment, and I took to new heights. I became more outgoing and ambitious, and I worked hard to be the best person I could be.
However, I realized later on that the things I was doing were just making things worse. People started to compare me to Josh, and I could tell that he wasn’t going for it (who would?). What once seemed to be a friendly relationship suddenly became a heated rivalry, and not one that we could easily distinguish either. It wasn’t my intention to make him feel inferior, I just wanted to try my best so that I could feel accomplished. I would cringe every time someone would say that I was better than Josh, and I hated it when people would single me out as some kind of superstar. I had never had this problem as an elementary schooler, as I was usually shy and sensitive. But life in middle and high school was much different. As I strived to multiply my talents, I found that my friends were beginning to look down on them. I suppose they didn’t realize that I was just trying to be myself, and thought that I was trying to be better than them. In the back of my mind I felt like Josh and I were still friends, and that we were just going through a rough phase in our teenage lives.
Josh seemed to be the person most affected by this. It seemed like every time I saw him he was trying to one-up me. I couldn’t understand why for the longest time. I knew that I had good grades and that I could solve a rubik’s cube in a minute, but why did that make him want to treat everything like it was a competition? We argued about almost everything, from where the Bahamas were located to a problem on a physics test.
I resented having long conversations with Josh because I felt that if I said something that he disagreed with, he might argue with me. He would usually tell me things that were meaningful to him, like problems he was having or a cool new game that we was saving up for. But since I always felt like talking with him was like walking on thin ice, I avoided giving a meaningful opinion to him. It was hard for me to know how to help him, because it seemed as if all he wanted to do was get into an argument about something. And if he wasn’t trying to do something to prove he was right or better, he was usually very distant and wouldn’t talk to anybody.
Then one day in one of my classes Josh said something that really discouraged me. He told me that I was a bad influence on him. All that came to my mind was the fact that I had tried my best in earlier times to make Josh a better person. To hear him tell me that I had done the opposite completely took me aback. I wanted to tell him that he was wrong, that it was him that needed to change, not me, and that he had to be responsible for his own actions. But before I could finish what I was saying, he left to another table.
After school ended that day luke could feel that his confrontation with Josh needed to be resolved. He felt that he had made a mess of things that shouldn’t have been made a mess of, and he knew that things needed to be set straight. Luke met him at the pickup and drop-off zone where their parents would pick them up everyday. Luke walked up to Josh, but Josh’s face was distant, and he didn’t see Luke coming. “Hey, Josh.” Luke said. Josh’s thoughts returned to the present and he looked up at him. “I just wanted to let you know that I’m sorry for what I said to you in the beginning of sixth period. I know that I make mistakes sometimes and that I can sometimes be a little bit too ambitious, but I also know that you have to be responsible for your own actions. You can’t blame me for anything that you feel you’ve done wrong. I’m sorry if you feel like I’m a bad influence, but I assure you that I’m doing my best, just like you, to be the best person I can be.”
Josh was a little stunned. He hadn’t been expecting an apology from the friend he had just called a bad influence. “ It’s fine.” he said in a nervous tone. “I didn’t really think that you were a bad influence on me.” he admitted, slowly gaining momentum. “I’ve just been thinking lately, and I noticed that I wasn’t really the person I wanted to be, and I was trying to find out why.” Josh exhaled a deep breath before continuing, “ I just have some problems with asking people for advice, and I was a little nervous you would shut me down if you knew I was asking for advice.”
“That’s alright.” Luke replied, letting the relief flow through his words, “But to be honest with you, whenever I was around you when I first moved here, you always hurt me or made me feel bad in some way. I tried so hard to try and help you be a nicer person, and once I started to get know you better, I realized that you were. And then for you to say that I was a bad influence in class today kinda made me feel like I had failed.” He looked back up to meet Josh’s eyes. “But I appreciate your expressing of the situation to me. It means alot.”
Josh’s face went from one of guilt to one of complete shock. This whole conversation went against everything he had ever known about their relationship. “ Really?” he asked, not quite over his sudden shock yet. “I mean, I know I hurt people, like a lot, and I’ve learned how to control it. Thanks to you, I just have a really rough sense of fun. However, when I hurt your feelings, well, I guess it was just me trying to show you up, just like you said.” Josh took a shaky breath, “ Every friendship I’ve been in I have always been second or the third wheel, and I guess...” He sighed, “I guess I just didn’t want to be out ranked.”
Josh gave a little chuckle; “Any time you think I’m trying to show you up, take it as a complement, because I probably am. But only because I feel like I have to show people that I’m not useless.” Josh gave another sigh before saying in a quiet tone, “Besides, you always beat me. Always. It’s not easy living in your shadow.”
Luke suddenly felt a sense of understanding from what his friend had just said. He knew that he was good at some things, but he had never thought about how it would affect his peers, and more importantly, his friend. “Trust me,” he said with more confidence than he had started with. “I don’t try to make people feel inferior, nor was that my intention the first years I moved here. I appreciate everyone’s different talents and abilities, and I have learned that I can’t compare anyone to anyone else because they are completely different people. I appreciate the person you are and the person you’ve become, and that goes for everyone I know as well. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have something to prove because they don’t. By being themselves they have proven that they aren’t afraid of being unique,” Luke continued, “and I think that you have shown that especially well.”
“You don’t know me half as well as you think you do. I am nowhere near the person I make myself to be at school; I’m not mean, and I can’t make witty comebacks. I can’t be me, because as much as I deny it, I want people to like me, as much as I kid myself that I don’t. But I can’t, because nobody likes a sappy guy who writes Stories and poetry, who wants nothing more in his life than to help his friends, and I can’t be him.” A tear slid down Josh’s face and he looked away from luke’s eyes. “Thats why I said I was better off without you guys. Because I don’t have to put on an act, I can be me, and I will have no one who will pick on me for it, nobody that I can’t handle that is.” Another tear dropped gracefully onto the ground.
“Well I’ll try and open up. As long as we put our differences aside and be the people we should be.”
Josh looked back up at Luke, a smile lighting his face for the first time in their true friendship. “Deal.”
They suddenly realised that They wanted a friend that they could count on, not a bully that they wanted to run from. The weeks in which they confessed these feelings to each other were the most emotional yet joyous that he had had in many years. As they set apart their differences and their misunderstandings they began to feel that bond that they had originally set out to discover. They no longer wanted to be better than each other, but they wanted to better each other. They found that playing to each other’s strengths was much more productive and uplifting than playing to each others weaknesses. They found solace and comfort in each others’ presences; like they could count on each other to make the right choice. Even though they still make mistakes today, their mindsets have now entered a state of tolerance and understanding, whereas before they were self-righteous and were content with other people being less of “a good person”. I think we can all learn a lesson from this story: Friendship is built on trust. If you don’t tell each other the way you feel, you’re never going to get anywhere. Friends are only as good as the relationship you have with them, or else it’s just an empty title.
by: Moren Sore and Major Minor
*names have been changed