Donkey! Shrek! (Or How a true friend taught me self worth)

Time for a trip down memory lane…

So back in the day (wow, it is crazy to think I am now at an age where I can actually say that) I had a friend. A very awesome friend. An awesome friend who would become a very loving and caring husband and father who does so much for his family, often at the sacrifice of himself. I may be  a bit older than him, but I look up to the guy. A lot.

He’s been on my mind recently for a couple of reasons, but it all started due to a picture. This picture in fact —>

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Yeah, we kept it cool.

During high school we were pretty inseparable. School, after school, weekends, etc. You name it, we were always finding time to hang. What was crazy about it is that we had varied interests, we weren’t clones of each other. He enjoyed anime and Nintendo games, I was a comic book guy who loved Sony consoles. We did have the sports connection for awhile but towards the end of my time in high school I realized I lacked physical talent while he was overflowing with it. It didn’t matter though, we had a friendship that was deep. It is no stretch to say he was my best friend and our relationship at that time is the standard I use today for true friendship. Since then we have continued living our busy lives, but always staying in each other’s orbits just enough so there would be at least somewhat of a bond. But that’s life ya know? You grow up and other life priorities become more important or take more time.

Yet the reason I look so fondly on our friendship is because of something very important he taught me. Without even realizing it, “E” taught me the meaning of self-worth. Join with me as I recount the tale of his lesson…

Back in high school, I suffered from extremely low self-esteem mixed with slight depression. My close friends were very keen to this fact, while many people in the school were not. I kept my feelings and issues hidden from most. Of everyone I hung out with, probably three people total knew some of what was going on. Only one knew everything. That was E. And I didn’t have to tell him. He just instinctively knew. He never pressed the issue on trying to find out more, he just knew that the best way to help was to be the most awesomest friend he could be. He did that, amazingly.

I always admired the fact that he didn’t really put much stock in to what other people thought of him or his friends. If you were a good person and gave people their proper due, you were cool with him. That’s what made him a friend to pretty much everybody. But he didn’t let that go to his head. He had a strong sense of humility about him that was very inspiring to see.

During my Junior year and his Sophomore, we were both heavily involved in youth group together. It was during this time we would attend youth rallys and other church events. Also during this time, the Shrek movies were very popular (see, the title will finally start to make sense!) During these events a strange thing began to happen. E, due to his outgoing personality and charm, would be called “Donkey” form the movies. I, being slightly closed off and the larger of the two, would start being called “Shrek”.

That became our thing when people saw us. They’d see us walking up to them and they’d be like “Shrek! Donkey!” and we’d all laugh. However, when it first started, I didn’t enjoy it. I was not a fan. I was interpreting the intent different than everyone else. While they may have meant it in jest and were referring to the fact that the two characters were best friends and had a funny back and forth (much like E and I did), I saw it as a subtle insult towards me.

Why am I the ogre? Ogres are considered monsters in most of fantasy lore. Even in the films Shrek is portrayed as a scary monster to normal people with many flaws. Why do I have to be that character?

It weighed on me quite heavily. More than it should have. Yet E either knew this from observing me or just never viewed this nicknaming thing the same as me. It would be his approach to something as simple as a nickname that would teach me a lesson of self worth I still rely upon today.

When E and I would be hanging out, it was very much an equal playing field. Neither one of us was the leader really, we had friendship that was a lot like a collaboration. It was awesome. And when the nickname happened, I was worried the structure of our friendship would change. Yes, this name bugged me that much. Back then, I was known for letting small things bother me in big ways (just ask me about the whole signature fiasco of ’00.)

I don’t know if because E knew me well enough or that’s just the type of guy he is, but it seemed like he made it a point to show that even though there were nicknames given to us that could have an underlying meaning to them, that didn’t matter. We were still that equal partnership. And as this nickname thing continued, E would show in many ways (like a best friend does) that a nickname is just that; a name that is not your real name (sorry if that sounds silly.) To him, I was still best bud. No name or supposed title would change that. And even if someone intended for the nickname to have a deeper meaning, the meaning it was given was not determined by them. It was determined by us, two best buds who really just wanted to have a good laugh and enjoy some Buzzard’s Pizza.

While E did not do anything specific that is earth shattering or mind blowing, E showed that true friendship doesn’t have to do that. All that matters is the respect each gives to each other and 100% acceptance of who they are. It was because he was so good at this that I began to learn what self-worth was; that I wasn’t some ogre that people wanted to get away from. I was a fella filled with joy and caring, as well as a few good jokes. I admit, the lesson wasn’t learned completely that year. But the path towards it started that year. It would come to completion the day I would meet my future wife, Heather.

So thank you E. Without realizing you showed a guy how friendships really work, what it means to value oneself, and set me on the 10 year path that would lead me to eventually win over my future wife. And ya didn’t even have to try. Thanks buddy. You showed me I was a parfait, not an onion.

Keepin’ it Geeky,

The Oey a.k.a. Shrek

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