I consider myself the kind of friend who values loyalty above all else.
As a middle child, I was used to compromising and my two best friends were only children, whose fierce loyalty to me I returned in kind.
And I extend that loyalty to others. To eldest siblings who boss me around and youngest siblings who always get their way. Not my siblings, mind you, just their birth order which tells a lot about a person.
In my study of Generation X, I’ve found this loyalty to my friends is characteristic not of my birth order, but of the era in which I was born.
The maturation of our friendships is a uniquely definitive characteristic of Gen X because our friends supplanted the traditional family unit.
I remember that.
I remember being a senior in high school and my parents were nowhere to be seen but my crew was omnipresent. I remember being a little kid and relying on my friends’ judgment on things like jumping in the creek, crossing the yard boundary, setting things on fire, and hanging out with older kids.
I remember relying on my friends’ judgment about things like drinking and drugs.
And I remember choosing friends who wouldn’t do that shit. Not right at first. After college acceptance, after the parents left, after we’d secured our future, we killed time with booze. But we kept each other clean for 17 years first.
We were good to one another. We protected each other. We kept each other from stepping over the line. We lived to tell the stories.
It’s later now and my parents and I are reconciled, as are most of my friends with theirs, and still we have a special bond. We still have those unwritten Thank Yous that include the slight shifts away from disaster toward survival.
I always say Charlie and I grew up together even though I didn’t meet him until I was nineteen. In many ways, he and I helped one another walk the line. For years we’ve held one another back, just the briefest of seconds, to say, “Are you sure?”
A good friend will come and bail you out of jail, but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, ‘Man, that was fun.’
My true friends never let me end up in jail. They never let me go too far.
As our friendships have matured, we have shared financial advice, career advice, relationship advice, and parenting advice. All of which is coming from equal footing.
When I think of Brian Listo (After December) and the friendships he is struggling to maintain in his twenties, I think of the times my friends and I seemed destined to break apart and how we managed to sew ourselves back together.
My best friend Tami says she hangs around because she knows enough about me to blackmail me when I run for office. I told her she can have all my illegal campaign contributions.
That our generation takes counsel from ourselves may end up being our undoing.
We may be saying, “Why can’t it be done that way?” and someone who tried it a long time ago could be saying, “I’m proof it can’t.”
We consider ourselves special, exceptional, different, un-afflicted by the failures of generations past.
We think our course is true.
We think our friends are giving right counsel. And they are. But they’re on equal footing.
Our collective inexperience could be the thing that dooms us.
I look at my crew now and I see a few good history students, a few whose parents were of sound mind, and a few more who are on the front end of my generation and who have the experience the rest of us need.
We’ll rely upon one another as we always have.
And we’ll change the world.