Yesterday I ended up having lunch with one of my oldest friends, Tim. We’ve known each other since 7th grade, spent a couple years of college rooming together, worked a few summers together at Forest Home, were best men in each other’s weddings, have climbed numerous peaks and mountains together, and have continued to keep in touch to this day.
But as life has progressed, our times together have become fewer and further between. Life is so busy, and with kids and jobs and the frenetic pace of life, it gets harder and harder to connect. But every once in a while, the stars align and we find a window to grab lunch. Yesterday was one of those days. It was sure good to see him.
After we greet each other, we pause for a moment and allow our mental picture from our last visit to slowly morph into the current version of today’s reality. We’re becoming old men, and there is no getting around it. More grey hair. More wrinkles around the eyes. This is the way that life goes, especially after you’ve passed the summit and are beginning the downward slope.
So much has changed, and yet, so much of us is still the same. The same passions and dispositions. The same laugh and sense of humor. We still feel and even act a bit like we used to, like kids.
But we aren’t who we once were. Life has changed us. We’ve lost friends, faced illnesses, dealt with difficulties and stresses with jobs and with kids. We have the scars to prove it.
Tim got an MBA from Notre Dame, so he’s always been my go to advice giver for anything business related. At lunch, I reminded him of an interview question he had given me once…to ask the interviewee what was wrong at his current work situation, and then to follow it up with, “why didn’t you fix it?” Tim laughed and said, that wasn’t advice. “I got asked that personally. They had thrown me all these softball questions and then dropped that one on me!”
I had forgotten that part of the story. But seriously, what a great question. As painful as that situation must have been, it reminds me of how much of our lives are spent pointing out what is broken and assigning blame. As if that ever fixed anything. And how little of our time gets spent doing whatever it takes to fix things.
Life is always going to be messy. Things are always going to break. People will constantly be letting us down. I am challenged by that question. What am I doing to fix things? What if the problem isn’t too big for me. What if I’m exactly what this problem needs?
We talk about changes we’re making. How time is starting to really speed up, and the need we have to get back to the things that matter most. There is nothing like an old friend for conversations like these. Because so much can be left unsaid. We just know. We were there. We remember. Who we were, who we are, and who we still long to be.
But at this point in life, the longing is for something simple. Not simplistic (as my friend, John Losey would point out). That simplicity on the other side of complexity. That longing for the essence of things, without sacrificing our visions and ideals.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.”
This is what we both are longing for. The simplicity on the other side of complexity.
As we part, we promise to connect soon. I hope we do. There are only so many lifelong friends we get in this go around. And every one is such a treasure. They remind us of what matters most, and restore in us the hope that we can not only change, but really make a difference.
Thank you, Tim. For the reminder to fix and not blame. To see through the complexity to the beautiful simplicity on the other side. And that there is still enough time left to make a difference.