Suppy Sup: Spare Change
Driving home from Michigan with a lifelong friend.
Three-ish hours to chat away between two buddies erodes the top layer of small talk, revealing the thick, nutrient-rich conversational soil beneath. The vulnerable stuff. The stuff you don’t tell to just anybody. Unless you have a newsletter.
Truth be told, much of that conversation was private, shared in the safe space forged in the fires of fifteen-plus years of camaraderie. A relationship chiseled, like a block of stone, into a vivid work of art with purpose and meaning. This was a conversation between two best friends who realized, over the course of the hours spent in that car, that they knew each other—and trusted each other—more than either might have known before those physical miles of road gave way to mental stretches of philosophizing.
Rarely have I appreciated conversations on the level I did this one. A long and winding journey to match the pavement we left behind us. It’s funny; there’s always a vehicle involved. Or movement, at the very least. Motion stirs the mind, turns the gears.
With the captain, hours of sharing stories on a harbored boat, laughter lilting as Lake Michigan lulls us into a talkative fervor.
With the soulmate, gliding down our favorite side-street bike route, future funk playing from the speaker attached to my basket. The glow of summer Chicago, though dark, glistens brightly in our hearts.
With the nerd, bouncing through the crowded convention aisles, opining about the stories that move us. We peruse the wares and mine the depths of our shared passions amidst an ocean of fellow geeks.
With the bookworm, though admittedly I am motionless, phone to my ear, while she walks to a meeting. Our relationship is making progress, and that motion is enough.
This time with the comedian, the person on this earth who makes me laugh more than anyone else. The conversation is full of chuckles and guffaws. It is equally full of serious statements and big questions.
He asks me where I stand on religion, knowing my stance has evolved—perhaps from ancient primates—in the years we’ve known one another.
“I hate it,” I say. “It is an excuse for people to stay the same, to firmly root themselves in a worldview that does not require introspection. My religion is a willingness to change.”
He nods. It’s the type of nod that says “I understand. I acknowledge and appreciate.” He knows my struggle. I am not the person I once was. He was my friend even at my most arrogant and myopic. Back when my worldview was informed by privilege and wealth. Acceptance, yes, but a lack of scope. An absence of empathy for the perspectives of others.
He is kind to me. He isn’t blood, but he’s family, a brother. He cares for me in the way a sibling does: unafraid to tell you the truth. Brave enough to praise the good about you. Smart enough to know that no person can ever be fully complete.
We reach Illinois, and our conversation steers delicately into the winds of change. I tell him what scares me about the future and what I want to become. I share my fears about how I am perceived—unable to shed the rigid, logical outlook of my past. I worry vulnerability will make me appear weak. It’s there in the definition: susceptible to physical or emotional harm.
A reassurance. “That’s not all,” he says. “Susceptible to growth and change and positivity, too.”
It is in this moment I tell him how much I love him. A brotherly love we, as men, are trained to suppress.
He has changed too, and that’s what I love about him. He has always been the same standby friend. There when I need him. There when I don’t. There for a laugh, a cry, a riff, a spliff.
And yet, he is different. More open and honest. More deliberate with his time and energy. More willing to challenge himself.
Even when the Chicago traffic slows to a crawl, the talk remains lively. Near the end of the third hour, we pull into Portillo’s and all goes quiet as we read the menu.
Some things never change.
Thank you for reading this, if indeed you made it this far. My newsletter has become a diary of sorts, and a place to try out forms of writing I don’t get to do in my day-to-day work. This, of course, means you’ll occasionally get an instructional pamphlet on Conga Lines and occasionally something like the piece you just read.
I thought this was going to be a piece about sobriety and drug use. And when I started writing, my ol’ pal inspiration came knocking, this time in the shape of one of my best friends. I remembered a long conversation we had and the circumstances that made it possible. It got me thinking about those quiet moments in a car, during a walk, or otherwise in motion with a person you love and trust. In those moments, you feel free to be yourself on a deep, core level. No mask. No code-switching. Just…who you are. I wanted to pay homage to such moments in a sort of poetic nonfiction piece about one that moved me.
As I noodled the piece, I was reading Brandon Sanderson’s Tress of the Emerald Sea, and the following (spoiler-free) passage struck me.
“We want to imagine that people are consistent, steady, stable. We define who they are, create descriptions to lock them on a page, divide them up by their likes, talents, beliefs. Then we pretend some—perhaps most—are better than we are, because they stick to their definitions, while we never quite fit ours.
Truth is, people are as fluid as time is. We adapt to our situation like water in a strangely shaped jug, though it might take us a little while to ooze into all the little nooks. Because we adapt, we sometimes don’t recognize how twisted, uncomfortable, or downright wrong the container is that we’ve been told to inhabit.
We can keep going that way for a while. We can pretend we fit that jug, awkward nooks and all. But the longer we do, the worse it gets. The more it wears on us. The more exhausted we become. Even if we’re doing nothing at all, because simply holding the shape can take all the effort in the world. More, if we want to make it look natural.”
These days, I can’t spare as much energy for the folks who strive just to fill the jug. I’d rather spend time with those who dare to spill its contents and explore what lies beyond.
I used to think I should live in service of becoming complete. It’s a sick version of perfectionism. And then I realized the closest thing to perfection is authenticity. In any moment, the most perfect thing you can be is yourself. Not a version of yourself you wish to present to others. But the you untethered to constraints and expectations.
As social beings, it’s essential we find the people who allow us to flourish in that space. I hope you, like me, are lucky enough to find friends who can do just that.
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Watch, Read, Play, Listen
I write this during a period of big change for myself, though one thing stays the same: I still consume stories with a gluttonous fervor. A few highlights:
Players on Paramount+. Absolutely riveting mockumentary about a fictional League of Legends team.
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson. Holy guacamole is this amazing. My full review is coming next week.
Finally, here’s a song I have enjoyed lately:
Thanks, as always, for reading. Catch you next time.
Great piece can't wait to read more of your diary! Also this song is straight fire!