I am well aware of my introverted ways, of which solitude is a key component. When my oldest son was turning twelve and decided to skip his final year of Little League baseball, he agonized over the decision — not because he would miss baseball, but because he feared that I would no longer have any friends if I left the Little League coaching community. In time he came to understand that a lack of friends is not the issue, but the lack of a need for friends. I have always been perfectly happy with my own company, despite all the research I've read about community being vital to happiness and personal growth. Accountability is another hallmark of having a circle of friends, but I've long figured that no one can be harder on me than I am on myself.
So imagine my surprise when I stumbled into a circle of friends. And not only do I enjoy their company, but the banter and back-and-forth is one of the joys of my life. We call ourselves the Tough Guy Book Club — a name derived from the time we all flew to England to compete in the legendary Tough Guy Race. We had so much fun running through the mud and jumping into frozen lakes in the British Midlands that we wanted to find a way to keep the connection going. Thus, the book club. There are books, to be sure, but our monthly meeting is more a gathering of disparate souls, with a greater focus on drinking, ballbusting, and good barbecue. One of our members made the questionable decision of wearing women's bike shorts to compete in a mountain bike event. It's been almost two years and we still don't let him down. For my part, I was very close to sleeping in a couple weekends ago when I received a photo of all the guys out for a run, with a fusillade of group text insults challenging me to get out of bed and hit the trail. So I did.
We met last night at Alan's house — The Cyborg, we call him, for his machine-like ability to endure all manner of physical hardship. I still think of it as his new house, even though he and his wife have been there a couple years. Alan showed us his amazing new game room sound system, which puts the term “theater quality” to shame. Then it was on to steaks and a beer chugging competition between Mike and JC, the losers in our NCAA tournament bracket competition. Mike won by a landslide, which means JC is still on the hotseat for some sort of competitive punishment at our next meeting. All of this took place over the span of three hours. I'd like to say that there was some profound moment where we all got serious and delved into the world of literature, but we're not that kind of book club.
A stoic part of me still likes to pretend I don't need friends, but that's just the loner in me. The truth is, this circle of trust is one of the great delights of my life right now. Long live the Tough Guy Book Club.