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The Value of Companionship

John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men remains one of my favorite texts to teach, for in less than 110 pages it offers hundreds of pages worth of depth. Whether it be examining the historical context – Great Depression/Dust Bowl – or the plight of people of color – see Crooks – or even the ranch as its own independent society, the text offers months of interesting discussions and learning opportunities – months unfortunately do not have.

Alas, there’s never enough time to discuss good literature.

Through Chapter 3, now, we have arrived at the venerable Slim’s inability to understand Lennie and George’s relationship. In Chapter 2, meanwhile, we witnessed the callous Carlson’s pushing to shoot Candy’s dog.

What’s the connection?

Companionship – it’s importance and the inability of many of the ranch workers to understand it. So, it got me thinking about Companionship in my own life and what it has enabled me to discover about myself, what it has allowed me to become.

My wife, obviously my ultimate companion and partner in crime – my everything, my always, my forever – has made an honest man out of me in our almost a decade together (that’s a scary thought, in itself). Without her, I’d likely be an even bigger scumbag than I already am.

With her, though, I’ve overcome personal tragedies, written books, learned how to detach myself from work, and discovered that I do not always have to have a solution to a problem – I just have to listen (take notes, guys).

Whereas we used to fight when I felt the need to abscond to one of the myriad of guy’s weekends, I’m not as inclined anymore to jet away; something about it doesn’t feel right. Because she’s missing.

I talk to a lot of people who lament their marriages, making it like they’re POWs in their own homes. I actually look forward to coming home, complaining about work, and having dinner. In the past I might have pushed to go out, constantly in need of some stimulation. I savor the moments when we can just order pizza and throw on some mindless television. When she travels for work, I feel like the guy in the quit smoking PSA who puts his pants on backwards. I can’t even walk and breathe at the same time without her. She gives me the confidence to be myself, for she understands me better than I understand myself.

In relation to Of Mice and Men, characters do not understand what companionship – whether a lover or a friend – offers. It’s that comfort of having someone who truly cares about your well-being, having someone who cares enough to listen to you, to understand you – not just wishing you a HBD on social media or asking you how you are doing as a social custom.

I’ve been lucky to form lifelong bonds from growing up and from my time at Fairfield U. that have endured into adulthood. In their families and with them, I have grown up. This could not have been more evident last weekend at my best buddy’s wedding. I’ve known him since we were like eight years old in Little League. Sure, he has blamed me since we were 15 as the reason why he smelled like booze or smoke whenever his parents caught him coming in late, but he has also guided me and been a moral compass for the virtuous person I strive to be.

I could tell stories for days about my friends who have comforted me and stood up for me when I wouldn’t stand up for myself, who believed in me when I wasn’t sure who or what I’d become.

I won’t digress, but my relationships have humbled me and taught me lessons I couldn’t learn without these people in my life. In my younger days, I used to think that my friends made me who I was, that without them I wouldn’t be anyone. However, I’ve come to see the flaw in this thinking. They do not make me Andrew Chapin; no, they enable me to be the best version of myself.

And I can only hope that my words and deeds convey not only my gratitude to them, but also my eternal desire and obligation to serve them as well as they have served me.

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