I’m someone who likes to be in the sandbox playing with others. It just makes life fun for me; I’m not a loner by nature. So when my friend and coworker from my LA production days was looking for work back in 2007 or so, I invited him into my company. And while that didn't work out that well at the time (he left to work with his family after a while), he came back to the company in 2010/2011 to help me when we were growing. For years we were inseparable. Every day started with a conversation with my best friend. I always had him to lean on when the business was challenged, and being in business together made life more fun; he knew the great restaurants to check out when we traveled together, introduced me to the latest coffee fads, and taught me how to appreciate scotch. And he was honest with me. He was the one who told me I needed to stop being an asshole a few years ago and that I needed to better learn how to manage my stress. He was the one who pushed me to lead with love, which has become the guiding principle I try my best to live into each day as I lead our company.
Then in 2014, he went through a divorce. His personal life became challenging, and it needed his focus. I watched him continually lean into grace during this transition—and I will always appreciate what I learned from him about the choice to be kind amidst distress. Simultaneously, our company was wanting to expand and take greater risks. Our coach described RTC to me as a ship that had been in the harbor and was ready to hit the dangerous and exciting open sea. But my best friend and business partner didn’t seem to be in a place where the dangerous waters were exciting. My perception was that he needed calm waters since his personal life was providing a fair amount of drama. And so I asked him to leave. I asked my best friend to leave the company we both believed we were growing together.
I’m not a shitty friend because I asked my best friend to leave. I think it was the appropriate, though painful decision that needed to be made. I’m a shitty friend because I’ve let my guilt impede me from reaching out. I’m a shitty friend because I’m avoidant and weak. Avoiding him and our friendship allows me to avoid a part of me—the part that could break his heart and still feel it was the right decision.
While I miss my friend, I have to acknowledge that when I’m not in a working relationship with people, I don’t seem to know how to be a good friend. I have so many wonderful friends from growing up that I rarely if ever make time for. I even struggle with making space for my own sister. I’m close with my father because he works with me and in that space we have been forced to grow together. But without that space, I seem to be lost.
Oddly, there are benefits to losing my best friend. He was the one I played with most. And in losing that friendship, I poured that energy into my marriage. I’m far more playful with my wife than ever before, and for that I am beyond grateful. And yet, I still miss my friend.
I can rationalize that seasons end, and relationships evolve and change. And yet as I sit here typing this story, there is an emptiness I feel in a corner of my heart. One that I don’t acknowledge often, that I work hard to hide from myself. That corner holds a sweet sadness. A profound love. And a touch of hope. Yes. A touch of hope.