The worst crime of age is not that it makes people no longer young, but it causes them to idealize when they were younger, with no regard to the actual state of their happiness at the time. To look back on my high school years is painful, because I am deliriously aware of what a little idiot I was during that time.
At the same time, though, I have deeply fond memories of the time between my 14th and 18th birthdays.
In the space of those years, I forged the strongest of my friendships, drank in the free air of long walks and heady conversations, and drank more Mountain Dew than could have possibly been healthy.
There’s another aspect of my adolescent youth that I was ashamed of then, but I reflect fondly on now.
If you have read with any depth in any of my fiction, you have met the young man named Quin.
Quin is a character that acts less like a human being and more like a plot device. He never has money or a home of his own, and lives for no other purpose but to drive his friend, Tannenbaum, absolutely insane. Quin does not act within the boundaries of human behavior, chance, or probability. He survives by favors from friends, coins found on the ground, and the hospitality and generosity of strangers he meets on the street.
I love Quin. He is the character who is the most fun to play with in a story. He can go anywhere and do anything because he is without responsibility and relies entirely upon the kindness of others.
There are no real resemblances between Quin and myself as a teenager, except for the mop of uncontrollable hair and a definite tendency to mooch.
I can mooch like nobody’s business.
I once stayed at a friend’s house for three days uninvited, borrowed his computer to check Facebook for hours on end, begged rides all over creation, (I had neither car nor license) and never gave him a moment’s peace away from me.
I was at his house so often that his parents declared me on their taxes.
Surprisingly, we are still friends.
I was needy, annoying, a showoff, and a braggart.
I still am, but I’m a blogger, so it’s okay. It’s more or less expected of me.
This is what I learned in my time as a shmoozer:
The surest way to quickly find good friends is to be helpless. The only way to find out if your friends and their families are kind, generous, and hospitable is to have need of their kindness, generosity, and hospitality. In my teenage years I ate through hospitality like cake, and yet there was always more ready for me the next time I came over to hang out.
When you find a friend who likes you for who you are and not for something you can do, or a service you can give, then you’ve found a true friend. When you find a friend who likes you for who you are when you have absolutely nothing to give back, then you have found someone who will never leave you when the going gets tough, because they were there when the road was at its toughest.
This is the phenomenon that I try to capture in Quin: this constant testing of souls, like a lamp to the eyes in search of honesty. Quin always throws himself on a person’s hospitality to see if they have any.
Today I want to say thank you to my friends and their families who showed kindness to me as an annoying teenager. You welcomed me in like another child, and your generosity did not go unnoticed.
P.S. I also learned that you should always say thank you. It goes a long way.