When I was 14, my 25-year-old sister, Janet, convinced my father I should go to high school in New York City. She lived in Greenwich Village and told him it would do me good to get out of Jersey City. He reluctantly agreed, so I began commuting to Xavier High School, which is a Jesuit military school, in New York City.
I remember the first day of school. I put on my military uniform, walked to the public bus stop and rode the bus to Journal Square and then the subway to New York City.
When I got on the bus, the other kids never stopped making fun of me. There I sat with my military hat, brass covered shirt and gray pants with the black stripe down the leg.
For the first time in my life, I was completely out of place, and everybody made sure I knew it. I was all alone because I was different.
Good Boy, Bad Boy
When I finally got to school, I was safe. Everybody else in my freshman class endured the same ridicule on the way to school as I did. We became fast friends.
Over time, I discovered New York City with a select group of classmates. Of course, I gravitated to the guys who had the good boy image but secretly wanted to raised hell and did.
None of us were on the sports teams, so we had time to do all the activities we shouldn’t have been doing after school.
By the time I reached my junior year, I knew my way around the city and the greatest places to party. I also learned I had leadership skills. People wanted to follow me into my wayward activities. I was full blown into leading a double life. And I was good at it. I never got caught.
Power of Self-Deception
Guilt filled my senior year. The double life of good-boy image and bad-boy behavior was weighing on me. The lies and deception I told fed the guilt, but I convinced myself I was a good guy. I wasn’t as bad as some of my other friends.
I decided it was God’s fault I was feeling guilty. It was all that Catholic school influence. I made the decision to turn my back on God. I walked away and decided to live by my own moral code. After all, I really was a pretty decent guy.
Then off to college and much of the same. Except now I discovered work and women. My dad didn’t have enough money to support me or pay all my tuition, so I had to work my way through college.
I loved work. It was a chance for me to compete and win while making money doing it.
Friends Define You
My new friends from college and my work were all about work hard and play hard. We did well in our classes and did well in our partying. College was a blast. Never a dull moment. No shortage of great friends.
I learned this to be true later in life when I joined Alcoholics Anonymous. One of the first pieces of advice I received was to drop all my friends. It took me two decades to build these friendships, and now I was told I needed to start over.
So I isolated from my old friends and eventually made new friends. They were the work hard, love Jesus crowd. They are all working for a higher purpose in life while striving to be successful.
There is an old saying, “Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are.” These new friends showed me what it means to be a real man. A man who is the same in his thoughts and in his actions. A man whose image matches his heart. I thank Jesus for who I am today, and I am amazed at what He built from what he had to work with.