Finally I found some cool kids. Well, they didn't accept me at first, in fact there weren't that many at first, but that would change. My neighbor, Dan, started taking me out with him and introducing me to some other aspects of being a teenager. I won't get into too many details, but he taught me a lot. I admired Dan, okay, I idolized Dan. To me, he was cool in ways that I only dreamed I could be. He had a car, hot girls chasing him around, all that I wanted and didn't have. I guess he felt sorry for me, otherwise I dont know why he took me on as his sidekick. But he did and I was thankful. For the first time I had access to a life that I had onlyt seen in movies. Now being a sidekick sucks, but it was still far better than the nonsense that I had been part of up until then.
Let me say this right now, Dan was a great guy. Looking back he was one of the best friends I ever had and I don't know why he took on this poor, fat, loser of a kid, but he did and I don't know if I can ever really thank him for that. Dan letting me hang out with him was the catalyst for my transformation and for what I would later become. But like most transformations, the process is painful.
You see, my first inclination was to BE Dan. I figured if everyone loved Dan, if I acted like him, everyone would love me too. Well, life doesn't work like that and it took some time and some pointed conversations for me to realize that. Eventually I became comfortable enough in my own skin to just be me, and that's when things really changed for me, but I had to learn the hard way as I usually do.
Through it all Dan was someone I could count on to have my back. And I mean to really have my back. Throughout the years we went through a lot with each other and became great friends. To this day he is someone I still count as a person who had a profound impact on my life and who I became. Dan wasn't pretencious or fake. Dan was, well, Dan, and if you didn't like Dan then that was your problem. He wasn't going to try and be someone that he wasn't just to impress someone. He had that inner self confidence that radiated from him and attracted other people. He had his faults, but he was as proud of those as he was anything else, he got it. He realized that all the good things and all the bad things made him who he was and he was okay with that. One thing I've learned in life is that when a person realizes that, when they REALLY get what it means to accept yourself for who you really are, it radiates from you and people are drawn to that. Even at a young age Dan had that, and it drew people to him. It took me a very long time to figure all that out, but I do count myself lucky to have seen it. It was the kind of lesson that eventually really hit home. I still don't have the inner confidence he did back in the day, but I understand the concept! That's something. Right?
Dan introduced me to Circle K. It was just a convience store that we all hung out at. At first there weren't that many of us, just a hand full of kids hanging out. But over time it grew and grew. I was proud of the fact that I was one of the first. Later on the entire parking lot would fill with kids hanging out and it became almost legendary. As sad as it may seem, I'm still proud that I was there when it started with a few folks.
CIrcle K changed me forever. Yes, I started drinking from time to time and ended up smoking. Neither of these are "good" things. But that place did far more good than bad. Look, kids need a place to belong. They need a place where they can be with their peers and be accepted no matter what. They need a group of people who have their backs and actually give a shit. Yes a child needs his parents love and acceptance and thats important. But equally important is a kids need to have that acceptable from his peers. No matter how many times your parents tell you how "handsome", or god forbid, "cool" you are, it doesn't compare to your friends acceptance. Circle K was that place for me. It was a place that I could go and be one of the the "guys", even though there were lots of girls there too. Over time, as I learned how to be myself, and thus gain acceptance into the group, that place became my second home. Every weekend started there. Sometimes the night ended other places, but that's where we always started.
Once I got my drivers licesnse it got even better. I no longer had to worry about rides, or tagging a long, I had my own ride. Okay, yes it was a baby blue Reliant K station wagon, but it was mine and it gave me freedom that I never imagined existed. Having my own wheels transformed my world, not to mention a station wagon is great to play truth or dare in.