COLUMN: Great memories, greater friendships

(Lifelong friends at the 149th Kentucky Derby)

Kyle’s previous Kentucky Derby column can be found here. 

By Kyle Roberts

In July, I finally hit 40 years old.

Oftentimes when I remind people of this, I’m met with “Gah, you’re still young!” or “Just wait until you’re older!” 

(Apparently, 40 is the new 20, but don’t tell that to my right knee after running or my left lower back after golf).

Regardless, I’ve hit an age where I’ve begun meaningful reflections– taking stock of my life to this point and the number of people who I am blessed to consider friends in this journey of life.

And thus, I’m starting to think I’m the luckiest man alive.

If you’ve been around me in the last two weeks, then you’re fully aware that I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented to me back in January to attend the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby. Not much for horse racing, I still understood the gravity of the event and very much wanted to attend. And while the event itself was nice, it was the car ride and company that I’ll remember forever: three dear friends that made a 700-mile trip feel like a breeze around the track.

Friendships in middle age, especially for men, can be considered an outlier. According to the Survey Center on American Life, friendship amongst my age and gender demographic has been in decline.  I, very blessedly, can say that as my life has moved onward and upward, my friendships have grown, not receded. 

Now, I’d be foolish to try a running list here (inevitably someone’s name would accidentally be left off), but I know that having so many quality relationships is part of what keeps me going everyday. These are people where each others’ presence is mutually valued and nobody has to pretend to be someone they are not.

These friends include neighbors, current and former co-workers, musicians, golfers, hobbyists, ministry partners, broadcasters, old friends you talk to once a year, brand new friends you met at your kids’ school, even family (certainly not the least my wonderful spouse) — I think you’re starting to get it. Friendships have brought me opportunities, not just the Derby, but jobs and memories and meaningful connections that can never be lost.

Of course, sadly, I cannot write that I somehow have discovered some magic friendship elixir, and I certainly do not believe there is anything special about me that I can boast about.  What I can tell you is that you’re worth putting yourself out there. Do you have someone that you haven’t seen in awhile? Call or text them. Do you see the same people on a regular basis that you don’t quite know? Open a conversation.

Naturally, I’ve spent the last two weeks really appreciative of Howard, Todd, and Dustin (we’ll forever be “The Derby Boys”)– and that they thought enough of me to include me in their plans. These three in particular have been lifers for me, and I’m so much better for it.

Beyond those three, I know for certain my life is more meaningful because of the rest of the people who in it with me. You, my friend, deserve the same thing.

And you never know — you just might find yourself at the 150th running of the Derby.