This week has become Jersey Week in the sports blogosphere, which led me down memory lane and thinking about how my fondest feelings are for green jerseys. Let me tell you why.
At the age of 28, I decided to pick up and move to Hawaii. Throughout my adult life, I had been privileged enough to live in several different states, spending two years apiece in Boston, upstate Minnesota, and my hometown of Essex, Vermont. I had had success fitting in to those disparate communities, and it had always been a life’s dream to move to Hawaii. After having released a book in the fall, I used the money I made to cross that item off the bucket list.
I turned the journey to Hawaii into a two-week trip across the U.S., staying with friends at each stop along the way and getting to see plenty of cool parts of this country that I had never seen before. When I arrived in Hawaii, it was with two bags, no apartment, no job, and no local friends. The apartment was the first to be checked off the list — thankfully I had to spend only two nights in the cheapest hotel I could find in Waikiki (which was still far from cheap). The job came shortly after, as I wasn’t too picky, and the first restaurant I walked in to happened to be looking for help on the line.
The final missing piece, the local friend, took a while longer. My roommates were very welcoming, and every now and then we’d tag along to the beach together, but they were a little older and had established lives of their own. My coworkers at the first restaurant I worked at were young, transient, and cool, but maybe a little too young, transient, and cool, and I never felt fully in when we spent time together.
Time went by, and a few months into my move to Hawaii, I didn’t have any real friends, and that was strangely made even more evident when my sister and then friends from home came to visit, reminding me just what exactly I was missing being six time zones away from them all.
Then came St. Patrick’s Day. For my college friends and I, this was a borderline religious holiday. We would start watching March Madness at noon, accompanied by the problematically named Irish Car Bomb (half a Guiness, a shot of Jameson and some Bailey’s) at the start of every alternating college basketball game. I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with those young whippersnappers in my late 20s, but I sure as hell could get overly nostalgic about those memories, and when combined with the lack of any true friendships out in Hawaii, I was feeling as depressed as I probably have ever felt.
I decided to try to meet up with a coworker who was going to the local St. Patty’s Day celebration. If anything, I figured it would keep me from sitting in my room, probably drinking alone, and definitely feeling like
shit crap. I threw on a green Ireland rugby jersey (it was St. Patty’s Day after all) and headed out to meet my coworker.
Now, here’s where I need to be a bit more honest: I harbored a bit of a crush on this coworker, so the night got off to a bummer of a start when I showed up and was quickly abandoned for a different gentleman. Wandering around, in a bit of a haze, and definitely in need of a pick-me-up, I spotted a Bro Supreme in a Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks jersey.
Figuring, what the hell, I glanced at his jersey, gave him the nod, and he responded in kind. Later, we found ourselves right next to each other in line for beer, and he asked if I was a Bucks fan. I am not, and was not, but we fell into what was one of the best conversations I had had outside of my friends and family who had visited in my entire time in Hawaii. We chatted for the rest of the evening, he introduced me to his girlfriend, and their group of friends, and we hung out the following weekend, with him even setting me up with a friend of his for a date a few weeks after that. This kindness was the friendship I needed.
I ended up moving back home from Hawaii not even a month later, and I honestly haven’t talked to him in years, but in what was one of my more trying times (typical straight white male — hardest time I’ve had was living in Hawaii), I had one of the best personal connections with a stranger — when I really needed it.
All thanks to a shared nod over a pair of green jerseys.