I think it’s one of the lessons I’ve always needed to learn.

Let me tell you why.

I have some of the best friends in the world. But believe me, there weren’t always times where I could say that.

When I was little, my best friend was my dog Buttercup. She was little just like me. We grew up together. In fact, I attribute much of my sports success to her. When I was learning how to play baseball, she loyally chased the ball down all day until she couldn’t walk anymore.

When I was playing basketball, she would be my makeshift defender. She didn’t quite understand basketball that much, but she played her heart out.

As time went on however, she grew old very fast. Probably because she ate some snail bait and later some other type of poison. I think that took some good years off her life. I couldn’t bare to see her struggling in the vet.

My dog.…my best friend…was in so much pain. I won’t lie, thinking about her brings tears to my eyes. I miss her so damn much. I miss everything that she was to me. Maybe it’s because I haven’t found a companionship as deep as that since then? I’m not sure. All I know is that she lives in this heart of mine.

She was something else. We used to take her on fishing trips up in the Sierra’s and she would bound over and along the rocks with us until we stopped at the best spot. Then, she would sit patiently by waiting for me to hook up on a trout and would go bezerk when I was about to land it.

We probably kept her alive for longer than we should have. In her later years her back legs went, probably from all our baseball together, and she really seemed to be in pain. She was falling apart and we knew it.

In my high school years we became distant.

It wasn’t because I didn’t like her anymore, but because I was going through some really hard times.

When she was put down, I didn’t cry.

Thinking about it now, I realize how damaged I was.

I lost my best friend and couldn’t feel anything.

Well, much has changed. I can’t tell you how hard this was to write. She truly was, a man’s best friend and I miss her. I miss how she kept me happy during my childhood.

A part of me believes that I should have been born back in the era of the cowboys.

Things were much simpler back then. Jump on your horse and go. Didn’t matter where, you could just go and go for miles. If you needed to get away, there was always a frontier waiting to be discovered. But most importantly, you could be at peace.

Today, we live in such a hectic world.

Everything is performance based, $ based, looks based, and it’s really easy to lose track of yourself. If you do, it’s easy to lose it forever. That definitely happened to me. I feel like I am just starting to discover myself again.

I lost myself, and honestly, I probably lost it since I was about 13.

High school was okay for me like I said in the past, but by no means was it great. I had a hard time making a core group of friends and fitting in. Add on the rough times I was going through and people not really getting a chance to understand me because I was so cut off and you get a pretty bad situation.

I did make some great friends in high school, but I was trampled by a few that I thought I could depend on. During that time, I was a doormat for a while at least. The problem with becoming tired of being a doormat is that you eventually snap and become the polar opposite and you end up getting really mad. There’s no middle ground. You get angry. Really angry. And honestly, if I had to do it all over again, I would have stayed a doormat because of all the damage it caused.

Anger within you is like a ticking time bomb.

If you let it tick for too long…boom.

I made some terrible decisions clouded by personal issues and pain. I hurt people that were close to me, I put myself in places where I had no business going, and in the end I ended up hurting myself.

You know how people always say that there will be one event that will change your life?

Yeah, now I know what they are talking about.

What happened has no business being written here. It’s too personal.

But I can tell you what I learned. Amongst hundreds of other things, patience.

Let me tell you, there’s no better time to rebuild a city then right after its been leveled to the ground. Here’s why. When that happens, you can pick which buildings you want to rebuild (compassion, determination, love) and which ones you are going to leave crumbled (anxiety, anger, grudges).

There were times where I felt like giving up. And by giving up, I mean giving up completely. Quit school, quit working out, quit on myself. This is when my heart knew what I stood for…never quitting.

I couldn’t put it into words at the time, but there it was, right at the core of me. So, despite everything, I stood back up.

It wasn’t at all easy.

Every day was a struggle.

There was anxiety, ups and downs, and every emotion in between. But I learned one thing about myself: I have a surplus of resilience in me. Sometimes it comes out in stubbornness, which drives my mom crazy (love you), but most of the time it’s a positive thing.

No matter what happens in your life, you always have a choice. 

Never think that you don’t. You can decide to be angry and hate filled, or you can forgive, and not just the other person, but yourself.

It’s not easy to forgive other people for bad things that have happened. Trust me I know. But, its even harder to look in the mirror and forgive yourself for what you’ve done in the past.

Remember, in life we always have choices. The choices that we make, although sometimes being blind to the consequences, are 100% within our control. Too often we make the choice that will give us immediate satisfaction, rather than long-term peace of mind. The moment you can begin thinking about things from all different angles is a very valuable moment.

I’ll be honest with you, I lost sight of what I believe in throughout the years, but in those hard times, I found it again. Without my beliefs, well, I couldn’t tell you where I would be.

Where am I going with all this?

Be patient. Be patient with yourself.

If you’re not where you want to be, then put in the work to get there. But you have to remember to give yourself a chance.

We live in a day and age surrounded by people offering you quick fixes to your problems, your pain, your weight and everything else. But all good things are worth the blood, sweat, and tears. If you want to achieve something, then you have to be ready to accept all that comes with that goal. You have to be a really patient person.

No shortcuts. No cheating.

But most importantly, you have to be patient with yourself.

There will always be times where you are trashed, let down, heartbroken, or punished for things that may or may not have been deserved. These cards are simply dealt to us and we rarely have any say. But like any poker game, you have the chance to fold or keep playing in life.

And for me, playing is always better than quitting.

Evan Sanders
The Better Man Project