The dictionary defines the word crew as “a group of people who work closely together”. My definition really isn’t that far off. I’ve always used it for the people that are important to me. Those people that you invite for the good times, and reach out to in the bad. Those people that will take your phone call no matter what they’re doing. Those people that you have a history with, worth telling. That’s my definition of “crew”.
We all need these people. It starts at the very beginning. Before school your crew is made up of your family and maybe some neighbors. Those conversations aren’t deep, but they’re just as important. See, as humans we are designed for relationships. We are designed to love. We are designed to care. We are designed to be a part of a crew.
As we grow up these crews change. Friends come and go, though some may remain. As a kid in Iowa, I always felt like I had a tight crew. These were the people I grew up with. They were the ones I got in trouble with. Typically my crew came from sports and music. It makes sense. We are typically drawn to those that have similar interests and similar traits. It makes us feel comfortable. It makes us feel safe.
I feel fortunate to have never been lacking in this department. I wasn’t the most popular kid, but I had a number of friends and my family. I also considered myself as a social butterfly in a way. As we approached graduation, I knew I was going out of state. I had the dream of being a rockstar and nothing was going to stop me. I remember being so excited to move to college. I remember being so comfortable in that move.
I can recall the day of moving in like it was yesterday. My family helped me get settled in and then they took off, back to Iowa. Within an hour, I was homesick. Most guys don’t talk about this, but for me I instantly missed my crew. I missed my family. My parents and sister were always supportive through all of my flaws. I knew that many of my friends would see each other somewhat frequently. I knew a number of them were only 45 minutes from home. It’s not like I couldn’t drive home, but the 4 and a half hour commute took more planning. I felt lost. I felt alone.
I remember the first semester of Millikin well. I didn’t enjoy it. I faked it, as many do, because I didn’t want to feel too “soft”. I didn’t want to feel like a burden. I didn’t meet as many people as lots of Freshmen do. I honestly didn’t really try. I stayed pretty much confined to my dorm. I quickly realized I might not be that social dude I always thought I was. That was defeating. I had a couple friends, but I didn’t feel any sort of connection to Millikin. Most of my crew was back home, together. I was a few hundred miles away. Alone.
The rest of my time at Millkin was much improved. I made a few decisions that impacted my life at Millikin in such a positive way. The first was becoming a resident assistant. This gig gave me purpose and helped me connect with more people naturally. In reality, it forced me to. I enjoyed getting to know the incoming Freshmen and work with other RAs. I met Christine during my second year of being an RA. That was obviously a HUGE blessing. That same year I joined my fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi. That was a freaking home run.
I never thought I would join a fraternity. I had this idea of what it would be like from TV shows and movies. It didn’t connect with me. Boy was I wrong. I joined a group of better men that pushed me to grow. They helped me in times of need. We had fun together. It felt like I was always supposed to meet them. That is a true crew. They are the people that it just feels natural with. I miss my brothers and all the fun times we had in West Apartments, but I still have them in my crew. YITBOS
Adulting is tough. College is that time that isn’t real life. It’s awesome and I learned a lot and met a ton of people, but it’s not reality. In life, things speed up to a warp speed. You end up starting a job, in most cases, and try to hold on. We lose track of our crew. It’s no one person’s fault. We all have lives. The thing is, if you don’t continue to work at those relationships, they will fall by the wayside. That’s what happened to many of mine. I blame myself.
During our time in Texas, I have had my low points. Luckily, I have always had the most supportive wife to deal with me. To help me. To love me. I have still had low points. I have wondered how it would’ve felt to stay near our college town. To still meet up with my fraternity brothers frequently. You see them doing it, and in my mind it meant it was happening all the time. That made me feel lost, again.
I dove into my work in Texas. I didn’t want to disappoint. Once I got the music class going, I didn’t ever want to lose the job, so I jumped in full force. I love my job, but the way I was obsessed with it impacted my relationships. I had and still have friends at work, but in reality it’s almost like they were 9 month commitments, only when school is in session. I met some great friends at the gym as well, but it seemed like my work impacted the amount of time I chose to devote to those relationships. The true reality is friendships in adult life are harder. You have to work for them.
The bigger problem I was dealing with was keeping all of my feelings and thoughts to myself. That’s where my attitude could be negatively impacted. That is where I would wonder why no one liked me. I would wonder why I couldn’t go on the trips others were going on. I wondered if I was ever on other friends minds. That can feel rather bleak.
In these uncertain times, we can feel even more alone. I have heard that depression and suicidal thoughts have risen something like 30% in these times. This goes back to the importance of your crew. You need people and you need relationships to help fulfill you. With social distancing and quarantine it’s been even harder to keep those already tough adult relationships.
As a man, I know that there is a stigma against talking about your feelings. Many people expect you to be the strong foundation. They expect you to be strong for yourself, your family, and others around you. That weight can feel heavy. It can feel unbearable. It can crush you. That is why we must normalize real conversations about how we feel. What we are thinking about. What we need. How others can help. How to find our crew.
There will be times in all of our lives that we feel lost or alone. There are times where we will need help or someone to talk to. Don’t despair though as there is hope. There is time to ensure you have the crew that is for you. I leave you with my acronym for crew. I hope in these uncertain times it can help you define yours as well.
C- Care– Your crew should care for you. That doesn’t mean that they are holding your hand at every turn, but it does mean that they care about you and your well being. They reach out to you frequently to just touch base. We use temperature checks in class as teachers to see how our students are feeling. This same tactic can be molded to your crew. Just call and say hi. See what’s new in their life. Show you care.
R-Respect– Respect is such a powerful word. It is not easily attained, but can be easily lost. Your crew should show you respect, but they should also be people YOU respect. These people should inspire you to be better. These people should respect your opinion, even when it is not theirs. They will respect your time and your emotions. They will respect you as being uniquely you.
E-Engage- This is the one that eludes me at times. It’s taking the actual time to engage each other. Setting aside time to reach out to you. Setting up plans to meet up and have a drink. A tight crew engages in all types of activities, TOGETHER. I would suggest first starting with scheduling time every week to engage with your crew. It can be a quick shout or a dinner at your house. It just matters that you engage them.
W- With- Christine helped me with this one and in my opinion it is perfect. Your crew should be with you. You should be with your crew as well. That means you are there for them in the good and the bad times. It means that you won’t disappear for a long stretch and only reconnect when it benefits one party. That is not a solid crew member. When I’m with you it means I’m ride or die with you. I’ll do anything for you and that is expected in return. That’s the true mark of your crew.
You are not alone. Find your crew.
If you, or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Line at