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You are who you hang with

OPINION

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August 13, 2013|By Hector Luis Alamo Jr., @hectorluisalamo | For RedEye

Life in your late 20s is all about change. You're likely finishing school, moving into a new place, getting a new job, falling in love, picking up a new hobby or getting married and having kids. Basically, the other side of 25 sees you becoming more of an adult—practically a grown-up.

But for everything that changes, there are some things that never do.

One of those things is friendship. Even though your 20s are about meeting people and losing touch with others, you probably still talk to and occasionally hang out with people you've known since high school or even elementary school. Maybe you grew up on the same street and your parents remain friends. For whatever reason, while you may not be as close as you once were, whenever there's a party or celebration, the old gang is reunited and it's just like old times.

That's how it is with my crew, a mixture of family and friends I've been raising hell with since third grade. We're not all friends equally, of course. Some of us are much better friends than others, which is natural in a group of 10-plus guys. My little brother—who's only a year younger than me and looks like my Hulk version—is part of the crew, as is my cop cousin who now lives in Kansas City. One crew member moved to Cali, and another to Mexico City. I was close friends with one in the group for a good three or four years until things fell apart. Now the friendship is icy, though we get along fine whenever the crew meets up.

Another person in the crew is my best friend. He was my partner in crime back in high school. We did everything together, to the point where people talked about us as if we were one person. We were like K-Ci and JoJo (remember them?). Then life happened, just as it happens to everybody. We went to different universities, started moving in different circles, and we eventually built separate lives. An entire year would pass before we said a word to each other. And yet, whenever we get together now, like we did for his housewarming a couple weeks ago, it's like nothing's changed except our surroundings.

People like to tell you that you can't pick your family but you can choose your friends. I find that impossible. Friendships—the real, lasting ones—happen almost organically. Some of my friendships I wouldn't have chosen for myself beforehand. I seem to have little in common with most of my friends. Some of my friends are good for me, while others are bad. But there's no denying that these people—the friends I've had for so long, who keep coming back into my life over and over again—aren't going anywhere.

There's a saying in Latino culture: "Tell me who you walk with and I'll tell you who you are." That's what the friends in my crew represent. They're parts of who I am, even if on the face of it, they don't seem to be anything like me. To deny my friendship with them is to deny who I am and where I come from.

At a time when so much is changing, it's good to have friends who remind you of the things that remain the same.

Hector Luis Alamo Jr. is a RedEye special contributor.

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