Four Years Later
Yesterday, my mom, dad, sisters, grandparents, uncle, aunt, and cousins all convened in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The fact that we pulled off getting everyone, with their jobs and school schedules and general lives, in one place for a week was such a big deal we decided we might as well commemorate it by getting some family photos taken. And I happened to know a photographer.
Meegan Dobson was one of three girls with whom I shared a room in a tiny, borderline-dilapidated bunkhouse in Colorado the summer after I graduated college. She had the bottom bunk on the right. I had the top bunk on the left. She watched me smash my head into the ceiling more than a few times in the first couple weeks we lived together. By the end of the summer, she had also seen me cry kind of a lot.
We were the same age, which made us among the oldest on summer staff by what was really only a few years but felt like a lot more most of the time. By default, we also shared a tendency to be among the first to bed and that particular panic that comes from being a recent college graduate and realizing that there are no more classes to sign up for and you have to be an adult now and you don’t know how. Meegan and I spent a lot of hours that summer propped on our elbows in our respective bunks before we went to sleep, talking and laughing at our own jokes and taking turns assuring each other that we would be okay.
Today, four years later, Meegan rolled up to our rental house in Steamboat and hopped out of her muddy little Subaru and gave me a big hug and other than our excited screeching it almost felt like it hadn’t been that long since I’d seen her. It helps that we’ve kept up, of course. Texts and social media and the occasional phone call. She’s a photographer now for a high-end guest ranch. I work for myself as a writer and marketing consultant. We’ve both done our fair share of moving around, but we’re, like, stable young adults who pay our bills and love Jesus and have built lives so suited for ourselves.
We drove back into town for coffee and pancakes and wandered around town a bit. As we caught up on life now and how much different it’s been than what we thought but how much better than okay it’s turned out, one of us brought up those hundreds of bunkhouse conversations. We laughed hard, but we also felt this swell of empathy for our past selves. At one point, Meegan shook her head and said, “Don’t you just wish you could go back and tell us, ‘You are going to be okay! It’s not going to go how you think, but you’re going to be so much better than okay!’”
And I do wish that sometimes. I wish I could reach back and get 21-year-old-me’s face in my hands and look her in the eyes and tell her:
You are going to be okay.
Your plans are not that great or important, and holding onto them or trying to force them is exhausting. You can let go.
God is good — really, and truly, and perfectly, and personally — and his plan is better — really, and truly, and perfectly, and personally.
You’ll get to do the work you hope to do; but the time it takes to get there will be full of experiences and relationships and lessons that you need to do it. It isn’t a waste.
Community is a gift, not a weakness. Lean on your people.
You’re not behind schedule.
You’re cooler than you think.
You’re not as cool as you think.
There are so many people you’ve haven’t met and things you haven’t done and places you haven’t been that are about to be a part of your life — and you won’t be able to imagine it otherwise. The best is before, not behind.
The acne is just because you’re eating the ranch’s diet of sugar and fried stuff all summer and also because you’re stressed and it will go away and your face won’t look like that forever and I know this one isn’t as important but it felt important to me then and I would have liked to know.
The more we talked about it, Meegan and I realized that chances are, this is probably the same stuff we’ll want to reach back and tell ourselves now, in another four years. It’s easier to believe, the older I get and the more I see it proved true; but it’s funny how often I forget. That’s why I wrote this, I guess — to try and take my own future advice.
Four years later, Meegan and I are okay. And I bet we will be in another four years, too. (And hopefully, still meeting for breakfast in Colorado.)