How do you even begin to process the end of a season of life that has meant so much to you? A season of life that has so shaped you. Molded you. Challenged you. How do you just up and move on from something like that?
How do you step into a completely new environment, surrounded by random people who have no idea how awesome of a place you just left? People who have no idea what the past four years have meant to you. Everything you’ve been through and experienced. All of the unforgettably awesome memories and stories. Challenges and triumphs. Laughter and tears.
How? Seriously—I mean it. Just how?
That was the question I found myself wrestling today—four years ago.
May 18th, 2012. The night of my high school graduation. Four awesome years were over. Gone forever. Now it was time to head 60 miles east. Time to head to Georgia.
I was excited, but equally scared. I was about to abandon all that I had built in high school. I would have to start from scratch. Make new friends, find new ways to become involved, learn to live in a new city away from home, and so many other things. (Like how to iron and do laundry. Man, that was tough.) How could I just up and leave a season of life that was so instrumental in building the foundation of who I am?
I’m not gonna be that guy and pretend I didn’t shed some tears when I left home. I did. Leaving home was hard. I left three letters behind. One for my dad, one for my mom, and one for my brother, basically telling them how much I loved and appreciated them and how much they had impacted my 18 years of life. Shortly thereafter, I left.
I was off to UGA.
It was tough. Freshman year was by far my least favorite year in college. For the first two months, I was in ‘survival’ mode: “Let’s just get through the year and go home for the summer.”
I would often count down the days until I could go home for the weekend. I remember feeling a little down on Friday nights during that first semester in the Fall of 2012. I hadn’t made too many friends yet, and I’d think about the football game going on at my high school, wishing I was back playing in it.
I wasn’t throwing myself into college. I was slowly tip toeing my way into it. It was a huge mistake. I often felt disconnected and lonely, despite the fact that I was starting to get out there and meet new people.
It got better as the year went on. I made friends, got involved with some cool things, and was doing well in school. I began to have a few of those “Dang! This is college! I’m at UGA! This is really awesome!” moments. But it was still hard at times. I still wasn’t 100% all in, but I was making progress.
Then it happened.
Nearly midway through my sophomore year, something changed. I can’t explain it other than I felt like Athens just came alive. UGA started to feel alive. I felt alive. I started to love—and I mean love—college. I felt like a super car firing on all cylinders. Living out my faith, my strengths, my passions. I didn’t want to go home. Why would anyone want to leave this place? This season of life. It’s too great!
Part of it, I’m sure, was simply the result of time. I had been there long enough to establish myself and become invested socially, emotionally, etc. What bothered me was the fact that it took almost a year and a half to really start clicking. But I was glad it finally was.
It only got better and better as time went on. I got to do things and be a part of stuff I never would have guessed. Things that could only have happened if I had been right here at The University of Georgia. I’m sure you have too. Just read a few of my blog posts, and you’ll quickly see why I love Georgia. I know you probably do as well.
So, here we stand. On the verge of a cliff, looking out into the next great unknown. A new era life. Once again, I find myself asking the question: How do you even begin to process the end of a season of life that has meant so much to you?
Yet, it’s funny. This place I’m so sad to soon leave, because of how much it has meant to me, has actually given me the answer. The place that once scared me, because it was unfamiliar and intimidating, has become one of the greatest sources of comfort as I consider this question.
The answer? It’s simple. Not always easy, but extremely simple.
Throw yourself into it. Then take the next step.
How did I (eventually) move on from high school? And how did it end up turning out so well? I took a step. I didn’t have my entire college career figured out in the first day, week, or even year. It unfolded as I kept taking another step. I went to class on the first day. Then class on the second day (‘cause I’m driven like that.) One step at a time.
Oh I planned, to be sure. I’m one of the biggest planners you’ll ever meet. I’m that guy who plans out his social activities a week in advance. ‘Cause you know, we college kids are just soooo busy it’s nearly impossible to be spontaneous. I planned out a lot the summer before I went to college, and have been planning ever since.
But there was still an element of unknown. I could plan all I want, but the truth was I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I could do was be in the now. Take the next step. Eventually, I began to throw myself into it.
The other day, I was sipping coffee with a good friend who reminded me of a simple truth, that quite frankly I had lost sight of in the recent years: We came here to leave. Just like leaving home for the first time to come to UGA, hearing that sometimes makes me wanna cry.
But it’s true. Athens was never the final destination. Just one season of the journey.
So let’s journey on, marching courageously into the next season of life.
Maybe you’re going to grad school. Awesome. Throw yourself into it. Then take the next step.
Maybe you’re about to get married (or just got married), and are beginning the amazing journey of starting a family. Throw yourself into it. Then take the next step.
Maybe you’re moving across the country to start a career. Throw yourself into it. Then take the next step.
Maybe you’re like me… sitting here exactly 4 years to-the-day after after your high school graduation, writing sappy blog posts about being sappy. Embrace the unknown. Throw yourself into it. Then take the next step.
Life is about to change, in some major way, for all of us. In just a few days, I’ll be heading to New York City for the next two months, will be in Athens for a few more months at UGA after the summer is over, and who knows after that? I’m gonna throw myself into it. Then I’ll take the next step.
One my favorite songs is Where I Belong by Switchfoot. It is truly an amazing song, and speaks to times like this. Times that are uncertain and scary, even times when we face death. The bridge is especially powerful.
// This body’s not my own
This world is not my home
But I can still hear the sound of my heart beating out
So let’s go boys, play loud! //
As long as we have breath in our lungs and a beating heart, the gospel calls us to step out amidst the fear and the unknown, walking humbly with our God, wherever He calls us.
The future is often scary, but looking back on these past four years, I’d say from first-hand experience that it’s even more exciting. A thrilling journey into new waters, entrusting our unknown futures to our known God, and through whom we are ourselves are fully known.
So until our hearts stop beating, let’s journey on. The future is uncertain, but our identity is secure. The crown we race towards in this life is an imperishable crown that will last forever.
Let’s journey on and sing loud.
Side Note: My blogging frequency will be sparse this summer, as I’m currently in the middle of co-writing a book with my friend Nick Salyers. We hope to have it available this Fall!