While I watched Hammons Tower shrink in my rear-view window, my eyes brewed tears through my day-old mascara left over from my commencement ceremony. It took a few hours to pack up the past four years, but while I was scrubbing our grimy stove top, nostalgia hit me and the bittersweet memories left a pungent aftertaste.
In high school when my friends asked where I was going to college, and I said “Missouri State,” they gave me the most dazed look. Somehow, stopping a field hockey ball from going into a steel net earned me some money to get here. I felt like I blindly stuck a push-pin into a United States map and said, “Okay, this is where I will spend the next four years!” But somehow, this hasty move proved to be only an inch on the unending rope of God’s plan for me (I am stealing Francis Chan’s metaphor).
Missouri State, or as the local Ozarkians say “Missourah State,” nestled into a sacred place in my heart. It was here where I first held a 400mm f/2.8 lens, then cringed at people’s comments: “That lens is bigger than you are, little girl!” or “Can you see the moon with that?” I shot hundreds of games while goofing off on the sidelines with my friends, devoured cold, congealed Imo’s cheese pizza in JQH’s media workroom, and flew off the hardwood after a Creighton basketball player plowed into me. My camera wears the marks of all of these experiences, whether it be scuffs, scratches, sweat, rain, baseball field dirt, Life in Color paint, PBR filth, Color Me Rad powder and a hint of Wiz Khalifa concert marijuana stench. I met and photographed some incredible people and was hired at unforgettable internships. And this is only a start in photojournalism.
But the most gut-wrenching part of driving five states east along interstate 70 is staring at the useless junk piled up in my car every few seconds when I look out the back window. All the work experiences now typed on my résumé, the magna cum laude and the many shared awards with The Standard staff can’t rival the friendships that have carried me along the way. Of all the things I am bringing home with me, I wish it were my two best friends: Karly Buer and Jess Roberts.
I first introduced myself to Karly at Campus Crusade my sophomore year, although I was incredibly intimidated by her bulging traps and biceps. I told her I had a ton of photos of her (from basketball, of course), and then I caught myself sounding creepy. “Dang, that was weird. I hope she will still want to be friends with me!” I thought. Nevertheless, my life has never been the same since that awkward beginning.
The same goes for Jess when I was profoundly shaken by her testimony one night after FCA. With my jaw dropped by her mature wisdom and powerful faith, I sheepishly asked her if we could hang out sometime. This is the exact friend I want to surround myself with, and the type of person I aim to be.
Even though I mustered up the courage to approach them, it was God’s precise timing that placed them into my life when I needed them the most. My only goal with school was to be 40-something down the road and say to my future kids, “This is my friend from college!” I so deeply wanted a friendship that could withstand any increment of time that I repetitively prayed for it for three years. Though I try to avoid confrontational conversation especially with messy personal details, at the same time I deeply wanted someone to invest in me spiritually and keep me accountable. And for me to have to opportunity reciprocate that same love.
God has answered my prayer. They have rejoiced in my successes, offered their shoulder to cry on during my struggles and listened as my sounding board through several life-altering decisions. I was just a baby in my faith as they held my clammy hand, stretching over every seemingly difficult step.
And this sort of relationship is the only thing on Earth that I can keep forever and take to Heaven. Not a diploma or résumé or any other scrap of paper.
But the wild ride isn’t over. I will be married in three weeks, moving to Michigan and starting my photojournalism career. I won’t be back in the fall, but I know my friendships will never end. They hold too much weight for me not to call or visit them wherever we all may end up.
Thank you Karly and Jess for being my sisters. Goodbye Missouri. Thank you for shaping me into a professional and giving me an unforgettable start to my adult life. God is so good.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”