Over the past four years, I wished for this day more than any college student I know. Graduation. The official mark of leaving an institute of higher education behind and starting real life. As my sisters, my dad, and I were walking around campus on Friday, I started to tell them stories of the memories I have at each building, each plaza, the honors dorm building as we passed them. We did a lot of walking! Haha! One memory that came back vividly was the day my family dropped me off at the honors residence hall, Eastern Shore, with my roommate (and now Maid of Honor) Tessa. I had such a fun summer the few months following my high school graduation, and I did NOT want it to end. It was the first time Justin had gone to Elkhart, Indiana with me to meet my family and experience the 4-H Fair I grew up going to and participating in (#swineclub). And as he sat with me in my barely furnished dorm room on my laptop that had just been connected to campus wifi, the first thing he loaded was our favorite song from that past summer. I remember fighting back tears as “Take A Back Road” by Rodney Atkins filled the air of my tiny dorm room because I wished that Justin didn’t have to leave. I wished that I wasn’t trapped here on this campus. I wanted more than anything to be flying down a back road next to him, windows down and wind in my hair with no responsibility and no deadline to go back to work or school. I just wanted to have a life with him. And now I had to wait four years for that to happen.
At the start of it, four years felt literally impossible to wait. And it WAS a long time. When I think about that day that I moved into my dorm room and said goodbye to my dad and sisters, it feels like a lifetime ago. At the same time though, there were only a few times that it felt like it was going by painstakingly slow. One of those times was that first month in my dorm room. I just wanted to be home. I was actually pretty miserable in that dorm room of mine. Not that I didn’t have good times… I have some amazing memories with my suite and floor mates from that first semester. But my heart was so focused on the future that it was hard to enjoy the present. I would never recommend that someone starts dating 5+ years before they know they can get married. I didn’t realize when we started going out that it would actually be this long. I had no way of knowing! But I wish we had been a little more intentional about stating our future plans and what was realistic for the two of us. I’m so glad we dated “long distance” in college, but there are so many ways that it made my transition – or lack thereof – so much harder.
If I could write a letter to 18-year-old Megan, the one who had just met Taylor Swift, loved browsing tumblr for hours at a time, and wanted nothing more than for the future to get there faster… I would say this:
You know how you keep reminding yourself that “you’re gonna miss this” and you should enjoy it while it’s here? Yes, that’s true… but make this college experience one you WANT to enjoy. You’re not going to miss sitting in your room on your laptop or driving home every weekend. What you will miss are the memories you make with the friends next door to you. The home basketball games won by buzzer beater three pointers. The concerts you will walk to from your dorm room. The times you decide to go get ice cream with your roommate at 11:30 at night. It feels impossible to believe that you are going to miss feeling trapped in this dorm room in the middle of an experience you don’t really want to experience. But make the most of it. You don’t have to LOVE college… but maybe if you just try to like it, you’ll end up falling in love with something you never expected to want. So pick up your laptop and go sit on the quad instead. Schedule some lunch dates with your Bible study girls. Go walk down the hall and visit that friend you haven’t seen in a few days just to say hi. There will never be a time in your life again that someone is so close and so available to just talk with you. Stay up to date on campus activities and go to some of them, but plan your OWN outings with your friends. Show them your favorite parts of D.C. Don’t schedule any photo shoots on a Saturday morning so that you can go out on Friday nights. Keep building your business and don’t be scared to invest. Don’t wait two more years to buy that Mark III and 50mm 1.2L lens. You’ll only wish you had done it sooner. Keep traveling and don’t give a second thought to people who think negatively of it. And most importantly, love people beyond what you ever thought you would love them. Surprise them. Shower them with gifts. Bake them cookies. Bring soup to that person down the hall who’s sick. Strive for that one act of kindness a day that you’ve been told makes life fulfilling and worthwhile. Don’t ever underestimate the power of giving– of your time, your money, your energy, or your listening ear… especially in the second hour of that marketing lecture. And lastly, know that this is going to come to an end so much sooner than you believe it will. Take it from someone who’s been there… and someone you know you can trust :) Love harder every day and pray often. Your time will come.
Older & Wiser Megan
P.S. – I would give anything to spend one more night in this dorm room.
Four years later… and you made it out alive :) And you’re ENGAGED! Look at that. You got all you ever wanted and it all worked out fine. SO not worth all the worrying… because here you are.