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For All of the Graduates: When Growing Up Is a Bittersweet Journey

Originally published Thursday, 21 May 2015.



“Now as we say goodbye, I’m so afraid to cry.  Tears falling from my eyes.  You know I love you.  Maybe someday.  Maybe someday, we’ll meet again.”

We couldn’t get the words out without pausing for tears as we practiced in the choir room.  We sobbed.  It was real.  I stood and sang those words between friends, girls that had shared a big part of my life since elementary school, now grown into women.  We had picked out the song for our graduation and had suggested it to our choir director, but the reality was sinking in and we could barely say the words without passing the box of kleenex.  Our choir director, a first year teacher our Senior year, stopped and said, “Girls, let’s try this again.”  Same thing.  Words.  Sobs.  Kleenex.  Repeat.  In retrospect, I am not quite sure why we were crying.  We had no idea…not yet, anyway.

We had no way of knowing the different directions we would travel as real life began.  We absolutely couldn’t have known the stories God was writing for each of us.  Perhaps the words give me a bigger lump in my throat today than they did that May afternoon.

“I wish we could find a way to make this last one more day.  There’s so much left to say.  I’ll always love you.  Maybe someday.  Maybe someday, we’ll meet again.”


We cried tears because the reality was that we were headed different directions and we were sure that time and space would change our relationships from the strong friendships they’d always been.  We had no idea.  Sure, we kind of grasped it.  We would go to college…separate ways…less time together.  Stuff would change.

What I didn’t know was that those women would come back for my wedding, one of them as a part of my bridal party.  She would battle rush hour traffic to arrive at the rehearsal as soon as possible, a few minutes late.  She would stand at the back of the church sanctuary, as the slideshow of pictures and a flood of memories played a practice run.  She would cry big crocodile tears because alas, friends had come and gone but she was the one I had met in those first days of preschool.  She was the one who shared the book cubby for quiet reading time in the first grade.  She was the one who had held my seven-year-old hand the first day at my new ballet school and would walk me into the room.  She was the one who would introduce me to the musical Cats in the attic of her house when we missed school together to rest after late-night dress rehearsals of the Nutcracker.  She was the one who rescheduled her family vacation to see my tiny role that summer before middle school in the community theater production.  She was the one who told me once, when I was feeling especially homely, “Please.  You have more natural beauty than anyone I know.”  {She was being a true encourager here.  The middles school years really were a bit awkward for me.  Thank you, Lord for the invention of the hair straightener.  Oh…the struggle was real.} She was the loyal friend who placed fresh flowers on my windshield the opening night of my high school musical.  She tricked me into riding the roller coaster on the Senior trip and then held my hand.  Of course, I only know this from seeing the standard roller coaster picture taken atop the “thrilling” top peak…or whatever?  The one where you’re hopefully raising your hands and smiling bravely?!  Yep. I had closed eyes and white knuckles…but the picture showed her hand on mine, comforting me like she had the day I entered her ballet company so many years before.  She was the one who gave me the figurines titled, “Two of a Kind,” and signed the card, “We really are two of a kind.”  It wasn’t always that simple or sunny.  We stood by one another through the biggest rainstorms of the teen years.  And sometimes teen girls know a few things about life, after all.  Rose-colored glasses aren’t always the only way to survive the hard lessons of adolescence.  Life gets real…and the blissful innocence can’t always last forever. Such is life.

“Promise me things will stay, just as they are today.  Love will not fade away.  Please won’t you tell me?  Maybe someday.   Maybe someday.  We’ll meet again.”


Things do not stay as they are when you are truly living out God’s purpose for your life.  Moving, growing, thriving, and blossoming into the person that God created you to be…it is something to be truly thankful for.  It is a beautiful process of living an abundant life!  We become more and more of this person we were meant to be…and sometimes this moves us into different stages of life, different parts of the world, and leads us to become strong in ways we could have never imagined before adulthood.  Most days, we recognize this as one of the truly glorious parts of growing up.  At thirty, we look a whole lot more like ourselves than we could have dared to be at seventeen.  What we didn’t know that day in the high school choir room?  We thought life and friendships would change because of time and space apart.  We never imagined the changes that would happen within our very hearts.

This friend and I?  We really are two of a kind.  We’re both passionate about the world we live in.  We both cry out for mercy and justice for all people.  We are both fueled by a wild compassion for others.  We both love big and find joy in the little.  We’re out to change the world…if only we could.  I am quite certain that our opinions and voting ballots, both fueled by big love and compassion for others, are drastically diverse.   Our ideas of the world have been shaped by differing and beautiful life experiences…and isn’t that the beauty of living out our own stories, ordained by our Creator?  Don’t we all bring something different to the table that, as they say, “makes the world go ’round?”  Yet we share an unshakable bond that time and space will never change.  We are both children of God, desperately striving to live out “Do Unto Others,” in our own ways.  This is what they call, “growing up,” and “the real world.”  

“For you, you’re a part of me. With you, I can be strong.  And you, you believe in me.  With you, I’ll carry on.  Maybe someday.  Maybe someday.  We’ll meet again.”


So, in this “real world,” these “grown-ups,” are living our lives that rarely cross paths these days.  Yet time cannot change the impact that one made in another’s life.  For the friend that once labeled the other, “a natural beauty” in the midst of awkward, string-bean, fuzzy-haired, pre-straightener, pre-tweezer, pre-eyeliner days, has planted a seed of confidence and resilience within the other friend’s heart that she will forever carry with her in the “grown-up” journey.  The friend that once held the hand of the scared ballerina taught a life-lesson in compassion and hospitality.  The friend that left the flowers on the car on opening-night planted a seed of loyalty and instilled a crazy-love for random acts of kindness.  People may be far from us, but the imprints they leave on our lives is always close to our hearts.

It’s graduation week in these parts.  My husband, a high school choir director, came home from work today and told me the chamber choir had been practicing the graduation song.  “Maybe Someday” was rehearsed.  There were tears.  He couldn’t imagine why.  Why today?  After so much practice of the same song…why would they cry today?  He didn’t have the answer, but I knew.  

You see, parents and friends of high schoolers, the reality is setting in…and they may just have a small understanding of what it really means to close a chapter of life to begin a new journey.  They don’t grasp it all just yet, but they can sense the foreshadowing of adulthood and the inevitable change that accompanies “growing up.”  With understandable reason, high school graduation is both exhilarating and scary.  Those teens with perfect hair and the coolest technology?  A part of them must know that it’s about to get real.  If your family has a graduate, may I make a suggestion?  Handle with care.  Go ahead and deliver that card that obnoxiously reads, “ConGRADulations,” {Why…just why did someone think THAT was a good idea?!  There’s a whole crew of people that now truly think this is the proper spelling.  Sigh.} As you attend graduation parties and hand out cards with punny spellings, please hand out a bit of compassion, as well.  Be an encourager to these fragile little graduates.  The biggest chapter that they’ve known in their short lives is coming to a close.  Let us not forget how influential these school years and these school friends have become in their day to day.  Underneath all of that excitement and the shiny cap and gown, there just might be a smidgen of the fear of the unknown…an uncertainty about the “real world.”  May our kindness be a comfort and may our words be full of encouragement.  May the seeds of compassion once planted by the goodness of a friend, whose love reflected God’s love, shine with the fruit of His grace.  This growing up?  It is a journey to embrace.  May our lives shine as examples of God’s handiwork in “the real world.”

From my “grown-up” heart to yours,    ~Courtney