With my wheels rolling and a “Welcome to Virginia” sign in my rearview mirror, I realized I was leaving being known. The white house which knew my name, the church on the corner and the friends who grew from playing on the playground to dancing at prom were all a part of home that remained resting in my memories while my wheels kept rolling. Everything I had known would have a home in my heart, but it wasn’t the only place I would be resting my head anymore.
Thus began the journey of not being known, of finding a thousand unfamiliar faces, none of whom knew my name. This unknown brought foreign streets, new churches and not-yet friends. I felt like a tornado had spit me out on a yellow brick road. For the first time in my life, I had the power to make the me I wanted to be, the me that was free from a reputation, memory or even a name.
I had a choice to make, a choice I still have to make day after day. I can remain true to myself and embrace the me God has created me to be or I can smooth out the rough edges and hide behind a half-told story. With prompting and courage from God, I have tried to choose the latter. Only the Lord can give us the courage to introduce our true selves.
Some nights I have walked into my room exhausted from the pressure of trying to be someone everyone else might like. I’ve looked around a room full of girls and felt unworthy, less than enough. There are days when I have been weary of trying to be a friend. I have felt lost in trying to find my place, fearful that I won’t fit in here. I have filled every slot in my schedule, worried that one missed meeting will be a lost chance for community. What if I never build the kind of friendships here that I had hoped for?
Yet I have seen God answer my lonely, weary or fearful prayers. I’ve realized the beauty of the sacred moment when two souls finally meet with a brave hello. I’m learning the truth of C.S. Lewis’ wisdom on friendship, “A friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” May we become comfortable and rest, savor, in that reassurance. You are not the only one.
For me, friendship has come in the “you too?” moments of finding another’s brokenness. Every time I have joined a friend at the table or chosen an awkward conversation, I have found that the person whose eyes are staring back at me are afraid, lonely or hurt too. Sometimes it takes an unfamiliar face to recognize a familiar story—a story of love, loss, joy, and pain— that all of humanity shares. That connection can only be made through admitting your own imperfection. Relationship requires vulnerability.
Making a new friend is a humbling experience. Whether it is saying hi to a stranger or sharing dreams and fears with newfound friends, these last few weeks have taught me that I can’t fully live hidden behind a facade. I admit that I wish my first impression was more like my Instagram profile, strategically chosen and carefully filtered. I fight the desire to cling to a cleaned-up, polished reputation. But community is built in revealing the flaws. To live in this light of vulnerability takes a bravery I can’t find within myself, it requires humbling myself in submission to God’s better plan.
Here I have shared my fear and doubt because I know I am not alone. It’s easy to assume everyone else is finding community and joy effortlessly. Though it may seem the girl down the hall seems to be walking through transition with such grace, chances are she longs to feel loved and accepted too. Despite what their Instagram profiles may convey, we’re all human, we all understand how it feels to be hurting and lonely, just wanting to feel known. I hope that as you read my honest words, we can find strength to stand together in vulnerable imperfection. I pray that we find the courage say hello to someone we don’t know.
Lifelong friendships, the kind of “college friends” that last far beyond the four short years we share together, are not built overnight. Entering a community of imperfect people only multiplies the imperfection. But God hears our prays and he gives us this beautiful gift of common grace—friendship. So we hit our knees and ask God to grant us friends. We fight the desire to run when it gets uncomfortable. We learn that God’s presence is enough. We invite the girl who sits beside us in class to coffee and we smile at peers on the way to class. We find God’s strength to wait in patience and peace, even when the waiting hurts.
To the woman who is feeling lonely on a quiet night, to the woman who feels she isn’t as pretty as the woman sitting beside her, to the woman who fears she won’t find a true friend, to the woman who feels lost in the crowd of unknown faces, to the woman who fears missing out, and to the woman who feels inadequate, I hope you find comfort in two simple words, “me too.”