In the fall of 1998…

…I was living in Minnesota with my parents, after they yanked me from campus due to a less-than-stellar freshman year of college/cross country/track at Nebraska Wesleyan, and working “this is why you need to do well in school” type jobs, first at a butter factory (a story for another time) then in the office of a meat packing plant.

It was slowly becoming the longest summer and first semester of my life, a kind of misery only a fairly spoiled single child could understand.

When the NWU cross country team qualified for DIII Nationals in Pennsylvania, I was invited–as a way of giving me a break from what I was convinced was a prison-like existence–to ride in a van with a couple of upperclassmen and freshman who hadn’t made the team, but were going to serve as a cheering squad.

My dad drove me down to meet them in Des Moines. And he snapped this picture before we took off:

IMG_3244

I’d just met the guy in the middle moments before. I thought he was cute, but I also thought he was dating the girl in the blue sweatshirt.

The girl in the blue sweatshirt would, upon my return to Wesleyan and running in the spring of 1999, be my best friend for the next four years and eventually serve as my maid-of-honor…when I married the guy in the middle.

It’s interesting to have that “the entire trajectory of my life was different after this” moment captured.

It’s interesting to remember how ticked I was about my situation at the time, how much I wanted to be running in that race, not riding in a van to go watch.

It’s interesting to think how, yes, I still would have known Brad, but under slightly altered circumstances (after all, it’s hard to recreate the type of bonding you experience when stuck together in a smelly van for 60 hours).

It’s interesting to think how close we came to being teammates, maybe friends, but not “us.”

It’s interesting to think how it all could have been different.

But it wasn’t. It wasn’t supposed to be.

I’d been looking all over for this photo, not because it’s particularly good of either of us (at least Brad isn’t wearing his No Fear beret, thank the Lord–that MAY have altered things), but because it’s a real-world reminder that we rarely know what’s best for us.

That months, even years, of yuck often precede a lot of great stuff.

That “everything happens for a reason” is real.

And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can pinpoint the exact moment your world changed for the better…

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