One of the biggest blessings of my life is the connection I’ve shared with my family and close friends. However, there was a flip side: my anxious childhood self was rarely brave enough to try new things on my own. I wouldn’t have signed up for sleepaway camp without Maddie, wouldn’t have played lacrosse if Kelly and Bekah hadn’t agreed to play with me, and wouldn’t have braved the trip to South Korea if three of my friends weren’t also going.

Towards the end of high school, I beat myself up for this, wondering if all my decisions were just a function of needing comfortable people around me. I broke that mold in college when I chose to attend Calvin. It was the first time I’d really stepped out on my own. And by stepped, I mean jumped off a proverbial cliff with a tiny, non-functional parachute (or at least that’s how it felt).

Orientation was a backpacking trip in Canada, which sounded fun up until I arrived. Faced with the reality of ten days in the woods with strangers, I wanted to run for the hills (and I hate running). We all sat on the indoor track, nervously side-eyeing one another as we unpacked and re-packed our giant backpacks.

Thankfully, that initially uncomfortable trip gifted me one of my best friends, and my time at Calvin gave me many more—plus, work and degrees I was proud of.

Once we all graduated, it was a bit of a shock to my system. For once, there wasn’t a shared goal between my friends and I. All of a sudden, everyone was going off to grad school, starting new jobs, moving into new homes. And I felt frozen.

It took a full year of living at home to gather the courage to move to Nashville. I didn’t have a plan, I just knew I needed to start over again, by myself. Sans job, I found an apartment, packed up my belongings in my parents’ big red van and showed up in Tennessee. It took a month or two (or five), but I found my people here too. It hasn’t been an easy four years, but it has been rewarding.

As per usual, Taylor Swift puts my rambling thoughts into eloquent words in one of her songs, “You’re on Your Own, Kid.” People will disappoint you, and you might disappoint you, too. But even still, “everything you lose is a step you take.”

The only person that can truly make changes in my life is me. My friends can offer advice and encouragement—and there are days where I truly would feel lost without it—but I’m the only one who can follow through. No one else can carry me to the finish line.

Of course, the Christian perspective suggests I’m never truly on my own, and that is always a comfort to my soul. But it is helpful for me to remember that while my friends and family are always there to lift me up, I can’t sit idly by and expect change. And that’s also not what God is calling me to do.

I can make friendship bracelets and linger at sunsets and taste the moments with the people I’ve been blessed to share them with. I can take more risks, knowing that historically I survived, and remembering the ways God showed up for me in those moments, often through the people I’d been leaning on. But even with all that support, I’m on my own to show up and try again each day, as terrifying and exciting as that may be.

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