Coming off an amazing (albeit difficult) semester in France, I had a brief week or so home with family before heading off to my summer job at a summer-school, day-camp hybrid in the Midwest.
The day before training, I watched Garden State with a high school friend. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it soon. Without giving any spoilers, I’ll just say a great friendship develops, and Sam says:
“You’re in it right now, aren’t you? My mom always says that when she can see I’m working something out in my head. She’s like, ‘You’re in it right now.’ And I’m looking at you, and you’re telling me this story … you’re definitely in it right now.”
That was the friendship I needed. Somebody who could listen and see me. Somebody who knew that I was “in it right now.”
During training, I found myself surrounded by tons of other college students wanting to positively impact the lives of kids and the communities where we’d be working. These could be my people, especially after the minimal community I’d felt in France.
I took every opportunity to connect through conversations over meals and between sessions.
One evening after our closing session, I found myself in conversation with Louis. He was easy to talk to and listened as I complained about some of the past semester’s difficulties.
He reminded me that sometimes happiness is only realized after something, not during it.
We shared parts of our faith upbringing and some of the broken parts of our stories. As we talked about friends getting married, Louis encouraged me not to give up on relationships and not to settle for staying single.
Easier said than done, considering my experience in France … and that I wasn’t attracted to girls.
Without realizing how much time had past, we saw that it was now 4am. We looked at each other and decided we might as well stay up and enjoy the sunrise! The conversation had been good, so why not?
Training came to an end, and we went to our sites in different cities.
That summer meant lots of planning for daily lessons and activities and songs. I spent lots of time playing into crazy imaginations, listening as kiddos practiced their reading, and dancing to High School Musical. I joined the tiny church’s choir to get back into music.
Despite fun coworkers and kiddos, I found myself stagnant and confused spiritually. I hoped that this experience wouldn’t be like France — waiting until the end to enjoy it.
I knew I needed to be present — but what was God’s plan for me in Oklahoma? There weren’t as many intentional conversations or times of prayer as I had expected (or needed).
Amidst all of this, I sought quiet moments to try and connect with God, typically taking evening walks. I needed some Jesus-time to prepare me for the fall semester — being back with “my people.” Anxiety crept in as I thought about starting on the campus ministry leadership team.
Partway through the summer, Louis came to visit our city for a weekend because he’d worked the previous summer with two gals in my city. He asked to join me on one of my evening walks. We caught up on the summers, the crazy and cute stories of kids, and eventually stopped at a bench by a pond.
As we looked over the pond … Louis told me he was head-over-heels for me.
Probably noticing my shock, he backpedaled somewhat and said he didn’t want to change our friendship. Knew that I might need time to think about what he’d said. Honestly, I don’t remember my response.
It was probably terrible and something along the lines of, “I don’t know how to respond.”
How was I to respond to my friend’s declaration? After everything that had happened in France, I felt even more confused about relationships and sexuality.
My faith seemed in limbo, without much support from my summer community, so I didn’t know where to put Louis in my life and understanding of faith.
Somehow, we were able to salvage the awkwardness and enjoy the rest of the weekend. I briefly talked to him a few more times that summer. I finished camp — after pool parties and dances and end-of-summer celebrations — and had a few weeks until fall semester.
Was I ready for classes and campus ministry? What would it be like reconnecting with my friends that I hadn’t seen since December? How would I continue to process my faith and sexuality?
Has a friend, unsuspecting or otherwise, ever declared something beyond platonic love for you? How did you react?