I took this picture a little over ten years ago.
If you know me, you probably know I can be embarrassingly sentimental. I certainly know it about myself. So it’s no surprise to me that over the past few months, I’ve been thinking from time to time about this picture and what it represents.
It’s probably my favorite photograph I’ve ever taken. I know it’s not that amazing by photography standards (or even Instagram standards), but it’s brought me a lot of joy over the past ten years. The thing is, lately it makes me a little sad.
I shot it with my digital camera (phone cameras were still terrible in 2007) the morning after my high school graduation. I had stayed all night at school for Project Graduation (my school’s answer for making sure we didn’t go out and get into trouble). It was a good time—full of games, laughter, a weird hypnotist show (true story), and reminiscing. My friend Evan had been my non-senior guest, so I dropped him off at his house before heading home.
The road between our two childhood homes is a curvy, narrow thread of pavement that corkscrews through farms and hills and valleys, over Otter Creek, past the church where we spent so many hours. As I drove home, the dawn was peeking out over the rolling, green hills in rays of pink, purple, and pale yellow. Mist rose gently from the ground and the ponds and the creek. I caught the sunrise coming up over the hills that had surrounded my childhood; my home; my days of learning, playing, and growing up—these hills I loved in such a way that I imagined I could feel their dirt in my veins. And as I drove I breathed in the wonder, elation, and freedom of what my future could be.
I stepped out of the car and into my backyard. My family would be asleep for several more hours. I wanted to go inside and curl up on my own bed. But not before I admired this view and said a prayer for my future.
I had written this in my journal the day before graduation:
“Tomorrow I graduate from high school.
Tomorrow, one chapter of my life will end, and another will begin.
Tomorrow I will say goodbye to many friends, perhaps for the last time.
Tomorrow I will be one step closer to leaving all that I have ever known and starting out on my own.
Tomorrow fills me with excitement and anticipation, but also with anxiety and fear.
Tomorrow will be quite a day.”
And now tomorrow was today. I lifted the camera, snapped the picture, and it was my new beginning. The start of my grand adventure. I captured the sunrise on the horizon of my life.
In that moment, I welcomed the unknown—a million promises and possibilities. I was full of hope for everything the future might bring.
Now, when I look at that photograph and sometimes it makes me sad, I think it’s because it makes me wonder what that girl who took that picture that day would think of me now. Of what she has become. Of the life she’s lived so far. Of what she’s done with what she’s been given.
The truth is, sometimes I am very much afraid that I have completely let her down. How many dreams she had have been deferred? How many people she loved has she lost touch with? How have her passions and determination given way to the mundane and routine and exhausting tasks of adult life?
But then I often think about the space on the timeline between that sunrise and today’s. It has not been anything like what I could have imagined in that moment ten years ago. There have been twists and turns and mountains and valleys and curve balls I never saw coming. I’ve failed and picked myself up and tried again and failed again. I’ve been plunged into and out of different adventures and different communities. I’m the same girl that stood in the dewy grass that day, gazing at the sky, but I’m also not the same girl at all. My experiences have made and unmade me—and made me again. The people I’ve met have collided into my personality and perspective and experiences and soul with their own personalities and perspectives and experiences and souls. And they’ve left pieces of themselves behind as part of me—kneaded into me by the Artist who smacked us together after creating us each from dust.
What a journey it’s been.
The truth is, I’m no closer to being able to imagine what the future will look like ten years from now than I was to imagining what today would look like as a brand new high school graduate back in 2007.
Soon that tomorrow will be today. I hope I stop to take in the view more often than I did yesterday and last year. I hope I’m more readily grateful in the moment instead of waiting to sentimentalize in hindsight. I hope that, instead of being sad at what’s been lost or too far changed, I regain some of that optimism I had when I took my favorite picture.
I hope to see the mercies of God in every sunrise and every sunset. I can’t see the future. But I know the journey He’s got mapped out makes it worth stepping into every tomorrow with hope.