By: Nick “Tapobu” Rohlf
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
I remember the move-in day quite distinctly. It was everything a move-in day ought to be: hot and miserable. I was a little afraid of what would happen when I arrived, but I quickly began reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones. The first few days were definitely really shaky. I was extremely paranoid about what people might have been saying about me. In retrospect, I now know that many on campus who knew what was going on were fervently supportive of me, and I am exceedingly thankful for that. But at the time, I really didn’t know what to expect.
This semester, I didn’t allow myself to make the same mistakes I had the previous year. I did not allow myself to have those long nights sitting alone in my dorm room. I immediately set about getting to know my neighbors in the dorm. How? Through video games, of course. I installed Age of Empires on every computer in the dorm computer lab, and it became a great way for me to socialize with people without there being too much of a trust commitment. It became our tradition to play Age just about every Saturday, and after a while some of the freshmen even started to beat me, albeit through use of rather questionable tactics. But I digress.
As the semester began to take off, I met a young lady who was a new student at the college. She was an international student who had made a few unfortunate choices in her first few days at school, and she was slowly tearing herself apart as result of these choices. Upon meeting her, I knew the dangers of what I was doing. I knew that there was the possibility that I could hurt her as I had hurt my old friends, but I also knew that I needed to do all that I could to be there for this girl. She was very sweet, but I really didn’t trust myself to get involved in a healthy relationship at this point in my life and quite simply did not want to take the risk of hurting her even more, so I began to call her my sister. She wholly embraced this role as did I. Suddenly we both had someone we could pick on, someone we could talk to at any time, someone we could wholly trust and love with no danger of being misunderstood. She needed that. I needed that. Throughout the semester, we were there for each other, for better or for worse. We fought and argued just as brother and sister should, but when the arguing ceased we remained at each others’ side.
As November approached, I again became involved in a theatre show, and I again came to love the cast who acted alongside me. Ironically, I played the part of an old man who had had quite terrible luck all his life but refused to allow that to get him down in his advanced age. Was he a little bitter? Yes. But he smiled through his tears and endured. Old man Sorin and I had a lot in common that semester. I started to take my acting a lot more seriously, and I soon realized that if I acted a certain way for long enough, that would become a part of who I am. And so I acted.
From what I’ve written so far, one might be led to believe that I had moved on, that I no longer dwelt upon the past. This is untrue. I thought of it often, and the wounds within my soul were still deep and lasting. As I was browsing around on the internet one day in the fall, I discovered that my former friend was once again appearing in various postings. Quite by accident [read: by stalking her profile page diligently], I discovered a blog that she’d been keeping. Being the curious and foolish person that I am, I began to look through old posts. What I found was a soul every bit as troubled as my own. I found but a shadow of my friend – still herself in many ways, but consumed as I was by the melancholia that trails behind broken friendships. Worse than that, she felt as though she had failed me. I did something foolish. I sent her best friend [who still spoke to me at the time] a message, telling her to forward it if she felt it wise. In that message, I thanked my friend for doing what she did. I thanked her for cutting me out of her life. I expected nothing in return. Naturally, I was rather surprised to come home from church one day to discover a rather lengthy message. She and I went back and forth all day that day, joking and laughing, recalling old memories, and the like. We both understood that this was only temporary and needed to end. And so when we’d both said what we needed to say, we said goodbye forever. At last my heart knew peace.
As the semester drew to a close, I truly felt at home again. I began to see the glory of all God’s work in my life. Had I not made the mistakes I did, I would have graduated on time. I never would have met the people I did in that final semester. The people in that play never would have gotten to know me as they had. My sister would not have had the constant support of someone who had been through so many of the same things. If I had been born a more complete person, it might have been better for me, yes. But it wasn’t about me. It was never about me. When I graduated, it felt as though this chapter in my life had finally been completed. Or so it would seem. The true denouement of this story was yet to come.
It was January of 2011. I was preparing to move out to Chicago to try my hand at the “real world.” [Spoiler alert: I was pretty terrible at it and ended up having to move home. But I wouldn’t have traded that time for the world.] A day before I was set to make the ten hour drive with my life savings and all my belongings, I got on my computer to discover a friend request. Guess who it was.
Long story short, hardly a day has gone by since that moment where we have not spoken. She is once again one of my truest friends, and I love her with all my heart. But heaven help me if I ever try and date her again.