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It's just a picture. Like the thousands of other pictures in the box that it came from. It's not even a particularly interesting picture: just a few friends hanging a "welcome home" banner. But my inability to recall the exact events behind the picture has been nagging at me, haunting the edges of my conscience for over a week.

It's just a picture, but it says everything.

That was the summer of the cornerstone festival road trip - a week filled with music, oppressive heat, and repressed feelings (as my road trip companion and I wouldn't start dating until September).

That was the summer the first of us graduated, and had to deal with real life and job searches and apartment hunting.

That was the summer my best friend and I started to grow apart. She only came home for two weeks in August. And I never meant to be the reason they broke up, but it happened. She said she was okay with everything, and on many levels, I'm sure she really meant it. We did a damn fine job of keeping up appearances for years after that. But it was never the same.

That was the summer after Canada, the first time that summer started to feel stale. Summers used to be filled with excitement, trips, sleepovers, lake days... endless possibility. But slowly, as we all grew apart and grew closer to completing our degrees, summers felt like life was on pause. Like two months of biding our time until we returned to our real lives.

That was the last summer we were all together. In many ways the last summer of my youth.

The next twelve months were maybe the hardest of my life. I went through an awful break up. Most of my friends moved on without me. I developed crippling anxiety and had to drop out for a semester, prolonging my already bloated college career and ruining my hopes of completing a double major.

But I also went to a ton of shows that year. Learned how to be so much stronger than I ever imagined a could be. Stopped being a doormat. Met new friends. Loosened up a little. Dated a lot. Snuck into the overspill at the lake to drink and start campfires with my girls. I eventually graduated, got my own place, and a decent job. In another two years I would meet my future husband.

I can say it was all for the best, because it truly was. But looking at that picture, it just reminds me of all the hurt that was just around the corner.

And pain fades, but does it every truly go away?

10:16 a.m. - 2018-12-07

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