When we first walked out, the cold didn’t bother us too much. It might have been because we were so excited, we hadn’t notice. The snow was falling faster the longer we were out, and the temperature was dropping just as quickly. I stood by one tree, waiting to be the videographer, Tom was waiting by another tree to take pictures.
Trevor stood by, drinking coffee, documenting our experiences and emotions. Trying to capture the moment, the feelings, the joy of each and every one of us. Nick was hanging around as well. He was tasked with watching the dog, Wesley, while Scott waited front and center.
We stood in our positions and waited for our friendship to change, and our lives to follow suit. But before we continue, you need to know the road that led us here.
Scott and I met freshmen year. As did the rest of the group. He and I became friends by virtue of another mutual friend, Jack. However, before long, we became best friends. He and I began to share our lives together, the good and bad.
He sat in the front row of some of my greatest failures, as well as my best successes.
In the same way, I watched as he grew, and became the man he is today, over four years later.
I also saw his relationship with Rebekah change and adapt to their lives. I saw the early stages of their friendship, awkward and yet beautiful. They began dating, and I watched them live through their honeymoon season, where everything is pure and perfect. I was also there as they learned to love each other even when it wasn’t too easy.
I got to observe and play an extra in their love story.
We are now graduated, and they have been dating for several years. They’re the kind of couple that makes you forget you’re a third wheel. Their relationship was rarely private, and they never cloistered themselves off. They were open and willing to be with people.
We stood outside, as snow began to accumulate. It was the beginning of our spring break, and we were finally on the trip that we had been planning for some time.
Ever since freshmen year, when I was on a walk with Tom and we dreamed far into the future. We talked about things we would like to do and see, and we talked about what it would be like to graduate and move on. We talked about that trip, only back then, it was just a dream. It was that dream that had finally become a reality for us.
The plan had shifted and changed throughout the months and years, as plans often do. It took on many different forms, from road tripping to New York City to camping in Canada, to spending the week in Texas.
The plan adapted to our life circumstances, and even more so, to our finances, which was and is not very substantial. The final form of the plan had finally solidified as a trip to Michigan to stay at Trevor’s family cabin.
It sounded perfect.
A week in the woods with my best friends. Lake Michigan nearby, with the ability to rest and hang out, that’s the dream. Bonfires every night, warm food, hiking, a thick forest right outside our windows. However, the weather forecast was starting to put a damper on our ideas when we realized snow was a very real possibility.
By the end of the first couple days, many of us had already acquired flu-like symptoms, fevers, and severe coughs. The trip of our lifetime was beginning to look more like a commercial for Nyquil. Although, one thing was very present in the forefront of all of our minds, and it brought us out of sickness and complaining stupors.
My feet were the first part of my body to start feeling the depth of the cold. I was layered up, with a sweater and a flannel, boots, a hat and gloves, but I was still cold. It was just so damp, and the breeze cut through every layer I wore.
Scott waited under a tree, standing as the snow drifted to the ground. It really was a beautiful picture. When Rebekah finally came out, and made her way to the tree, I began filming the moment.
Scott and she talked out of ear shot, and then he got down on one knee. In a moment of intimacy and love, Scott and Rebekah were engaged. Just like that, the trajectory of our lives had shifted. For me and the other guys –Tom, Nick, and Trevor- our shift was marginal, while the shift for Scott and Rebekah was life altering. Things were different now.
This was a big moment for us as a group. We saw our friends, these two people who had become as close as family, as they were taking a huge step in their relationship, a step to commit their lives to each other. We were all so happy.
However, what sticks out to me in that moment, was not only the engagement, which was the highlight. Another moment that begs mentioning.
As I stood in the back, filming the reactions and moments leading up to and after the proposal. I remember a few words whispered in my ear;
Don’t forget to look up.
Trevor stood by my side with a smile, watching his friends celebrate, and he reminded me to be present. He saw the world passing before me, developing and changing, and I was distracted by a lens in my face. I wanted so badly to capture the moment as perfectly as possible, that I was actually missing it altogether.
I love going to concerts. I make a point to see any and all concerts I can afford and that interest me. However, as I’ve gotten older, and smart phones have become more common place, I have made an observation about concerts.
People are no longer present.
I saw the Foo Fighters play a sold-out show at Wrigley Field, back in 2016. My dad was given the tickets for Christmas, and I cannot describe just how excited we both were to go. After the long and arduous drive up Wrigleyville, we finally found our seats. It’s easier for me to tell you how close we were to the top of the stadium, rather than the front of the stage. I believe the altitude may have been different where we were.
With this being said, the seats were fantastic, and covered, so we didn’t get rained on an hour before Foo Fighters began. Then, as the sky had gone dark, the night time breeze off the lake came rolling through, and the people around us were thoroughly hammered, Dave Grohl came out and blew us all away.
Or so I thought.
I was enjoying the concert so much. The lights were beautifully synchronized and accented the show well without distracting from it. The song selection was a perfect mix of hits and tunes of their new (for the time) album, Sonic Highways. And to say that Dave Grohl is not a master showman would be ludicrous, and potentially borderline heretical. Not only this, but the band played for just shy of two and half hours. No breaks, no encore, just the pre-prescribed set-list. This concert was, and still is one of the best displays of musical acumen I’ve seen.
Although, everyone around me, nearly in a sea of conformity, were all plugging on away on their phones. Some were filming particular songs, which I get. We’ve all been there before. We want to share the joy of our favorite song with the folks back home. However, some were just texting or playing games. Others were straight-up live streaming the concert. Many were taking selfies, a few were talking incessantly, and one guy even fell asleep.
It hit me. People are no longer present. How could they be when there are so many things to do, and so little time to do it. We always have to be multitasking. However, what we lose is the ability to look up and just experience what is actually happening.
You can no longer attend an event without a slew of phones documenting the whole ordeal. The sentiment becomes, “I need people to know what I did tonight!” Rather than just enjoy the show, live in the moment, engage with what’s happening right in front of our eyes. We spend so much time watching our phones, that we end up missing the life being lived all around us.
In that time and place, the woods surrounding Lake Michigan, I was a passive onlooker, doing my best to document the happening, and Trevor reminded me to watch, live, and celebrate. Beckoning me, don’t forget to look up.
His words could not be more important and more necessary as I begin to now navigate life after college.
There are a lot of big moments in life, but there are many more small moments along the way. In college, and beyond, it is very easy to just get distracted. To be so focused on one thing, in this case, capturing a proposal video, that you chance missing it entirely.
I once heard life described as a match. It burns bright, but only for a moment, leaving a trail of smoke, and then nothing. This has the potential to be quite the nihilistic mentality. One could begin to argue the insignificance of humanity, or worse, fall down the rabbit hole of human fragility.
Although, I want to argue for the beauty of this imagery. A match is very temporary, yes. However, what this means is that what the flame does is valuable. To not get lost in the analogy, if our lives are like matches, what Trevor reminded me of on Spring Break, was to not waste the flame.
To look up. To be present. To enjoy life while it’s still here. Because one day it will all be different. Actually, tomorrow it will all be different. And the day after that, and the day after that.