Part Five – Of Eighteen, Moderating, and Casablanca

And I don’t think anyone’s looking for me, especially you
But if someone is looking, then who?
And it’s amazing how lost inside you feel
When you look fine on the outside
You’re screaming, “someone take the wheel”
And it’s amazing, they think you’ve got it all
But it might just be a pebble that’s gonna make you fall
Andrew Allen; Amazing

I was still a Ranger on the forums. After nearly two years, there I remained with a bold, blue username and I was increasingly becoming more and more frustrated with the position and the forums in general. Attempting to deal with an influx of challenging issues, I realized that doing my job was impossible if the two current Student Moderators weren’t doing theirs. Naomi was a Ranger too by then and, naturally, we took our complaints to Austin who was not only our go-to person at that point, but who had also founded the Ranger program to begin with. One situation after another continued to crop up and Naomi and I would tell Austin about it and he’d inform us what to do. It wasn’t a particularly efficient system and soon I was completely fed up and I emailed the Lead Moderator who was in charge of keeping the student leaders in-check and on-task. Austin helped me draft my message and I let him know as soon as I had gotten a response. Almost immediately, the Lead Moderator had let me know that he had noticed the issues too and was ready to make a change. Would I mind taking over as the girl Student Moderator? and did I have any recommendations of who the guy should be? I talked it over with Austin. Moving up from Ranger to Moderator was a huge step in terms of time commitment and responsibilities and Austin talked me through the pros and cons and he was the first person I told when I decided to accept the position. I emailed back saying “yes” and recommending Austin for the guy Student Moderator all at the same time. Austin was asked and he accepted and suddenly there we were. The two Student Moderators on the forums, both of us with obnoxious lime green usernames and having to work together for the next year… Well, I guess that worked out.

Christmas Gift Exchange 01

Next came the moment when parents really noticed who Austin was. Behold, the Great Christmas Gift Exchange Box of 2012. Austin had organized a “Secret Santa” gift exchange for the CollegePlus forums and somehow, someway, he was assigned to send me a gift. And when the gift arrived we discovered that he had included something for both of my parents and each of my siblings. It was incredibly thoughtful and we all appreciated the gesture. As for me, he had sent me a little elephant and the Casablanca DVD. A mutual appreciation of Casablanca was one of the things that drew us together as friends in the beginning so it was the most perfect present. It was just a simple gift exchange, but now, looking back, I can see how special it was and how much it meant to me at the time.

Christmas Gift Exchange 02

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

During the duration of everything else that was going on, I turned eighteen and received an amazing Hobbit Moleskine notebook from those nutty friends in Illinois and Pennsylvania. Those same certain friends made a video of themselves sharing life wisdom, inside jokes, blessings, and hopes for the future for me on my birthday and it made me cry. It doesn’t take much to make me cry, but that? It floored me completely. How could we all be so close and yet so far away? How could I ever hope to deserve these people? How is it possible to miss people you’ve never met this much? How did God ever see it fit to give me this blessing?

Our friendship had just about reached the limit of how close we could become while still living an entire country apart. All of us felt the restlessness of having not met in person and we worried that our foursome would ultimately fade into obscurity without having ever seen each other face-to-face. Little did we know that, next year, all that would change…

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