My internship with UL Chi Alpha ended at the conclusion of graduation.
UL did graduation well in those days, much better than the one I had at Nicholls. It was held at the Cajun Dome, with multiple ceremonies from the different colleges taking place simultaneously. We spent the day running back and forth between ceremonies clapping and cheering when one of our students’ names were called. Meanwhile, there were several different buffets set up for the graduating students, their families, and all the guests. It was a great time.
Once graduation was over, I – we – were done. There was really only one more obligation, and even that one was voluntary. It was the Mosaic International Student Conference held in Front Royal, Virginia. This conference was not a requirement for us, but I had signed up to go long before. I had been to Mosaic the previous two years when I brought students from Nicholls. This year, I had helped set it up so that UL and Nicholls would be traveling together and sharing transportation.
I was really excited for this trip. Mosaic was one of my favorite events of the year. Most of the time was spent at a campground in Front Royal, right off the Appalachian Trail. We spent lots of time getting to know plenty of students from literally all over the world. We ate tons of great food, had a talent show, and even took a day trip to Washington, D.C. to see all the sites there.
I was especially excited to see some of my friends from Nicholls and have them join us on our travel up. Particularly my friend Yuta from Japan. He was one of the students I really connected with in my last couple years at Nicholls. He came weekly to our International Student Bible Study and many other Chi Alpha events. In the future, we would eventually become roommates and he would even join my family annually for our Christmas dinner and gift exchange.
With UL Chi Alpha staff member Charles driving the Thibodaux First Assembly van, the trip to Virginia would take about 18 hours, not including a layover in Knoxville. Somewhere in Alabama my cell phone began to ring. I looked at it and it was my cousin Jessica. Jessica, one of my favorite cousins ever, was 3ish years younger than me and was a freshman/sophomore (or thereabouts) in college. She lived in Pennsylvania and I only got to see her once a year or so. It was rare to get a call, so I immediately answered.
“Josh!!! Guess what!!”
“Engaged, like, getting married!”
“Oh wow, congratulations!! That’s awesome. But you are younger than me, so you can’t get married until I do.”
“That isn’t how it works!”
“Sure it is. I think it’s in the cousin manual somewhere. No one is allowed to get married until after the oldest cousin does first.”
“Well, I’m getting married.”
“That’s awesome, Jess. Do you know when?”
“Oh my no! It will be at least two years.”
“Wait, you are engaged but aren’t getting married for two years. That’s crazy!”
“Why is that crazy?”
“It just seems crazy to me. If you are ready to get married – just get married. The longer your engagement, the more expensive the wedding will be.”
“Jess, I want you to know I’m happy for you. However, I also want you to know I fully intend on being married before you.”
“Wait, are you dating anyone?”
“Interested in anyone?”
“Then how can you say that?”
“Because you won’t get married for at least two years. That is plenty enough time for me to meet someone, woo them, and get engage AND married before you.”
“So I’ve been told!”
The conversation ended shortly after that. I looked around the van. I was sitting in the backseat with Yuta sitting next to me on my left. Molly, just in front of me, was sitting next to some other students. I sat in quiet contemplation for several minutes, thinking about the phone call I had just received and everything that had happened over the last year.
I thought…maybe… but no. There were rules. We went over these rules in emphatic emphases. Rule 4 – really the most important rule there was: never, ever, under any circumstances date any of the students now or forever.
But, really, how long was forever? I mean, this internship thing was essentially over. Officially it was done as of graduation. And, I wasn’t going to continue in this Chi Alpha world anyway. There was really no chance I was ever going to be a Chi Alpha missionary at this point. What are the ethics on that? What was the right move for me right now, and what would the right move be for me 5, 10, or even 15 years in the future?
At that moment, I looked at the girl in front of me – the person who had really been a very good and kind friend to me all year – and decided to go all in. I was going for full court press. I had given myself 2 years to get married, and I had sure as better start now.
I decided to make my first move. And the world will never understand how thankful I am that it was caught on film below for all to see.