Friends #24 and 25: Josh and Stephanie

After cheering and crying my way through the spectacular vistas of southwest Colorado and a lunch stop at the Gunnison Brewery in Gunnison, CO, I arrived at Stella’s, a coffee shop in a revamped old house in Denver, on Tuesday evening to meet with Josh and Stephanie.  Josh was in my grad program for the first semester, and Stephanie is his wife.  Josh had many of the same struggles in grad school that I did, and chose to leave the program.  He ended up teaching while Stephanie got her physical therapy degree.  They moved from Los Angeles to Denver.  Josh and Stephanie are both very caring and hospitable people–they would often welcome people into their home in Los Angeles, and I have fond memories of evenings spent with them.  And that hospitality is something they carry with them wherever they go.  I came off the road a little scattered, but as soon as we sat down, their presence made our little table at Stella’s feel a little bit like home.  They were asking me a lot of thoughtful questions about our time since grad school.  There was a depth and a steadiness to them and to our time together–a settledness that comes from walking through a lot of life.

Back in Los Angeles, Josh worked with college students in a mentorship role even before our grad school internship started.  It’s something he’s great at, but he had a quieter way of leadership that may have been perceived as not as effective.  Now, he’s in another internship in Denver where he’s found his niche.  His way of working is not only respected, but lauded.  His voice at the table is welcomed and sought out.  And Stephanie is literally in the first week of a brand new job, learning the paperwork systems and the interpersonal dynamics of inpatient and outpatient geriatric physical therapy.  She has also landed after over a year of bouncing around to different positions.  She had been offered a dream job, which would have meant a move away from Josh’s internship and a lot of the great community they’ve built in Denver.  Had I visited them in the throes of making that decision, I’m sure it would have been a different story, but they decided to stay in Denver and turn down the job, and it really has worked out splendidly.  But when you’re in it, it never feels like it will work out.  But when you’re on the other side looking back, the difficulties can often dissipate.  There’s a song lyric I often bring up in these circumstances: “I’m looking forward to looking back on this day.”

And Josh and Stephanie have come out the other side of a lot of struggle and really seem to be thriving, which was thrilling to see.  There was a lot of redemption in their story–not the “Ha ha ha–take that!” sense but the “Bad things really can turn out for good” sense.  When the very thing that was staring you in the face as a gigantic obstacle becomes the thing you climb on top of to get to a better place, it gives you a different perspective.  Seeing them in that place in their lives was such a joy.  It was a deep breath of fresh mountain air, a cold glass of iced tea after a long, hot day of driving, a little piece of home.

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