The clock approached midnight, and there was still no sign of my roommate. Soon it was 1 AM, then 2, and I was wondering if she would ever come back. I didn’t really have cause to worry, considering that she was in the city with her parents, and normally I wouldn’t feel the need to stay awake until the wee hours of the morning for her to get back, but tonight was different. It was Life Story Night.

Yes, like good Wheaton students, my roommate, our future triple roommate, and I had scheduled a night early in the second semester to share our life stories with each other. Despite living and working together for months, we each had a whole nineteen years of background that none of the others knew much about.

So it was settled- on a Saturday night in March we committed to sacrifice sleep and sanity and recount the good, the bad, and the ugly of our pasts. When my roommate rolled in around 2:15, I decided to get the show on the road by volunteering to share first. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but as we sat in a circle on the dorm room floor, stories about my childhood, sickness and loss in my family, my awkward middle school years, the joys and disappointments of my athletic career, my year so far at Wheaton, my passions and dreams for the future, and my spiritual life poured out of me.

By the time I finally brought the story up to date, I was shocked to look down at my phone and realize that an hour had passed since I started. I shared things that I rarely, if ever, had shared before, and experienced the beauty of unadulterated listening. My other two friends told the stories of their lives in similar fashion, and were likewise punctuated with a range of emotions from tears to laughter.

At five in the morning, it was finished. While some people in the dorm were waking up for early church, we shut our blinds to the sunrise and went to bed. To the average onlooker, nothing different would meet the eye except for maybe drooping eyelids and smudged mascara. On the outside, there was no change. But I see this as the turning point of my freshman year for three reasons:

I had been vulnerable in ways that I never had before. For the first time, I was brutally honest with myself and my friends and didn’t try to hide the parts of my life that I was ashamed of.

I knew my friends on a deeper level. We had always had fun together, but now I was able to see how their pasts, their upbringings, and their struggles shaped their beautiful and different personalities.

I had found friends for life. I knew that the people I now studied with, ate with, watched movies with, and lived with would one day be the people I told my kids about, the ones who would celebrate my life’s joys and mourn its losses, and the ones who would look back on that one late night our freshman year when we had stayed up past reason and smile. These girls have become my encouragers, my prayer warriors, and my best friends. That night, listening to the birds chirp their morning song when I finally crawled into bed, I smiled because I knew that I had just pulled an all-nighter I would never forget.