The other day I got home from work and sat on my porch, reading a book for the better part of an hour. There was a breeze, it was warm enough to be wearing shorts, and a Margaret Atwood novel is always good company on a nice spring day.

Since I was able to come home a bit early, I was the first one back for the day. Usually I’m one of the last of my roommates to get home and make dinner, sometimes, even arriving after my roommates have gone to sleep. But this day, I was home before both dark and dinner, and was able to greet my friends as they each came home.

Gabby got home a bit after I did, and was with one of her best friends from college Jessica. They had been wedding dress shopping, as Jess had gotten engaged a few weeks ago and has started preparing for her upcoming wedding.

Olivia arrived with her boyfriend Thomas shortly after. Thomas, who will be heading off to dental school in August, and Olivia, who is moving to North Carolina in the fall, have been together for almost two years now. Speaking of weddings, they’ve also been planning theirs and talking about a timeline for their future.

Kaylie was the last to get home that night. Kaylie drives a loud, black Dodge pickup, so I can always hear her coming from around the block. When she got home, she told me she had just secured a house to rent in Pittsburgh, where she’ll be going to graduate school in the fall.

As a 23-year-old, most of the time I feel like I’m still a teenager, and honestly, it still feels like 2009 to me. And to see friends around me getting married, moving, and continuing their education makes me very happy for them, but also feels so foreign, almost like I shouldn’t be old enough for these things to be circling around me.

I remember when I was a freshman in college, a few upperclassman told me that by the time I was a senior, all my friends would be making major life decisions. I didn’t really believe them at the time, and even my senior year I didn’t really experience too many huge life shifts going on around me (or maybe I was just oblivious).

One of those seniors that I was friends with, Sam Andereck, showed me how to live well in one place for a while, how to still live dangerously and how to create adventures in the midst of boredom. One afternoon, I remember, Sam and I and a few others were walking around campus, being goofs and trying to get on the roofs of academic buildings (sorry, Berry).

Sam drove my friends and I to the Ford catacombs, would show us secret hikes he had discovered and after finals were over, he would always initiate a dorm-wide game of flashlight tag. Maybe spending so much time with Sam was what instilled the idea that I’m still a kid at heart and can still have fun even as I age.

Even when Sam and his friends were making important decisions – whether that was entering in the work force, going to seminary, moving across the world or getting married – he always told me, “Sometimes, the hardest things are the best things.”

Now, two years out of college, I’ve started to realize the truth in that piece of wisdom. And what they said has come true — a lot of my friends are making huge decisions that could and likely will alter the course of their lives. I might not be making the same decisions, but experiencing it secondhand, those choices still feel heavy. I’m not getting married soon, or moving to North Carolina or going to dental school.

But even though I’m not making those same decisions, I am still making important decisions as well. The choice every morning to wake up, to be my best, do my best and have no regrets, is so incredibly significant to my well-being. Taking each day as it comes and enjoying the ups and the downs is sometimes harder than it seems, but it’s something I believe can help cultivate a life full of joy and gratitude.

The women I live with now are college friends, but we no longer are living college lives or making college-level decisions. Instead of choosing which classes to take next semester, I’m choosing what kind of insurance I want/need. Instead of skipping class to play Frisbee, I’m paying rent and trying to save a majority of my paycheck. And instead of spending spring days in a stuffy academic building, I’m spending spring days in a newsroom, actually getting paid to write.

Even though it’s taken me a while to admit this, I think those seniors were right. But in the midst of tough decisions and life-altering plans, I hold more tightly onto Sam’s words, taking comfort in the fact that sometimes the hardest things are the best.

Alexis Draut is a recent graduate of Berry College and a staff writer for the Calhoun Times.