Justin Ricklefs


Make it Through

There was a moment on New Year’s Day when my body officially tapped out.

It was screaming at me, “no more sugar, no more bread, no more beer, no more…”

Maybe you experienced the same thing. You know, the torrent of holiday cheer. I thought the scale was lying to me that afternoon. No chance that number was right.

It was right.

Like the rest of America, I swore January would be different. Less bad things in, more of the good. More green things, less fried ones.

So when two weeks into January, a client meeting got scheduled at Shake Shack (my first time there by the way), I immediately began googling ‘lettuce wrapped burger at Shake Shack’.

Turns out actually ordering that in person is much harder than thinking about ordering it. But I did it anyway. And even held off on the fries.


The lunch meeting was great and the burger was even better. Can’t even imagine how good it is with a bun.

I said my goodbyes to our client, threw my stuff away and hit the restroom before the drive back to the office.

On my way out, in the crowded restaurant, I heard, “Hey Ricklefs…”

Caught a bit off guard, I turned around and saw a face I don’t recall seeing for maybe two decades. Our high school days.

He started in, “Hey man, not sure if you remember me, but I’m…”

I interrupted, “Yeah dude, of course. Great seeing you, how have you been?”


He shared with me that it was ironic we ran into each other. He’d read something I’d written that morning. About admitting when things aren’t OK. When it’s not all sunshine and roses. When it’s not all social media post worthy.

Then he went where I didn’t expect he’d go. A vulnerable move I’m sure was super hard for him.

“My wife told me last night she wants a divorce…”

The specifics can remain at that burger joint, but let’s just say he was heartbroken, confused and scared.

Of course he was.

“My gosh bro, I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine. I’m not there but I know what you’re going through. We’ve had a really hard couple years too.”

He’s got a great job. Looks happy. Eats a burger with the bun like a real man.

And fighting like hell to stay above water.

Worried about his kids, his next move, his response to her desire.

Of course he is.

His story is my story. It’s part of all of our stories. Maybe we’re not going through what he’s going through. But we’re all going through something.

We all want the road to be straight and without any bumps. I’d sign up for that for sure.

But man, it’s full of twists, turns, falling boulders, barricades, dead ends, potholes, sinkholes and road closed signs.

We exchanged some heavy-hearted pleasantries and some hang-in-theres, and I went on my way.

My heart hurt for him. His road ahead will likely be a tough one. I’m sure it will feel insurmountable at times.

But even if it feels like the end of the road, like a dead end, my hunch is he’ll find a way to make it through.

To dig in deep, to do the work necessary, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The story isn’t over. It’s not his final chapter.

Even though today feels like an anchor around his soul. Or as impossible as not eating a bun or fries at Shake Shack.

He’s going to make it through. You’re going to make it through. I’m going to make it through.

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