Although wedding season is about to consume my life (hi, 5 weddings in one summer. This feels like deja vu…) for a quick second my world has revolved around another kind of celebration: graduations.
As I was planning Flood Youth’s senior night (easy) and processing the fact that my girls are graduating (much more difficult), I kept thinking back to senior Krysti. Little, naive, thought-she-knew-it-all, senior Krysti. Facebook was so kind as to remind me of my senior night at my youth group, seemingly a life time ago.
I still remember it. I still remember being the last to be called on stage. I still remember some of the words my youth pastor spoke over me – making fun of my obsession with mylifeisaverage.com but ending with, “Your life is far from average”. I remember the 5 of us – together since middle school! – each so different, each heading somewhere so different. And now, looking at the picture, realizing with a smile we really did end up all over the place. Different corners of the globe, figuratively and literally. I remember it so well, which made me stop and think about where my students will be years from now, as they think back onto their senior night. What will have changed? How will they have grown? What will still be exactly the same?
It’s hard for me to comprehend that my girls are graduating (er, as of now, graduated!). Partly because I still can’t believe it’s been 4 years since I met them. Partly because I remember exactly where I was at in life as a graduating senior – ecstatic, terrified. Confident I was so old and so mature, the world truly seemed like my oyster. Anything was possible. Everything was possible. Life felt pretty close to perfect that summer.
Celebrating my girls in this exciting season of life has been funny. Walking the line of pseudo older sister / pseudo mom is always a strange one. Trying to figure out what to write in each of their grad cards was a struggle – how much I love them? Fond memories? How proud I am of them? Advice for this new season? It caused me to reflect on what I wish I knew, way back when. A million things came to mind (as a million things come to mind for what I wish I knew last year), but there were some recurring themes. Some major lessons I wish I could have learned earlier. Some knowledge I wish I took into college, instead of gaining in college…
Although each card was unique, I did give two pieces of advice to ALL my seniors. For their gift (gift giver Krysti over here, of course I got them grad gifts), I got them each a journal and a set of thank you cards, along with this lil note (which, disclaimer, I wrote while marathon watching Parenthood, which is probably why it sounds much more dramatic than I intended it to…):
Two small pieces of advice for this new season of life:
– Explore. Question. Wonder. Write down your questions about life, God, and yourself. Write down your thoughts and hopes and dreams. Examine the world around you, and never stop asking, “What if?” This is the time you get to figure out who you want to be (that’s a much more important question than what you want to do). Don’t waste it.
– Write people thank you notes. Be grateful for the people God has placed in your life, and make sure to tell them. Life is too short – never miss a chance to tell someone what they mean to you. A gracious outlook on life changes more than you know.
(Too bad I don’t have a cutesy picture of the whole gift package, but I am not a lifestyle blogger. Sorry, Pinterest.)
The majority of advice I’ve given my girls over the last four years can be easily summed up in two statements: “Don’t date that boy, he’s stupid” and “Sounds like you need to talk to her about it…” Which is fitting, because that’s the advice I needed most in high school. Trying to give them advice now, as they embark into new beginnings, seems next to impossible – they’re all so different! They’re going into such different directions! They each have so much in store. I don’t really like telling people what they’ll experience or what they’ll learn or what they’ll feel, because its all so unique. But I am a big fan of letting others learn from my mistakes (aka youth ministry).
These are some things I wish I knew, back when I graduated…
- Find people who make you laugh out loud. Find people who will be honest with you. Find people who look at life differently than you.
- People who need to make others uncomfortable to feel comfortable, who need to put others down to bring themselves up, are the worst. Don’t hang out with them and don’t become them.
- Texting is fun. Texting is not a substitution for a relationship. Hard conversations are hard. That’s not an excuse to not have them.
- God sees you as blameless. His mercies are new every morning. Every single morning.
- Trying to be someone else is robbing the world of something beautiful. The world needs you – complicated, messed up, honest you.
- Your pain isn’t always your fault. Healing from it, regardless, IS your responsibility.
- People grow at different rates. Give grace freely. But don’t bind yourself to people who aren’t committed to the same rates of growth as you.
- Actions speak so much louder than words. If someone’s words aren’t matching up with their actions, walk away. (Those who matter will ask you to turn around; those who aren’t worth it, sadly, won’t even notice.)
- Stop spending so much time trying to get people to love you. Spend way more time learning to love yourself.
- Figuring out who are safe people and who aren’t is one of the most important skills in life. When you find safe people, treasure them forever.
- Never be ashamed by what makes you feel alive. Never apologize for your passions – follow them boldly.
- Hold people loosely, yet love them fiercely. Allow friends to grow and change and became completely different people if necessary – but never, ever stop loving them.
- Boundaries, vulnerability, and voicing your needs are not signs of weakness, but some of the truest signs of strength.
- Apologize when necessary: when you’re wrong or when you were in the wrong. Otherwise, stop saying, “I’m sorry”.
- Take care of your body, you only get one. But not at the expense of taking care of your soul. Ice cream for dinner is necessary sometimes.
- Some friendships are for seasons and some are for a lifetime. Be grateful for both.
- Get to know your grandparents.
- Changing the world has a lot more to do with changing yourself than people like to think.
- Most of life is a choice. Choose joy. Choose grace. Choose healing. On the days where these feel impossible, choose hope.
- Your life is a story: don’t ever be afraid to edit, re-word, or start a new chapter. At any point you get to decide, “This isn’t who my main character turns into, this isn’t how my story ends”. Commit to making it an epic.
- Boys are dumb. Girls are dumb, too, but you’ll interact with more dumb boys. Keep this in mind when they’re just being dumb as it’s no reflection of you, your value, or your worth.
- Let go of the expectations of what / where you think your life needs to end up. You really don’t need to plan everything. What God has in mind is way, way better.
- Ask questions. Ask so many questions.
- Feel what you’re feeling. Don’t explain it away, don’t run from it, don’t avoid it. Feel it, process it, share it.
- Every person you meet knows something you don’t; every person you meet can do something you can’t.
- The biggest things you’ll regret is how you treated others when you had a chance to treat them differently, and how you allowed yourself to be treated by others. Tests, grades, to-do lists, schedules – they don’t really matter. How you treat people matters.
- Speak up, your voice matters. Stand up straight, you’re allowed to take up space in this world.
- Befriend the people you date (actually enjoy hanging out with them) and date your friends (intentionally pursue deeper relationships with them). This makes all the difference.
- You can be perfectly happy when your life is far from perfect.
- Words hold so much power. Be careful what you label others, what you label yourself. Be careful who you give a voice in your life. Be careful what you say. Be careful what you think.
- God is so much better than you’ll ever know. Commit to spending your life trying to figure out His goodness, and you’ll never regret it.
But, if you’re anything like me (and some of my girls scarily are), you just have to learn some things the hard way. That’s okay – as long as you’re learning. I made sure to end every single card to my girls with something along the lines of “I’m always here for you, no matter what. Next week, next month, next year – I’m forever in your corner and always cheering you on!” Mistakes in this stage of life – as any – are a given. But it’s having the community surrounding you, to carry you through them, that makes all the difference. Congratulations class of 2016!! I’m so proud of you.