As I stare at the six graduation party invites I received this last week, I can’t help but think about my high school graduation. It’s been ten years since I walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma.
There was all kinds of advice people gave me when I graduated. Don’t go home every weekend. Your college friends will become some of your best friends. Sign up for intramural sports. Follow your heart. Live your dreams. Seize the day. Some of the advice I was given ten years ago was beneficial, other advice useless.
Here’s what I would say to my seventeen year old self, donning her graduation cap and gown:
You are secure in God’s love. You don’t have work or strive or perform to get God to love you more. Your grades, your relationship status, your closet, and your bank account do not define you. You are a beloved child of the Most High God. You didn’t choose Him, He chose you.
Long distance friendships are hard. You have to work at it. Decide who you’d fly across the country for just to have a cup of coffee with and love them fiercely. Relationships don’t maintain by chance, it takes intentionality, creativity, and grace. It’s okay if some close friends are only close for a season. You can mourn what was and then show up in your current friendships and choose to keep investing in them.
Plug into a local church. Invest your time, your money, and your energy into a community of believers. This is where you’ll be stretched and challenged to seek first God’s Kingdom, rather than building your own. You need to learn, grow, and pour yourself out, and there’s no better place to do this than in your community, alongside your brothers and sisters.
Travel. Small weekend trips, summer adventures, mission trips, spring break trips, it doesn’t matter where. There are some things you cannot learn in a text book. Road trips are the best times for belting out Disney tunes, taking silly pictures, and making memories. Don’t experience everything through the lens of a camera, open wide your eyes and take it all in. Eat weird food, ask good questions, and say yes to adventure.
Take a sabbath every week. You are not a machine; you are a being, created in God’s image. You need rest. You need to be reminded weekly to depend on God and not yourself. You won’t fall behind by taking a break. While everyone is studying through the weekend, you will have 24 hours to play and relax and be refreshed. Fighting the urge to study every Sunday will feel at times like you’re swimming upstream, but it will be worth it.
Make grocery lists and stick to them. Living behind Wal-Mart for two years will tempt you to make runs at 10 pm for milk only to come back an hour later with a graphic tee, q-tips, nail polish, and a box of cereal. You’ll get home and realize you forgot to buy milk. Stick to your lists and you’ll save a lot of time and money.
Get a mentor, or two. There is so much wisdom, joy, and comfort you’ll miss if you only spend time with people your own age at the same stage of life as you. These older people will help you keep proper perspective. They will make delicious, home-cooked meals that will nourish you like no cafeteria food can.
Ten years later, I’m still unsure of what my future holds. I still wonder how algebra will help me in real life. I still have dreams that haven’t come to be. And I still need this advice:
You are secure in God’s love.
Long distance friendships are hard.
Plug into a local church.
Take a sabbath every week.
Make grocery lists and stick to them.
Get a mentor, or two.