Oh the sweet times. The past few weekends, some very special people in my life have graduated from high school. They are each uniquely beautiful, starkly different one from the other, and genuinely enjoyable. We may have more than a few years separating us, but we share passionate love for Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, hunger for God, savoring the beginnings of sweet relationships, talking about travel and adventure, and honest conversations about things that are both hard and wonderful. I am honored to be called their friend. So, I am penning a letter to them and to others like them as they close one chapter and and take a huge bounding leap into the next:
Dear Sweet Friend,
I think about how I was feeling when I was in your shoes. Feelings of sadness, questions, nervous excitement, bold excitement, and relief flooded me. It was sad to close the door to high school because you knew you could never go back to those sacred years. But, I knew that what waited for me on the other side of summer was something I was aching to dive right into. And scared to dive into. And relieved to finally be about to dive into…. you know what I mean.
So as you dive, I have a few wishes for you.
I wish for you to know that everyone is nervous when they start college. There will be those that look not only confident, but as if they own the place. Believe me though, everyone is nervous. Everyone is starting over….even the ones who come in knowing people. Starting over in life is one of the most precious gifts you will be given, so make the very most of it. This is such a great opportunity to leave behind habits that didn’t yield great fruit in your life and embrace the things about yourself that line up with the woman you envision yourself becoming.
I wish for you to press into God as you start over. Only He can help you walk in simultaneous confidence and humility of spirit.
Your confidence can be founded in the truth that HE is writing your story and He is a really good writer. He is faithful. And He is the most diverse artist there is. He doesn’t have one style….He has millions and billions of styles. Each person is a reflection of His style – so that means that you are a reflection of Him too. Sometimes that is easier to believe that of others than it is of yourself. But believe it of yourself.
Don’t let that make you proud, but instead, let it make you grounded in the truth that you are designed on purpose and with great intention. If you can press in to that truth, you will attract the people that will actually sharpen you and make you better. Take your time in finding your crowd. You want to and will attract the kinds of people who are interested in mutually beneficial friendships, not lopsided ones where it’s all about you needing them or them needing you. Search out those kindred spirits who have enough going on in their hearts/spirits/minds to want to be a good friend to you as much as you want to be a good friend to them. If it takes you a few months to do that, I promise the wait will be worth it.
Recently, I have seen this quote from Oscar Wilde all over the place: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Now here’s the funny thing about that for you right now: you don’t know who you are yet! I say that in the kindest, most empathetic way possible. It’s odd because the more accurate thing would be to say that you both do and do not know who you are yet. In fact, it is absolutely thrilling to be exactly where you are because you are about to discover so much about yourself! How exciting! You have inklings now of who you are and were created to be….so follow those inklings. Follow those things that you do know about yourself. God will delight to introduce you more and more to yourself.
So be inspired by those that you meet. Be inspired by that great outfit. By that unreal test score. By that brave performance. Be inspired, but don’t be jealous. Inspiration allows you to see greatness in others and it causes you to dig deeper into the path that God has started to carve for you. Be inspired by others and go for excellence. You will never, ever regret the pursuit of excellence. The pursuit of perfection, on the other hand, will lead you down a path that leads to lots of stuff you won’t like in the future.
For you my friend, I pray that you will love learning. Truly! It is SUCH a gift to have a functioning and capable brain. Be a woman who loves to learn and is interested in intellect. You won’t each have the same version of that….but be a learner. If you approach each class as an opportunity to learn something, you’ll be well served. And listen, don’t down math. Math is important. I got a marketing degree and used math all the time in my marketing/media job after graduating. I still use math skills all the time. You don’t have to ace it, but don’t dismiss it as pointless! Do you want to be a woman who is successful in any way, shape or form? Then don’t let numbers scare you. Okay, enough about math. Back to loving learning. Search out the professors that everyone talks about….do whatever you can to get into their classes. Don’t always go for the easy classes. Embrace the ones that will push you. And here’s the key: talk to your professors. Go introduce yourself to them! Push down the violent butterflies in your stomach and shove your hand out and introduce yourself. Tell them that you just wanted to say hello and that you hope to learn as much as you can. And then go to their office hours when you’re studying for a big test. College is so much bigger than high school. Talking to your teachers and being known by your teachers is a given in high school. It isn’t in college. That’s entirely up to you….even in the smaller classes it will be up to you to have a relationship with them in which you can actually ask questions. And believe me, they (mostly) want you to succeed…even the scary ones. So, if you are willing to be part of teeny tiny fraction of students who go to office hours and ask for help from the professor, you will get keys that others simply don’t. Your learning experience will be so much richer because of your willingness to initiate getting to know your professors.
And oh, my friend, I wish for you to find friends that want to learn about pressing in to God together. What I have learned that there is actually a lot to learn about pressing in to Him. There is so much of Him available to us but my biggest seasons of learning that have come from putting myself in circles where others know a lot more than I do/did. That can absolutely happen for you in college. Are there women who are older than you that get together to pray? Invite yourself. You will learn so much about prayer from being around people who have been praying longer than you have. It can truly rub off on you. I assure you, it will! The same goes for reading the Bible. There’s a big wide world available to you….so find others who want it too and push each other to go for it. Don’t be afraid of being the ‘serious’ one. The ‘spiritual’ one. Go for it and dive into the Lord like never before.
Lest you think that I only hope for you to have a serious, spiritual and academic experience beginning just a few months from now….let’s talk about fun. Have it! If there’s an opportunity to do something you’ve never done (of the legal variety, ahem), do it! Go on road trips! Do ridiculously silly things with your friends and laugh loudly! Go see movies late at night. Dance in the hallways. Travel as much as you can. If you get the chance to study abroad….DO IT. Experiment with your hair. Cut it because you can and hair grows back!!! Have your favorite restaurants and go as much as you can with the people who are close to you. And here’s a wild one….watch the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice in your room on a rainy weekend, surrounded by pizza and candy. The food you choose for that experience is key. Choose well, young one. Try different ethnic foods than what you are used to. College is such a great time to find new foods that you love :)…..so I guess the follow up to that is, don’t love the food too much!!!! LOL! Find the good coffee in town (not Starbucks) and drink that coffee as much as you can. Embrace these years for the adventure they offer you and soak it up.
And finally, a few wishes for you on the topic of love. If you find the love of your life while you’re young, darling, love every minute of that story. And if you don’t, darling, love every minute of that story. You, truly, have almost zero control over when love will become a part of your story. So, please, enjoy your story either way. Live life to the fullest and embrace it. That sounds utterly cliche, doesn’t it? But, believe me, those who trust the Lord enough to do this, end up having very interesting and beautiful stories that are almost irresistible.
But one note to those who do happen to find head-over-heels love young: don’t drop your girlfriends. No one person was ever intended to be your all-inclusive need meeter. Including Mr. Right. Keep being a good friend and giving quality time to your girls. It’s a tough balance and sometimes you’ll get it right and sometimes you’ll get it wrong….and sometimes you’ll get it right and the friends will still be frustrated with you…but just keep trying. It’s worth it.
And to the ones who don’t find love young: guard your heart from jealousy. Jealousy inevitably makes you do really funky things and causes you to be someone you really aren’t. Your life is goooooood. Live up your singledom! Have fun and love life and love who you are….I promise you that someday Mr. Right will say that that was one of the biggest things about you that drew him to you.
Oh my friend, I am truly so excited for you. You’re getting ready to dive! I just can’t wait for coffee dates to hear of all your tales.
Much love, happy diving, and happy weekending y’all,