I’m not really one for looking back. Actually, if you were to ask some of my closest friends, they would probably say I never look back. I’m very future-oriented. I’m more than ready to put the past behind me and focus on college and all the many opportunities that will bring into my life. I don’t believe in dwelling in the past so it feels strange to be doing this at all, but a recent youth group gathering got me thinking about a few things. This past Sunday, my youth group leaders spent the evening focusing on all of us seniors in the group. They’d put together a list of questions for all of us, advice and such we would like others and our younger selves to know. I actually wrote a similar post about advice to younger me so today I’m doing something a little different. So this is for my high school readers, specifically a friend of mine, Esther. I read once that we should always have someone in mind to write for so this one is for you.
Dear Esther, (and other high schoolers)
Learn broadly and intensely. And I don’t mean just for school, I mean read good books and have late, 2 am conversations with people you love about anything and everything (i.e. I once stayed up till 3 in the morning discussing what were the MBTI types of all the characters on “Gilmore girls” with my sister). Learn about different cultures and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. And I know right at your age, understanding and loving a lot makes you stand out, and not always in a positive way (believe me, I know!), but you will be a more interesting and well-rounded person because of it.
Another thing to remember is that high school is not the ‘best time of your life’. It’s just time, and like all time, you need to decide how you want to spend it. And, it gets better, it really does. I know it may not feel that way sometimes, but it’s called a life cycle for a reason. Good times roll around along with the bad.
I would also like to remind you to believe in yourself more. And I know how hard it is because you have all these thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears and it seems like just because there’s a ‘1’ in your age, that people (okay, fine, ADULTS) will use that as an excuse to deny you respect and validation as a human who is capable of doing things and you’re given ten billion reasons to hate yourself and to lose faith in what you can do. But please, please, don’t. You will figure out who you are and it’s a long, messy process so be patient with yourself.
Don’t give up and don’t underestimate all the amazing things you are capable of. This is something I have struggled with throughout high school. I never really believed in myself. I let myself live by a long list of all the things I couldn’t do.
Also, forgive yourself when you mess up. Because you will. A lot. But just remember that it’s okay to change. It’s okay to change your habits or your hair or your clothes. Most importantly, it’s okay to change the way you think. You don’t have to hold certain opinions just because your peers, or even your parents do. (For example, I am a feminist.)
It is important though not to waver in your integrity. Test yourself and everything in your life by asking: “Is this right for me personally?”
Be a leader. You don’t have to be loud and commanding to do so. My mom would always tell me to set the example and that actions speak louder than words. And so with everything, I try to ask myself: “Am I making things better by saying/doing/behaving like this….or am I just making it worse?”
But on the other hand, if you have to choose between ‘helping’ someone at the expense of harming yourself (either mentally or physically), choose to protect yourself. Know your limits. Know what kind of people are good for you and what people are toxic. For example, I know/have known a lot of people with mental illnesses. I’ve learned that I can help people with depression/anxiety without harming myself. But not a lot of people can. But anxiety is where I draw the line. I can’t deal with anyone with bi-polar, sociopathic, narcissistic, tendencies. And then there are just some people that are toxic for other reasons.
Be open to meeting new people. Please don’t form cliques. Just don’t. Not only does it exclude others, but you’re harming yourself by blocking yourself off from many learning opportunities. Speaking of learning, learn from anything and everything. Learn both from the mistakes and triumphs of all those around you. No one is ever completely wrong or completely right.
And lastly, I want you to remember that nothing is ever irreparably damaged. There will, of course, be days where you feel like a fragile glass figurine and all it will take is a touch or a word to crack you into a billion pieces and you’ll be lying in bed, staring at the ceiling (maybe crying), and wondering if this chaos and pain is some inevitable chain that will forever keep on twisting tighter around your heart. But it’ll get better, you’ll grow stronger, I promise. And along with those dark days, they’ll be some moments that you’ll want to live over and over again because they’ll leave you full of hope and a grand love for life. That’s just life. Simultaneously perfect and horrid at the same time. Hold it all close to you because all these moments will soon be a fleeting wisp of what once was, and someday, you’ll look back (much like what I’m doing right now), and be in absolute awe of how everything came together.