Thirty Years of Retrospective Wisdom

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Last week I wrote a slightly silly post about my upcoming high school reunion, reminiscing about big hair and lamenting its translation into big hips (smile).  But today I am feeling a little more serious and sentimental.  So I decided to let my 48-year-old self write a letter to my 14-year-old self.

Dear Literally:

You’re a freshman now, and you have 4 years ahead of you that will become whatever you make them.  You’’ go on to do lots of other things after high school, things that will be arguably more important and impactful in the “life and global” sense.  However, who you are today, tomorrow, next month, and next year will become part for the foundation and tapestry of who you will be when you are, well, me.  So open your eyes and your heart, and pay attention! Yes, I know he’s cute, but he’s going to end up marrying someone else anyway, so focus!

Hold onto your values, and hold onto your sense of self, but let yourself be 14…and 15…and 18.  There are many absolutes in this world, but not nearly as many as you think there are right now.  You don’t want to drown, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid the ocean.  Grown strong in character and consistency, but don’t dismiss out of hand what might enhance your life that falls outside that little box you’re holding now.  Make friends who don’t think like you.  And listen to the way other people think.  Your mom and dad are strong, faith-built, harbors of protection.  And they have raised you well.  They won’t let you veer off course too far – heck, they won’t even let you wear clothes that are too “punk”!  It’s okay to expand your circle of comfort.

Your world is small right now, and there is safety in that.  That includes people.  Right now it consists of your family, a neighbor or two, and the people who sit with you in Sunday school.  And you know what? Those people in your life will build you up, challenge you, help your faith to grow, and be there for you.  In fact, I spent the weekend with one in particular who knows all about you and me and still loves us both.

But…

There are a whole lot of other people who share the halls with you.  Look at them.  See them.  Right now you are shy (which I know is hard to believe, since the older me never shuts up!).  You desire to fit in with everything in your being, and you don’t quite know how to get there.  You’re afraid of making a mistake.  And while you would just d-i-e- die at the thought of being considered a snob, you kind of will be if you’re not careful.  Not out of a sense of superiority, but out of a sense of shyness, fear, and tunnel vision.  I’ve spent the last year finding out how amazing the people you walk those halls with actually are, many of whom you were too busy in your own world to reach out to or notice.  There’s the girl who messages you on Facebook with encouragement, the girls who love to laugh and are still like sisters even today.  The boys who were shy gentleman who might have actually taken you to a movie if you’d not been so blind.  Not saying they will; you’ll likely be as dateless as I was (sorry, but it is what it is hon 😉 ).  Get to know more people than I did, and relish what they can bring to your life.

Also, take your time, but don’t be too sheltered.  I’ll be very frank, though I know it’ll shock some of my still-friends.  You don’t have to – regardless of what Tom Cruise said – say “what the &$@#” to be cool.  Good on you for not being able to make yourself say it.  There will be plenty of time for that when you’re commuting on 565 every day. But you also don’t have to put away your Thriller album to be good.  Don’t drink – you’re underage!  But you know what? Some of your classmates will some weekends.  You can still be friends.  It isn’t going to taint you in some cosmic way.  You aren’t so perfect either – you can’t fool me because I was you, and sins of the mind and heart like anger, envy, pride, and yeah – lust, I’m not stupid – are not any different than the sin of a wild party one Saturday in 1985.  And I’ll give you a little preview, which would be against the rules in a sci-fi movie.  When you’re just out of college, you’re going to meet a lovely Christian girl from Minnesota who listens to rock music on her Walkman.  She loves Jesus just as much as you.  And that woman in her thirties who taught you so much about faith and living for Jesus in every moment you met in graduate school?  The fact that she has wine in her refrigerator doesn’t make her words or life any less real.  And you know what. That 30-something year old you that really really screwed up, she might not have been so naïve had she not been so sheltered when she was your age and beyond.  And even if she was, Jesus forgave her completely.  He still does every time she screws up.

So that is some free advice from me to you.  Live your faith.  Live every day.  Laugh.  Learn to see people, and let them see you.  Widen your circle.  Kiss a boy with tongue.  Stand up for yourself.  Forget trying so hard.  Tease your hair.  Buy the neon.  You only live once.

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