I kind of can’t believe I’m typing this, but I graduated high school 10 years ago today. It’s a bit baffling. But rather than diving into a long rant about how time is wild and I just don’t understand it, I thought it’d be fun to write a letter to my 17 year old self (because I was a youngin’ and didn’t turn 18 until the week before I left for college) as a form of reflection. So here it goes…
Dear 17-year-old Kelly,
Congratulations! You finally made it. You finished high school and get to move on from this place that you’ve been looking forward to leaving for the last 3 years. Since I’ve gone ahead and taken on the next ten years of your life already, I figured I’d give you some insight to ease your mind about what is ahead – or at least prepare your heart for what is to come – without giving you too many spoilers. So here’s what I have for you:
First things first, get ready for a roller coaster ride. And not the kind that you ride over and over again because you love it so much. But the kind that you can only ride once and you have no idea what is going to come next. Because honestly, that’s what life is. It’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns. There are high highs ahead, and there are also low lows. But don’t be afraid of them. They all piece together to make you the person that is writing this letter to you now. And while she’s perfectly imperfect, she’s grown significantly more in the last 10 years than you could ever expect.
While we’re kind of on the topic of it, I know you don’t like to consider yourself a perfectionist, but we both know that you’re chasing perfection in pretty much every area of life…and to be honest, you’re going to keep chasing it, and you’re going to keep coming up empty handed. Don’t let that statement discourage you. Honestly, the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll feel freed up by it. Life isn’t meant to be perfect. YOU are not meant to be perfect. And even though you’ll come to learn that your desire for it is just how you’re wired, it doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in an endless chase. There are far better things to chase after. So take the pressure of yourself, do your best, and most importantly give yourself GRACE.
I know you’re going to overlook that last word, because it just sounds like a simple church word to you. But I’ll warn you now that through some hard and heavy failures, you’re going to truly learn what God’s amazing grace is and it’s going to be a game changer. It won’t be until you experience these hardships that you truly understand your need for Jesus, and that up to this point you’ve still been trying to save yourself. The sooner you surrender, the sooner you can rest in your freedom in Christ, and the sooner God can really use you for His glory.
I know you feel like you’re “behind” in some way for only knowing Jesus for a few years, but girl, He is just getting started with you and that is a beautiful thing. He’s going to wreck your heart and build you back up so much stronger – which might not sound appealing, but trust me, it truly is for your good. He’s going to use you in the quiet moments – some you’ll be aware of, and many of them you won’t. Just be open and willing to be used for His glory and be ready to be amazed of all that God is capable of. Following Him truly leads to a more abundant life.
I remember now that you’ve been trying for awhile to fully believe it is ok that you don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life. You’ve been told it many times from other people as well. I’m here to confirm for you, it really is ok. Even when it feels like you’re doing something wrong because everyone else seems to have it figured out, you’re not. The fact that you accept this will only make it easier for you to find your path when the time is right. Because God’s not leaving you hanging. He’s just waiting for the right time. He’ll let you in on what you need to know when you need to know it. And that means you’ll figure things out piece by piece. (Heck, I’m still figuring it out. And don’t worry, I’m so okay with it). Until then, I know you’ll come to this verse on your own eventually before you head off to college, but I’ll throw it out there to emphasize it’s importance for you: “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Life is never again going to look like it does right now for you. It’ll weird you out, and confuse you, and create some tension within you at times, because I know your tradition loving self likes to cling to the way things are when you are happy with them. But trust me when I say it’s okay to accept change and step out into the unknown. Your best memories will happen because of it. Your most significant growth will happen because of it. And it’s true that in order to experience the greatest abundance you have to let go of some things in the process. I’ll affirm with you, though, that there won’t be a day that goes by that you look back and want to return to high school. You’re going to love college. You’re going to love what comes after it. Good days and good things are ahead.
Now let’s be real, I think there’s some temptation for you right now to think you have it all figured out. I mean you’re about to turn 18. You’ve experienced a lot of life so far and you’ve already learned so much. But please let me do you a favor and lovingly tell you that you don’t. And that’s a good thing. Embrace humility in accepting that. And more importantly, embrace humility in admitting that. This will especially come into play as you navigate friendships. I know you’ve had your fair share of trials when it comes to friends (be encouraged that you do learn from them), but there’s still so much room for you to learn and grow here. There’s still some hurts ahead of you, and there’s certainly still some hurts that you’re going to inflict on others. Know that there is beauty in redemption, even when the road to it is painful. And there is also peace in letting go at the right times, even when the road to do so is painful. The friendships that endure through it all in the end become all the more worthwhile because of it.
Speaking of relationships…now I probably shouldn’t spoil this surprise for you, but it’s just too good not to…that boy you’re dating…you’re going to marry him. I know, I know. It’s wild. You’ll defy the odds of the statistics and marry your high school sweet heart. But your journey together is just getting started and your path won’t be without trials, heartaches, and pain, so don’t get too far ahead of yourself. But you’re also going to experience redemption and forgiveness and restoration in ways you’ve never known. Everything you’ve ever expected out of your relationship with him probably won’t go as planned, but it turns out better because of it. (And I’ll let you in on a secret, he only get’s more handsome).
On a different note, I’m going to be the bearer of bad news in saying that what everyone told you about your metabolism catching up with you is true. You’ve had it easy up to now. There will come a day when your health is going to require much more effort and intentional work than it ever has. It’ll rock your world for awhile, and it’ll hit you in waves and seasons, but I tell you this so that maybe you’ll handle it better than I have. Don’t take for granted your walks to class and your intramural sports. And when it does hit you, don’t be afraid to confess it like I was. You are not alone in the insecurities you’ll face, and you are not less than for feeling them. The more that God’s truth can be spoken against the lies you’ll believe, the sooner you’ll likely snap out of them and embrace the truth that you are loved and valued no matter what the shape of your body is.
Now I recognize that this has been quite a lot (yep, your wordiness doesn’t change one bit as you get older), and there’s so much more I could say, but let me finish off with this: It’s nothing but an adventure ahead of you, sweet girl. So buckle up and hang on for the ride (maybe throw your hands in the air for the thrill of it every once in awhile too)…it’s a good one ahead.