Five years ago, I was in your shoes. I was leaving high school behind with a whole new world ahead of me and no idea what to expect. Looking back on everything, these are some of the things I wish I would have known as I moved on to the next season of my life.
- Always listen to your parents. My parents gave me all sorts of advice throughout high school, and I listened – but I didn’t truly appreciate them until a little later. I’m still seeing all the time how wise they are and how right everything they said to me really was! If you can’t figure something out and you don’t know what to do, ask your parents and what they say is probably right.
- Expectations unmet will cause some of your worst frustrations, whether that’s an expectation of yourself or others. The only way to avoid that is to not have expectations. Goals are great! Having something to work towards is the only way to accomplish anything. But people (including yourself) are not 100% unreliable. Everyone has the ability to disappoint you. Be prepared for things to not work out and be flexible, joyful and gracious to others in all situations.
- Remember that your plan isn’t always God’s plan. And he has a plan. You are a unique individual created in the image of God. He has given you specific talents, abilities and spiritual gifts that, combined, are like no one else he has ever, or will ever, create. He has plans to bring specific people and opportunities into your life that no one else could ever love or impact the same way you can! You are so very vital to carrying out the will of God in this world. Be open to hearing his voice and trust that his plan is so much greater than anything you could possibly come up with on your own.
- Don’t compare yourself. God has a plan for you, and he has a plan for everyone else. Unfortunately, life is short and you probably won’t get the chance to do absolutely everything you’ve dreamed of. It can be really hard to watch someone else get something or someone we had hoped to have for ourselves. Be content in what God blesses you with and move forward in faith that what he has given you is all that you need. Comparison only leads to doubt, self-image issues, depression, and so many other things. Be happy for others and constantly bring to mind all the ways that God has blessed YOU. Praise him for those things.
- Question what you believe. I think it is so healthy to have these years where you go off to meet new people with new opinions and worldviews. This is the time where you make your faith YOURS. It is now your choice to go to church. It is your choice to acknowledge God in front of your peers. It is your choice to spend time with God. Take the time to explore your faith and to ask God to show you who he is. Make your faith your own so that when hard times come, you can know for sure you believe.
- Don’t succumb to peer pressure. I’ve had times where I did and times where I didn’t. Initially, the embarrassment or disappointment of not doing what others are doing can be REALLY hard. I get it. But in the long run, having the strength to stand up for your values is totally worth it. Decide now, before those opportunities arise, what those values will be and then stick to them.
- You can do all things through God who strengthens you. There will be times that will get super hard. Find support people – the ones that can pray for you, listen to you, and encourage you. But most importantly of all, don’t forsake God. You will need him desperately. Let him be your comfort and your provider.
- What you do now will impact your future. Just because you are young doesn’t make you immune to cause and effect. Don’t be reckless just because you can be. Think about the outcomes of your choices and be wise. Financially, physically, spiritually, emotionally… you are building your foundation now. Be cautious as to what that foundation looks like because the rest of your life is going to depend on it.
- Make one decision at a time & pray about everything. I know you think you know what you’re gonna do. You may have the next ten years mapped out to a T. But don’t forget that there may be something even better that you hadn’t even thought of! Every time a decision comes your way, pray about it until you feel peace. Whether it’s a small decision – like which class to take or whether or not to go to a party, or a big choice – like switching majors, switching schools, or starting to date someone. PRAY. This way you will always know that what you are doing is God’s best for you.
- The best is yet to come. They say that high school and college are gonna be the best of your life. But, if you do it right, that’s far from the truth. The truth is that your teen years are some of the absolute worst. Everything seems like SO much bigger of a deal than it is. You have no idea who you really are, or sometimes even what you believe. People are cruel, and your self-image is trying to mold itself under those harsh expectations and judgment from those around you. It can be so hard. So, enjoy yourself in this time. Take every opportunity to travel, learn, explore and do new things. Make amazing memories! But if things don’t end up going the way you expected, or these years are downright lousy at times, don’t be discouraged. Life will be more fulfilling and abundant than you ever could have imagined if you just let God take the wheel.
“Do not…be envious of those who do wrong… Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”