No matter where I turn, it seems I can’t stop seeing graduates. It’s a very exciting time for them, and I’m very proud of the ones I know, but I can’t help but feel strange. All the graduations are bring my memory back to my own – 10 years ago. Which is crazy in so many ways, not the least of which is that the age of 30 is looming just a few short years away. Somehow, life doesn’t feel nearly as over at this point as my 17-year-old self imagined.
All that being said, this time does allow for introspection. While there were a lot of good times and great memories in those four years, there are also regrets and things I would change. In honor of ten years gone by, here are ten tidbits of advice that I would like to offer to anyone now going through their own high school experience.
- I wish I had known my Bible better.
The older people get, the more set in their ways they are. Teenagers are still trying to figure out who they are and are far more open to talking about religion with others. There are conversations I still remember and opportunities I had to teach the Truth to others that I didn’t take advantage of because I just didn’t know the answers. Looking back, I can see how much a little more study might have made a huge difference. Don’t let something as easy as studying your Bible keep you from leading others to Christ.
- I wish I had cared more about modesty.
Honestly, I thought I did at the time. Usually, anyways. But there were also days I cared more about how I looked and trying to get noticed. I know this is true because I now have the pictures to prove it. Who wears short shorts? I did, and I really wish I hadn’t. It does matter. I want you to be able to look back and honestly say that you never put your ego before your Christianity.
- I wish I had better understood Whose I was.
I made mistakes and felt them acutely, to the point where it was sometimes hard to believe I could ever be good enough. For others. For myself. For God. Now I know I can’t be, but that Christ’s blood continually cleanses me (1 John 1:7) anyways. Don’t spend so much time worrying about your mistakes that you aren’t able to grow and evangelize.
- I wish I had been more compassionate.
Youth is so prideful. It hasn’t made nearly as many mistakes and therefore it’s easier to show “tough love” (read: no love) to people that have. The Bible is generally pretty clear on what’s right and wrong in most cases and we should never turn a blind eye. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to show love and compassion and patience when others make mistakes – just like we all want for ourselves.
- I wish I hadn’t been so afraid.
There were times when I was completely unconcerned with what others thought. I would do what I thought was right and try to teach others with non fear. But there were also times I desperately wanted to avoid drawing any attention to myself. The rest of my youth group went to another school and at times I just felt ridiculously different and just didn’t want to be lonely. Eventually I quit caring so much, but I wish it hadn’t taken so long to get there. Don’t be afraid to stand out.
- I wish I hadn’t spent so much time thinking about boys.
I was boy crazy. Sadly so. Most of the guys I knew were not the kind of guys I needed to date, and I was well aware of that. Still, that didn’t stop me from liking some of them and spending a ton of time thinking about when I would finally find the mystical one. Definitely had the “forever alone” mindset before that was a thing. Ironically, I met my now husband my second year of college – at the ripe old age of 18. If I had quit worrying and wasting all that time and brainpower I could have been a Greek scholar. Cured cancer. Something. The point is, don’t worry so much about finding someone and worry more about making yourself worth being found.
- I wish I had spent more time serving others.
I was your stereotypical overachiever and pretty involved in my youth group, which meant that there were plenty of opportunities to be involved in some sort of service project throughout my high school years. However, I wish I’d sought out more of my own opportunities to serve and really built a foundation in my life of putting others first instead of just getting my checkmark for whatever I was participating in. Learn how to serve others now and it will stay with you throughout your life.
- I wish I hadn’t constantly been told that those were “the best years of my life”.
Let’s be honest, most teenagers already know this one is a lie. That never seemed to stop the well-meaning adults who were overly concerned with making sure I didn’t miss one magical moment of my high school years. Appreciate every single day God gives you and use it to your fullest. But don’t feel pressure to make this the best time of your life. It’s not. At least, it shouldn’t be. Don’t lose sight of that.
- I wish I had respected my parents more.
Eye-rolling. Talking back. Acting like a know-it-all. Feeling like I deserved a certain level of respect in order to give respect back. I did these. All of these. And more. At the time I felt unbelievably justified. I wasn’t. I know I’m not alone in this because I see it all the time from all sorts of otherwise good, respectful Christian girls. And it hurts me. It hurts me for their parents and it hurts me for my parents and it hurts me for myself. But mostly it hurts me for them. Because if they’re anything like me, then those are going to be some of the biggest regrets they have when they look back. It’s one of the easiest things to change, so think about how you’re treating your parents. They deserve your respect.
- I wish I had respected God more.
This is kind of a blanket statement really. I feel like I’m cheating. But respect for God is really the basis for everything else. Don’t do things just to be doing them, right or wrong. Do them because you love God and respect Him. Don’t look for the respect of others or be concerned with what they might or might not say about you. Realize everything you do should be a symptom of your love and respect for God and desire to make your life His. Do your best to fulfill Paul’s words in your own life and let it be said that you’re no longer living, but Christ is living in you (Galatians 2:20). Do this the best you can and live a high school life that you’re proud of.