Every year at our church’s youth group grad night we watch parents share their stories about their children growing up and what they have become in what seems like a all too short amount of time. Parents ask the same thing every year. “Where did the time go?”
After we became parents, I remember feeling like the toddler phase was never going to end but now that my oldest is eight it seems like “toddler” really did happen yesterday. Time has a way of shrinking the experiences together making them feel like more of a dream sequence than a life that we lived in minutes and hours that stretched over actual years.
As I watched the students stand alone with their parents on the stage my mind flashed to the day when those same kids walked with their parent into the youth group for the first time. The whole world was new for them on that day just as it became for them again last night during the church grad ceremony.
In those everything-is-new moments I want teenagers to know some things about themselves as they stand on stages dressed in the traditional new chapter cap and gown.
You are most interesting. The way you are wired and the way you process things is completely unique from anyone else. I pray you don’t lose that perspective because it’s the most beautiful and brave thing about you. You being you is showing the world a part of God’s image that no one else can ever reveal. Try to be all you as much as you can.
You are becoming. Just because you graduated doesn’t mean that you have to have everything figured out. There will be so many types of moments in your future and an equally diverse amount of emotions to go with them. I want you to know that it’s okay to feel them, talk about them, and wonder about what you’ve learned over the years. Questions are your best friend, not your guilt pile. You should keep asking questions and keep looking for mentors. Keep being mentored and keep meeting with people who love you and value you for as long as you live.
You don’t need to spend all of your money on a better car. If you have a car that gets you places safely then keep it forever. Spend your money on experiences with others. Spend your time working for things that last longer than a tank of gas. There are so many ways to get around—you don’t need to need a beautiful car to have a beautiful life.
You should be accepting food from people. You might be laughing at this one but I’m being serious. Please don’t go into debt because you don’t have enough money to buy groceries. There are these things called churches full of people who would turn their cupboards inside out for you, they will invite you over for dinner, they will help you. But they don’t know you need a little help unless you ask. There’s nothing shameful about pouring everything you have into your education. There’s nothing shameful about having just enough to get by. It’s how most of us begin. Including me. I ate Ramen noodles so much in college that I can barely stand the smell of them today. I now know that if I would’ve given some time to relationships with adults in the church in our community they would have us over for dinner, they would have said yes. So take yourself to church and get to know some families, some people who aren’t your age, and let them love you.
The quiet time you have now is huge. Use it to communicate with God, to sit in small groups, to be mentored, to create. Take advantage of this four, five…sometimes six (haha) year window to grow your soul, grow relationally and emotionally. You won’t regret savoring this time as it becomes increasingly more fast paced with full time jobs and more responsibility.
Have fun. Have so much fun. Find some kids younger than you and have so much fun with them. Create things. Go outside. Go after life like the cup of coffee everyone will become so dependent on. Find the places that make you smile and camp out in them longer.
There are so many quirky and cliche things you’ll hear as you graduate this year. But don’t let the fact that they are quirky and cliche make you feel that they are less true. Time does fly by whether we like it or not and what we do with it matters. How your life goes depends a lot on what you believe to be true, what matters to you, and how all of that makes you feel and act. I hope you know that you’re life is so special and we all want this for you—to know that you are loved, that you have something significant to offer others, and that your time will matter to someone else someday (even if you’re not okay all of the time, even if you don’t have it all figured out). The truth is, none of us are and none of us do.
We are for you.