Updated: Aug 30, 2019
Let's first discuss the obvious:
I haven't blogged in months.
But, if you're willing, I'd like to excuse myself with this: I graduated high school!
Therefore, I blame my absence on the plethora of finals I had to study for, the many trips I took with my classmates for a "last goodbye", the detail that comes with college preparation, and party-hopping from one graduation party to the next—including my own.
So, while I absolutely despise inconsistency, I beg forgiveness from each of you as I hope you will understand. Even though I made blogging every Sunday a top priority of mine, it was hard to stop it from getting lost in the graduation chaos.
However, it was in that chaos that inspired me to get back to where I started: me and you every Sunday, my heart spilled out on your screen. Graduating high school is a milestone that I want to share with each of you, and I figured that there's nothing like a "what I learned in high school" blog post that could reunite us back together again. I have learned a lot these past four years—ten important factors, in particular—and it didn't take long for me to decide to share these lessons with you all. I understand that my readers consist of both high school graduates and incoming freshman. Some of you may even still be in middle school. Regardless, I am encouraged to tell you all of the lessons I've learned in my journey as a high school student and what I will always carry as a high school graduate.
The best way to be confident is to be humble. I started out my freshman year equating self-love a little too closely with all of my accomplishments. I used to argue that there was nothing wrong with that, but whenever I didn't accomplish what I wanted to, I would spend a lot of nights rolling around in self-pity, grinding my teeth, pulling my hair, having a bit of a breakdown—all because I failed. It's one thing to be proud of yourself, but to base all of your self-confidence on what you can do... yikes! Half of what I do is not put-on-the-mantle-so-everyone-can-see worthy, and that's okay. However, the second I did begin to find peace in my accomplishment and take time everyday to dust off the trophy, I would find myself in another defeating night, dealing poorly with a failure. That's not okay. I consider myself to be successful, but that's not why I'm confident. I know the difficult steps it took to get to where I am today (mind you, I'm still not where I want to be yet), and the process has intertwined my humility and confidence into one inseparable quality.
2) Independence. "Independence—being okay even if someone doesn't stay." (A quote from my novel, "How I Fell in Love with Myself"). You don't realize how much you depend on someone until they leave. And, in high school, (get this!), some people leave. What a shame it would be if you put all of your joy into someone who only stayed in your life for a season. Wouldn't all of your joy go with them? Mine did at one point. I invested a lot of my peace into people who were only interested in leaving. Yet, because of their absence, I've learned to be okay with and without. It's the art of independence, an art that high school showed me how to excel in.
3) Generosity. There's a lot of power in giving than it is receiving, especially if you're giving out of obedience. When I first gave my heart to the Lord, I knew I would have to make some sacrifices. Yet, those sacrifices can't even compare to the returns God gave me back on my investments. Even now, I am benefiting from the different "Yes's" I said to the Lord throughout high school. "Yes" to giving up time, "yes" to giving up money, "YES" to giving. And, it's more than just giving. It's giving generously.
4) Honesty. You know when someone asks if you're okay, and you say you're fine, but you really aren't? Yeah, that's cancelled. If high school taught me anything, it's to be honest with my emotions. I would choke back tears often, especially my freshman and sophomore year. I knew that I had plenty of people on my side who cared, but that wasn't the issue. The issue was that I simply hated admitting my weak spots. I liked being the encourager, not the one who needs encouraged. I liked helping people, not the one who needed help. However, after a night spent lying to God about how I was doing, He told me the truth about myself. My hustle to be everyone's savior—everyone's hero—when I needed my own was just a desperate attempt to put myself in the place of God. So, here's my message to you: you can't save everyone. You can't even save yourself. You have to be honest enough to admit that you need a savior.
5) Selflessness. This is my favorite lesson, a lesson I embraced dearly my junior and senior year. It's called selflessness, which can be offensive in today's society. Selflessness is very simple.
It means... (...drum roll please...) IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU! Ouch, right!? But, it's true. The moment I start to make it all about me, the more I get anxious. I learned why. It's because it's out of order. From the very beginning of time, it should go like this: God first, then others, then you. If I put myself first, my very human nature detects that it isn't right. Before I know it, I'm having a panic attack. But, if I lift up God's name and serve others as a result of my worship, I will be taken care of. The only way I can love myself is if I remain selfless.
6) Change. Change happens. It's inevitable. And, do you know what I've learned about change? I hate it. I like it when the plan stays the same, when the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. Yet, high school showed me that not only does it happen, but despite my dislike, change is good. For every U-turn and steps backwards, I always found myself to not just be okay, but turned out to be even better.
7) Hardwork. Hardwork is an investment. Hardwork pays off. You may not see it when you're up late, surrounded by scribbled notes and study guides. Yet, I guarantee that you'll see it on the day of your commencement. Friends, families, teachers, and administrators celebrating you. It's tough, but you can do it. Keep going. Don't stop.
The word alone makes me shiver. There will be opposition. It doesn't matter how pretty you are, how funny you are, how talented you are, or even how kind you are. There is going to be someone who doesn't like you. For a while, I must admit, this didn't sit well with me. Even now, I don't like the sound of it. Don't you know how bad I would like to be everyone's favorite person without trying? Don't you know how much rest I would get? However, I learned my junior year that even if I did try, opposition is inevitable. It doesn't matter if I make them laugh or buy them lunch. They still may not like me. Although, I don't recall anyone ever telling me that I had to make them my closest friends. No one told me, and no one told you either. Just continue to be you, and your friends will come.
"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." - Albert Einstein. I couldn't have said it better myself. The opportunity of a lifetime doesn't come without difficulty. There were plenty of bright, shining moments that I wish I could've reached out and grabbed, but was interrupted by secret insecurities, setbacks, and storms. I've had a lot of "so close, yet so far" moments in high school. The distance that kept me back from my goal created the most difficult times of my life. But, the resistance only foretells how great the opportunity is. I've learned that you can't stop pressing just because your big moment isn't coming easy. Take it from me: keep going. It's worth it in the end.
10) Life. Let me explain. I spent a lot of time before and during high school trying to live a perfect life—to have the perfect clothes, the perfect friends, take the perfect photos, etc.. In my junior year, all of that perfection wore me out, so much so that I didn't have much of a life at all. I cut important people off, isolated myself, hid behind depression, and begged God to make my misery go away. I no longer worried about living a perfect life. I just wanted a life to live. I was lucky enough to have God on my side when I had this request because He showed me a life I was blind to for a huge part of my high school career. He didn't offer me a perfect life, a normal life, or a hard life. Instead, he offered me an abundant life. A boundless, overflowing, unending joyful life. It's a life that can still be abundant in the dark. It can still shine in the darkest moments. It's a life that can endure loneliness and anxiety. Even further, it's a life that encourages you to get out of bed when you don't want to—a life that makes plans with friends, goes to get ice cream with family, watches a movie to end the night. It's a life that makes living fun. The abundance runs over into dreams and visions, plans that are exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. Looking up, dreaming higher, living like heaven on earth. It's a life that can't be lived through a dead religion. It's a life that can't be lived without Christ. He came so that we could have it, and my greatest regret is that I didn't start living it until my senior year. I wish someone told me to go to the Friday night football games, to join a club, to sit with someone new at lunch, to invite a group of friends to come over. However, I like to think that no one told me, so that I can tell you, incoming freshman. You should live your best life. You should live the abundant life. You only have one. Don't wait too long to live it.
These are the ten factors I will carry into college, ten factors I will carry into the rest of my life. All of the memories, all of the accomplishments, all of the failures, and all of the regrets turned into lessons that I could only learn in
(H)umility (I)ndependence (G)enerosity (H)onesty (S)elflessness (C)hange (H)ardwork (O)pposition (O)pportunity (L)ife