Tis the season for graduations. Each season of life brings with it new gifts and challenges, lessons and blunders. My high school days were full of struggle, and as the years have gone on, the struggles have not decreased. They’ve changed significantly, but they haven’t gone away. That’s life.
As I keep seeing all these graduation pictures, from pre-school on, I’ve reflected back on my own graduation days. Since high school is what birthed me into the world, there are a few things I’d like to say to my 17-year-old graduating self now that I’m almost 30 years old and much more “seasoned” at life.
Dear 17-year-old Rachael,
Hey there! Looks like you survived. I don’t just mean you made it through high school; I mean you actually lived through it. You didn’t die! Kind of miraculous. It was hairy there for a minute and we didn’t exactly think you were going to come through these years, but here you are. The toilet bowl didn’t suck you all the way down after all. It still has you swirling, but you’ll find your way out eventually.
You’ve got some big plans ahead, but listen up Rach. Things are not about to go the way you think they’re going to go. Life is about to get flipped upside down and you’re going to have to hang on tight.
I wish I could slap you out of this pit you’ve fallen into. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be that easy for you. But don’t worry. In many years from now, you’re going to understand why God didn’t pave the easy roads for you. You’re about to trudge the back roads. The unpaved, extra windy, riddled with bumps roads that no one wants to travel. But there’s a quote you’ll love in a few years that says, “God gave you this life because you are strong enough to handle it.” That’s you girl!
You’ve accomplished a lot in your 17 years. I’m proud of you. I know it doesn’t feel like it and right now you’re shrouded with failure. But this is not a failure. Sure, your dreams were right there in your hands and you flushed them down the toilet, but listen. Sometimes God takes our plans because they’re nowhere near as good as the ones He has for us.
NYU would’ve been cool. You would have rocked it. Your dance career could have been great, I’m sure. I know you’re devastated to lose all you worked so hard for due to your own choices, but just hang in there. You’re going to see why in the next few years.
Sweet, innocent darling, you’re about to step out into the world. You already did actually, and you weren’t ready for it, so it knocked you back home. I wish I could tell you that did the trick and rescued you from yourself, but it didn’t. You learn things the hard way and it’s going to take you lots more falls before you learn to really stand.
I know it hurts. You’re going to be pretty busted up. But you’ll appreciate each fall soon.
In the next couple years, you’re going to dive head first further into this rabbit hole. It’s going to be hard to endure, and honestly, it’s still hard to look at now almost 12 years later. But your days are not numbered yet. I know you can’t see the light right now and you’re really not even sure which way is up in order to look there, but there is an up and God is holding you until you find it.
These men that you keep stumbling into, they’re no good. I wish I could teach you to respect yourself so you could avoid some of the scars to your soul you’re about to acquire. But what we eventually learn is that our scars are proof we survived something.
You’ve got a lot of scars. Some are scars people can see, but most, only you know where they are. Remember, those are marks of survivorship.
I’m sorry you didn’t love yourself enough to avoid some of these pitfalls. But you’ll get there someday.
I know you don’t really know what you’re doing or who you are. Trust the process. It’s messy. It’s ugly. And it doesn’t look at all like what you expected. But it’ll be worth it.
Watching you stumble through this next 10 years is difficult. You really deserve so much more than you believe. You’ve sold yourself short your whole life. I wish I could let you see yourself through your own eyes 12 years from now. Maybe then you’d avoid such painful decisions and experiences.
I know you expected that you’d find Mr. Right the first go around and that you’d never ever get divorced. Well sweet cheeks, buckle up because it’s about to be a wild ride on the marriage trail for you.
You actually did better on round 1 than you thought you did… you just weren’t ready to handle it all. So we lose a pretty good one there. But it teaches you some good things. Unfortunately, it’s going to take you a couple more years, a lot of loss and a truly hellish love to bring those lessons into the light.
But as you know, you have to learn your lessons the hard way, so settle in.
Round 2 is where your life really gets interesting. You promise yourself after the first one fails that you’ll never get divorced again, but trust me when I tell you you’ll be grateful for the second one.
It’s going to hurt like hell though.
You really screwed up pretty big on this one, but as you learn over and over again, God is in the business of redemption, and you sweet pea, are a redeemed soul.
God never leaves you. I know you think he can’t even stand to look at you anymore just because you can’t. But guess what? He sees his purpose for you, and He will fulfill it, even if you fight hard against him and it takes you longer than we planned.
Life is just messy. That’s the truth. I know you think you’re going to be able to get everything right somehow and white knuckle your way into a perfect life. It ain’t gonna happen. It doesn’t exist.
You’re going to realize that living a real messy life is actually where perfection is found.
You’re going to see that even though you feel like a worthless failure, there are plans for you and somehow, through the suck, you will fulfill them.
You’re going to make some mistakes that are too painful and disgusting to even discuss. But guess what? So does everyone.
It’s not too late for you. You survived high school for a reason.
Right now you think your life is over, but really, it hasn’t even started yet!
You know how you think you’re not able to have babies? Well, just wait to see what God has in store for you dear. You’re going to be birthed into yourself through your journey of motherhood and pretty soon, life is going to make sense to you.
And then, it won’t make any sense at all and you’ll feel like you’ve taken 2 steps forward and 5 steps back. But you haven’t. You’re always moving forward.
God is always holding you. Trust that. When you forget everything else, remember that much. God is holding you.
Things work out. Life is hard, but it’s worth it. Love wins, and even though people suck, they’re more good than they are bad. And so are you.
You’re good. And you will do good things.
Forgive yourself for your mistakes, let go of the past and grab onto the future. It’s there for you. Walk into it!
Your life is going to be crazy and it’s going to be messy….but it’s also about to be absolutely beautiful. Enjoy the ride!