High school. What a glorious season of life. Maybe the academics part isn’t so glorious (at least it wasn’t not for me), but who looks back on their four years in high school with fond memories of studying and homework?
When I was a teenager, academics was a gateway to the better parts of school…friends, girls, and sports.
If you can’t tell, I thought I had it all figured out. I thought the world revolved around me (and in a sense it did, sadly). Then I graduated and surprisingly life moved on. At the time, I couldn’t imagine my alma mater moving forward without my presence.
Fast forward ten years. I bet you a dog and two cats (neither of which I own) no person at my alma mater remembers my name. With graduations occurring all over the country, I spent some time reflecting on the things I have learned since leaving high school. I want to share those thoughts with you. I would love to travel back in time to give my 18-year-old self some advice and counsel.
Here are 12 things I wish I could tell myself after high school graduation.
1. A life of entitlement will steal your joy.
You think you are owed something because you happened to be born in America to a family that is not poor and loves you. And I get it. All your friends operate with a sense of entitlement as well. But I can tell you from experience, entitlement robs your life of joy and peace. You are not owed anything.
Your parents don’t owe you a vehicle. They aren’t supposed to pay for your school or help you through college. They choose to do these things because they love you, not because they have to.
The more you can grasp this, the less animosity and frustration you will have toward others. And the more joy you will experience moving forward.
2. Nothing shapes the trajectory of your life more than your friends.
18-year old Frank. You are about to enter a new season of life. A season where you will make new friends. Choose them wisely. Don’t settle. Your friends will determine your future. Nothing impacts the trajectory of your life like your friends. I know you have a desire to be popular. I know you desire affirmation.
But I beg you to use a filter other than popularity when determining your friends. Look at the motivations of others. Look at the heart of others. Do these individuals love God? There is more to life than popularity and notoriety.
Eventually, your standards will raise or lower to the standards of your friends. Choose friends that make you better, challenge you, and raise your standards.
3. Worth and identity are not found in the car you drive or the clothes you wear.
Other than sex, few things drive your current culture more than money. Even though you don’t technically own anything, you still find worth in the type of car you drive, the house your parents live in, etc. Money is very, very powerful. It can (and will) overtake your life.
Stop allowing the idea of wealth, a big house, and a big car to be the catalyst for your career choices. This is a terrible way to choose a career path.
I won’t ruin the story for you, but God is going to wreck your desire to have a lucrative career with tons of benefits…for His glory, of course!
4. A life of selfishness produces a heart of anger and resentment.
Oh, 18-year-old Frank. Where do I start? Here’s the deal. You are extremely selfish. I am just being real. I can do that. We are the same person. 29-year-old Frank is experiencing the side effects of a life completely focused around you. You use people to get your way. You experience a lot of anger and resentment because you have unrealistic expectations of others. And this is one reason you struggle to find purpose and peace.
18-year-old Frank, you bought the lie of your culture. The lie that says true life is found in something external. Over time, you will realize true life comes from within. It comes from God. It is the product of allowing God to be your heart’s desire. It comes not from expecting others to give their time and talents to you, but from you giving your time and talents to others.
Maybe you could try some of that now. The current version of yourself would greatly appreciate it!
5. If you wear a costume to hide who you really are, you will always feel empty.
I love you man, but you put on a huge front. Most of your life is a facade. I know this is harsh, but you need to hear it. You appear like a good kid, but once you get in front of the “right” people, your personality changes.
You can put on a mask. Most of your peers do. But always remember this. When you wear a costume, the person others love and accept isn’t actually you. It’s the costume. As long as you “play the part” your life will be plagued with emptiness. Because the love, acceptance, and affirmation others give you never make it to your heart. They are absorbed by the costume.
6. The decisions you make now shape the person you will become in the future.
18-year-old Frank, the decisions you make now matter. I know you think that’s ridiculous, but 29-year-old Frank is a testament to this truth. Perspective is a missing virtue in your life. And this clouds the reality that your future self and current decisions are intertwined.
I need to tell you that some of the bad decisions you are making now continue to rear their ugly heads ten years later.
Consider the trajectory of your life. Who are you becoming? What do you want from life? What is your purpose? Think about these things now. Stop living for the moment. Every decision is leading your somewhere. Make decisions that point your life towards God and towards greatness.
7. As long as you are controlled by insecurity, you are a slave to the opinions of others.
I know you struggle with insecurity. You wish you were taller. You wish you were better looking. You wish you were faster. Etc. Etc.
I want to challenge you to change your perspective. You look at the world through the lens of what you lack. Because you do this, you are blinded to the abundance of gifts God has given you.
As long as you are controlled by insecurity, you are a slave to the opinions of others. And you will stop at nothing to please others. Don’t be that person.
Rest in the man God created you to be. Until you do, comparison will drive you down dark roads. And the unique purpose God has for your life will go to waste.
8. You do not have it all figured out.
18-year-old Frank, you think you have all the answers to life. No one can tell you anything you don’t already know. You throw out opinions that don’t line up with yours. This is dangerous.
Listen to people older than you. Accept rebuke from people. Believe it or not, you aren’t always right. Surround yourself with people that are smarter and wiser than you…and learn from them.
9. Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.
Career, future wife and family, school, football. Between all of these, almost every second of your life is filled with worry and stress. The unknown is hard. I get that. But believe me, God takes care of it.
You should see your amazing wife and kids. I won’t show you a picture. Just know your wife is smokin’ hot. Surprisingly, she loves you despite your faults. And she loves God more than she loves you.
You should see your kids. No, I won’t tell you if they are boys or girls. But know they are amazing (and smart). They get it from their mom.
And 18-year-old Frank. You will never guess the career path God has chosen for you. Man, I want to tell you so bad. But I won’t. Just know it will make you laugh, and it will remind you God is ultimately in control of your life.
As long as your life is filled with worry, you can’t enjoy it. Relax.
10. Stop cussing so much.
You believe it is funny and cool. And I know what you are thinking. The Bible doesn’t specifically address cussing. That’s a fair point.
It is not as much that cussing is right or wrong, it is that you think you have to do it to fit in and be liked. You know this is not who you are.
Clean up your language.
11. Take up golf. And stop saying “Bro.”
I do not need to explain this one. You suck at golf. Start practicing now.
And while we are discussing random things you need to change, stop saying “bro” so much. It’s a hard habit to shake. People think you are a hipster from California. And you know what hipsters in California do? Right. You don’t want that label.
12. Give everything to God! He is worth it!
This is really why I traveled back in time to have this conversation with you.
You are buying a lie 18-year-old Frank. You believe following God robs you of fun. You think following God equals a boring life full of rules. Part of this is the fault of your Christian culture. I apologize on their behalf.
The other side of the coin is you believe there is only one definition of fun. The thing about your definition of fun is that somebody always gets hurt, and it leads to destruction.
Be real with me. Is your life fun? Do you have peace? I know you go to bed feeling empty. You think there must be more to life. And you are right. But only God can fill your void.
I want to tell you, 18-year-old Frank, NOTHING in this life is more important than God. Love Him with all of your heart. Trust the 29-year-old version of you, he is worth it. He is the only path to life.
If you give your whole heart to him, you will see that following Jesus doesn’t rob you of fun. It actually increases fun.
18-year-old Frank, my comments are direct. But I didn’t travel back in time to sugar coat things. I want you experience the life God created for you. We are in this together. So, let’s make some changes. Let’s set a trajectory for this life that extends beyond this life into eternity. And, in the process, let’s leave a mark on this world by making Jesus famous. He is worth it!
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!