High School Lisa: an exercise in self-reflection
Dear High School Lisa,
I think about you sometimes. I think about what I wish you would have known back then.
To be honest, there’s not much I would change about you. I am actually really proud of you. You were, in fact, my favorite version of myself to date.
You were content with yourself. There was a depth of self-awareness to you, a disregard for finding acceptance in typical teenage avenues. Jeans and a narrow rotation of threadbare vintage t-shirts, make-up-less–that’s how I remember you. Sure, you were naive and idealistic, but you had perspective. And you had your priorities in line.
Remember those people who would tell you that you had a good head on your shoulders? That you were mature for your age? They were right, you know. I think you knew that at the time, but with added time and perspective, I see now how right they were. I love that about you.
You were just a good kid. An easy one.
But there are still things I would want to tell you.
I wish you would have realized how important it is to include others. I see now how hard it is for kids to start at new schools, to find acceptance and belonging in a brand new peer group, especially at that age. I wish you would have gone out of your way to include those people. You were never mean or exclusive, but you were selfish in that sense. You loved your friends and your life and you were settled in your own routine. For all your strengths in seeing other people’s perspectives, you really didn’t stop to put yourself firmly enough in the new kids’ shoes. I think you would have been more overtly inclusive if you had. I hope so, anyway.
You couldn’t have chosen a better boyfriend. I think you knew that one at the time too, but he was the absolute perfect high school boyfriend. Having seen the range of high school dating experiences, I am so proud of you for this one. You needed a stable, loyal, servant-hearted, hard-working, (athletic) guy from a solid family. You chose well. There was a real wholesomeness to that relationship. He was your best friend. He loved you, respected you, and honored you. I know it was a hard, painful decision, but he wasn’t the best fit for you long-term–you were right on that one. You will find a higher compatibility fit (and it will feel just like you think it should, even though you can’t put words to it now). But he was exceptionally well-suited to you for that season. You will always think fondly of him and that time. That’s a really good thing, a privilege not reserved for many.
I know sometimes your family situation was hard for you. Especially in comparison to your best friends’ seemingly perfect family, seemingly perfect life. First off, comparison is the greatest thief of joy. Learn this lesson early as it will save you so much doubt, insecurity, and feelings of inferiority. Second, that family was one of God’s greatest gifts of grace to you. The ripple of their influence extends so much further than you know right now. They are a significant reason why your own marriage thrives the way it does now. Be sure to thank them properly. Third, every family has their issues. It has taken a long time to learn this lesson, but trust me, it’s true. Remember that when you have a moment of envy. Fourth, you have influence, even as a teenager, over your familial relationships. If you don’t like how they are playing out, initiate change. You have that power. It is no longer an adult-child relationship in which you are merely a reactor. Lastly, I know it is hard and I am not discrediting that, but believe me when I say, the range of terrible family situations is wide. Always be thankful that you have parents who love you and siblings with whom you are on good terms. It will be a journey.
You won’t always love basketball. It’s shocking, I know, because you eat, drink, and sleep it now and have for years. But one day, you won’t know the latest NBA stars, you won’t take walks with a basketball at your side, or shoot around to clear your head, or even be able to locate your Bulls/Jazz Finals scrapbook. It’s okay though. There will be other loves.
College is going to be so much more challenging than you realize. Not academically–you’ll do just fine there. But it will be a total shock to your system socially and culturally (and SO much colder than you are anticipating). Hang in there. You will find an indescribable measure of God’s grace through your persistence and faithfulness. You will find the friends of a lifetime there. It will all be worth it.
Don’t shy away from hard questions and don’t fear pain, regret, or failure. Engage them. You will find depth and authenticity and growth there.
Read CS Lewis when you feel you have lost your compass. He reorients you.
Always believe in God’s grace and power like you do right now. It won’t always be so easy–you will waffle and there will be difficult seasons, but try to be faithful. Don’t think back on yourself as young or naive or silly when it comes to faith just because your horizons are going to expand and you are going to engage more intellectual arguments and meet a wider range of people with varying beliefs. You believe fiercely and trust fully right now. That is something I admire about you. I wish I was more like you in that.
Always make sure your mom knows she means the world to you. Quirky as she is, you would be lost without her.
Value people over things. Ten times out of ten.
Be thankful always. There will never be a minute of your life in which you won’t have something to be thankful for. You have no idea right now of the scope of suffering and hardship in the world. As your future best friend will say, we have hit the lottery with our lives. Be actively thankful.
Believe that God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness. Act based on that belief.
Know that you’re gonna be just fine. And you don’t have to be perfect. Let that go a little.