In honor of our college guide issue, here is a list of 10 things I want the young adults in my life to know:
- You are loved. More than you know. You have a circle of people who love you totally. This circle wants good things for you. They hurt when you hurt and they rejoice when you rejoice. When you are struggling or worried or afraid, reach out to that circle. Odds are high that they will respond to you with grace and support.
- You are gifted. There are talents, insights, ideas and inventions that are yours alone and the world will be better if you share them. Don’t let the perfect paralyze the good. Share your words, creativity, thoughts and know they are worthy.
- You are both always the same and always changing. There are core parts of you, personality traits, quirks, values that will remain no matter your context. However, many other things will evolve: your opinions, your tastes, your interests. Notice if there is dissonance between those unchanging parts of you and the outward aspects of your life. You can’t thrive pretending to be who you aren’t.
- You don’t have to know what you want to do. It is more important to know who you want to become. Find people you admire and spend time with them. Cultivate relationships not for connections but for content. Learn from those whose lives you’d like to emulate.
- You aren’t responsible for anyone else’s happiness, but you are responsible for your actions. It is inevitable that you will hurt people you care a lot about. You will make mistakes. You will have regrets. Having regrets means you’ve learned something, likely something important. There is great strength in humility, in admitting when you’ve screwed up and then doing your best to make amends and move forward with greater wisdom and empathy.
- You are immeasurably valuable and so is every other human being on the planet. Everyone is created good. Everyone is made in God’s image. Treat yourself in ways that reflect your true value and treat others that way, too. Doing so changes every interaction, informs every choice and facilitates an authentic and abundant life.
- Don’t worry too much about how you are perceived by others. This isn’t a free pass to be oblivious to how your behavior impacts people. This is an invitation to free yourself of the burden of calculating how every move, word and deed will be judged. Constant self-censuring is exhausting and often prevents the sharing of your unique gifts.
- Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. This means that the twists and turns, the disappointments, the accomplishments and the failures are all free game for God’s purposes. I assure you it will be your biggest mistakes that will teach you the most. I can tell you with confidence that some of the detours, the odd jobs, the class you didn’t want to take, the person you’d never choose as a roommate, will teach you skills you didn’t know you had until you really need them.
- Cultivate thankfulness, joy and beauty. This takes conscious effort, but the more you practice it the easier it gets. These are commodities that never run out and grow as they are shared. The bonus is that when you are grateful and express it, when you are joyful and demonstrate it, when you notice beauty and point it out you keep finding more and more to celebrate.
- Trust that all will be well. When things are absolutely at their worst, know that you are still in the middle of the story. Recite the words of the mystic Julian of Norwich, “All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.” Or quote The Dude. Our God is a God of seven times seven chances. Our God is the God who doesn’t abandon us on Good Friday but carries us through until Easter Sunday. So when you are feeling utterly bereft, remember ours is a God of resurrection and then call on one of those folks who love you. They want to hear from you.
Grace and peace,