I recently had the opportunity to join some amazing women for a panel discussion with some college students. One of the questions we were prepared for was this one: “If you could go back and tell your 20 year old self something, what would it be?” Oh, the possibilities! Now, my twenty-year-old self isn’t much younger than my present-day self, but I feel like I have a lot to say.
Dear 20-year-old self,
Enjoy this time. Enjoy being stressed out by papers and long chapters to read. Enjoy watching LOST for 12 hours in a row and not feeling guilty. Enjoy being able to stay up until 2 am every night. Enjoy it. Enjoy the fact that when people ask you what you’re doing with your life, you have a nice short, sweet answer to give them. Enjoy no one taking you seriously. Enjoy it.
Up until now, you’ve probably felt a lot of pressure to figure our where your life is going. Think about the questions you’ve been asked since you were a child. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Where are you going to college?” “What are your plans for after graduation?” All of those questions deal with the direction of your life.
Somewhere along the way, someone told you that you needed to find the magic key to your life. They called it your dream. They told you to live it. To chase it. To spend yourself in pursuit of it. They told you not to give up on it. To hold on to it.
So you came to college to work on your dream. To throw yourself into everything that you hope your life will be. Why? So that you can give a good answer to people who ask you about your plans for after graduation? So that everyone around you can see what a full life you’re living? Out of obedience to God? To meet your full potential?
Let me tell you something no one else is going to tell you. Knowing what your life is about is so much more important than knowing where your life is going. Where your life is going can change in an instant. car crash. fire. rejection letter. pregnancy test. marriage. recession. cutbacks. war. All it takes is one moment outside of your control. Your dream flickers and the light goes out. In an instant, the map is blank. Your life is going nowhere. You have no choice but panic. You have no option but to frantically map out a new dream.
But what if you know what your life is about? What if your life is about being faithful to a God who doesn’t need you to chart a map? make a plan? chase your dream?
There is always a way to be faithful to God.
When the dream flickers and dies. When the house is gone. When the war begins. When the bank account is empty. There is always a way to be faithful to God. Always.
Please, please remember that what you’re doing right now isn’t a bunch of grunt work that you have to do to get to the future on the other side. Please remember that what you are doing right now is vital to the kind of person you are becoming. Please read books. Have adventures. Serve. Meet people. Travel. Work hard. Try new things. Seek the Lord. Not because it will look good on your resume. Not because it will make you a better teacher. doctor. writer. scientist. Not because you desperately need to know what to do with your life, but because you want to understand what your life is about. Become a person who is faithful to God. There will always be a way to be faithful to God. Always.
And finally, 20-year-old self, please get a hair cut. Leave those edgy bangs to people who don’t go to the Hair Cuttery. Please. Also, clean your dorm room. It’s a disaster area.