An open letter to myself, upon graduating from high school


Dear 18-year-old Laura,

Congratulations! You’ve graduated from high school. You’ve heard “Pomp and Circumstance”, carried a diploma and flaunted an honor cord, carried a grudge and hidden your broken heart. (See how well I know you?) I know what you think you need and what you really do need. So here’s some advice, none of which you heard from your commencement speaker.

Hit your knees. Humility’s a virtue, hon. You don’t have it. You should. You don’t know everything.

Forgive. You know who. Hard as it is to understand, there’s more to the situation than you know, more pain than visible on the surface. Remember, you don’t know everything. Forgive. Don’t ditch this person; you may need each other later.

Rebel. Most of the supposedly “christian” standards you’ve been indoctrinated with are more synthetic than spandex or polyester. (You think Jesus wore either of those?)

For instance, being “nice” is not a fruit of the Spirit and often leads to being bulldozed by stronger-willed people. “No” is not a four-letter word, so use it frequently (particularly with manipulative men, where it can be followed by hanging up the phone. . . . and throwing it out the dorm room window.

And while we’re on the topic of men . . . If a guy hints that you can’t break up with him because he might kill himself, don’t fall for it. Tell him to get help—from a counselor or pastor or doctor, not you—and hang up. Tell someone in authority. But don’t let him use that to manipulate your heart. Remember, you’re not Jesus; you can’t save anyone.

And furthermore, be assured that you, a female, are worth just as much in the eyes of God as any male, no matter how the men at your Christian college treat you. Don’t try to find your identity in becoming a wife and mom; find it in God.)

You can assert your own opinions, even when absolutely no one else agrees with you. This includes overbearing professors. Remember how I said, “you don’t know everything”? Neither do they. Professors aren’t necessarily smarter than you, just better educated. They’re not God any more than you are. Any decent teacher should encourage independent thinking on the student’s part, not be threatened by differing opinions.

Fail. I’m not talking about moral failure, but artistic failure. You’ve been working on a novel for years, writing and rewriting the same ten pages, paralyzed by fear—

. . . fear of not getting it right the first time,

. . . fear of offending someone,

. . . fear of failing a class because you’ve spent too much time writing what you love.

Eighteen years—hell, five years—from now, no one’s going to know that you had all As in high school, and no one will care. A 4.0 is overrated in college, too.

So just write the first draft. It’ll be worse than chicken crap and as embarrassing as peeing in your pants and as nasty as a bloody tampon. But you can edit crap. You can’t edit a blank page.

So write gutsy.

Write painful.

Write. It might just save your life.

Good luck. You’ll need it.

Your future self

(I was inspired to write this after hearing radio deejays discuss advice to new graduates and what they wish they had known back in high school.)



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