Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Paint a Meaningful Life {10 Lessons for Every Student Leaving for College}

We circled the bend of the hallway and you spoke with such excitement, ready to close this chapter of high school and open a new one in college. I kept myself cool but I secretly wished for more time with you that day – that day you told me of profound character in just one sentence – because your experience runs so counter to mine. I was the girl who sobbed through the whole last day of high school like it was a world funeral bidding permanent farewell to all I’d grown with and loved. When the final bell rang I looked like a puffer fish with pink eye. It was ugly. Really ugly.

I stepped out on the deck tonight and the sun burnt hot. Orange hues reached wide allowing the sun to pierce spaces that would otherwise be darkness. And I thought of you. Of your future and a monumental move that falls this calendar week.

Because right now the world is your oyster. Grab hold of that, girl.

Some of your most fun days lie ahead. You’ll get to cram a dorm room full of girls to watch ridiculousness like The Wedding Story, wear pajama pants to class like it is daily wear, and set your alarm for 11:59am just so you can say you got up in the morning. Not that I ever did such things :) But some of your most frustrating days lie ahead too. The reality is for your next four years the number one question that people will spit at you is, “What are you studying?” or, phrased differently, “What are you going to be?”

The world will pressure you do define yourself and the natural human tendency is to figure that out. After all, college isn’t a season of bills and chaos a million different directions. People see it as four years intended to enjoy life while preparing for desired future success. Simple right? Hardly. And that is why I want for you to hear this before any feelings of failure start to settle in.

 

There is an energy rush that comes with newfound freedom. Being “old enough” to have your own space is a right of passage worthy of celebrating. But if you close the door after the loft is built and clothes are unpacked into the tiniest of places {they seriously did not involve women in the college closet space discussion, I’m convinced}, and the pictures are in their place, and you find yourself trying to swallow away loneliness that surfaced with the goodbye hug, you’re good to go. Your family is the best cheerleading team you are ever going to have. Call them from time to time. Visit home. Include them in your experience. They will always be there.

Likewise, a hallway full of peers savoring the taste of newfound freedom will be biding to meet you. The childhood rule of being kind to all will be remain important but be selective about who you claim friend. There will be boys drawn to your beauty and girls who will seek your attention because in hanging with a confident you they will feel more confident themselves. Assess their character. Alcohol, unhealthy relationships, and who knows what else will be where it doesn’t belong. Be watchful of your settings. Only one second can lead to a lifetime of regret. Make sure your people share your values so that you have present accountability partners that you can be real with and inspired by.

You will need them. The world will, at times, seem dark and cruel. And, in unexpected places it will also seem beautiful and challenging and empowering. Navigating the blender of emotions will draw you into many a conversations with God about your calling, which is such a huge concept for our finite human brains. A wise unknown author once said, “There’s no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” Indeed the work in figuring life out runs the emotions tired, but it is those growing moments that you will most discover what God has placed in your heart.

Keep your eyes out so that you don’t lose track of the world in the microcosm that is college. Volunteer. Do things that make you happy. Go places that are life-giving because they reflect part of the bigger picture. Do something more than text book pages and school sanctioned events or this vacuum will suck you right into a self-centered life.

Your major is to develop your God-given skills. The purpose of whatever you study shouldn’t be the financial promise or worldy gains the degree can offer you but what you can offer with that degree for God. Choose something that nurtures the gifts He first gave you and He will multiply the outcome. Anything less will yield emptiness no matter what the world claims.

Make sure you study, but don’t magnify your grades to be the sole map of your future. Your academic marks don’t mark you like you think they will. I freaked out over my first A- because my perfect GPA was gone and with it, apparently, I thought my perfect future. Bull honky. There is more to life and more on an employer’s mind than finding a good book nerd who can memorize the facts. Turns out life experiences, passion, and the ability to connect have important leverage. Take that, A-!

And, when you get prepared to walk across the stage, know the degree you get isn’t the boss of your future. Your identity isn’t found in your job title. Nor will your life be static. Experiences will build on one another to guide you and create readiness from one God-inspired move to the best. You aren’t limited by the word next to your name on the graduation program or the fancy piece of paper you get with it. The Lord will layer life and what you do to bring you where you are supposed to go.

And maybe it will be exactly what you dreamt it to be. Or maybe not. “We may throw the dice, but Lord determines how they fall” Proverbs 16:33. Life might not go according to your plan because, in the end, it is God’s plan that prevails. Your dream might not be The Dream, and, if that happens you might be surprised to find out that The Dream suits you better than you ever imagined.  Take it from one who knows.

Through it all, make yourself a student of the Word even if it isn’t in your textbook requirements. This build up your resume to do something worthwhile runs totally contrary to the way of our Lord who time after time in Scripture picked the most seemingly unqualified to fulfill His purposes. You don’t need stature or perfection or even the most licensures and proficiencies. A heart for Christ and obedience will take you further than you can imagine.

Ultimately, life is a constant learning process. You never really graduate. With breath comes purpose and with each new day comes new lessons to be learned and new inspiration from Above. Praise God or life would get pretty darn boring.  Newfangled opportunity will afford a freshness to keep your life intriguing and purposeful.

So, friend, you’ve chosen your room colors and excitedly painted room d├ęcor with bedazzled beauty. Now go and paint a meaningful life. Enjoy this next step! Given who you are, I’m confident you will make a bright splash on the world around you. :) 

And maybe sleep in to 11:59am once….just for me.
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