This weekend, I attended my ten-year high school reunion. I didn’t think we would ever make it to our ten-year reunion. In high school, it seemed a million years away. But it turns out, ten years flies by like ten minutes in the real world.
As we sat around in a circle reminiscing about crazy stories and remembering people we had forgotten about, I realized I’ve learned a lot things in the last ten years. About myself, about life, about God. So I decided to sit down and list the top ten lessons I’ve learned in the last ten years. Here they are:
1. People appreciate authenticity over popularity.
I learned the formula for being accepted in high school: Act however the people you are around want you to act. If I was at a party, I drank. If I was at church, I worshiped. It was easy. I didn’t realize I was a little two-faced and I didn’t realize this prevented me from being myself and learning who I truly was. Because of that, I’ve really had to make up some ground in adulthood when it comes to authenticity. Today, I am drawn to people who are themselves no matter who they are with and hope to someday be the same.
2. Some of your dreams will die and that’s ok.
I loved musical theater in high school. I wanted to be an actress on Broadway and then in movies, but guess what. I haven’t been in a single production, play or musical since my senior year. That’s ok because in reality, I wasn’t that great at theater. I was much better at other things and did those throughout college and today. It’s ok to learn what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at. In fact, it’s freeing.
3. You will not necessarily live up to your yearbook superlatives.
In our 2004 yearbook I’m listed as “Most Likely to Be a Millionaire” and “Most Likely to Lock Her Keys In her Car.” I have not done the former; I have done the latter. What high school labels you as is most likely not who you will end up being. You may take parts of that identity with you, but you will shed lots of it too.
4. It’s ok to not have a quiet time every day.
I picked up the wonderful habit of morning quiet times somewhere in the middle of high school. I love this habit and continue it today, but I was a little legalistic about it for years. I would feel guilty if I missed one day, like I needed to make up for it somehow. Now, if I wake up late or just don’t feel like it, I skip the Bible reading and praying and I don’t beat myself up about it. This has allowed time with God to be something I want, rather than something I have to do.
5. It’s ok to not go to church every Sunday.
As a pastor’s kid, I was at church every Sunday and most days in the week after that. So in college, I did the same. I went to church every Sunday. The thought of not going made me feel very rebellious. But as I began to rid myself of some of the rules that made me feel comfortable and safe and like God liked me, I realized missing church every once in a while was ok. In fact, staying in and journaling or doing something to be with God but not necessarily with the church has been a healthy thing for me to do on occasion, and makes church a joy rather than an obligation.
6. Your dating life in high school does not determine your dating life post-high school.
I didn’t date anyone in high school. Anyone. I thought I was doomed to never be asked out and never have a boyfriend, but that wasn’t true. I’ve dated and have had relationships since then. Turns out, there’s nothing irreversibly un-datable about me. Phew.
7. That guy you thought was the bees knees probably isn’t anymore.
I mean, he might be doing great and might still be good looking and successful but what drew me to guys in high school certainly does not draw me to guys now. Then, I admired (from afar) the popular, “bad” boys who were always the center of attention, had good music taste and drove a Tahoe. Now, I’m looking for slightly deeper and more important qualities like kindness and humility.
8. No one cares what you were like in high school.
Really. I have friends who were complete nerds, friends who were prom queen, friends who cut class and smoked weed and none of them are the same person now. I care about who they are today, not who they were ten years ago, and I’m grateful they care about me in that way too. We all need a lot of grace for who were ten years ago.
9. Courage looks different.
As a junior in high school, I thought it took courage to sneak out of my parents’ house with my friends and drive to a party. I thought it took courage to rebel. Now I see that it took courage for my friends who didn’t do those things, who chose to stay in on a Friday night instead of doing something illegal. It takes more courage to be yourself than to do what everyone else is doing.
10. You haven’t achieved half the things you thought you would by now, but you’ve achieved so much more.
Maybe you had a long list of the academic degrees you would have by age 28, or the number of kids you would have or the places you would have traveled to. You look at that list and realize you haven’t done half those things. Ten years is a much shorter time period than we realized. But I bet you’ve achieved a lot of things you never thought you would, within yourself. I’ve grown in way I could not have hoped for or thought to include in a list when I was 18. I’ve learned about grace and forgiveness. I’ve learned about what it means to depend on Christ and nothing else. I’ve learned that beauty truly does come from ashes, and these are lessons I would take over a bucket list any day.