Sunday, January 4, 2015

11 things I would say to myself at seventeen...

Dear 17 year old Jessica,

I have been reading your journal for the past week. You have quite a lot to say.  Some of it is actually quite wise for your age and serves as a timely, and well needed, reminder for your adult-self.  Your reflections on scripture, and desire to do God's will both inspire and convict me. Some of it is amusing.  Your tirades and soapboxes make me laugh.  You waste so much energy. The back and forth dialogue with yourself over life choices concerning your future make me want to sit you down and give you herbal tea to drink. Your inner turmoil over your character pulls at my heartstrings.  Reliving your world through your eyes, I thought of several pieces of advice I would give you, which, if taken, would have made your life easier. Here are eleven pieces of advice I wish I had listened to when I was seventeen:

1.  Keep blogging. You are much happier when you have a way to think through and process the things that happen to you from day to day.

2. Appreciate your family, especially your siblings.  You have some awesome friends (I will talk about them in a minute.) But ten years from now, you will all get married, move away, and your focus will be on other things.  Your family will always be there.  You have no idea how much influence you have with your siblings, or how much your words affect them. Do not take this lightly. Use your power to encourage them.  Whether they show it or not, they hold you in high regard and they will believe what you tell them.

3. Appreciate your friends and be there for them through their unique struggles.  You have some of the best friends anyone could ask for, and they are all human beings who experience trials and difficulties, just like you. These trials are difficult to deal with...uncomfortable sometimes. Sometimes you don't know how to be there for your friends.  Sometimes you are tired of being there for them and wish someone else would step in.  But they need you to stay constant.  They do not have many friends like you.  Also, you have some pretty awesome friends who are smart, loyal, and committed to growing in their faith.  Take some time to recognize this, and encourage them.  See what you can learn from them. You do not want to let these friends fall out of your life.  These are the kind of friends who will become like family.

4. Take a creative writing class.  You want to be a better writer, you need to be challenged, and you need structure. You have the time now, and you can get dual credit for it! Take advantage of these opportunities while you have them. Once you graduate, your time will not be your own. And while we're on the topic of dual credit....

5. Take more dual credit classes! College is expensive and the one you are currently obsessed with is not going to help you much with financial aid.  Take as many dual credit classes as you can and transfer to that college with a couple years under your belt. It will save you debt in the long run, and open up more opportunities for you when you do leave home.

6. Sometimes you need to be direct and say what you mean. You don't like hurting people's feelings, or disappointing people. However, sometimes you have a tendency to avoid saying what needs to be said.  As a result you create false impressions which will cause trouble for you later on, resulting in more hurt feelings and disappointments than if you had been direct from the start.  Even if they get their feelings hurt initially, in the long run, people will appreciate you for having the integrity to say what you mean.

7. Try to think outside the box.  Face the ideas that scare you. You do not have to adopt them, but don't be afraid to examine them to see if they have any merit.  Truth does not mind being questioned. Realize that there is often more than one right way to do things, and look for answers which are not obvious.  Apply to more than one college. Visit more colleges.  Read more non-fiction books that do not fall into the "dating", "courtship" or "waiting for Prince Charming" categories.

8. Grant others grace. Your leaders, your friends, your parents....they are all human and they will all fail and disappoint you.  No one, no matter how perfect by human standards, is immune to failure.  Accept it when it happens, and offer encouragement.  Allow others to make mistakes and learn from them.  There are plenty of people who are all too willing to cast judgement, say "I told you so", and write others off when they mess up.  Be one of the few who stays faithful.

9. Grant yourself grace. The fact that you recognize the areas of your life which need improvement is a very big thing at your age, and it is important to growth at any stage of life.  But do not beat yourself up every time you fail.  Constantly berating yourself will not make you a better Christian, student, or friend.  Recognize your mistakes. Accept them. Ask for forgiveness if necessary. Move on and do better the next day. Love yourself so that you can love others.

10. Don't be afraid to let go.  You are about to leave home, friends, and family to begin your own life in college.  Completely new territory, completely new people, and only you to make decisions on your day-to-day lives.  When that happens, don't cloister yourself in your dorm room. Make friends early! Get out and talk to people. Go to the cafeteria with your roommate, go to the mall with that girl across the hall.  Your friends and family back home expect that you will gain new experiences and add new people to your life. It's okay to make new friends. The people who are meant to be in your life will always be there.

11. Remember, God IS in control. He sees you where you are and loves you where you are.  In your darkest moments, when you feel most distant, he is still there. He does have a plan for you. Don't try to figure it out, you'll drive yourself crazy, and you will miss opportunities.  Instead, respond daily in obedience to the opportunities he lays before you (Matthew 22:37-40). You will find God's purpose for your life in simple acts of submission to his will for all his followers. Remember this too: 

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:12-13


27 year old Jessica

P.S. Dear Reader, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give a younger version of yourself? Leave a comment and let me know what advice you would give to yourself and at what age!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking Back Ten Years Part 2

One of the quirks of 17 year old me, was that I enjoyed filling out surveys. Today, I thought it would be fun to re-take a survey from 2004 and see how my answers are different in 2014.  I did not include the entire survey, which was 40 questions long, just highlights.  It was interesting to see how my opinions have changed, and how many things have stayed the same.  Enjoy!

In 2004...2014
What did you do in 2004 that you'd never done before? 

17 year old me: went out of country without my parents (This was the year I went to Hungary on a mission trip.)

27 year old me: In 2014 I traveled to Croatia and to Ukraine all by myself with no parents, no group, and no husband. This included missing the actual flight to Croatia from London, rescheduling my flight, navigating the French airport, losing my luggage, navigating the Austrian airport, checking into an Austrian hotel, finding food in Austria, and making my way back to the airport all by myself!

Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 

17 year old me: I don't remember my new years resolutions if I had any and as for 05...get into my own REGULAR personal Bible study

27 year old me: Last year I was very intentional about NOT making a New Years resolution because I got tired of hating myself when I did not keep them.  While I am not a fan of the term "New Years resolutions" I do recognize the need for certain changes/improvements in my life.  New Years is as good a time as any to make these changes. In 2015, I will be pursuing more Bible study, church involvement, and intentionality in my relationships with others.

 Did someone close to you give birth?

17 year old me: um..they weren't really close to me.. 

27 year old me: Yes! My best friend, Kayla gave birth to her firstborn son, Caspian, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law welcomed their secondborn, Jasper.

 What countries did you visit? 

17 year old me:Hungary and the German airport

27 year old me: Croatia, Austria, Ukraine, and England

What events from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

17 year old me: ACU Homecoming, Kayla's Graduation, Carousel (the musical), and the e3 trip. [[Note: e3 was the name of the drama group I was a part of at the time. It stood for Energize, Encourage, and Exalt...e3]]

27 year old me: Joe and Lauren's wedding, Kayla and Trevor's last days in the USA, learning that they were pregnant, Barrett and Elaine's wedding, and Ukraine.  Why? The common themes in all of those moments are Community, and God's continued presence in our lives.

What was your biggest achievement of the year? 

17 year old me: making the last three of the people auditioning for the part of Julie...maybe something bigger but since I said Carousel that was on my mind...hehe

27 year old me: Paying off the rest of my school loans...less than six months till we are debt free!

What song will always remind you of 2004? 

17 year old me: REMIND me of 04? oh goodness i dunno...

27 year old me: Let it Go!

Compared to this time last year, are you
i. happier or hardened?

17 year old me: hm...idk good question. I'm happier because of what I know now that I didn't know then, and I'm hardened in a good the sense that I'm stronger.

27 year old me: I am probably more hardened. Adulthood has a way of doing that to people.

ii. thinner or fatter?

17 year old me: hehe idk, last time i checked i was the same weight..

27 year old me: I am probably about the same weight, but maybe a little more toned since I have been working out more.

iii. richer or poorer?

17 year old me: um...yes

27 year old me: Richer! We payed off my school debt and we both got raises this year!

What do you wish you'd done more of? 

17 year old me: staying on task for school

27 year old me: Preparing materials for my lessons, staying on top of my grading, and going to Bible class at church.

What do you wish you'd done less of? 

17 year old me: fretting

27 year old me: fretting

 How did you spend Christmas?

17 year old me: with my family at my house :-)

27 year old me: With my husband's family in San Antonio.

Did you fall in love in 2004? 

17 year old me: no. 

27 year old me: I fell in love with my husband, over and over again.

What was your favorite TV program? 

17 year old me: my favorite made-for-tv movie was Samantha.

27 year old me: Girl Meets World, When Calls the Heart, and Castle

What was the best book you read? 

17 year old me: um..Beowulf, Love Comes Softly...THE BIBLE!

27 year old me: The Cast of Stones Trilogy by Patrick Carr, and Mardan's Mark by Kathrese McKee

Favorite film of this year? 

17 year old me: Phantom of the Opera!

27 year old me: Annie

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

17 year old me: I got a phonecall :-D woot! We celebrated my birthday the day before Christmas eve, and Grandma was there and we had a phantom of the opera pound cake...and I was seventeen. :-D

27 year old me: On my birthday, my coworkers decorated my desk, brought me chocolate, coffee, and tea, and gave me two cards (one from the entire staff, and one from the Upper School Team). A week later, Matthew and I went to see Annie for a belated birthday celebration. I turned 27.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004? 

17 year old me: uh...?

27 year old me: Sophisticated, trendy, and scholarly. That's what I was going for anyway, who knows if I succeeded.

What political issue stirred you the most? 

17 year old me: People blaming Bush for the war etc.

27 year old me: The war in Ukraine

 Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

17 year old me: "Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But, because I knew you, I have been changed for Good."

27 year old me: "To everything turn, turn turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn and a time for every purpose under Heaven..."

Looking Back Ten Years....

I have spent the past five days revisiting old writings, having recently discovered that my LiveJournal, which was created over ten years ago, is still available for reading!  After reading about a year's worth of journal entries from my sixteenth to seventeenth year, I made the following observations:

10 years ago....

1. I had little to no respect for proper writing conventions.  Okay, this is really not that big of a deal, but it is amusing, and slightly embarrassing. Apparently, the idea that I would one day grow up and become a middle school language arts teacher who might possibly come back and re-read my own journal was not a huge concern of mine at the time.

2. I ranted a LOT and about everything under the sun: church politics, friend drama, Hollywood agendas, my future life, the unfairness of my present life, regrets of my past life, the list goes on. I was open about just about everything.  Granted, the only people reading my journal were my two best friends.  One of them was very familiar with most of the topics and people I would rant about, which provided us both with a way to process and discuss our day-to-day experiences at a time when we both needed an outlet for such things. The other friend, who lived on the other side of the state, was able to offer some badly needed objectivity and insight which I may not have taken from my parents at the time.

3. I processed more as a teenager than I do as an adult.  True, a lot of that was ranting and raving about things beyond my control.  But another part of it was looking back on my day and taking note of moments and interactions which were meaningful to me at the time.  I did not always articulate why they were meaningful, but I almost always recognized them in one way or another.

However, the main thing that struck me is how seventeen-year-old me and twenty-seven year old me are still very much the same person. Certainly, I have learned to be a little more discreet in how I express myself.  Some might argue a little too discreet.  I still have that need to process and untangle my thoughts and emotions through writing.  I still have that desire to be heard and understood by my peers, as well as the hesitancy to voice my thoughts, especially in settings where my opinion is not popular (hence my need for a journal).  I still loathe controversy and do my best to stay far away from topics which will result in fervent disagreement.  I still wonder what people think of me, and whether or not I should voice my thoughts on controversial matters.

What has changed?

To answer this question I needed a little help from those who knew me best, and would provide me with an honest and straightforward answer: my siblings.

According to my sister, I am "less angsty" now than I was as a teenager, which was a huge relief to me. Looking back on my old entries, I noticed a lot of exclamation marks. Absolutely everything was a big deal to me.

According to my youngest brother, I appreciate sibling company more.  I would add that I appreciate all of my family members more.  Seventeen-year-old me believed she was misunderstood by every single member in her family, and therefore closed herself off from siblings and parents.  It was not until I went away to Junior Scholars (a month long summer program for Juniors going into their Senior year of high school to get college credits) that I began to appreciate my family.  Which is a shame. My siblings have a lot of shared memories that I do not have because I kept myself away from them.

According to the brother closest in age to me I "ration my happy emotions more".  This from the brother who is very big into "mind over matter" stuff.  He does have a point however, in that as a teenager I was very often functioning on one end of the spectrum or another.  This is reflected in my journal entries. The world was wonderful and I loved everybody in it, or the world was terrible and I was the worst person of all.  In between moments were few and far between.  While there are times when I still feel this way, I am happy to know I am maturing enough to the point where I now take things in stride and cut others and myself a little more grace.

So what about you? How have you changed in the past ten years? What do you hope will be different about you ten years from now? Leave a comment below. Happy New Year!