Tag Archives: High school


Recently, my grandfather had carpal tunnel surgery. Which, as an aspiring scientist and amateur writer, got me thinking a lot about hands. So, naturally, I did two things– I looked up how the procedure was done, and I began writing this post. Once I figured out how the surgery was done and reassured myself that it was a relatively minor procedure, I began to figure out how to write this. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn’t completely sure where I wanted this post to go. I could use my fingers to count a million different words I could write. I could use my hand to draw a map of all the different places this post could go, tracing out each path on the veins and creases on my hand. I needed a direct path from my heart to my fingers. (Fun fact, wedding rings are worn on the left ring finger because it was believed to be the only finger with a vein leading directly to the heart.) So, I fiddled with my ring I wear on my left ring finger that’s definitely not a wedding ring, and tried to find a direct path from my heart to the tips of my fingers. But, that proved more difficult than carpal tunnel surgery. My heart was telling me to write about how this surgery was just another example, this time physical, of my grandparents getting older. I wanted to write about how watching Boppa’s body grow weaker hurts, but watching his mind grow weaker has hurt more. For grandma the nurse, her hands are so important, but for Boppa, the college professor and ordained Free Methodist pastor, with two masters’ degrees and a doctorate, his mind is so important. Both of them served with their hands, one literally and one metaphorically, and I wanted to write about how much it hurts to see both of them becoming weaker. But, I decided that story is, mostly, best saved for another post. Instead, I decided, as I reflected on how important hands are, that I would write something else. Somewhere along the path from my heart to my fingertips, I decided to save the pain of that story for another time and instead write a more beautiful story. So, here it is– a different story, written with my own hands, about my own hands.

My hands have been through a lot in my short 19 year life. Throwback to when I was a baby with tiny hands yet undiscovered by me. I flailed my arms, fists clenched, and paid no attention to what, or who, I might hit. After I discovered them, I grabbed things– other people’s fingers mostly. I put them in my mouth, or other people’s mouths, or whatever was nearby. I touched things, simply because I liked how they felt. I used them to pull the baby gate out of my way, then used them for support as I crawled up the mountain-like stairs I was too afraid to crawl back down. They held my blanket and my doll as I ran my fingers across them because I loved the way it made my hand tingle and the sensation I felt in my fingertips. My hands became part of the reason my parents suspected my visual impairment. I used them to hold objects centimeters away from my face because I couldn’t see them any other way. I reached out and touched things just to see how far away they were or what they felt like because I couldn’t use visual cues to interpret the way they might feel. I’d reach down to feel just how big of a jump it was from my grandparent’s garage to their driveway, because my hands were saying it was a centimeter difference, but my eyes were saying it was a canyon. I used them to navigate a world I couldn’t see. And, later, once I had my (adorable) glasses, when I was learning to walk, I held them out in front of me again as I navigated, trying to feel my way around a world I had never seen so clearly before. Once I got used to my new perspective of the world, I used them to point at things I had never noticed before– just to make sure everyone else saw them too.

As I grew, my hands grew with me. With them, I learned to write, carefully copying each stroke and hand position. They traced the words on pages as I learned to read, my finger precisely following each shape as my mouth sounded out the forms. I held the hands of my parents as I crossed roads and parking lots– thinking that staying safe forever was as simple as never letting go. In them was placed my first Bible– a gift whose impact wouldn’t be realized until years later when those same hands held those same Words as I memorized them. They colored outside the lines, cut themselves in an attempt to cut paper, and glued parts of themselves together. They reached up to grab the monkey bars or to hold my baby cousins. I let them be used by my friends to scrawl phone numbers or flowers on. I held them out to shake hands or give high fives. They learned to tickle both the ivories and my dad’s feet. I used them to wipe my nose, put band-aids on my skinned knees, and wash my body. They held my favorite books as I went on adventures with my best friends, and they supported me when I fell down. Sometimes, they were the reason I fell.

As I grew older, my hands did too. They started writing full sentences and typing full essays, carefully drawing each shape as I saw it in my mind. Instead of tracing the words on pages, I often find them tracing the path my blood takes from the tips of my fingers, through my hand, to my wrist, up through my arm, until they arrive at my heart– feeling each beat and reminding me that I am alive. Somewhere along the road, they let go of my parents’ hands, as I reassured myself I’d be okay on my own. And now, they sometimes long to hold another hand– to be reminded that I’ll be safe as long as I don’t let go. With them, I hold my Bible– reaching out to God– knowing that they’re holding my greatest joy and my entire life. They’re still not one for staying in the lines. And I’ve cut them countless times with knives or paper or pins or scissors. They’ve super-glued themselves together more times than I’d care to admit. They reached out to accept my high school diploma, and they reach out to hold the babies and pet the puppies that cross my path. They’ve been my go to notebook as I used them to jot down that homework assignment or date. They’ve clapped and cheered for my competitors, and greatest friends, as they held in their own hands– hands I had shaken so many times– an award mine had longed for so long to hold. With them, I spread encouragement and congratulations to my friends whose hands held Words as they memorized them. They’ve had an itch to tickle the ivories for far too long, and they’ve been reminded that playing the piano is nothing like riding a bike– it can be forgotten. They’ve wiped tears from my eyes, bandaged my wounds, and washed my face.  They’ve gone to Kenya where they clapped and danced with new friends, held babies, and pet elephants. And, they’ve been longing ever since to reach back out and take the hands of the friends I met there, as they search for the piece of my heart I left behind, all the while knowing they’ll never find it– and not wanting to. They’ve supported me when I fell, and were the things that picked me back up. They pieced my broken heart back together as they fought the urge to fight the thing that broke it. 

And now, I’m sitting here, in a coffee shop, examining my hands. As I flex them and study them, all the while feeling completely crazy, I see all the things they’ve done in my life. I see my senior year AP Bio class, where I dissected eyes, brains, frogs, and worms, and where I used them to taxidermy a rat, all without wearing gloves. Because, I’ve always been fascinated with how things feel, and I can’t get the whole experience if I can’t feel. I see my junior year AP Chem class where I spilled silver nitrate on them, because, again, why wear gloves if you don’t have to. I see the incalculable amount of times I washed them, trying to get it off, but having to finally resign myself to just being patient. I see the way they served in Kenya and how I’m still using them to serve in Kenya and elsewhere. I see that time they held a young rookie as she cried, pouring her heart out, and the time they were linked with others in prayer as we cried for each other. The times they were raised in worship and surrender to the One who made them. I see my fingernails that are dirty and sometimes broken. I see the calluses I have from working. I see all the chemicals I’ve spilled on them and the times my professors forced me to wear gloves, even though I prefer the experience without. I see the way they cramp up when I spend four hours a day deleting phone numbers and emails from records, and how, with 4000 records, I still have more to do the next time. I see how I use them to bake and cook. (Seriously though, my scones and my homemade pizza are truly culinary masterpieces.) They are currently dry and a little red, because, no matter how many times I wash them and put lotion on them, the constant exposure to chemicals, from my job and from my Chemistry training, has left them a little rough around the edges.

So, here’s the thing. Here’s the point of all this talk about my hands. I believe that if eyes are the window to the soul, then hands are the mirror to the heart– reflecting the innermost parts of who you are.

I don’t believe all those people who say you can tell your future by looking at the creases on your palm. But, I do believe you can see your past, and your present, by looking at your hands. Hands say a lot about what has happened to you, and they reflect so much of who you are. They show all the experiences you’ve had and they tell a lot about who you are as a person. When I see my dad’s hands, a little rough and probably permanently stained with grease or newsprint or both, I don’t see just that. I see all the hard work he’s done over the years to support us– his three jobs, his late nights and early mornings, and the things he’d sacrifice, including time with us, to give us all he could. When I looked at the brace on my grandfather’s hands as he was waiting for this surgery, and still waits for his other hand’s, I don’t just see a hand that sometimes goes numb. As a scientist, I see a carpal ligament that needs to be cut to relieve pressure on the underlying nerve. But, as a writer, I see his past and present. I see all the people he’s served– the sermons he’s preached, the hearts he’s touched, the Word he’s spread. I see all the papers he’s graded and the students he’s inspired and encouraged. I see in my grandmother’s hands the patients she’s healed, the families she’s reassured, the friends she’s cooked delicious meals for, and the family she’s held so close. I see my sister’s love of piano playing, word writing, and book holding, and the way she used them to try to give up, but how she uses them now to list all the reasons she shouldn’t. I could go on and on about all the stories I see when I look at my family members hands.

And when I look at my own, I see it all too. I see me as a baby, discovering my hands for the first time. I see me as a child of no more than two, using my hands as a navigator for this new clear world. I see them learning to hold a pen and play the piano. I see how they no longer move the baby gate out of my way, but how they now work to move any obstacle out of my way as I face conquerable mountains I am no longer afraid to fall down. I see the bumps and bruises I’ve gotten along the way and the sores and marks they have now. And, admittedly, right now, my hands are exhausted. They’ve worked hard. This year, this life, and this summer, and they’ll work even harder as I grow up. But, I also see the way they reflect my heart. My heart of service and hard work. The way they reflect my personality based on what they do. I see the way they exemplify Colossians 3:23 without the words being scrawled on them in day old faded ink. So, look at your hands. Because they can’t predict your future, but they can reflect your past and explain your present. And they are the true reflection of who you are.


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Facing the World: Pursuing My Dreams

Well, that’s it. I have officially graduated high school. I have received a piece of arbitrary paper that somehow certifies that I am eligible and somehow qualified to go to college, get a job, or enlist in the army. And once the initial saltiness of them giving me the wrong type of diploma wears off, I’ll be ready to face the world. In my case, facing the world means going to college and pursuing my dreams. I am studying Chemistry, but I love every subject, and I want to learn more about each of them. Because I love learning and absorbing knowledge. I can never know too much about anything. I’m continuing to educate myself about things while pursuing my dreams and making myself happy.

But, before I do that, I have to get through summer. Summer, which, for me, is filled with so much. Next week, I leave for my last ever Nationals in my favorite place on earth, to do my favorite thing on earth. And that will be a week filled with fun, exhaustion, tears, sadness, stress and joy. A few weeks after that, I leave for an amazing adventure in Kenya for a missions trip with Quizzing. Which will be a time filled with unexpected experiences and life changing moments. I have my graduation party, which is the last time I will see some of my greatest friends who got me through all of high school. I move into college. Where I will be rooming with a fellow Quizzer and Kenya adventurer. I’ll start college with some amazing Quizzing friends, and great school friends, by my side. And I’m so excited for all that the future holds. 

I’m excited to see what Seattle and Narionlas holds. I’m not expecting enormous things. I’m not expecting to come home with the Alpha and Omega, or even a Sweet 16 trophy. But, I’m looking forward to the amazing fun I’ll have with my teammates and the memories we’ll make. I’m excited for all God has in store for me in Kenya. Because Quizzing has had such a wonderfully amazing, indescribable impact on my life, and I hope to be able to share that. I’m excited to move into my dorm and be on my own, although I am also terrified. I’m excited to get to know my Quizzing friends better, because, although we’ve known each other for seven years, it’s hard to really know someone when you only see them once a month, or once a year. I’m excited to get to know the Gates kids going to Roberts better. Because, although we didn’t talk a lot in high school, that’s still a huge part of each of us, and it’s nice to have someone to share and reminisce with. 

But these excitements are only short term. What about long term? What about things that I can do now that I have finally finished high school? What about my dreams? My hopes? My fears? 

Well, I’m excited for those too. I’m excited to pursue all my dreams. To study chemistry and become more informed about how the world works. Because I am incredibly curious and like knowing how and why things work and act. I’m glad to be continuing my education. And hopefully continuing it beyond just college. And I don’t just mean getting my masters and doctorate (although those are on my list). I mean continuing it in the world. Because one of the best ways to learn is outside the classroom. By experiencing and absorbing. 

I’m excited to meet amazing new people. Make new friends. Have a family. Read more amazing books. Marry some amazing guy (you know, once they stop having cooties). Raise my children to be curious, loving, dreaming, hoping, hard-working and kind. Live in an amazing place. Pursue my dreams. Make sacrifices for others. Be a friend and support. Love everyone I meet. Give back. Experience new things. Travel the world. Discover myself. Use my gifts and talents for Him. Serve others. 

I’m terrified to become an adult. I shouldn’t be trusted with any form of responsibility. I’m terrified of messing up. But, everyone messes up. I’m terrified because I know nothing about how the real world works. But, I’ll figure it out, eventually. Maybe. I’m scared to go out into the world. Because it’s a scary place, and I would prefer to stay under the comfortable protection of my parents. But, I can be a light in the scary world, and I have to go into it in order to do that. I’m terrified because I can’t see into the future to see how it works out. But, I know the One who holds the future, so, I’ll put my trust in Him. 

Today, I was told by so many that the world is mine. But I think it was always mine, but will also never be mine. I don’t have to wait until high school is over to live my life and make my world into what I want it to be. But, I’ll never really make the world mine. Because it’s God’s world, and He put me in it for a purpose. So, as I go into it, I’ll remember His purpose, His love, His grace, and His mercy. I’ll pray that I may become who He desires me to be. That I may live in a way that pleases Him, honors Him, and fulfills His will for me. 

So, I’ll go out with a sense of pride in what I have accomplished. But I’ll continue to work harder than I ever have. I’ll go out with a feeling of hope and excitement for the future. But, I’ll remember everything in my past that has made me into who I am today. I’ll go out chasing my dreams. But, I’ll be open to my dreams changing in order to fulfill His purpose for me. I’ll go out with a sense of excitement and also fear. But, I’ll remember my friends and family, who were always there, and always will be. I’ll heed the Salutatorian’s advice and surround myself with enriching and satisfying friendships. I won’t compete against others, because someone is always going to be better. I won’t let my fears or feelings of inadequacy or my weaknesses keep me from pursuing my dreams, conquering my fears, and building relationships. I’ll keep Christ always in my circle of friends, and at the center of my life. I’ll go out into the world, fearful, hopeful, and curious.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.  Proverbs 16:3

He has shown you, o mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord not for men.  Colossians 3:23

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A Valentine’s Day Life Changer 

Today, I walked into the gym to take the senior class picture, and my friend handed me a valentine. It wasn’t anything particularly special- a generic valentine you can buy by the box at any store, and a box of nerds that could be bought in bulk at any store. It was a small gesture. However, this small gesture meant so much to me.

Recently, I have been wondering if my friends are really my friends, or if we are friends because we happened to have a few classes together freshman year. Because, ever since I quit band freshman year to take a science class, I have felt that they weren’t really my friends. Because I’ve sat in lunch alone, a table away from my “friends” because their table was full, and not a single one of them got up to sit with me. Because I’ve sat in front of them in class while they have made plans to hang out on the weekend without inviting me. Because I’ve sat with them while they have had a conversation and totally ignored me, and didn’t listen to anything I said. Because I’ve tried to be 100% my crazy, nerdy, amazing self, and I’ve felt judged and not supported. Because I’ve needed support and never considered asking any of them because I have never thought they’d be there for me. And all of that has caused me to wonder if they are really my friends. And I’ve never really felt that I’ve had very many friends. Because, ever since middle school, I’ve felt that I didn’t fit in. Because I’ve been friends with people form each “group” you find in high school. Because I was friends with the band geeks, the nerds, the jocks, and the ones who don’t have many friends. Because I don’t fit into any one group, so I found myself making friends with a few people from each, instead of spending all my time with everyone from one. And that has made it difficult for me to become good friends with anyone. That has caused me to wonder who my real friends were, or if I even had any.

So, all of these thoughts have been swirling through my head. And they have been even more prevelant now that it’s my senior year and there are a number of events happening that are much better when experienced with friends. Things like the senior breakfast, class picture, and senior faculty basketball game. And all of those happened today. And I was standing around waiting for instructions and wondering how much fun I would really have. Because I was standing in a large group of my “friends” listening to their conversation, noticing them break up into smaller groups, and realizing I didn’t really belong in any of them.

Then, I heard someone call my name. And I turned around to see who it was. And my friend handed me a valentine. I was shocked, yet happy, because she is not in my main group of “friends.” She’s the one who will be my partner in French because everyone else has one, and she happens to sit next to me. She’s the one who sat behind me in DOC and listened to me complain every day about how stupid it was. She’s the one who sat with me at lunch last year despite the fact that the rest of her friends didn’t like me that much. She’s a friend I don’t see very often or talk to a lot. But, as I realized today, she’s a better one than those that I do. Because she gave me a valentine. And it wasn’t that she had bought a bunch of cards and was giving them out to a bunch of people she knew. Because it has my name on it. She had intended to give it to me. And my name was spelled right. Which doesn’t seem like much, I know, but I have friends whom I know better and have known for longer who still don’t know how to spell my name. Because they don’t take the time to pay attention. Which means she either paid attention, or she took the 30 seconds to look it up on Facebook. Which means a lot, because that’s more than others have done. And yeah, she was giving these out to lots of people, and I wouldn’t have been offended if I didn’t get one. Because we are more acquaintances than friends.  But, it meant a lot to me. To her, it was probably a simple gesture that she thought nothing of. But to me, it meant so much more. It meant I had a friend who took the time to remember me. Because I have felt like Charlie Brown for so long. Invisible, even amidst my friends. I’ve felt like I have friends, but that they will choose to hang out with others before me. Like I’m the last choice. Forgotten, despite being surrounded by people. But today, even if just for a brief moment, I didn’t feel that way.

So, I’m sitting here watching the Charlie Brown Valentine’s Day special and looking at the pictures my friends have posted on Facebook about the senior faculty game today. And I’m realizing that I won’t remember a lot about high school. I won’t have a lot of pictures to look back on with my friends. Because I didn’t take a lot. Because I didn’t do a lot with them. I won’t have a lot of great moments to reminisce about years down the road. Because I don’t have a lot of positive memories. I won’t remember my friends who asked me for help with the homework but never asked if I needed help with life. I hope I don’t remember the times I sat alone, or felt ignored, or hung out with my “friends” who didn’t talk to me or listen to what I was saying. But, I will remember this moment. When I realized I had real friends, or at least one. And I’m happy that she got excited for me when I told her about my upcoming missions trip. Because all I got form others was a “that’s cool.” But from her, I got a “that’s amazing,” and the sense that she was excited for me and genuinely wanted to hear about it. And I’m grateful that she is going to the same college as I am next year. Because I didnt get to know her well enough in high school, and I need to fix that. And college is always more bearable with a friend by your side. And I’m grateful for her. Because she is always laughing or smiling. And her personality is bubbly and makes everyone smile. And she is always brightening someone’s day, even unintentionally. And she doesn’t judge me when I act like a total nerd. And she has a kind heart and beautiful soul. And I’ll remember this moment forever. Even after I have eaten the nerds and lost the valentine. Because I don’t need a tangible thing to help me remember. I don’t need a photo, or a piece of paper, or a letter. Because I have this feeling. And it’s one of happiness, joy, appreciation, and bliss.

So, never underestimate the power of a small gesture. Whether it be a smile, a laugh, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a mouth to encourage, or a valentine card. Because it may mean little to you, but it may mean the world to someone else.


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High School Advice

Dear sweet, innocent, beautiful girl,

High school is tough. It’s challenging- in more ways than one. But, you’re tougher. I know because I’ve seen it. But I also know the world can be a horrible place. Or it can be beautiful. So, before you take on life’s newest challenge- newest gift- here are 25 things you must remember. From me, to you. 25 things to help you make your world a little more beautiful. 25 things to make you a little tougher.

1.You’re beautiful. And I know that you hear this all the time, from everyone. And it’s written on bumper stickers and cups and tee shirts and the sides of buildings. It’s found all over the hashtags of Twitter, the selfies of Instagram, and the like buttons of Facebook. When people say it, it sounds like an auto-generated response on an answering machine. “Yes,” “hello,” “you’re beautiful,” “Please press 1.” And it’s lost all genuineness and meaning to you. But, it’s true, you are beautiful, inside and out. And you have to promise me you’ll remember this, because one day you’ll be walking down the hall and you’ll see a girl who has nicer hair than you do, or tanner skin, or greener eyes, or a prettier smile, and for a moment, you’ll doubt that you’re beautiful. And although it may last for only a moment, the next day you will wake up and realize your makeup doesn’t quite cover those things you don’t like about yourself. And suddenly, that momentary doubt has become an eternity. And you’re worth so much more than the amount of likes you get on Instagram or the amount of time you spend straightening your hair or perfecting your eyeliner. So, never forget to tell yourself that you’re beautiful every morning while you stare at yourself in the mirror, because eventually, if you say it enough, you will begin to believe it.

2.Choose your friends wisely. I know, it sounds cliché, but it is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Choose friends who encourage you, support you, love you, and care for you. And don’t be afraid to end friendships with those friends who don’t. Remember, that sometimes the best friends are not those you spend the most time with, have known the longest, or talk to the most. Sometimes the ones you rarely see and barely speak to are the ones that care the most. So be friends with someone whose love is overwhelming and whose heart is caring. And make sure you are that friend to those around you.

3.Have confidence in your abilities and challenge yourself, but know your limits. Take that AP class you’re afraid might be too difficult. Take that class that everyone says is a lot of work. Believe in yourself. Challenge yourself. Work hard. Persevere. And if you can’t do it? Don’t. Don’t push yourself so far you can’t see an end. And don’t ever do anything to prove yourself to others. The college credit you may earn or the respect you may gain are not worth your health and sanity. Trust me, I have been there and done that. And in a year from now, you won’t regret that extra two hours of sleep a night, or that time you spent with your family or friends instead of with homework, but you will regret the sleepless nights you had and the stress you caused yourself. So believe in yourself, but know when you’ve had enough.

4.That cute boy in your English class, on the school’s soccer team, at your lunch table, or in your youth group might break your heart. Or he might not. And I pray every day that he doesn’t. But if he does, it will hurt, and that’s okay for a while. So cry, get angry, rip up his picture, call your friends to complain about boys, eat a gallon of ice cream, watch that romantic movie for the 100th time; it’s okay. But, eventually you have to get over it and move on. Because if you don’t, you’re letting him hurt you all over again. And no guy should hurt you that much for that long. And no guy should ever be allowed to make you feel bad about yourself. So don’t let him. You will survive, and one day you’ll
learn to forgive him. And if he doesn’t break your heart, please make sure that he is kind, caring, gentle, loving, and that he treats you as you deserve to be treated. Make sure that he helps you grow, and that, above all, he loves Jesus with his whole heart. Because if he doesn’t, he can’t love you as you deserve to be loved.(Actually, you’ll probably break his heart. Because any guy would be heart broken if you broke up with him. But, if you do have to break his heart, let him down easy. Be kind. )

5.You will have teachers you don’t agree with, or who can’t teach, or who you just don’t like. And they will make going to class every day miserable. And you won’t want to show up, and you’ll complain about them to anyone who will listen. But please remember that teachers are people too. They make mistakes; they have bad days, and they need grace and forgiveness just as much as you do. So please treat them with respect and kindness. You will learn lessons from these teachers that are far more valuable than any math formula, French verb, or chemistry term. You will learn how to get along with and respect those you disagree with. You will learn how to acquire knowledge independently without the intervention of others.You will learn that sometimes in life you have to deal with people that you don’t like. You’ll learn forgiveness and gentleness. It may not seem like it now, but these teachers are the ones you’ll learn the most from.

6.Respect your parents, and be kind to your brothers. Give your mom a hug. Tell your dad you love him. You’re their little girl, and you’re growing up faster than they could imagine. I know it may seem like they are unfair, or embarrassing, or that they never want you to have any fun, but they love you, and they just want what’s best for you. You’re growing up before their eyes, and they are afraid that one day you won’t need them at all. So let them embarrass you, and hug you, and tell you what to do. Because one day they won’t need to, or they won’t be able to, and you’ll want nothing more than for your mom to tell you what to do or for your dad to give you a hug. And be kind to your brothers. Because they love you. And your younger brothers are afraid you’ll leave and won’t want to talk to them again. And your older brother cares for you and wants to make sure you’re okay. So play that childish game with them, watch that stupid Youtube video they wanted to show you, help them with their homework, listen to them talking about the latest game or app, and at least pretend to care. Because one day, you’ll miss all that time with them.

7.Popularity isn’t everything. I know, at the age of 14, the most important thing is how many friends you have or if that super popular girl likes you. But in a few years, none of that will matter. As soon as you graduate, people will remember the way you treated others, and not the number of people you knew. So treat everyone kindly and with respect, and don’t worry about who likes you and who doesn’t. Because if you are kind, people will love you, and those who don’t will be missing out on an opportunity to know an amazing person. So you may not be liked by everyone, but you’ll be loved by those that are important, and the number of friends you have does not determine your worth.

8.Don’t form your opinions based on the beliefs of those around you. Don’t choose your favorite subject because of what your friends like. Don’t choose your favorite football team based on who your family cheers for. Don’t form an opinion on that book because of what your English teacher or classmates think. Don’t ever feel a certain way about anything simply because your family, pastor, friend, teacher, or coach told you you should. Explore things for yourself, absorb information, listen to others’ thoughts, become informed, and make your own decisions. And don’t be afraid to change it later. You’ll gain more knowledge and experience more things, and those will shape your thoughts and opinions, and that’s okay. And don’t worry if it is different than everyone else’s, but keep in mind that others have opinions too, and theirs’ is just as valid and as important to them as yours’ is to you.

9.You will have bad days. You will have days when you will want to shut yourself off from the world and just forget about your life for a while. And you know what? That’s okay. Go home, shut yourself in your room, cry, blast your music, read a book, take a nap, drink some tea, and ignore the world for a while. But wake up tomorrow and remember that it’s a new day.

10.You will get a bad grade, or two, or twenty. Don’t let some bad grades get you down. You’re smart and talented and one bad grade doesn’t change that. Yeah, it may hurt, at least the first time, and it may make you feel like a failure. But, don’t dwell on it. Forget about it and move on. However you need to do it, do it. Cry, get upset, hide it from your parents. Whatever. Just get over it, and the second time it won’t hurt as much. And remember that your worth is not measured by a number on a page.

11.Don’t bother your brother too much. When you see him in the hallway, smile and say hi. But don’t run up to him with all your friends. Don’t bother him when he is with his friends. Don’t give him a hard time about that girl, or that friend, or that whatever. Don’t annoy his friends when you pass by them. He needs his space, just like you do, and guys are weird, and they don’t seem to like their younger sisters hanging around. But don’t ever doubt that he loves you, because, despite what he may say, he does. And he will always be there for you to help you or protect you. So ask him about how to deal with that teacher. Tell him about that mean kid. Talk to him when you need help. Because he will help you and protect you, just as you would protect your younger brothers. You’re his younger sister, and whether you need his help or not, he will help you because he loves you.

12.Always have snacks. Keep some in your purse, your locker, your backpack, your soccer bag, wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just have some. Because one day you will forget your lunch, you won’t have time to pack it, you won’t like whatever the school is serving, you’ll forget you have practice after school, or you’ll have to stay after for a last minute study session. And you will be hungry. And always have a bottle of water.

13.Be helpful, but don’t let people use you. Help your friends with homework if they need it. Offer to proof read that essay for them. But don’t let them take advantage of your helpfulness. Don’t do their work for them, and know when you need to say no. And most importantly, know that it’s okay to say no.

14.Don’t ever offer to do all of the work for a group project. Even if you think it is the only way it will get done right, or done at all. Your sanity is more important than a good grade on a project. And teachers are smarter than you think; they notice when one person is doing all the work. And if they don’t notice, then don’t be afraid to tell them.

15.You don’t always have to work in groups with your friends. In fact, sometimes it is better not to work with your friends. It’s less distracting, and you are more likely to get things done and less likely to talk about that cute guy in your Biology class.

16.Find out what you’re good at and what you enjoy. Explore your interests. Discover your talents. Find your passions. And don’t do or not do something just because your friends are. Take that science class, even if all your friends are taking music. Don’t stop taking French just because all your friends did. Be your own person, explore all the possibilities, find out what you love and what you’re good at, and pour your heart into it.

17.You will never want to do your homework. Some days even less than others. You’ll always want to take a nap, or read a book, or play a game, or watch Netflix, or go to the mall. And there will be days when you would rather read the dictionary than do your homework. But don’t put it off. Just get it done so you can relax, watch Netflix, sleep, or hang out with your friends. Also, please don’t ever read the dictionary.

18.Sometimes you will need to get away. Get away from your homework, your stress, your parents, your brothers, your house, your friends. Pick up your phone and text one of us. We’ll come get you and buy you some coffee, or ice cream, or milkshakes. We’ll even let you just come over and hang out for a while. Or call grandma. You know she is always up for seeing her grand kids, and plus, she has food, lots of food.

19.High school is nothing like the movies. People don’t suddenly burst out into song and dance in the middle of class or while walking down the hallway. The social strata in your school and the barriers that separate the classes of people are not easily broken. Teachers are not stupid, and hardly any are that lenient. The perfect makeover won’t suddenly make you popular. The dress code is enforced. And being different is, unfortunately, not celebrated. It’s difficult and scary and at times it can feel like the worse thing in the world. But, just like in the movies, you’ll survive it.

20.Prom is not all it’s cracked up to be. Your junior year will come and you’ll want to go to prom. Your senior year will come and you’ll dream of going to ball. But you’ll worry that you’ll be the only one without a date. You’ll wonder if that boy you like will ask you. And someone might ask you, and then you’ll constantly call, text, and send photos of your hair, makeup, and dress to him just to make sure his shirt color perfectly matches your dress. Which you spent hours picking out. You’ll spend money on your ticket, your dress, your accessories, and your hair and makeup. And then you’ll show up to prom. Where you’ll spend hours standing against the wall talking to your friends, waiting for the moment you feel comfortable enough to dance. You’ll want it to be the best night of your life, but it won’t be. It will be fun, but to say it’s the best night of your life would be lying. So don’t worry about having the perfect date, because boys have cooties, and it’s much better to spend the night with your friends anyway. And don’t stress over finding the perfect dress, because you’ll wear it once and then put it in your closet and never touch it again, except to move it out of the way. In fact, you don’t have to go to prom at all. You could stay home and have a Harry Potter movie marathon instead.

21.Eventually, people will start to ask you what you want to do with your life. And it’s okay if you don’t know the answer. It’s okay if you have no idea where you want to go college or what you want to study or what you want to do with the rest of your life. You’re not the only one. You’ll figure it out. Consider what you like to do, explore your interests, investigate the possibilities, and devote yourself to praying about your future. Lean on God and trust Him. And if you do know what you want to do, don’t be too surprised if He suddenly changes your plans. It just means He has something better in mind for you.

22.Read that book for English. Don’t spark note it or ask a friend what happened, or completely skip over it altogether. I know, sometimes they are long and boring and dull. I am an avid reader and have never read a book I didn’t enjoy, or at least appreciate. But, I have seen many great books ruined by countless essays and over analysis. I have read books that I never would have picked up on my own. I have questioned my English teachers’ decisions and opinions about certain books. But, I have never regretted reading them. And it may be because I have an uncontrollable love for literature and a passion for words, but I think it’s more than that. Those books are classics for a reason. And the ones that haven’t been around that long, your teacher chose for a reason. Even if you don’t enjoy the book, you’ll never regret reading it. Because it may be the only book you read that year. Or you may be able to connect to someone or something on a whole different level because of it. Or you may fall in love with the main character, or find your new favorite book. You may be changed as a person or your may be transformed in your way of thinking. And if all else fails, you might be able to use it on your Regents exam or SAT.

23.Always have your headphones and a phone charger. Riding the bus without headphones and some great tunes is like eating an ice cream sundae without sprinkles. It’s possible, sure, but it’s just not right. People will try to talk to you, and you just don’t feel like talking at 6:30 in the morning, and you certainly don’t want to talk at 2:15 in the afternoon after talking to people all day. And how do you expect to do your math homework in study hall without your Pandora stations and Spotify playlists? And nothing is worse than picking up your phone to Snapchat your friends before practice or to call your parents after and realizing your phone is dead. So, headphones and a phone charger. And, of course, some Taylor Swift.

24.Don’t ask your friends how they did on an assignment. In fact, don’t ask anyone. Don’t ask your neighbor, or your friend, or that kid you don’t really like, or that really smart kid, or your brother who did that exact same assignment years ago. Because one of you did better than the other one. And you’re only asking because you want to feel validated. You want to be sure everyone else did as bad as you did, or you need to make sure that you did better than everyone else. And it might work for a short time, but eventually you will find someone who did better than you. And you’ll be left with a feeling of failure or anger or sadness or disappointment. So don’t ask, because in a week from now you won’t remember, and it won’t matter even if you did. If you ever get asked how you did, you can tell them no. And if they won’t take no for an answer, tell them
your grade is equal to the number you got right divided by the total number of questions. Then they’ll leave you alone because you’re annoying, and you totally just told a dad joke.

25.High school is not going to be the best four years of your life. People always say it is, but the truth is, it’s not. And the sooner you realize this, the better these four years will be. Because, the truth is, they will be filled with stress, emotions, lack of sleep, drama, hormones, tests, obligations, pressure, and so many other scary things. But they will also be filled with love, happiness, beauty, laughter, joy, and so many other wonderful things. They will certainly not be the best four years of your life. Sure, there will be unforgettable moments, but there will also be ones you will pray every day you can forget. By the time you graduate, you will have lived on this planet for 18 years, and to claim that these four are the best you will ever have is to say that the next 40, 50, 60, 70, years will be uneventful and boring. And that’s just not true. Because one day you’ll graduate, go to college, get your dream job, marry your best friend, start a family, live in your favorite place on earth, travel the world, reach your dreams, and be unbelievably happy. And you will forget most of what happened to you in these four short years. And that’s okay, because you will have moved on to bigger and better things, and you’ll look back and wonder where the time went. Someday you will have to leave, and you will be happy, sad, and scared all at once. You’ll want to stop time and recede back into the comfort and familiarity of it all. But you can’t. So, live every day with happiness, enjoy every moment, and embrace every new opportunity and adventure with the curiosity and wonder of a child. Chase your dreams, discover who you are, be yourself, make mistakes, take risks, explore, create, and live.

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On Things High School Never Teaches You

For those who don’t know, there was a school shooting in Colorado earlier today. For a news article, go to http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/13/us/colorado-school-shooting/

This news inspired this post. I was originally going to write about Christmas, but this is more appropriate for the time.

High school may or may not be the best time of your life. Your days are filled with education and socialization. You are taught, and in turn you teach others. It’s an important time of your life, you may or may not meet your future family, and you may or may not have your heart broken, but regardless of what happens to you and what you do, or do not, learn, there are things you will never learn. By the time you leave its old, cracked walls, you will know that the sin of a 30 degree angle is 1/2, that one mole is equal to 6.02×10^23 molecules, that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is not a story driven by love, but rather lust, hatred, and spite, You will know how to conjugate verbs in more than one language, and how failed reform attempts was a partial cause of the decline of the Ottoman Empire. You learn all these facts about math, science, English, history, and foreign languages, which may or may not be useful in the future. However, high school never teaches you everything, and it neglects to teach you what is important for life.

My school just finished Health week, with a day dedicated to suicide prevention, but we never asked why it occurs. We never addressed the reasons. We never discussed those who have attempted. or succeeded, to end their lives.

We had a hug day, but we never talked about why every day should be hug day.

We have had compliment days, but never talked about why every day isn’t compliment day.

We learn that depression exists and that it is a horrible, consuming ocean, but we never learn how to help those who we know who have been affected by it.

Within its walls, we learn how to survive, but we never learn how to handle the outside, how to live away from the comforting confines of the dirt covered, cracking walls.

We learn about psychology and how the human mind works, but we hardly ever question why.

We try to justify everyone’s actions and attitudes, but never ask them why they did what they did.

We learn the signs of pain, but ignore them when they arise and never ask anyone why they hurt.

Those walls have had thousands of people pass through them and tell them their secrets but they never say a word.

Your teachers will tell you to use your words, but they will never show you how to use them.

Everyone will tell you that words get you further than violence, but they never teach you what to say.

You know that in Dickens’ Great Expectations Pip is trained to be a gentleman, but how do you recognize a true gentleman?

You read books about life and death, but you never learn how to handle death.

You learn about the melting and boiling points of substances and why it takes more energy to vaporize something than to melt it, but did you know that sometimes you won’t have enough energy to get out of bed?

You see the couples in the hallway who claim to be in love, but no one will ever tell you how to love yourself, and how important that is.

You learn about the rain and why it falls, but you never learn that sometimes, enough rain falls from your eyes to fill an ocean.

In high school, you learn that in order for a triangle to be a triangle, the sum of the two smaller sides must be greater than the larger side, but you never learn what makes a person a person.

You study stories of life, but did you know that life is never like the books?

You know that allergies are just your body attacking things that it thinks are harmful but actually aren’t, but do you know why people attack others?

You may learn that the decline of Ottoman Empire was partially due to the spread of revolutions and nationalism, but have you ever learned what causes a decline in a human’s soul and mind?

You may even learn that people are annoying and that you hate them all, but did anyone ever teach you how to love them regardless?

At school, you are taught to be skinny and perfect and that is true beauty, but you are never taught that true beauty is internal, and no one who is internally beautiful can be ugly, and everyone is beautiful in their own way.

I have learned a lot of things in my short year and a half in high school and more than 10 years of attending school, but a few things still perplex me. For instance, why do school shooters shoot? Do they feel the need to extract revenge on someone or something so violently? Why do people feel like they are alone and have nobody? Why do those that feel this way never let you know they do? Why do those who claim to know Jesus not act like they do?

Your school may teach you things about the world religions, but they never help you discover one.

They tell you that Jesus was crucified, but they never ask why.

Teachers speak about their high school days, but they rarely help you survive yours.

High school so far has taught me facts that I will need to pass the Trig test on Tuesday, and to get a job in the science field when I am older. Other students teach me how to be competitive, but nobody told me competition and grades aren’t everything, in the long run they aren’t even that important. It taught me that I should always try to be a good person, but they never told me that good deeds don’t give me eternal life. Within its walls, I read about love, but never about unfailing and unconditional love.

By the time I leave high school, I will know mounds of useless facts, but I won’t know anything about life and what it means to live it.

You never learn in school what is truly important to your life and how to truly live. School is important, but not as important as life, it doesn’t teach you everything. I have never learned about Christ and His love in school, but I have learned that we aren’t supposed to talk about it in class. In French, I am learning that verbs make up a huge part of everyone’s life, but never about how our actions and choices affect others. I have learned how to write a coherent essay, but never how each part of my story correlates, or even what I want mine to say.

The things taught in school are important, but more important are the things never taught in the building, but in the world outside of it.

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