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A Letter to the Class of 2019

Submitted by Bethany on Wed, 05/22/2019 - 10:00

Dear Class of 2019 (specifically Breezy, Morgan & Alexyss), 

I want to share with you some wisdom I've learned in the 15 years since my own high school graduation, as well as some gems that I know adults told me when I graduated, but I for sure didn't listen to. At 32 years old I'm probably one of those adults you may or may not listen to now, but I wanted to write you this letter anyway. The following are my eight best pieces of advice for anyone leaving the cocoon of high school and entering the great big world beyond. 

1. Avoid debt & save money

I know my parents told me about this one. In fact, my mom scared the pants off me so much about credit cards that I didn't even get one in my own name until I was 23 years old. Credit card debt is bad - it's scary - it has a high interest rate which means you end up paying far more for things than you would otherwise, even though it seems practically free at first. Plus you'll end up buying a lot of things you don't need. Trust me, you need less than you think. Some kinds of debt aren't all bad - student loans - if used wisely, can help you get ahead in life, and an education is something that can never be taken from you, and is never wasted. Just be smart about it. High interest rates are the devil - run from those! 

If I could go back in time to my 18 year old self, I would start saving a lot more money right that very second. I was good at this for a while, then I got out of the habit, and my 32 year old self regrets it. One of the best ways to do this is to have a plan for every dollar that comes into your life. Give your money a job whether it's paying rent, buying groceries, or putting gas in your car. Make sure that one of those "jobs" for your money is a savings account. An easy ideal to shoot for when starting out is to put 10% in savings, 10% to tithing/charity, and 80% towards bills/living expenses. (It might seem silly when you are poor to give money away, but I'm a firm believer in the idea of the more we give the more we get! Plus if you start giving money now, you won't miss that money in the future.)

On the subject of money I'll leave you with my favorite new quote which I literally read in a book today: "Money doesn't make you happy, but money provides the freedom to find out what does make you happy." (From Meet the Frugalwoods by Elizabeth Willard Thames - read this book if you can - from the library preferably - one of my favorite ways to save money!)

2. Make new friends

This is something you should aim to do throughout your life. It's harder once you are out of school and the camaraderie that naturally provides, but getting involved in any community activity (sports, church, hobbies, etc) is a great way to meet new people with common interests. It might be tempting at first to just stay close to your friends from high school, and by all means, make sure you stay in touch with those friends! But your world will be opened up and your horizons expanded if you keep yourself open to making new friends, too. That old song I learned in Girl Scouts is a pretty good truism for life - "Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold." You want a collection of both gold and silver in your life.

3. Say YES

Now that you are out in the world you are going to have a lot of opportunities come your way. Some of them will be very scary, and most of them will be far outside of your comfort zone. Don't be afraid to step out of that zone - that's where all the best stuff happens. When something comes your way that excites you - whether it's the chance to study abroad, join the national guard, or even just take a class in a new subject, say YES. Set aside your fear, your apprehension, your thoughts of "what if I fail" and take the leap. At the end of the day, people regret the things they didn't do a lot more than the things they did, so just say YES. 

4. Say NO

Wait, didn't I just give you the opposite advice? Ha, yes I did! But learning how to say NO is really important, too. There are the obvious things we should all say no to - drugs, alcohol, jumping off a bridge just because everyone else is doing it, anything that puts your life or your future in danger. But there are other things to say no to as well - activities, jobs, ways of spending your time that don't align with your goals in life. It is important as you grow older to guard your time. 

For perhaps the first time in your young life your time is really your own - no more teachers, coaches, and parents structuring every second of your day. You get to decide now. Make sure that somewhere on your schedule is time to take care of you, whether that means bubbles baths, time to read, or appointments with your therapist. (Did I mention that everyone should have a therapist? You should, if you can.) 

Also, and I cannot stress this enough, NO is a complete sentence. Society teaches us (especially women) that in order to say no to something we have to have a reason, an excuse, and the other person needs to accept that reason or excuse. This is not true. It is perfectly acceptable to just say NO to something you don't want to do and let that be the end of that. NO is a complete sentence.

5. The decisions you make now are not permanent

Another thing society teaches us is that the decisions we make early in life are decisions for life - where we live or what career path we follow, for example. But that isn't always true - almost any choice or decision you make now can be undone later if it's no longer what you want in life. What this means for you is that it is okay to make mistakes. It's okay to start going down one path and then realize, hey, this isn't actually what I want. Sometimes you don't know that something isn't what you want until you actually try it out. Sometimes the thing you dreamed about and worked for your whole life turns out to not actually be something that you want, and that's okay. Make mistakes - it's how people learn best. 

6. Dream big

Along those lines, I want you to know that it's okay if you don't know right now what you want to do with the rest of your life. I'm 32 years old and I'm still figuring that out for myself. But never stop dreaming. Never stop imagining what you want your future to look like and then working to get there, even if "there" changes along the way. Don't be afraid to live a life that looks different than what your parents want for you, what society tells you to do, or different than what everyone else around you is doing. Dream big, and then follow those dreams. 

7. Enjoy the good old days

In the midst of all that dreaming, however, don't forget to live in the present. Enjoy the time of life that you are in right now. Too many adults spend their time longing for the "good old days" of high school, college, or being a young adult before they got married and had more responsibilities. One of my favorite moments on the show The Office is when Andy says "I wish there was a way to know you are in the good old days before you've actually left them." (See clip here.)  Let me tell you - you are in the good old days right now. You are young, you have your whole life ahead of you, and though I know life isn't perfect right now (spoiler alert - it never is) things are pretty darn good. So don't forget to look around and enjoy it from time to time. 

8. Remember that you are loved

If you only take away one thing from this now rather long letter that I've written, let it be this: You are loved. Those of you whom I don't know personally who are reading this, I don't know your particular situation, but I know that someone loves you. Maybe it's your parents, your grandparents, a sibling, an aunt or uncle, a close friend who isn't really family but practically is, a teacher or a coach, or any other possible permutation of people in your life. I don't know who it is but I do know this - someone loves you, and probably lots of someones. Don't ever forget that. 

Breezy, Morgan, and Alexyss, I hope you know that Joel and I love you. And know matter where we are in the world, we are always here for you. We are only ever a phone call away. (Except don't call us, we probably won't answer - so we are really just a text, Facebook message, or Google hangouts chat away.) 

And let me put my pastor hat on for a moment and say, regardless of whether you believe it or not, God loves you, all of you. God made you and breathed life into you, Jesus Christ sacrificed for you, and the Holy Spirit has been and will be with you every step of your life. There is nothing you can do or not do, say or not say, be or not be, that can separate you from the love of God. Nothing. You are loved. You always have been and you always will be. 

 

And with that, I end this lecture of an adult talking to teenagers who may or may not take anything I said into account. I hope you do. But even if you don't, I know you will be good people and live good lives, and I can't wait to see it all. 

I love you!

XOXO, Bethany

 

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