I know, I know.
The title of this post is also the title of a Fleetwood Mac song. But this post has absolutely nothing to do with Fleetwood Mac, I promise. I’m not sure if that reassures anyone or if now you’re all bummed but I can only do so much.
I’m coming up on my 10 year high school reunion, which in my book seems pretty impossible. But regardless, this November, it’s going down class of 2003 style. It feels like only yesterday that I was sneaking bites of Chex Mix while in Geometry class and breaking into my friend’s lockers so that I could tape stuff all over the inside of it. Now, I have children who want to play hot wheels on my lap while I’m sitting on the loo, trying to have just two minutes to myself. I’ve got responsibilities and stuff.
Sometimes I fight off that fleeting feeling that this life really isn’t mine. The paranoia that someone is going to show up at my house and pick these kids up because, as it turns out, I’ve only been babysitting. That my husband is going to walk in the door and ask just who the heck I am. Does that ever happen to you? You feel like it was just yesterday you were running barefoot through your yard and all of a sudden now you’re the mom whose yelling at her children, telling them to put on their shoes when they’re outside.
At times I feel like I have only been babysitting and playing house for eight years and that this existence can’t really be mine. Those days it’s hard to believe that all of this is just for me, poopy diapers, anniversary cards and all.
Color me blessed and fortunate and consider me still wet behind the ears after almost 8 years of marriage and 10 years removed from that orange and tan high school auditorium. I don’t know how in such a relatively short amount of time that I came to be so lucky.
Of course, when big milestones are right around the corner it triggers something in us subconsciously that makes us want to look back. Naturally. It’s time to see if there was anything that you would do differently. It’s another chance to savor the moments that you would live again and again if you could. We don’t get a choice or a do-over in the whole growing up thing, I guess. Why hasn’t someone invented an app for that, yet?
This is the part of my post where things are supposed to start looking all introspective-ish. And I guess that would be appropriate. What have I learned in the last ten years that makes 28-year-old Ashley different from 18-year-old Ashley? What would I tell her to do or not do with herself? Would I only dispense with practical advice and tell her to stand up straight so that she doesn’t end up with terrible posture and caution her against drinking Dr. Pepper like water?
Or would I have something else more contemplative to offer up?
The most significant pieces of advice I would have to give to that lanky, frizzy haired girl would be these little trinkets.
That’s right. Don’t wait. (This can easily be misconstrued as advice that is encouraging irrational and uninformed decisions. It isn’t.)
Don’t wait until you get to college or reach some other insignificant mile marker in adult life to finally get the nerve to try something new. Don’t wait and make sure that three or four of your friends have signed up with you before you finally embark on a new hobby. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for everyone else’s nod of approval. Do it. If it’s something you care about, something that you love, do it. Do it well and with all of your heart.
One day, you won’t have the ample amount of time or energy – please, let me stress that – that you have now. Now is the time to enroll in three or four things at once, to smile your most youthful smile and branch out in ways that you hadn’t thought yourself capable of. No, you don’t die when you turn 25, but after that things can become more complicated.
On the flip-side, figure out how to wait for the things that are worth waiting for. For the right guy, and for him while he’s serving overseas. For the right season to buy a home and make babies. And wait before you put your foot in your mouth – please, please, always do that. Wait it out for the right stuff, live it out for the ‘right now’ stuff.
And another piece of advice: do things for yourself.
It seems like such trivial and overly used advice – but that doesn’t make it any less true. As a nearing 30, mother to two, lover of chocolate, owner of a white Kia minivan I am still trying to figure this part out, myself.
But I wish that I had tried to live out this principle more ten years ago then in just the past few years. When you realize that the only person that you have to justify yourself to is, well, yourself, and the Lord, then you’re free. Again, this isn’t a call to be completely insensitive or irresponsible.
It’s simply encouragement so that you know that you don’t have to explain why you might prefer wearing a one piece swimsuit instead of a bikini, no matter what anyone else is wearing. Why you prefer Katharine Hepburn and the stars of old to any of the new and tainted starlet that they churn out now a days. Why you don’t need to drink beer to feel lively. Why you might like the way that you take pictures or make your famous homemade lasagna. It’s OK to prefer Mr. Pibb to a glass of chardonnay. You do you, sister.
I mean it. If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased, so says Kate anyway. This isn’t about being selfish. You can still love others with all of your heart and give them Jesus every day. I don’t want this to sound too much like heaping piles of self-esteem because I am pretty opposed to that stuff. But I think that there is something to be said for being yourself. You are worthy because you are a child of God. You are worthy because of Jesus. You don’t have any kissing up to do, because it really won’t change anything. God created you, quirks and all.
Note: being a jerk is not being quirky. Which leads to my next point…
Know when you’re wrong and know that you’re going to be wrong and that you’re going to have to love others even when they are wrong.
When you’re young, you think you have it all figured out and you think that you have it all together. How wrong you are. I’m pretty sure that the longer we live, the more time we have to realize that we actually don’t have any grasp on where life will take us, on the people we will become. That’s in God’s hands. It takes some time for us to realize that those who are compassionate, those who are graceful – they’re the ones that people are truly drawn to. Those are the ones who don’t miss out on the good stuff because they’re too busy being “right” and self-righteous.
Life isn’t going to be fair, the moment you realize that you aren’t something special and that your fulfillment and happiness isn’t the end all goal of existence, the happier you’re going to be. The moment you realize that life isn’t meant to just be easy, it will all start connecting for you.
And to love with a Godly love – sometimes, you’re going to have to humble yourself (in fact, always act with humility) and remember that you are wrong. And sometimes, to love will be painful and it will be hard and you won’t want to love with any part of yourself. But you have to. And you will. If you only love when you feel loved, well, then that’s not love. That’s cheap, fleeting feelings. Loving when it’s hard, having faith when it’s difficult to see the light beyond the darkness, now that means something.
But love God first. Let Him fill you with rivers of living water. I’ve never heard anyone have any regrets about that.
A few other pieces. Wear your glasses more often because you’re gonna end up blind if you don’t. Don’t buy three or four of the same shirt in different colors, because one day you’re gonna get married and your stinking husband will make fun of you. It’s OK to sometimes still be in pj’s around lunch time – other times not so much, like when you’re hosting Bible study at your house. Enjoy those quiet Saturday mornings because you have the rest of your life to figure out where the heck they went. Embrace boredom for the same reason as the last reason.
Do make a fool out of yourself in theater class – but I suspect you have that covered. Say yes to hacky-sacking in front of the library at college instead of going to class. Remember that sometimes, others aren’t going to love you as much as you love them, but that’s OK. That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you, so keep on keeping on. Xena and Buffy are good, Twilight is a no-no. Hug your parents and tell them thank you now, right now, this very moment.
Thank God. Right now. For everything. For everyone. Live a life of gratitude and hope and faith.
And always laugh at yourself, because let’s be honest, everyone else is normally laughing at you anyway.