As of last week, I am halfway done with my college career. Weird!! Exciting! A little sad, a little scary. After struggling so much as a freshman to transition into this new phase of life, I came into this year with little confidence in myself and my abilities. And there were many ups and downs, but I learned a lot and I grew a lot. Now that the year is over, I can look back and see purpose in everything. I’m so thankful for the good days and the bad ones, for my friends who didn’t let me give up on myself and for a God who challenged me because He knew I could become better. These are just a few of the most important lessons I’ve learned throughout this past year.
- Love yourself first. Because if you don’t treat yourself how you deserve to be treated, others won’t either. Have the same level of respect for yourself that you would expect from anyone else. You will never be perfect, but you will always be enough. Have confidence in who you are and whose you are so that you won’t be swayed by the opinions of others or by what this world tries to tell you about yourself. Being chained down by insecurity is no good way to live. True joy comes when you are genuinely happy with yourself, and you really do deserve to be genuinely happy with yourself.
- Learn to let go. Giving up on something that’s weighing you down is not a sign of weakness. It takes a lot of wisdom to know when it’s time to walk away, and a lot of strength to keep yourself from looking back. Don’t remain somewhere you know in your heart you don’t want to or shouldn’t be just because of fear or pride. The first step is the hardest and sometimes the second one is almost just as rough, but you won’t ever finish if you don’t start. It is so worth swallowing your pride or taking a leap of faith in order to free yourself from whatever or whoever is holding you back. Have enough faith in yourself to know that you will be okay, and eventually much better off, without it.
3. Strength is found in vulnerability. Admitting your flaws and weaknesses to those you can truly trust is necessary for growth. Accepting sooner rather than later that you can’t just weather every storm all on your own will save you so much trouble. There are people who want to be there for you, so let them be. Needing someone else doesn’t make you inadequate. Being able to ask for help, being able to admit that you messed up, letting someone get close enough to you to hold you accountable makes you brave. A life of trying to cover up all your weaknesses and doing everything on your own is full of anxiety and shame; but a life lived honestly, humbly and vulnerably leads to freedom and fulfillment.
- Honesty really is the best policy. You have a right to feel however you feel. And if something bothers you, don’t let it go unnoticed because you’re afraid to say something. Problems can’t be fixed if they aren’t expressed first. There is nothing wrong with being straightforward about your desires and intentions. Needs can’t be met if they aren’t known. Always stand up for yourself. Learn that it’s okay to be the first to say how you feel. Most people will appreciate your openness, others may not, but ultimately it’s most important that you never feel weighed down by things you wish you’d said.
- Joy is a choice you have to make daily. You can’t always expect to be happy; sooner or later something is going to make you really sad. There will be good days and bad days. But true joy remains throughout every trial if you choose to pursue it. You always have the option to not let yourself be weighed down by sorrow or anxieties. It sometimes takes a lot of effort and willpower to seek out joy in the midst of negativity but it is always worth it. You can’t be defeated unless you let yourself be defeated.
6. Sleep can always wait. Some of my favorite memories from this past year come from sitting on the floor of Martin 313 at one in the morning with my best friends when we all know we should probably be sleeping but we would rather be together. When you have the option to spend time with people you love, always choose it, even if you’re tired. Because those simple, joyful moments are the ones you will love and miss the most.
- Failure doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can serve a purpose, but only if you let it. People say this so much that it kind of loses its meaning, but there really are lessons to be learned in every downfall. Sometimes God doesn’t allow something we’re pursuing to work out because He wants us to know that that’s not what He has planned for us. Receive that message with a grateful heart and free yourself from the bitterness over whatever it was so that you can continue to pursue God’s will and not your own.
- On a similar note, don’t refuse to try something just because you’re afraid you’ll fail. Have more faith in yourself than that. Don’t ever be afraid to get back up and try again after you’ve fallen. One thing doesn’t work out because there’s something better in store ahead, but you’ll never find it if you accept defeat. It’s always better to have tried and fallen short than to wonder what could’ve happened if you would’ve tried.
- Take every opportunity you get to love and to serve. There is no better or more fulfilling way to spend your time. On your bad days, do something nice for someone. On your good days, spread joy. There will always be someone around you who has a need, whether that be physically, emotionally or spiritually. Be someone that people know they can come to when their heart needs filled. And if no one comes to you, go to them. Always be kind, always be caring, always be gentle.
- Just do what you love to do. Everyone is passionate about something, but it takes some longer than others to discover what that is. Don’t settle because of impatience. The Lord will slowly but surely reveal His purpose for your life. Be aware of His calling. If you truly love something, even if it won’t make you a ton of money or give you a lot of power, go after it. God will provide. Don’t stop searching until you find something that excites you, that fulfills you, and that you genuinely look forward to learning more about. And when you find whatever that is, let the first thing you consider be how you can use it to serve Him and serve others.