A day in the life of my 16 year-old self
Attempt to wake up at 6:00am and actually leave by 6:45am
School – 7:23am-2:13pm (weird times, I know)
Practice (volleyball, basketball or track depending on the season) 2:45pm-5:00pm
Evening Activities, depending on the day:
Monday - Choir 6:30pm-8:30pm
Tuesday – Youth Band rehearsal 6:30pm-8:30pm
Wednesday – Youth Group 6:30pm-9:00pm
Thursday – Choir 6:30pm-8:00pm
Friday – Babysit 6:30pm-9:00pm
Oh yeah, you have lots of homework for your honors classes! Homework 9:00pm-??? The goal was to get into bed before midnight. Alarm goes off at 6:00am and my first thought every single morning was, “when can I get back into this bed again?”
I am tired just reading this nonsense. Can you say overscheduled? This is the life of the over-achieving teenager. Let’s also add to that I was the National Honor Society president, I served in a leadership program called PALS (Peer Assistance Leadership Students?), I worked part-time when I could so I would have money for gas and car insurance and clothes. I attempted to have a social life. I was exhausted. But this is what colleges wanted to see, right? Excellent grades, multiple extracurricular activities, leadership positions? I needed a scholarship! So whenever it felt like too much I just focused on the goal I was moving towards and I pressed on.
When I began having stomach issues during high school it didn’t occur to me that my lifestyle might be a factor. When unbearable stomach cramps brought me to a pediatric specialist, I was told I had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). The doctor told me that stress was a contributing factor and I just kind of laughed to myself. I was on a fast moving ride and there was no getting off any time soon. My body would just have to deal. So I modified my diet and got the symptoms under control. I wasn't happy and I wasn't healthy, but this was high school - was anybody happy?
This would have been a good moment to evaluate if I had the right priorities in my life. My relationship with my parents was distant and they were just as busy as me raising my younger siblings, who were significantly younger than me at 9, 7 and 3 and working. I was trying to follow Jesus and be a good Christian. I rocked out to Jars of Clay and Caedmon’s call, with a little Sarah McLachlan on the side. I took time to read the Bible when I could, but as you noticed, my days were a little busy. I wanted God to be the top priority in my life and I made many choices in high school that I hoped were the right ones to make Him happy. I didn’t drink or go to parties, I didn’t do drugs, I hung out with the “good kids” and went to church twice a week. I still approached God primarily out of fear. Fear of not being good enough as a Christian, daughter, student and friend. I didn't see God as a merciful loving source of support, I saw Him as someone I was supposed to serve and I hoped as a result of my service He would lead me to my great purpose in life. It was up to me to make the right choices and to pay attention so I wouldn't miss the grand plan He had for me.
My hope was in my future and the present was something to just muddle through. Have you ever felt that way? What I’ve learned now is that making it to the “next thing” inevitably leads to a new “next thing” to pursue. In this pursuit, I miss the gifts of the present. My high school memories are a blur. Life was moving so quickly, my energy was utterly depleted and I was pretty miserable. I am learning how to be present for life now. Even in the midst of the hard things we face, we can find things to be grateful for every day. This enables us to experience joy in the present! Life may never be exactly what I hoped and imagined it would be when I was in high school, but, there is good to find in every single day – even the worst of days. I am daring to hope that God has gifts for me in the present that are beyond what I can even imagine.
I am still struggle with filling my schedule to the max and flying through life without stopping. I’m learning that the exhaustion living this way causes is not worth any of the “rewards” that I am seeking. I already have my full reward in the love of God and when He shows me that in little ways each day, I am filled with gratitude and joy. When I take the time to stop and notice the good on a hard day, I am given the gift of the present. It's so much better than muddling through and I experience gratitude, which always leads to joy. I'm a work in progress! Wanna join me?