If I was ever unable to tell what the future would bring, this past summer is a prime example. From laughing with new friends to crying with old friends, these three and half months away from school were completely unexpected, as the best things often are. Looking back on everything that came out of the blue, I’ve found seven lessons from summer 2021.
#7 — Always Remember Where You Come From
In my ninth-grade freshmen success class, I learned that—wherever you go in life—you should remember three things: (1) where you’re from, (2) where you are, and (3) where you’re going. In light of this, even though I am wrapping up college, I can’t help but think about how great an influence my high school career has had on my life.
My junior year of college, an upcoming job interview led me to take my resume for a professional upgrade. The lady who helped me noted that I should remove everything from my last four years of grade school because “high school is irrelevant by this point.”
Although she meant no harm by this, the words stung me. I would not be who I am or where I am today if it were not for the love and lessons I gained in high school. The importance of this part of my past was again made real to me over the summer in how many high school-related reunions took place.
From breakfast and a mall run with a few people from my homeroom group to a 12-hour get-together with nine people, I was reminded that the love shared between people who call themselves Blazers is a bond that is little affected by distance and time.
Turns out one girl from that group of nine has been going to my church, what proved to be a beautiful discovery of common faith and unexpected love when one week she took the initiative to pray over my anxiety for an upcoming conversation. When we made a passing acquaintance our freshman year, I never would have guessed she would one day be crying out to God on my behalf.
These golden memories and others wouldn’t have occurred had I thrown high school to the wind upon graduation and distanced myself from any form of reconnection, so never forget or fail to check up on the people who knew you before you became who you are. God placed them in your life for a reason. Don’t forget what you’ve reaped or to give back.
#6 — Moving On Isn’t Always Cinematic
A year after someone I once called my best friend removed himself from my life, I went from desperation to get through the heartbreak and settle into a mellow endurance to being desperate to let it all go.
If I was ever going to heal or maintain any form of sanity, I had to move on. I had to let go of what was killing me, even if it was killing me to let go.
One of the repercussions of media on my life is I expected this cleansing to occur in some dramatic scene, like how movie and TV show stars—with cinematic music playing in the background—often top a tall object to release something that symbolizes what they’re holding onto.
I tried a similar concept, throwing away every physical reminder and burying the ones I couldn’t bring myself to dispose of, but I still felt the pangs of heartbreak. My hands were stretched wide open, but I still couldn’t shake myself free of the emotional connection.
It’s not really letting go of the past that is the problem, it’s coming to terms with letting go of what you once thought was your future. That is the struggle. The mind wants to hold on to its fantasies, even when they are wrong, unhealthy, dangerous, or even cruel. To let go of the past you must let go of the future and live in the present.
Then, in a moment of quiet half way through the summer, I realized I had moved on. Somehow I experienced a mindset shift and the past settled itself into the past. After all my desperation, the desired act had occurred without me noticing, slowly, like a truth I needed to realize for myself.
After all the anger I had bottled up, I now peacefully hold joy-filled memories close to my heart. Recollection of the laughter makes me happy, but there is no painful longing to experience such joy again.
Sadly, this is not a reality one can move into with a flip of a switch. It takes a lot of prayer, a lot of tears, and endurance to push through until the day sunlight breaks through the clouds. Hang in there. It can’t rain forever and, somewhere in your bright future of opportunity, you are going to be okay. 🙂
#5 — Take Risks
In a conversation regarding how many movies one friend has seen that another friend has not seen, Titanic was a title added to our growing need-to-see list. This recreation of a historic event sparked the question, why watch a movie if you already know how it’s going to end?
“Why live if you’re just going to die?” I wondered. “Why love someone if you’re just going to lose them? Why smell the roses if they’re just going to wilt?” For the experience.
We’re not promised tomorrow or that anything will last forever, so smell the roses while they are in bloom. Dance while you still have the health. Love while they are still there for you to hold. Yes, you may not get a chance to again, but in the end, you’ll be able to look back and say you lived life to the fullest.
#4 — Enjoy the Moment
Up until this summer, a major theme in my life had been my inability to live in the present. I was forever imagining what is to come or reflecting on what has gone. Even in times of laughter, I would poignantly note how the surrounding beauty would soon be gone. I wanted to live in the moment but could never let go of somber truths.
“One of the most bittersweet feelings has to be when you realize how much you’re going to miss a moment while you’re still living it.”-Unknown
Sadly, like with lesson number six, this mindset cannot be reversed in a snap. It comes to you unexpectedly in the most unforeseen ways, as it did for me one evening when I was stargazing.
From a bed of surprisingly comfortable grass to a symphony of crickets, the scene was beautiful . . .and I was not thinking about how it would soon be over. I was at peace, content to just be. For the first time in my life, I was unadulteratedly enjoying the moment.
Since then I am being more intentional about taking time to just be present in creation. To lay aside my to-do list, take a deep breath, and reflect on the loving-kindness of my ever-present and innately good Father. After all, there is a certain beauty to silence you can’t experience any other way.
#3 — Let Negativity Out
If you haven’t picked up from the bi-line of my blog, I strive to focus on all things positive. Yes, the world is full of brokenness and we are often hurting, but let’s not lose sight of the silver lining. There is so much goodness and beauty still around us if we just have the eyes to see it.
This belief of mine ripples into my speech as I, like Ephesians 4:29 encourages, put a lot of effort into not saying anything bad against anyone. Of course, I still do, but reflection always leads to guilt and a re-iteration of my self-imposed guidelines.
What I realized this summer is that, while my efforts cultivate goodness around me, negative thoughts were being bottled up like poison within me. As much as I hate harsh and judgmentally words, they have to be let out before they consume you, BUT you should not lash out.
Words that do not build up, that do not give grace, that hold the epitome of your darkest struggles should only be released in the privacy of a prayer or a journal or the company of your innermost circle of true friends. Take note that true friends will deliver hard feedback if need be and understand that your dump is not the essence of your character but an exception.
You have to let negativity out if you are going to let anyone in, but maintain a somewhat mellow tone and do your very best to attack the problem, not a person. We are only as strong as we are united, so strive to be at peace with one another and—outside of your innermost circle—only voice words that encourage.
#2 — You Will Still Have Down Moments
Just because you may have moved on from whatever hurt you does not mean you won’t ever face the trauma again. An amputated limb will heal, but you won’t ever be the same. You can leave the war, but the memories will take you back.
There will come times when the origin of your scars will haunt you, when you will relive the emotions of a season you are desperate to never return to, but hold on. The most beautiful mosaics are made of broken pieces.
“We’ve come so far, I guess I’m proud / And I ain’t worried about the wrinkles around my smile / I’ve got some scars, I’ve been around / I’ve felt some pain, I’ve seen some things, but I’m here now”-Macklemore, “Good Old Days”
You will have down moments, days when you wonder how you’re still feeling repercussions, but don’t get wrapped up in them. You have lived some life, so these times will come naturally, but don’t hone in on individual episodes and miss the bigger pattern: you are getting better.
#1 — Lean On, Let In
It wasn’t until this past summer when my best friend connected my individualism and “I can figure it out myself” nature to my birth rank that I realized how much of an oldest child I really am.
When hard times come, I turn in, hunker down, and push through by myself, determined not to take anyone else down with me. The world is heavy enough as it is. It doesn’t need my struggles, too.
However, in practicing lesson number three, my best friend’s wide-eye realization of how similar we apparently are caused me to realize that my self-preservation efforts, my will to survive prevented us from connecting on a deeper level.
She knows about my struggles and how God used them to grow me because I told her about them after the fact, when conclusions had been drawn. I never let her in to see the insanity of a given moment, to see what drove me to the verge of tears, so she understood we are similar but she didn’t know.
My desperation to make it through a dense and foggy wood in one piece and without burdening anyone else proved to be relatively selfish. I am somewhat ashamed that my friend and I bonded more this summer than in the last eight years of knowing each other, but I am grateful that I still (Lord willing) have a lifetime of opportunities to try again.
Don’t be afraid to lean on your closest friends. They want to be there for you, but they can’t if you don’t let them. Let them in on the insanity of your mind, on your thought process, not just your well-thought-through conclusions.
Love is giving someone the power to destroy you but trusting them not to and, in that hard but beautiful dance, you can push through the struggles together and find yourselves able to relate on levels you didn’t know you shared.