5 Things I Wish I Knew In My Early 20s
As graduation season approaches, I can’t help but think of what Kaitlyn in 2011 was doing, thinking, and investing her time in and how different she is from the Kaitlyn of 2017 (and y’all, let me just say praise the Lord for that.). I can’t help but think of all the pressure and stress I felt as I packed up my things and prepared for what I thought was my perfectly planned out five-year plan. Most of all I wish I could go back in time and grab myself by the shoulders and say, “you don’t have to have it all figured out!” There are so many other things I would tell her. But time has gone on and I can’t step back into that house on graduation day and impart wisdom on my blissfully naive 22 year-old self. Instead, I’m offering up some words of advice for the 2017 you. Those of you who are in her shoes right now with so much ahead of you and so much on your shoulders.
1. Not everyone is going to like you. And that’s okay.
I wish I could’ve surrendered to this truth a long time ago without having to be on a never-ending hamster wheel of people pleasing for the last 27 years. It’s a simple fact, albeit one that stings. Just because people don’t swoon at your every idea or take an immediate liking to you doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. Sometimes it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them and you can’t change that, so stop worrying about it. Pray for them, ask God to help heal your hurt, and move on.
2. Learn how to find a “good” church and then go all in.
Being involved in college ministry is truly a once in a lifetime experience because I can guarantee you won’t find an easier time to find a group of friends with the same beliefs, nor will you be as well pursued to get plugged in as you are now. Getting involved in a church once you leave college is tough. In fact, it’s all too easy to become a pew-warmer that sneaks in five minutes late to avoid the awkward handshake and slips out the back the second the last worship song ends. Do your research and ask God for guidance (there ARE sketchy churches out there!), and then start serving the body of Christ with your gifts ASAP. The longer you wait, the harder it will be.
3. Keep in touch with your friends.
My friends in college were the some of the sweetest blessings I’ve ever been given this side of heaven. The women that pushed me in my faith and held me accountable more than I’m willing to admit are still my go-to’s for when I need prayer warriors or godly advice. The people in your life right now will always be special to you, but it’s up to you to maintain that. Invest in them.
4. It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing with your life.
I remember tearing up during discipleship my junior year because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. That was JUNIOR YEAR, people! Seven years have gone by and I still don’t have an ever-living CLUE. But the one thing that is different now is that it doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve seen my plans fail enough times to know that I’m not in control, and instead of trying to get all my ducks in a row, I’m just trying to be faithful to what God has for me each day. Another word of encouragement for you: you might think you have it all planned out, and then things don’t work out. That’s okay too. The bravery you took pursuing a direction is in itself a win. Dust yourself off, have a good cry and call it a day.
5. Don’t spend your life in vain.
Looking back on the sheer amount of time that has gone by I can’t help but feel convicted at how much of it was wasted.
A friend of mine once said, “a day without the Lord is a day without life,” and those words apply to all the days and seasons of our lives. There were months and even years where I chased my own dreams and selfish ambitions without seeking the Lord. Conversely, there were seasons where I surrendered worldly comforts and poured out my time and energy into chasing Jesus-- those I will never regret. Sure, in the moment it looked (and felt) like I was giving up a lot. But in hindsight, I know that it was not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Graduation and new beginnings can often fix our gaze on the things of this world, and while they are worthy accomplishments that ought to be celebrated, true life comes when we fix our eyes on the Cross and resolve to make much of Him. He is the constant in our lives whether we move across the country, change jobs, end careers or begin new ones. Wherever you are, stay close to Him and give yourself grace, and in the wise words of Jim Elliot, “be ALL there”.