We have had the pleasure and good fortune to begin leading high school small groups at our church. Our groups consist of freshman girls and guys from around Gwinnett County and we have LOVED getting to spend time with them and getting to know these awesome students. For me, I have also been prompted to reflect and think about the things that I have learned since my days as a Hoya at Harrison High School.
Lots of people will tell you stories about how much they hated high school. It’s an awkward time in our lives and many people just can’t wait to move on to college. My high school years were not without a good dose of drama, bullying, self-doubt, and adjustment just like everyone else. When I look back though, I really enjoyed high school overall.
I made some awesome friends that I still get to stay in touch with to this day. Oliver is still my best friend and we talk at least weekly. I’m still in the same fantasy football league with my friends from high school. I’m lucky to have found a great group of friends that continues to stay in contact over the years.
Not every thing was sunshine and rainbows either. Each of us has our own set of regrets and desires to go back and do things differently. I can’t say that I would, necessarily, because I value the lessons learned and wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. However the following is a list of lessons to my high school self that I wish I had known then.
- Life is better when you are having fun, not when it looks like you are having fun – I get embarrassed really easily and there is no feeling I hate worse. Throughout high school, the desire to fit in and avoid being embarrassed at all cost added so much unnecessary stress to my life. Who cares if you are wearing a Gap shirt when Abercrombie is popular right now? Why is being a bad dancer stopping you from enjoying a good time with your friends? I still struggle with this now sometimes, but I have found that as long as I’m having fun, life is much better. It’s awesome to be able to let loose, look silly at times, and really enjoy the things going on rather than be saddled with the pressure of what everyone else will think.
- Don’t get caught up in the details. Is this really important in the grand scheme of things? – I remember fights with my friends, my parents, and fights in my own mind that were over absolutely nothing. I would get caught up in the tiniest little things and let it consume me. Take a step back when you are evaluating situations and make sure that it’s worth it. This fight could escalate and you could ruin a really strong friendship. You might say things in the heat of the moment that you can’t take back. Is it really worth it? For me, a lot of times the answer was “no” and I should have let it slide.
- Take care of your body and use it the way God intended – I was a wrestler in high school and I miss being a part of the sport almost every day. I learned so many great lessons during those four years and the wrestling team was where I always fit in. However, the one element of the sport that I regret was the way I mistreated my body. Let me be clear – we were taught how to cut weight properly and safely, but I ignored all of that advice. The first couple of years I cut weight correctly through exercise and eating properly. After that? No way. My junior year I once lost 20 pounds in 4 days. I would go on 4 day fasts and would dehydrate myself to the point that I passed out in the middle of class once. Ironically, it was in Health. I took dangerous and drastic measures to make weight and it absolutely ruined my metabolism. Is it a wonder to anyone else that within three years of graduating high school I had ballooned to over 255 pounds? God wants us to use our bodies as a temple to Him and mine was more like a temple to Wendy’s, chocolate chip cookies (remember the ones they served in the Harrison cafeteria for $1?), and Waffle House.
- The decisions you make today affect the man you will be tomorrow – This is one of the core values that Mike and I have tried to ingrain in the minds of our high school small group guys. Due to the struggles that I have had to endure – many of which had their genesis when I was in high school – this one weighs heavy on my 26-year-old heart. It’s easy to be carefree and reckless when you are 15 because even serious trouble gets wiped away later for the most part. You feel invincible. But you will have a wife one day. You will have to tell of your experiences to your children down the road. You will have to apply for jobs in a world where the things that go online are harder and harder to erase. The decisions that you make during that transition from freshman to senior and beyond will shape the man that you will be afterwards. The habits that you form don’t go away when you leave for college. There are a ton of changes that happen in high school, but the person that you decide to be then is the foundation that the person you will be later is built upon. Is this the person you want your future wife or kids to come to know?
What lessons would you go back and tell your high school self? I would love to hear in the comments what advice you wish you would have taken, or better yet, what advice you think we need to be telling our current small group students.