I wrote a journal entry at the beginning of my senior year of high school about how I did not want to grow up. Reading over it as I prepared to write this letter, my last editorial before I graduate college, I chuckled to myself. It seems like not much has changed.
In the journal, I complained about the barrage of questions from everyone and their grandmother: “What are you doing with your life?” “Are you excited to graduate and be independent?” “What are your hopes and dreams for the future???”
The answer to those questions, at the time, was a resounding “I don’t know!”
I was very scared to graduate high school because I was afraid to mess up my life. I was scared of making the wrong decisions, scared of college and very, very scared that I wouldn’t be doing what God wanted me to be doing.
“I don’t want my life to be terrible,” I wrote. “Adulthood just seems hard and not particularly attractive.”
To be honest, I was feeling the same way about graduating college for a while. The future is a scary place! I want to do well and make a difference in the world, but it all seems so overwhelming sometimes. I’d rather go back to being a kid.
That being said, I’ll never forget what got me through senior year of high school (besides the very grace of God). I was talking to a friend of mine, a young married lady who is very kind and doing well in life. She asked me how I was feeling about the whole growing up thing, and I told her about my insecurities. She responded, “Yeah, it can be kind of scary. But it’s also pretty great. There are some growing pains, and then life’s good again.”
I had never thought about life like that. There are some growing pains, and then it gets better. I had to realize that I wasn’t necessarily scared of growing up but of the pain that it would take.
In all reality, I have grown a lot since then and realized that being afraid of something or being anxious about it doesn’t stop it from happening; more often, it holds me back from being able to enjoy the good I didn’t know would come out of it. And just because something hurts doesn’t mean everything good is coming to an end. Sometimes, those stresses and difficult times are growing pains. Life will be better after them.
Every paper I’ve written, every relationship I’ve had to sacrifice for, every insecurity I’ve had to lay bare in front of Jesus — all painful, but I’m growing through these experiences and finding them worthwhile. Really, college has been a great experience, despite all of my fears and stress. Life got better after high school, and I believe it will still be good after college.
It all comes down to trust, doesn’t it? To return to my favorite metaphor, that of swing dancing, I can tell Jesus “no” to the lifts, dips and spins, and I can try to lead myself in the dance by relying on my own strength. And I can be anxious the whole time. Or, I can let him lead and trust that, no matter what happens, he’ll be with me every step of the way — and this way, we can actually have a good time.
The growing pains are more bearable when you go through them with someone else and when you know there is a purpose behind them.
Those papers and projects are like pumping iron for your brain; they may hurt, but they’re making you stronger. Learning to sacrifice in relationships strengthens your humility and makes your heart more flexible to better love those around you. Working through your faults and insecurities is like getting surgery without anesthesia: It’s going to hurt before you heal, but you will heal.
Really, that’s what the growing pain is all about. Just like children experience pain as their bones grow, we experience pain as we become adults because it simply isn’t easy to put childish things behind us and be mature. It’s like getting heart surgery. God will remove our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
Growing will hurt sometimes, and it’s good and valid to acknowledge that pain. But it’s also important not to slam on the brakes because of it. The more I think of things this way, the easier it is to deal with them. No, scratch that. It’s not easier, but I’m more open and more at peace about dealing with them.
As I face my future, and as you face yours, maybe a change of mindset would be a breath of fresh air. If we trust Jesus, what is there to fear? Maybe the idea of growing up… is growing on me.