As some of you may know, I am in the process of writing a memoir about things that I have had to overcome to be who I am now. One of the toughest parts to write so far has been a period in my life where I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, and when I felt like I had little hope or future in my life. Those were my middle school years—when I was about 12-14 years old. Sometimes, I wish I knew all that I know now, back then, so that I wouldn’t have been so miserable and hopeless. However, if I didn’t go through what I did back then, I would have never become the person I am today either. If I could go back and mentor my middle school self, this is what I would advise her:
- God will always bring good out of suffering.–If I knew that all the pain, heartache, and hopelessness that I felt when I was in middle (J.R. high school) school was going to amount to something even half-good, I would have not felt as miserable as I did. The fact is because of the bullying and the pain I experienced in middle school, I am better equipped to help others who are struggling similarly. Because God and others helped me overcome the pain I endured before, my story can give others hope that, they, too can reach the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. In fact, if you are struggling right now, or have struggled, and you don’t know if these challenges are going to add up to anything good, know that your story can one day give others who are struggling, hope, if you don’t give up now. Many times during that dark period in my life I wanted to commit suicide, but God, in His sovereign wisdom did not allow me. Thank God He didn’t, or else I wouldn’t be here sharing this!
- If people don’t accept you for you, don’t try to please them or let them rent space in your life.—In middle school, I struggled to gain the acceptance and the close friendship of my peers. All in all, though I may have appeared happy, I was really dying inside. I tried to learn from them sometimes in an attempt to mimic their behaviors, so I would be more “acceptable,” but it never seemed like it was enough. The same people I wanted to impress probably saw through me, and, in the end, I was still in the same spot I was in the first place—lonely and unacceptable to my peers. Now, I have learned that if people want me to change things that are part of how God made me, like how I look on the outside (like my ethnicity), or don’t want to accept that I am an INFJ on the spectrum, that I should not put stock in trying to please them. In fact, I have had to let go of several people in the past ten years that haven’t really accepted me for who God made me to be. It really is better to be hated for who you are, then “loved” for who you are not, as people will find out the Real You anyway. Be authentic to yourself and others.
- Grades aren’t everything.—I was so fixated on grades, that when I did poorly, I was deathly afraid that I would make my dad livid and more so, that I would flunk out of school. Even though I tried my best to do well in school, and had decent grades, they had absolutely ZERO impact on helping me find the job I have now! Some teachers may say to a student who is struggling that if they don’t improve, they will end up working at “McDonalds.” What these teachers don’t understand is that one could make decent grades and graduate from a half-way decent college, and STILL work at McDonalds! Also, someone could graduate with a “C” average in school, but end up making millions of dollars in acting or even starting their own business if they know what they are doing. I would still advise my middle school self to work diligently in school, but not get too anxious if I failed one test!
- Having convictions and drive will make you more successful in life than if you are just “getting by.”—Although I worked hard in school, I only did so to make my parents happy and for fear of failure. However, I have discovered in the past few years that my attitude back then is similar to how many people view their jobs, as just a way to “get by”. Yes, we should make sure we are making enough money in our jobs to make ends meet, but it shouldn’t be about just that. Although I don’t make even close to a million dollars a year at my job, I still strive to go above and beyond and do the best I can every single day. Why? Because I want to glorify God and show people that working diligently can be a more satisfying and enriching learning experience if you approach your job as a calling, and not only to make money. Because I am convinced God has placed me in my job to impact a certain group of people for a reason, I am more motivated to do my best, even when I may not get a raise for years. If I approached my school as a calling, rather than just trying to gain the acceptance of love of people who were already set in their opinion of me, I think I would have been a lot happier.
I am convinced that if I had learned these lessons in middle school, I would not have struggled as much back then. However, I am glad that I did eventually learn these lessons, though, sometimes, like other things I have learned, sometimes I need to go back and review them. I am glad for these lessons, because without them, I would have never grown into the person I am today. And I am glad for the God that helped me learn them!