The first day of school is coming right around the corner. For some of our students tomorrow is the first day back, while others have one more week to soak in those last few drops of summer sunshine before it’s back to the classroom they go. Regardless of when they head back, there is a fresh new buzz in the air. When I walked out of my apartment this morning, I literally took a deep breath in and said, “Oh my gosh, babe I can smell fall coming.” This time of year truly makes me giddy and nostalgic even though I am not even the one making my way back into school. Part of it is because back to school means my favorite quarter of the year is full steam ahead. If I could live from October 1- December 25 the rest of my life, then I would consider that truly heaven on earth. Cooler, crisper days, football games, and that tasty smell in the air that just is “autumn”. I like to take full advantage of the Back to School sales I see, I feel this odd desire to go buy pencils and new Post-It Notes, and I want to buy my new school clothes come August 1st every year.
I know so many girls entering into their freshman years of high school, so many of them tomorrow, and I am beyond excited for them. If it was socially acceptable, which I know it isn’t (don’t worry girls), I would line up with pom-poms on the sidewalk and full Starbucks cups to cheer them in through the doors. I love being a youth pastor’s wife, because I have access back into the life of a teenager again. And let me tell you, it’s different than when I was one, which makes me sound like someone who uses the words “whippersnapper” and “youngsters”. But, I am serious, which is slightly depressing. It is more high-tech and, unbelievably so, more complex to be a teenager today with the heavy influence of social media, but all the while chock-full still with the same struggles. I was a freshman almost a full decade ago, which really freaks me out. How on earth does time pass like that? I have written about that a lot on here before, but if you’re new to The Cake, allow me to tell you that I am awful with change, sentimental as I’ll get out, and I love the simplicity of my youth more than anything in the world. I can so vividly remember my freshman year of high school. 9th grade was my ultimate transition into deciding who I wanted to be and who I wanted to invest my time in as a teenager. Of course I continued to morph, but it was truly a defining year for me. I had spent years feeling insecure and on eggshells with who I was trying to fit in with, and then I decided I was over having to prove myself. It was then I began to truly flourish. This is why I am so excited for our students, this is why I am giddy. This year, they get to begin to truly step into who they want to be, more than ever before. High school is a change of pace, a new world, and I can’t wait to see them unfold.
I remember the back to school clothes my mom had bought me that year, particularly the new slip-on Keds that everybody was dying to have. Taylor Swift was just coming onto the scene, and I was playing competitive soccer, in dance, co-captain of the Freshman Pep Squad, and started voice lessons with Tim, the classically trained opera singer. My freshman year was my first of about 100 times to come of box dying my hair, which unfortunately came out orange. My mom and best friend, Hannah, sat on the floor blow drying my hair as I wept, trying not to laugh. My sister, whom I worshipped the ground she walked on, was a senior, the captain of the soccer team, and the coolest person I knew. We drove to school together every morning in her tan Cavalier named Tina. It was in Tina we snuck me off campus once during testing (sorry, mom) in the trunk, so that I could hang out with Emi for the day. Life was about Lauren Conrad, Ashlee Simpson, braided bangs, and vans. Freshman year is the first time I met a boy I actually could date, the first time I broke a heart, and then the first of many times getting caught up in a cycle of hurtful relationships that I was the ring leader of. I took my first AP classes, I was in Biology, and I took French where my classroom name was Chantal. (We had to pick a french name for our teacher to call us.)
Freshman year, y’all.
I have so many incredible memories from my freshman year of high school. It is when I sat in Algebra class behind Kyana where we would share her Mp3 ear phones and quickly became best friends over math equations and giggles. I am so grateful for what my freshman year taught me. I am so thankful for how it morphed me and shaped into who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to value. I didn’t nail it, and there are certainly things I wish I would have done differently. But even still, I wouldn’t trade a single memory for anything.
If I could tell all you 14 or 15 year olds any advice, and this actually applies to any person at any age, it’d be don’t you dare try to measure up to other people’s standards. Don’t you dare try to fit in with people who don’t value you. Don’t let people walk on you. Love people well, and fight to simply be the nice girl. There is so much joy that will come both immediately and later from it. Know that sometimes, the nice girls don’t “win” by the teenage world’s standards, but you are winning. I promise, you are. Don’t force yourself to date if you aren’t feeling up for it, there’s no shame in that. Protect your heart, keep just a few close, but be kind to everyone. I promise, your parents are on your team. They love you. They are fighting for you. Don’t fight with them. Cherish every moment you have with your mom, and hug your daddy as much as possible. Pursue hard after the Lord. In a time of life where you are finding yourself and defining who you want to be, which if we are honest will change up a little bit every few months, He will be constant. God is always constant.
I am jumping with excitement for you, and am praying for you as you walk through the doors of your schools. New seasons of life are exciting, thrilling, a little scary, and so fun. Go be the light of the world, the city on a hill that cannot be hidden. I can’t promise that high school won’t bring its fair share of tears, broken friendships, or heart ache, but I can promise that if you fight for those you love, the battle is worth it. You will marry the person you are meant to, you will stay friends with those you are supposed to, and even ten years later you will still be fighting to see one another as much as you possibly can, calling each other and sharing crazy updates on life. For those of us who are now ten years out since walking into high school for the first day, I hope you can remember that moment clear as day. I hope you can smile, and recall the moments that shaped you to become who you are today. I cannot help but think of “Fifteen” by Taylor Swift as I finish up this piece.. ha. I remember listening to that song at 15 years old and being like, YES! This, all of it. This is so real. So, cheers to being 15, the age that holds some of my favorite memories, largest steps of personal growth, and the seed to my longest lasting friendships.
Love y’all so deeply.