My beautiful firstborn niece turns 18 tomorrow and it just feels like a big deal. Not just another birthday, but a realization that the first member of the next generation has reached adulthood. She was two and then turned three and she loved to play quietly with her toys, and she was saucy and expressive. And I wailed and cried for what seemed like hours when I said good-bye to her that spring because I knew I wouldn’t be a big part of her childhood going forward. And then I blinked and she was nine, and then twelve, a teenager, now an adult. Still saucy and expressive, yet blessedly sweet.
I think back to when I was 18, and it turns out I learned some pretty big lessons that year. So my dear K., here are some words of wisdom I can pass along to you. Sit back and let these lessons soak into your soul …
1) Friends, Shmends … I know you’re chewing at the bit for adventure, but just don’t put too much hope in those people that say they will go with you. Say for instance (and I’m just pulling this out of the air here), you and a few girlfriends (a broad category that could possibly include older sisters, but of course not for you, an only child) decide to save money all summer and head out to the west coast in … oh, I don’t know, let’s say October … and if you work hard all summer and into the fall and save every penny you said you would, expecting the others to have done the same … well, yeah, just don’t plan around them. Plot your own course, kiddo. Go if you want to go and stay if you want to stay, and consider those who walk with you to be the icing on the cake.
2) Trying to pay bills while making minimum wage really sucks … I know school is a hateful word after 12 years of captivity, but the quicker you can up your earning power, the more you’ll enjoy the adventures that await you. Then again, let yourself suffer through eating Mister Noodles (“ramen noodles” here in the U.S.) and cereal with water for a bit, and you won’t take a good paycheck for granted when you finally get it. Hopefully your parents have as much wisdom as ours had, in never, ever bailing their kids out of a tight spot. Our parents together produced five productive and independent adults, which I’m sure was their motive in never paying for anything … ever.
3) Prince Edward Islanders rock … If you find yourself in a foreign land (across the country counts) and lonely, just call up some east coast friends and tell them how much fun you’re having and how much they would love it. Before long, you will have a house full of spuds who would give you the shirts off their backs. They will undoubtedly provide endless laughs and remind you that there is a cradle on the waves that will always beckon you home.
4) God’s got a plan … By far the most important lesson I learned when I was 18, is that when a person take one step toward God, He takes two steps toward them. Getting a job in a store where everybody was a Christian seemed like a coincidence. Then came the bus trip to Saskatchewan with that conservative youth group, bawling my way to the altar and the whole 20 hours home because I knew I’d been making bad choices but felt powerless to change. Then that weird charismatic service when I stormed out so mad at God and proceeded to tell him all the walk home why people like that made me not want to follow Him. And arriving home with such a peace in my heart, realizing I had spent the past half an hour in a dialogue I’d been avoiding, yet craving, for years. The Holy Spirit is such a gentleman, He will never force Himself on anyone. But for those who seek Him, He is the hound of heaven who chases them down and overwhelms them with His love.
5) Okay, there’s really no #5, it’s just nice even number … So this is the fill-in-the-blank, the choose-your-own-adventure. You stand at a crossroads where you will make your choices and your choices will make you. You are exceptional you are strong, and you will write your own destiny. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for you … and if it happens to include a trip to Colorado to babysit … I mean visit, I meant visit … your seven younger cousins, well that would be sweet.