Sitting in a dark coffee shop awhile ago, I heard someone describe life after high school as, “no one has any idea what we are doing, but we are all trying our best.”
See, there are the people (group #1), that have seemed to have it all in the bag since the moment you first saw them at the bus stop. You know them. So do I. From that moment in kindergarten where the teacher takes out the big white paper with three blue lines per page and a space at the top to draw, and says to title it “What I want to be When I Grow Up,” they knew. And it wasn’t something fantastical, like “superstar” or “president” or “Mrs. Insert-favorite-Idol-of-the-Weeks-Last-Name.” Or even if it was something silly, they caught on to the reality of life long before we did.
These are the people who seemed to flow from one thing to another as surely as we flopped and faltered. They knew what they were going to do, they kept that focus in high school, and afterward, they were off to college, and from the Facebook photos and “life event” statuses, they graduated, got that job, got married, had kids…and for all we can imagine lived happily ever after. If they ever had problems or pimples or depression or a pink slip like the rest of us, no one will ever know.
Is it just me or do you have friends like that too?
Then there is me. You. The group. #2. The a-stereotypical. The people of “status unknown.”
As kids, we were the dreamers. The ones who actually took to heart all the Disney messages like “you have an extraordinary destiny” or “you just have to believe in how special you are!” or “you can be anything you want. All you needs a little bit a love.” We were the stupid ones in high school too. Not the popular stupid ones, but the undercover ones that no one ever looked up in the yearbook. Except our best friends of course, but they were uber-crazy. Then….Graduation! Confetti! Parties! Bright Future! Long Summer! Career! Family! Responsibility! Growing Up…
Notice how the last part of that hullabaloo got a little more serious.
And that’s where the rest of us lost it.
Whether it was because of finances, family problems, a big screw-up, a failed relationship, a lost job, or an uncertain idea of what to do, we didn’t launch.
We stayed home. Or we went to college and then came home. Or community college, and lived at home. Or moved away from home but stayed in the same city.
And…we worked that part-time job and played chase at the kiddie park and ate pizza in the mall and played video games and crocheted blankets or sang in a parking lot at midnight to a ukelele and went on crazy road trips and drove our parents up the wall and loved fiercely and lost everything and wrecked our cars and wrote unpublished novels and flailed and floundered and failed.
At least, that’s what society might tell us. That’s what parents might tell us…because they dreamed we would be like the other group.
They LOOK more successful. They look like they got it all together. They look untarnished, unscarred, amazing, and talented. They look like they will succeed, that everything they touch will grow brighter. They are like the Capitol people from the Hunger games and we are Katniss and Peeta, who have no clue what to do, but are doing it anyway.
We are crazy.
Our friends are insane.
Our theme song is something like “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons
So this is what you meant, when you said that you were spent,
And now it’s time to build from the bottom of the pit right to the top
Don’t hold back.
Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain check.
I don’t ever wanna let you down, I don’t ever wanna leave this town.
Cause after all, the city never sleeps at night
It’s time to begin, isn’t it!
I get a little bit bigger but then I’ll admit, I’m just the same as I was…
Now don’t you understand
That I’m never changing who I am!
Here’s the thing….
Whatever we would like to judge from outward appearances and facebook posts, we really don’t know what people have felt. We may put people in stereotypes. We may judge them because they are different or inferior to our ideas. We may put them in a group.
But I don’t know what they did in their darkest hour. If that smile is fake or real. If they have a lost love or an abusive past or a hurting heart. If that “perfect” person cries every. single. night. They may look like one thing, act like one thing, talk like one thing….and be something totally different. If that “perfect” person cries themself to sleep every night.
It’s easy to judge people that way. It’s a lot harder to actually know them.
Here’s the next thing…
This morning, my Mom showed me a video of me when I was ten and said, “See? See how happy you were then?” Then she kept laughing at the funny things I did and I laughed along. But inside I wanted to die. It was true. I was a Group 1, with a straight road. I planned to go to a Christian college, thought I would meet someone there, fill in the blanks…
And now, that’s not me.
I thought it was over.
But a person I care about alot told me something that really stuck.
“You are not at all broken…you have been damaged by a situation…you are not your past, you are your present…you are your future…your past is a mere snapshot of where you have been…it is not YOU….to your family…to your friends…to people you don’t even know…THEY need to see you the way you are…your TRUE self…the person that could make me feel better with a look…the person that lit up the world with a smile…the person that illuminates the world by just being…you…You have a long, promising life ahead of you…you made mistakes, we both did…we don’t need to focus on that…we learn from it, and we continue moving forward.”
I hope this person understands that this advice applies to him too. Every piece of it. If I could turn it around to him, I would say the exact same thing.
The point is…
You may be a Group 1….
You may be Group 2….
You may fall somewhere in between…
Straight road…broken road…whole heart…bleeding heart…complete family…shattered home…
We keep moving forward. Whatever Group you are…You are alive. You are breathing. You have purpose. Look beyond the stereotypes, beyond the expectations, and find out what your past can build into your future.