Today I was thinking about what I would have told myself 10 years ago. I was thinking about the high school and college students I see all over Kalamazoo, and the insight I want to give them. I was thinking about having my own children one day, and what I want to make sure they know about life, God, and how I feel about them.
I would want all those people to know that it doesn't really matter how they "make a living." I want them to know that a job doesn't define a person. I want them to reach for great things and to have success, but that doesn't mean that they have to be the head of a company or make six figures. I want them to know that your job isn't your life--a job is a necessary part of survival, but your life is the bigger picture. You can love our job and use your job to do great things, but the crucial thing to remember is that it's YOU that makes it special--not how much money you make, or how important people think you are. If you want to be a clown or an electrician or politician or a barista or a writer, or if you want to travel around the world picking up odd jobs wherever you go, do it! Don't let people look down on you if your job isn't as "prestigious" as someone else's. Sometimes, out of necessity, you might have to take a job that you really don't like. In that case, make sure you keep a positive attitude, and be kind to the people around you who are likely hating their job, too. Remember that this is just a moment in time. Do your best to enjoy each season of your life, even if it's unexpected.
I want those people to know that goodness matters. Be kind, love a lot, serve people even if they don't deserve it, dive into intimidating opportunities, be quick to laugh, be quick to empathize, don't get offended too easily, look for the best in people. Make as many friends as possible because there is no greater feeling that being loved by people around the world, and to feel like your heart has so much love for those friends that it might just burst out of your chest.
Never stop trying to be better. The people that annoy society the most are the ones who are close-minded and feel like they have arrived. Listen to people around you, discern what you know to be true and what you know to be confusion via sin, and love people who think differently than you. You're always going to be evolving, so don't fight it. It might be hard for people around you to see, but it's natural to grow and change. Keep your eyes on God and you won't have to worry about making a bad choice. Read books, get into deep discussions, have lots of inside jokes, travel as much as possible, do your best to keep in contact with the people that you meet.
Remember that your life is a series of opportunities. Sometimes you'll be tired from all the opportunities in front of you, and sometimes you'll feel like you're floundering because there is nothing for you to do. Don't get discouraged, though. You offer something unique and profound to the world. You should cry when you feel down, and possibly spend some time evaluating where you are, and then you should pick yourself up and keeping going. Always keep going. Always believe. Always hope.