A Letter To Our 2021 Graduating High School Seniors
By Katie Kenny Phillips
Dear 2021 Graduating High School Seniors,
Wow. You’re graduating! It feels momentous, doesn’t it? But also anticlimactic. It feels exciting. But also bittersweet. It feels hopeful yet, at times, has felt hopeless. You are the official graduating class of “unprecedented” and also of “life goes on.”
We celebrate you. We mourn with you. We look ahead excitedly with you. We worry for you. We know what you’ve missed. But we also know that you have gained something priceless (even though you might not realize what it is just yet.)
What we want you to know is that this year can be both. Hard and wonderful. Disappointing and lovely. Like life, it’s never just one thing: it is a holy mixture of beautiful and broken. It’s the official recipe for everyone’s life (yours just so happens to involve a global pandemic! Now how will it help shape you?)
It’s hard for us to believe you’ve reached graduation because just a few moments ago you were a newborn. And then a kindergartner. And a middle schooler. And a freshman. You were reaching milestones within our grasp . . . first words, first steps, first friendships, first failures, first victories. And now suddenly you’re reaching above and beyond where we are able to catch you. You are a trapeze artist, and we are the audience, watching you soar through the air. It is heart-stopping. It is also an undeniably glorious sight.
Here are a few things we want you to know as you head off into your next adventure (whether that’s college, technical school, an apprenticeship, work, a gap year, etc.):
- You need to know that you are going to do great things. Amazing, in fact. God has big plans for you. But also know that you are going to mess up. You are going to love parts of your experience and you are going to dislike other parts. It’s the journey. We need both. Embrace them, learn from them, persevere through them.
- We care about you as a whole person which means we want you to try new things, explore, be adventurous in life to figure out what you like and don’t like. Be brave and take that interesting class. Join a new club. Play a sport that looks fun. Write for the school paper. Audition for the local theatre production. Plug in where you sense God is leading you. Basically, try things. You won’t be good at all of them. That’s ok. But you won’t regret the experience or the people you meet. You will regret what you’re too afraid to try.
- If you’re on a campus, go to football games. Musical performances. Guest speakers. Poetry slams. Film festivals. Peaceful protests. Volunteer days. Do all the things that will make you a well-rounded person. If you’re not on a college campus, explore your community. You will find fascinating cultural experiences that will give you a bigger and broader view of the world. There’s more to life than work. Go find it.
- When things feel too big, make them smaller. Big schools can always be broken down into smaller groups. Big assignments can always be broken down into smaller, more attainable goals. Big dreams can always be broken down into smaller wins. When you are overwhelmed, don’t give up. Just take a moment and figure out how to make it smaller and more doable.
- Find a church group. Make it a priority. Your faith will change (strengthen or weaken) over the next few years depending on what you do with it. Find a group of godly guys and girls to help keep you accountable and growing.
- Look for ways to serve others. There are so many takers in this world. People notice and appreciate the givers and the helpers.
- But don’t be afraid to ask for help. From professors, teachers’ assistants, doctors, mentors, pastors, your parents, etc. People are willing to help those who ask. Become a good question asker and an even better listener.
- Here’s a secret: none of us feel like we know what we’re doing. Don’t be deceived into thinking you’re doing something wrong if things feel hard, if you fail, if you feel anxious or doubt yourself. We all do that sometimes. Sometimes a lot of the times. Life is always changing and we’re always adapting and learning. You are in good company.
- Some of our biggest learning and growing experiences in life come from hard things and hard times. I wish this weren’t true but it is. Don’t be afraid of these times. Ask God what He’s teaching you and trust that He will work it out for your good. He always, always does and He is always faithful.
- We love you. We are here for you. You can tell us anything because we are on your team. There is nothing that would stop us from loving you, supporting you, or helping you figure out next steps. We are a phone call or text away, day or night. Basically we need you to know that you are never alone.
So, congratulations, graduate! It’s been quite the year. But it’s been your year. Now take it and fly.
Katie Kenny Phillips serves as Sr. Writer and Editor for bestselling author, Shaunti Feldhahn. She is also the author of the picture book, Jesus Loves Everybody and the God, You Make Me Feel series for children. She lives in Atlanta with her five kids (including a graduating senior!), her husband Jeff, and their ridiculous dogs, Norm and Coco. You can find her on Instagram and learn more about her books here.
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