About a week ago, I wrote a letter to my younger sister, Sophia. Today, she had her first day of senior year. Soph and I talked and prayed and thought it would be cool to post the letter. So to all the high school seniors out there — here are my prayers and wishes for you.
I remember senior year the way I remember what I ate for lunch a few hours ago: really, really well. I don’t know how or why it is so vivid in my mind – it’s been four years and I’ve moved eight hours away and my mind is usually cluttered with a hundred other things – but there’s something about the invincible spirit that you have as a senior.
I will never forget the last day of my junior year of high school, the moment after the seniors left the building. I swear to you, I went home that day and changed my Twitter name to “Senior Erica Boden” because Senior Erica Boden was about to be a lot badder and wiser and greater than just this regular Erica Boden that had existed the past few years. There’s something thrilling and overwhelming and just plain exciting about being the oldest, and you are embarking on the adventure.
I debated not writing you this specific letter because as much as I want to pour my heart out and list all my dos-and-don’ts for you, I think most of the fun is making the mistakes on your own and enjoying the ride. However (in typical Erica fashion) I’ve convinced myself that there are still things I want you to know and since I can’t walk through the year being proximally close to you, here’s some of the highlight reel moments, recommendations, and my prayers for you.
To start on a light note, I would 10/10 recommend crossing the finish line of your last cross country race hand-in-hand with your best friends. And at the first mile marker when your coach is yelling at you, claiming that you’re “blowing your last race,” smile and wave, babe, smile and wave.
Since you don’t run cross country, this first one is going to present a natural challenge to accomplish, but I pray you do whatever the equivalent is for cheerleading. I pray that after you accept the fact that you aren’t going to be a Division 1 athlete (dang Boden genes), you stop obsessing over seconds and moments and breaths and pointed toes, and learn to breathe alongside the people that have been holding your hand and heart (and at times, tears) for the last few years.
I would also recommend that you go on a senior spring break trip – not like Spring Breakers wild – but go south with your friends where there’s sun. There’s something healing and necessary about final hoorahs, about driving through the city of Destin and sticking your sand-covered feet out the window and screaming Shaggy lyrics and feeling like – for a split-second – you’re unstoppable (apparently Shaggy lyrics have the ability to make us feel that way?).
I also pray you realize how precious the people in your life are (and that you wear sunscreen – Mom was right). That the people next to you right now are the ones that stay up the entire night bringing you water and putting aloe on your back when you have sun poisoning and are a dehydrated prune. That while you all will go to different state and universities, there is something so cool about always being able to pick back up where you left off. Enjoy every moment with the people who are part of your foundation.
I pray you go easy on the ‘rents. They don’t nag, they care. Linger in the kitchen a little longer, talk with them a little more, and give a teensy-bit more grace when you feel like you’ve hit your wall. I wish I would’ve been more patient in my moments of haste (that Lord knows I still have). It’s an easy time to feel selfish, to know that this is your last year here and you want to do things your way, but take the time to realize that it’s also their last year with you. If you’re sitting next to Mom while she folds laundry, for the love of all that is good and holy, put down your phone and please fold the laundry with her. Cherish the time because sooner than you’ll realize, you’ll miss Mom’s political rants, the smell of chocolate chip pancakes on Sunday mornings, Dad surprising you with an already-full tank of gas, and the ability to know that even if you drop the ball, someone else has already picked it up.
I pray that when you get rejected from a school, because you will get rejected, that you know that has nothing to do with your worth. That you can give it your all and sometimes the Lord will close doors before they even open because He knows what’s best. I pray when you’re sobbing on the beach during spring break because you opened one dang email from one dang Ivy League that said you weren’t enough, that you wouldn’t be in their class of 2017, that you do a better job of letting your friends in to comfort you. However, if you decide you still need to cry and break down, sit in the sand and put your head between your legs as you rock back-and-forth in a ball because allegedly that looks more like meditation and someone that has their life together, as opposed to a 17 year-old on the brink of a break-down. I pray you are able to lift your hands and praise the God that knew what was best for you when you didn’t. I pray you can say it is well with my soul before you understand why the pieces fall the way they do.
There may not be one perfect college for you, Soph, and that is okay. I decided on Alabama because one random night in April I turned on the radio and at 1:20 am, Sweet Home Alabama was playing. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe I just stumbled upon a new country station, but (naturally) I took it as an answer and signed some papers and tried to stuff down the bitterness from the prior-discussed rejections. I pray you are humble and realize that most things that are a big deal and seem like an ultimatum right now, will not be a big deal at this time next year. You will be okay – no matter what coast you’re on or what University you’re at, God will use you and love you and work in you.
Everything is temporary, kind of like this long gravely and chalky road from one thing to the next thing, then the next. When you agree to a life with God, that’s what you jump into. Have so much peace in knowing that He is the author. Have peace knowing that we never arrive. That as much as we yearn for this “I made it” moment, no tiara or speech or award gives it to us.
Soak in senior night. Let yourself cry, but never let yourself believe that the best is behind you. The best is ahead (and I’m pretty excited to get to witness it).
Remember the moments. The bike ride. The picnic. The late-night meetings. The bleachers. The lights. The BW3 trips. The Young Life Club. The Final Four tournament. The traveling. The roadtrip. The in-between, the fleeting, the beautiful.
And lastly (because if this isn’t the last paragraph I’ll have to accept the fact that I’ve rambled through this), love others. I think that’s the most important thing you can do this year. Love the girls younger than you – buy them coffee, offer them rides, invite them along with you. Love your classmates and people in every facet of school. The second you graduate you will not see some of those people again, so make sure they’ve encountered the grace-giving love that Jesus has given you. Love your teachers and enjoy getting to learn from some of the wisest individuals. Love our sweet Jesus with everything in you.
Remember that He is where you will find love when you feel left out, truth when you feel unsure, and peace when you feel like everything is crumbling.
You might be the real cheerleader, but I’m your biggest cheerleader. I’m rooting for you always.