Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with about 40 high school students. I enjoy working with students, but talking to a room full of squirrely high school students and capturing their attention for 45 minutes is a bit daunting. I’m sure many of them were thinking, “ yeah, a speaker! I can take a nap!”
The directions from the teacher were to talk about what I would tell my 18 year-old self.
Where to start?? First off I would tell myself to tone down the height of my hair since big hair was all the rage in the early 90’s. So. Much. Hairspray.
I started off by asking the students, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I received responses of a nurse, teacher, farmer. I told them that at their age I really had no clue what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to be in agriculture and wanted to help people.
My first challenge to the students was, no matter what you end up doing for your career, when you ‘grow up’, make sure you are happy. Truly happy with yourself. Your career doesn’t define you. Be happy.
We talked about finding your ‘groove’. Do what you are passionate about. I told them that I was an awful economics student, but I was an ‘A’ student in education. I found my groove. I networked with people and held those relationships close. Those relationships are still valuable today.
Then, we got to the heavy stuff.
How in the world did I end up back in small-town, rural Minnesota after traveling the world and living in big cities like Washington, D.C?
Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to talk about the past 4 years but decided that these students needed to hear my story.
You want to hear a pin drop in a room full of rambunctious high school students? Tell them about your career and how you were soaring and then life fell apart by being raped.
Jaws were dropped. I was actually shocked. Teenage boys even stopped to pay attention.
I told my story…
About blacking out.
About waking up with no clothes on.
About not knowing where I was.
About going to 2 hospitals.
About going through 3 detectives.
About barricading myself in my apartment.
About traveling for work as a way to run away.
About my PTSD, depression & anxiety.
About not being able to work anymore.
About moving home to my parents basement in shame.
About seeking justice and how it almost ruined me.
But I also told them about how I became a victorious survivor.
I told my story…
How I chose my attitude.
How I had to ask for and accept help.
How I did the hard work to come out of severe depression.
How I felt safe back here in my community.
How I had to take some time off and rest.
How I started a blog to tell my story.
How I am proud of myself.
How being raped will not define me.
I don’t know if the students took anything away from my talk, but it felt good talking to them about my path through life. A year ago, I couldn’t have done that. I am proud of myself, and that is something I have worked hard on saying.
So, what would I say to my 18-year old self? Honestly, it could be pages long, but below are just a few things I would tell the big-haired 18-year old heading off to college.
Dear Younger Me,
You are in for a wild ride. The next 25 years will take you places that you never imagined and you will experience the greatest of highs and the lowest of lows.
My first piece of advice is when you get to college hire a tutor for any and all math classes. Swallow your pride and just do it. You have always been horrible at asking for help. It’s okay. You don’t have to know everything. Utilize your resources.
You will survive family & friends dying.
You will jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
You will travel the world.
You will be scared of life for a long time and stay in the safe & comfortable lane. Don’t do that. Meet new people. Explore new opportunities. Get outside your comfort zone.
You will live in Switzerland and study in Russia.
You will worry way too much about what others think of you.
You will try to be something that you are not.
You will laugh more than you cry.
You will go against the grain most of your life…is this surprising?
You will land your dream job & have an amazing view of the United States Capitol from your office.
You will meet amazing people along the way who will truly change your life for the better.
You will get raped by a complete stranger.
You will be scared.
You won’t trust people anymore.
You will be depressed for years.
You will stand up for yourself and seek justice.
You will overcome all that was designed to hurt you.
You will seek & find Christ in all that you do.
You will learn that failure is an event and not a person. You are not and never will be a failure.
You will learn to ask for help with your future PTSD, depression & anxiety.
You will be brought to your knees and finally let the Lord lead you instead of always having to be in control.
You will live up to your hard-working, stubborn farming heritage and when you get knocked down, you will get back up…again, and again and again.
Life is a lot harder than you think it is going to be, but it is also a lot more beautiful than you ever thought. Everything is all gonna be alright. I promise.
PS – you do get rid of the big hair once you go to college, but there is still proof of the puffy madness in the yearbooks. But guess what? Everyone else looked like a fool too.