Ten Years & I'm Still Learning the Lesson

Ten Years & I'm Still Learning the Lesson

A few of them met my eyes while the rest stared down at their plaid skirts. They waited for my response as I blinked at the office ceiling. Junior year is hard, but really, what year of high school isn’t? While everyone seems to have mellowed out a bit by now, making for much less dramatic & much more genuine friendships, in junior year, the pressure to know more about your future than you do surges— & that can be scary.


I remember sitting with my academic advisor after choosing the college I wanted to attend & telling him I needed his help assuring my success at this particular school. I was so serious about going to this university & staying happily put for the entirety of my undergrad journey. I was more than okay to never fill out another application or make this sort of decision again. I needed to figure out the next four years as much as possible to guarantee a flawless plan. (You know I transferred schools after a year, right? Nice play, God.)


High-Quality pre-iPhone picture junior year when I wouldn’t smile for real because I still had braces. Also note the blonde hair & jean jacket because hello, Hilary Duff.

As I found myself sitting on the floor between a dozen junior girls, their small group leader asked if I had any words of wisdom to share. I told the girls any advice I had for them was advice I needed to feed myself, too. I mumbled through the next few minutes trying to voice the words that follow, & this is it:

If I don’t think I’ll be amazing at something, I don’t want to try it. Golf is my worst enemy, so games that are supposed to be relaxing & fun like putt-putt & Top Golf still require much patience. Failure is taboo in my mind so big project or small task, I want to do it right or not at all.

The fear of failure will always be lurking in the back of my mind, & I assume the same goes for many of you. However, we get a daily choice. We get to feed our fear, or we get to run our race.

Think about that thing you love to do. How would you spend your free time if you could choose absolutely anything? Even if you don’t have a specific target, what general subject longs to occupy your thinking? Is it sports? Are you an artist of some kind? Do you love planning social hangouts for your friends or school? Are you a leader or problem-solver? Forget about being perfect—that’s not necessary—but think about a gift you’ve been given that brings joy to your heart & could bring joy to the world. GO DO IT. Just start doing it. Don’t wait for an invitation to begin. Don’t wait for people to beg you to be a part of your own race. Take a step forward, & start something.

Here’s the thing—I know for me, I can see myself doing something I long to do, like writing a book. In my mind as I watch myself, I’m together, confident, & brave. But you know what? Who you are now is who you will be for the rest of your life. I’m not saying you won’t change & grow & learn. You absolutely will. But you’re still you with your brain and your heart & the same hands to work with. You get brave by taking steps—doing the work—trying a little more each day. You don’t go to bed a high school student & then wake up a magical college student equipped to master life without doing anything. It’s why you have to figure out what you love before you do anything else. Love still requires work—it’s just worth it because it’s love.

On the flip side of that, don’t forget to look outside your own bubble at the work your people are doing. Encourage. Compliment. Be a friend. We may each have a race to run, but we were meant to run it together & not just when it’s convenient for us. Actively love the people you do life with, & you’ll feel the love for yourself. That love will give life to your passion, & that is what will make the world brighter.

“I think God’s hope and plan for us is pretty simple to figure out. For those who resonate with formulas, here it is: add your whole life, your loves, your passions, and your interests together with what God said He wants us to be about, and that’s your answer.” –Bob Goff, Love Does

Now go, run your race.


1 Comment

  1. James Chambless on December 9, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    I am being a bit lazy, perhaps, by copying and pasting most of this comment from my facebook status to your blog comments. But I did not want you to miss the point that when I wrote this part, I was thinking of you. Fearlessly share what you know, Jenna. You are incredibly valuable and you are one of those who knows how to express what others need to hear.

    “It is oddly comforting to find that someone knows what you know, that you wish no one ever had to know, and that they are able to give it voice in a way you never could. To those of you who are able to write what you know, those of us who know it but don’t know how to say it are more grateful than you can possibly know. Keep it up. Please don’t stop.

    Art is not about beauty, but truth. Art is not to bemuse the eyes, but to move the soul.”

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