When I was in school, it was clear who the popular kids were. It was obvious in the sense that they were the ones with the nice clothes, the perfect hair, and the impressive social calendars. You could walk down the hall and recognize, "yeah, she's a popular kid."
Now, thanks to Facebook and Instagram, we can measure who's popular. She got 130 likes on her IG post, but he only got 30, she must be more popular than he is. Did you know there are Instagrammers who will take down a post if it does not get a certain number of likes? Did you know you can pay actual money for followers?
And it makes me so sad for this generation of teenagers.
I rode in silence to the gym this morning. I didn't even realize I had not turned on my regular news podcast until I pulled into the parking lot. So many thoughts swirled through my mind. Why are there so many mass shootings? Why do kids take guns to school? Why is there so much mental illness in our world?
I don't really have answers for all of this, but I know I have to learn how to keep my eyes on my own paper. There's a saying that "everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten," and at this time in my life, I can say wholeheartedly that I believe this to be true.
When you mess up, say I'm sorry.
Speak with kindness.
Listen to your teacher(s).
Follow the leader.
Ask for help.
When I look at this list, it seems so simple, so easy. Yet, when one person does not do these things we were all taught as a foundation of being a good person, it can be so easy to follow suit. And when life gets hard, many of these fundamentals go by the wayside. I don't want to speak with kindness about a coach who has said hurtful things to my kid. I don't want to follow the leader when the leader is not leading the way I want or think he should be. I don't want to respect others when they are acting in ways that infuriate me.
But. I am called to. I am called to pray for my adversaries. And when I do, a feeling of forgiveness and peace washes over me. When I truly look at those who have offended me, disagreed with me, hurt me, and offer them the same kind of forgiveness I am given each and every minute, there is a healing that is set in motion. Forgiveness has a kind of power that anger simply does not possess.
I remember when I was launching lavenderandlaugh, and I was so afraid no one would read my posts. When I lamented the fact that there are so many blogs out there and so many people writing about the same topics I wanted to tackle, two of my greatest encouragers said to me, "But there's just one you. They haven't heard it the way you'll tell it." And that was all I needed to hear.
I have been stealing every moment I can to sneak away and read this beautiful book that is mostly coming of age and a gorgeous depiction of the landscape and creatures of the North Carolina marshland, but also heartbreak. The main character in Where the Crawdads Sing has been deserted by her family, and is growing up, all alone, in her family's shack on the water. Kya has been taking care of herself for years--making her own money by selling mussels, soaking up everything she can from books her friend lends her. She knows the marsh and its creatures intimately, able to communicate with the gulls and creating gorgeous watercolor prints of the landscape. When she meets a young boy who is more worldly than she is, she is distracted against her better judgement. He has an expensive boat, goes to a good school, and brings her nice things. She gets caught up in the moment. Delia Owens writes this about her main character...
"She laughed for his sake, something she'd never done. Giving away a piece of herself just to have someone else."
I wanted to shout at Kya, "No! Don't do it! Stay true to yourself!" even as I remembered my own teenage self, doing this very same thing. How often do we do this even now, as grown adults? We give away a piece of ourselves every time we look at a social media post and wish we had that life, or those well-dressed kids, or that muscle tone. We sell ourselves short by giving away a piece of who God intended us to be, just to gain a piece of the world.
And so the phrase, keep your eyes on your own paper comes to mind. There is no one else who was given your unique personality, your gifts, your strengths, your voice. No one else who can love the same way you can, speak the same way you do, encourage the same way you can. No one else can tell it the way you can, play it the way you can, be the way you can. And that is GOOD. Because if we were all the same, life would be pretty boring.
There is just one you. Remember that. You are important.
You keep doing you.