Last weekend I went to my 20th high school reunion. It was an event that I’d built up to be A THING in my head, one I was both nervous about and looking forward to. It turned out to be less “A THING” and more a pleasant evening spent with a handful of people I have much affection for and haven’t seen in several years.
I grew up in a small town and graduated with just under 100 people, the majority of whom I’d known since preschool or kindergarten. We certainly didn’t spend those formative years always holding hands and singing Kumbaya, but overall we were a pretty tight-knit group of kids for most of our young lives. Facebook provides a surface-level knowledge of what everyone is up to (or at least what their kids look like), but there’s something to be said about putting your arms around an old friend and hugging her neck.
It was a fun night that included some reminiscing, some revelations, and lots of hugs and laughter. I’m glad I went (and may have volunteered to help plan a bigger, better event when we do it again in five years).
However. One moment did surprise me — and not in a good way.
A classmate’s wife walked up to me pretty early in the evening. I’d said hello when they arrived but hadn’t had a chance to chat yet. She stopped in front of me and said, “So, my husband tells me you were the class valedictorian.” A little taken aback by her tone and not sure where this conversation was going, I said, “Yes, I was.” She then said the very words that I ask myself in my lowest moments. She said, with a big laugh as if we were all in on the joke, “Well, what have you done with that since graduation?”
What have you done?
What have you accomplished?
Is this the best you could do?
You didn’t really go anywhere, huh?
Guessed you peaked in high school . . .
In her defense, she didn’t say any of those last words, the words that echo in my heart when I doubt myself most. And I don’t believe her insult was actually intentional or personal. After all, we hadn’t met before that night.
But it sure landed a blow anyway.
My taste in movies is notoriously bad. I love unrealistic romantic comedies, and I love what are best described as “teeny bopper” movies. So a classic like “She’s All That,” a movie in which a so-called ugly duckling is made-over into a stunning beauty while also taking on the mean popular girl and winning over the prom king, is obviously one of my favorites.
I realize it’s a ridiculous movie (she was never ugly! they just took off her glasses and gave her a pretty dress! I GET IT.), but what I love even more than cheesy movies is finding truth in unexpected places. And recently, not too long after getting the invitation to my class reunion and feeling not a little amount of panic about who and what and where I thought I’d be at this point in my life compared to my reality, I caught the end of this movie on television. I’d never thought much about the prom king’s speech, but this time around, it caught my attention:
You know, for a lot of us, this is as good as it gets. We aced the test, made the big shot, got a crown. But the truth is . . . we’re just getting started. We can be anything we wanna be. And l don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m hoping I never forget that.
We’re just getting started, he said . . .
High school, for me, was a long time ago. For you it might have been more recent or perhaps you’re more years removed than I am. But I don’t believe any of our stories ended there. Whether we are exactly where we planned to be or so far from our adolescent dreams that our high school self wouldn’t even recognize us now, those days were just a starting point.
Maybe for you high school wasn’t anything spectacular; maybe it was traumatic or something you barely survived. I don’t believe your story ended there, either. And, really, in the big picture of our lives, graduating high school is just one of many milestones we pass over time.
Going to college, getting a job, being fired from a job, getting married, getting divorced, having kids, losing loved ones, moving away, getting the diagnosis, buying a house, getting a degree, winning a contest, finishing a race, starting a business — our lives have dozens of big moments and new chapters, hundreds of beautiful and terrible milestones and everything in between. And at each of those points, our stories may have changed or pivoted or been stretched in some way, but they didn’t end.
Do you feel disappointed by what you’ve accomplished this far?
Did you think you’d do more or be different at this point in your life?
Are you afraid you missed your turn, that you’re wasting your potential, that your best days are behind you?
Friend, I promise that’s not true. Your story — the one written by the Author of life, the Creator of the world — isn’t finished yet. No matter where you find yourself today, no matter what makes up your backstory, no matter how many failures or successes you’ve experienced or how many milestones you’ve reached, you have so much more to look forward to. You’re just getting started! And God has promised that He will never stop working in us and through us.
I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 CSB)
I don’t know who might be whispering lies into your ear today. I don’t know what your specific doubts or fears are, what makes you feel most self-conscious, what you’re most afraid of hearing from a stranger or a friend or yourself. But I know this: You are not a failure, and you are not a disappointment. You are just getting started, and God isn’t finished with you.
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