My 17 Year Old Self

Like most high school yearbooks, each member in my graduating class of 2007 was instructed to pick a quote that would stand beneath his or her senior portrait. Oftentimes, boys pick something ridiculous like Billy Madison's famous line "You ain't cool, unless you pee your pants." (Actually, I am pretty sure I saw that quote beside my husbands graduation picture in his yearbook. Go figure.) But for most graduating girls, we take this task very seriously, as if those words spoken by some dead author,  poet, evangelical, politician, etc. were spoken just for us, at this particular moment in our life, and will somehow unveil our destinies.

We pour over quotes, stressing over each syllable, sweating over each punctuation mark, nauseating over every pause until, at last, we find the perfect fit. Something clicks. We feel a connection. We have discovered our lives purpose. Angels are singing, bells are ringing, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Beneath my 17 year old selves graduating portrait lies this quote credited to Mark Twain,

                           "Twenty years from now you will be disappointed by the things you 
didn't do than by the one's you did. Explore. Dream. Discover." 

While looking through pictures from this past weekend with my parents I thought of this quote and couldn't help but laugh aloud at the 17 year old version of me. I altered the above quote before submitting it to the yearbook staff. The quote in it's entirety reads, "Twenty years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the one's you did. So throw off the bowliness. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Do you see what I did? I omitted the risk. The man who penned this quote (whom I discovered years later is indeed not Mark Twain but a modern day author named H. Jackson Brown Jr.) was implying more risk than I was willing to take. His words spoke to me, but I wanted to live a pretty life with no regrets. One where pain and tough decision never occurred. I wanted to explore, dream, and discover all that this life had in store for me without "sail[ing] away from the safe harbor." 

What the 17 year old version of me didn't understand is that you can't live life with no risk and be happy. With the risk comes heartache, tears, and sometimes suffering --but, more importantly, with the risk comes joy. A joy in knowing that you made it, that you took the necessary steps to bettering your life, that you had the faith, the courage, and the ability to leave your safe harbor and cast the winds in your sails.

Moving away from all I even known and all I ever loved was a risk. I feel the pain every time I give a loved one a hug knowing that I won't see them for another six months. I feel the heartache when I hang up the phone after a conversation with my best friend, wondering when I'll be able to talk to her face to face again. I feel the despair when nostalgia sets in for the holidays and I long for the comforts of home.

Oh, but I feel deep joy and contentment when I wake up next to the one I love! I feel overwhelming gratitude when I look around at the lovely home I live in surrounded by these tall, mossy Pacific Northwest trees. I feel satisfaction in knowing that I was brave enough to leave my safe harbor. And I feel blessed that the Lord has such great plans for me.

The risk is scary, but the reward is worth it.


Elle said...

thank you for this. my boyfriend and i have talked about moving out of state. but all of our friends and family are here. it sounds really exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Robin said...

Great post!

Alexa said...

Were we separated at birth? That was the first and favorite quote on my Senior yearbook page! I actually started mine at the "Sail away from the safe harbor..." part. And my oh my, have I taken some ridiculous risks since 2007 {some stupid, some wonderful!} but in the end it's funny how we usually end up doing what's best for ourselves, even if we don't know it at first. :)
*I'd love to eventually get a tattoo that says, "Explore. Dream. Discover."

Such a beautiful post, as always!

Cara said...

Love this post and it is hard! Being this age is hard. It all seems so transitional.

Lauren said...

Great post. It is so hard to take the risk! :) There would be many things I would tell my 17 yr old self for sure.

Thanks for sharing... God has a plan.

Lauren @ Aunt LaLa