They Do Exist.

High School

A Letter To All The Teenage Girls: You’re Awesome And This Is Why.

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by yours truly! I have something very close to my heart that I wanted to share with you today. So here it is. If you do want to follow my personal blog or twitter, they are laurennicolelove.com/blog and @laurendubinsky! xoxo – lauren

Photo by Branden Harvey

Dear teenage girl:

I want to take a minute to write down some words for you, because I feel like it’s really important that someone says these things.

In the grown up world, “teenage girls” are kind of a lame stereotype, and I want to say that I’m sorry. You seem to be a demographic that is written off as silly, fickle, short-sighted, simplistic, shallow, and desperate. No one seems to respect you very much.

I often hear men (and even women) refer to you in an offhanded manner as if you’re the easiest group to manipulate, to sell to, to convince of things, to understand, and to predict.

This makes me incredibly sad because half of planet earth has been a teenage girl at some point, or currently is one, or will soon be one. And the other half? The other half either has or will desire you.

To joke about and put down “the teenage girls” is to put ourselves down. Somewhere along the way, we’ve either been one, or we’ve wanted nothing more than to love and kiss one.

There is no way to talk poorly of teenage girls without talking poorly about ourselves, and hurting those around us.

I wish I could make everybody stop it, but I can’t. But what I can do is write what I know to be true about teenage girls.

I know that we are more passionate than any other group of people I’ve ever found.

I know that we are capable of great depths of insight, able to give and receive wisdom.

I know that we are extremely joyful, and also have an impressive understanding of grief – which gives birth to one of the Universe’s most glorious things: Empathy.

I know that we are intelligent, and that learning is easy for us.

I know that we are capable of autonomous, individual opinions and decisions.

I know that we create better art than pretty much anyone else.

I know that the words we write are more true to our souls at this age than at any other age; that honesty comes naturally to us.

I know that we carry a great burden of being both adult and child at the same time, which gives us a view of the world that no one else has.

I know that we see beauty where no one else sees it, which is possibly the most honorable attribute a person can have.

I know that we have the innate resilience to overcome family trauma and dysfunction, and that at any given moment, every single teenage girl is wrestling through intimate struggles caused by someone in her family – and yet she rises to be present at work, at school, at play.

I know that our capacity for hope, for love, for art, for creativity, and for Becoming Better and More is unstoppable.

I know that we aren’t “exactly like” all the other teenage girls we know, because we are all fantastically unique, and that’s also why we love one another so much and can produce such awesome things.

I know that our bullshit detector is solid.

I know that we know when glamour starts and when it stops, and that even though it may look otherwise, we don’t give it more credit than it deserves.

I know that we aren’t crazy, and that we actually balance logic and emotion pretty well.

And I also know that we are capable of just as much positive change, beneficial passion, and enthusiastic love as any other male or female human being around us.

I wish I could tell you that the world will suddenly have a better opinion on teenage girls tomorrow when you wake up, but they probably won’t. I’m not terribly worried about it though, because I know what most people don’t: We are stupid amounts of strong, and already have years of experience to sticking to our guns when siblings, acquaintances, teachers, students, parents, relatives, and the majority of mass media are at our backs.

So, a love, a kiss, and a lot of badass glitter to each and every one of you. Carry on with your magnificent life. You deserve respect and admiration, and you’ve got mine.

Love,

A 25 year old girl who still feels like a teenager


A Letter To My Disheartened 13 Year Old Self. Sincerely, 23.

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Nadine Schroeder. She blogs at nadinewouldsay.com and tweets at @nadinewouldsay. Even if you aren’t a writer, sit down this week and write a letter to yourself. At any age. Or write a lot of letters at different ages! It’s an incredible experience. – Lauren

Photo by Branden Harvey / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

Dear 13,

I met you again recently.

I was visiting at my parents and happened to grab an old journal off of my bookshelf in my old room. I figured I would just look at one entry but soon found myself scanning the entire thing and then moving onto more journals.

Oh 13, you were so sad. You were so lonely. You were so broken. You were trying to figure out how to please God, but you kept thinking that if you worked hard enough He would show up.

Everybody was hurting you. You wrote about giving people chances, you had pages filled with the names of everybody you knew and the ranking of how much they cared for you.

I remember those days. I remember feeling alone. I’ve been able to blur those years well enough that I can’t quite remember which girls said which comments, but I still remember parts of them.

Reading your words I can feel your pain again.

Oh darling, I wish I could go back and just hold you for a while. That’s all you needed – somebody to wrap their arms around you and tell you “you are beautiful, you are wonderful, you are loved.”

You wrote about praying and praying and praying for a friend who cared.

You wrote about wishing God would let you cry. Don’t worry sweets; God’s going to faithfully answer that prayer in the affirmative. You’re going to turn 22 and start crying all the time. You’ll be thankful that you prayed all those prayers for so many tears. You’ll suddenly start to be able to express the emotions you held in so very tightly for so many years.

You wanted to love Jesus but spent most of your time judging others. Part of me can’t blame you because I can remember how mean those girls were and how hurt you felt, but a much larger part of me wishes you had leaned into Jesus rather than made daily attempts to stand on your version of His pedestal in order to watch everybody else live their life.

There’s good news in this letter. His name is Jesus.

You’re going to meet Him. He’s going to change everything. It’ll take you a few more seasons until you get there though. In fact, you’ll even go so far as to not really believe in Him anymore for a while, but eventually you’ll come back. He’ll draw you back.

You’re going to move cities to find Him, and in His providence, that season will finally bring the friends who you prayed for as your 13 year old self. You’ll suddenly have friends who call you before you call them and who are just as excited to see you as you are to see them.

You’ll still wonder. You’ll still be unsure about what other people think, but day by day, sometimes minute by minute, you’ll draw closer to Jesus. As you draw closer to Him, you’ll start realizing that your worth comes from Him and not them. Eventually you’ll start to find peace there.

Some days you’ll forget. But most days you’ll rest in the words that He spoke.

Oh 13, you’re one sad chick. Your words written in those journals, they brought me near tears. They brought sadness to my heart as I remembered those years of feeling so very alone.

Sweet self, you had reason to be sad. Those girls were vicious. Those teachers didn’t know how to protect you. Your parents did the best they could, but I don’t think even they realized how close you got to ending your life.

I’m so glad you kept living. I know you only stayed alive because of the guilt of what killing yourself would do.

I remember those conversations reminding yourself to stay alive. 13, you took it day by day. You didn’t think you could make it through, but you did. I remember standing there, so many afternoons in that hour between getting home from school and Mom getting home. I remember, so many days and weeks in a row, considering ending it all. Guilt saved you.

I don’t think many could say that.

That guilt will be what saves you. You’ll go back to Jesus because you’ll feel guilt and condemnation. Later you’ll realize that Jesus never spoke that guilt or condemnation. He spoke mercy and grace, protection and care, love and kindness over you each day that you were away from Him. Your guilt will guide you to His grace.

13, I wish I could change the things that happened. I wish the words you were penning at the time didn’t have need to be written.

But they made you who you are. They made you become a girl who can easily forgive and can, because of Jesus, give a thousand chances to people. Those years will bring a lot of hurt to your adult life as you sort out how to trust people but they’ll also lead to a lot of healing as you start to finally lean into Jesus.

Oh 13, I wish I could come save you. But I can’t save you. I couldn’t then, and I can’t now. But Jesus can. Keep trying to find Him because in a few years, you’ll finally realize that He was with you all along.

Sincerely,
23


Is My Boyfriend Using Me For Sex?

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Editor’s Note: We’ve been answering questions from high school girls lately, and if you have one, we’d love to hear it. Today’s question is by Caitlin. She’s a junior and attends a public high school. I’ve written a response to her question, but if you have any words of advice to add, feel free to do so in the comments! – Lauren

QUESTION: “My parents said that all boys want is sex. I told them that my boyfriend isn’t like that at all! I haven’t talked to him about it, but how do I know who is right? I don’t want to think that’s all my boyfriend wants.”

ANSWER: I’m sure that your parents have your best interests at heart, but a more accurate statement would have been, “a lot of guys in high school are more interested in sex than in relationships.” Not all boys are the same, and not all men will be the same. This will continue into the rest of your life. For the record, some girls use guys for sex too. Also, girls (as a whole) enjoy sex just as much as guys do.

What you need to find out is if your guy is dating you for sex, for you, or for both.

Having a conversation with your boyfriend about it is a great idea. But you can also tell a lot from your boyfriend’s actions, behaviors, and what he talks about around you. The easiest way to tell what your boyfriend wants from you, is to look at what he’s asking you for. This may be direct (asking you to have sex/telling you he wants to), implied, subtle hints (you know it when you see it), or just something that you’ve agreed to participate in without disagreeing (him initiating physical relationship and you responding positively).

Photo by Alyssa Joy Photography

Take a look at the way he and his close friends talk about their girlfriends, or girls they like. Are they talking about having sex all. the. freaking. time? Are his friends sleeping with girls frequently, but treating them poorly? Guys that your boyfriend respects will tell you a lot about him.

If you aren’t having sex, it’s a good chance that he’s not using you for sex. Unless you’ve been dating a short time and he starts getting aggressive or upset that you aren’t giving him what he ‘needs.’

If you are having sex, it’s not a guarantee that all he wants is sex, but it does make it more difficult to tell. Nothing against him, that’s just the math of it.

Personally, I believe one of the greatest reasons to not have sex when you’re dating is simply to make sure that the guy wants you for you, and not just sex. And then to build the sexual relationship on top of the “real” relationship. If you love this guy, I’m assuming you’re hoping you’ll be together for awhile – and if things go well, forever. Speaking from personal experience, the less time you spend on sex in the beginning means the more time you spend on true, honest friendship. It can be really, really difficult to not have sex, but if it’s a good relationship, the struggle will actually strengthen it. And that’s invaluable to your future with him.

(Translated: Did you know just about every single marriage goes through weeks or months where they don’t or can’t have sex? You wanna make sure that you and your boyfriend can make it without sex before heading towards a marriage! If not having sex for a couple weeks or months seems to result in irreconcilable differences and/or bad fights, you may have just avoided a potential divorce or extremely painful break-up years down the road.)

At the end of the day, I understand what you want to know: That he cares about you, not just your body. Holding out on sex while you’re building a friendship means that you’re choosing to give more value to the foundation of the building, and that’s ALWAYS a good thing. Sex is like a brick. It can be used to lay a foundation of love, care and trust – or it can be used to throw through a windshield. Handle it wisely, and be extremely careful whose hands you entrust the brick to.

So. If you’re sleeping together, the first thing to do is decide if you want sex to be part of the relationship right now. YOU decide this. Not your boyfriend, not your friends – - you decide. Talk to girls and women you respect. Practice making clear-minded choices about yourself. (And if you feel like you aren’t completely sure what you want, I’d recommend that you take a break until you can make a whole-hearted decision. If there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to be having sex or wishes you weren’t, when you look back on this, you’ll feel like you weren’t the one making the choice. And that really sucks.) One thing to keep in mind while deciding: Make sure that your physical and emotional intimacy is always on par with the level of commitment in the relationship. People may have differing opinions on what this ends up looking like, but if something is sitting wrong with you and you don’t think your physical relationship matches up with the level of commitment, that isn’t good.

The second thing to do is have a conversation with him about sex, based on what you decided. See how he responds. Ask him how he feels, and what he’s thinking. Pay close attention to his reactions, and if your relationship seems to change over the next few weeks. Does he agree? Disagree? Get angry? Is he understanding? Does he say that he “respects your feelings” but then asks you to continue something you just expressed you didn’t want to do? Does he make it clear that he is attentive and caring to your feelings and/or concerns?

If he is using for sex, you’ll know soon, and hopefully your heart will be strong enough to make a healthy decision for you and your future.

If he isn’t using you for sex, this is an amazing opportunity to strengthen your relationship, and be much more intentional about how you make decisions individually and together.


I’m So Busy I Don’t Have Time For God – High School Column

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Editor’s Note: Today’s High School Column hits really close to my heart. As a recovering perfectionist, the tug on my heart to strive to find my worth is something I struggle with daily. I hope these confessions offer some help. From my heart, – Katie

 This week’s question: With homework, friends, family, and extracurricular activities it’s easy to overextend yourself in high school always trying to be the best [fill in the blank] you can be. God then seems to be placed on the back burner, at least in my own life. Is really all worth it? How do I pull away from all of the things I love and make time for God?

Wow. Such a huge question. This life is so crazy; at any given moment there will always be a thousand plates to keep spinning [and I wish I could tell you that when you solve this in high school it will be solved for life, but your existence in this world will always be complicated by many voices tugging at your being, telling you what to do, what you need, what you should want ...]. It’s exhausting. Add to that the crazy journey of figuring out who you are that you ride through high school, college and into your 20s, and those voices seem so much louder than they really are.

You know, in the Psalms there’s this tiny little verse that gets tossed around a lot, and it’s the first one that popped in my head when I read your question. “Let be and be still and know that I am God.” [Psalm 46:10]. Let’s use theses three phrases to walk through your question; Let be, Be still & Know.

Photo by Sarah Singleton

Know. I have to remind myself daily that these things are true; our value is intrinsic, built in, and comes only from God. I cannot do anything to add to the value I already have, that’s how perfect and true my value is. Because God created me and named me, sought me and redeemed me, I am enough. It’s easy to get swept away in the current of gotta-be-gotta-do-gotta-be-more. Pursue your gifts, pursue your dreams, but don’t feel like you need to add stuff to your plate in order to prove or feel more valuable than you already are.

One thing I’d encourage you to start asking God know is to show you who you are! Grab a journal and sit with God, ask him about your gifts and passions, about your love languages, about broken places that shape how you see yourself and the world around you. He has things to say to you about all of those topics.

Be still: You ask “how do I pull away from all of the things I love and make time for God?” My encouragement to you is to do everything you can to schedule time with God first thing in your day. Your life will ALWAYS be busy. Instead of “pulling away” from everything on your plate, make room at the beginning of your full-plate day to get quiet before God. I find, for me, that when I’m consistently doing this, it’s easier to sense God throughout my crazy day then when it’s 4pm and I’m still looking for a window of time to go pray, and still getting pulled back into my busy life.

Let be: Probably one of the best pieces of advice I ever got during college came from a good friend and sounded like this; “For the love of God would you please chill out!” To this day I still struggle with trying to do it all and easily get very pent up about not being enough, or having to say {gasp} “no” every once in a while. I love that “Let be” is the first phrase of this verse; it’s like God’s heart for us is saying “Hey hey hey … chill out. Let it go.” It goes back to the Know  part of the verse; God is God, and He’s already spoken your massive, huge, intrinsic, built in value over your life. Let be, be still, and know.

Let be, be still, and know.

Did this answer your question? Why or why not? Do you feel you have different circumstances that make this topic more difficult?


Disagreeing With Parents | High School Column

photo by betsy cañas garmon // design by katie holley

Editor’s Note: Today’s High School Column is a submission from the beautiful Betsy Cañas Garmon. She is an incredible creative, artist, mom, teacher and mentor. She’s raised five kids, now between the ages of 16 & 26, so I knew she’d have some great thoughts on today’s question. Betsy blogs her beautiful art and life at wildthyme creative. Every Saturday, we will be answering questions from our high school community right here. If you want to submit a question, you can do so on this page! Thanks Betsy! – Katie

 This week’s question: As you are growing up – coming into your own identity as well as your own views (especially those relating to God, modesty, relationships, etc), how do you balance your parents views with your own? For me, it’s been a tension filled struggle as I’m figuring out what I believe about life while trying to not make for messy conflicts with my parents while living at home. Any advice? 

Betsy’s Answer: 
Great question.  I think that there are actually two separate things going on.

What does it look like to individuate?

AND

Do differing views automatically mean messy conflict?

 According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to individuate is,”the process by which individuals in society become differentiated from one another.”  In its simplest form, it means I am separate from you and what I want, may or may not be the same as what you want.  This is a process that starts when you are a toddler declaring, “No!” and continues on into adulthood as you make discoveries about your likes and dislikes.  In other words, the order of the day is to become your self.  You are in the midst of dealing with a huge number of life choices.  Over the course of one day you might have to make decisions that range from what to wear {What is my look?} to where to go to college.  {What will my future look like?} 

If you are fortunate, your family structure makes allowance for your discoveries about life and who you are becoming.

photo by betsy cañas garmon // design by katie holley

If we were sitting down to have a cup of coffee, I would want to know more about the “messy conflicts”  with your parents that you’re trying to avoid. You talked about balancing your views with your parents views, so I’m assuming that in some places you have different views than your parents.   Why does this equal messy conflict?
To understand more about your place with your family, grab a piece of paper and answer the following questions:

 *   Is there forum for you to share what you really think and feel about life?

*   Are you allowed to have a difference of opinion?

*   Do you have differing views that you are holding internally because you’re afraid they’ll cause conflict?

*   Have your opinions been put on the family table and caused conflict?

 The truth is that difference of opinion does not have to end in conflict and tension.

[NOTE:  It is important to differentiate between a place of individual expression like dying your hair blue or wearing a certain brand of shoes and breaking the law or house rules.]

To help diffuse tension, both internal and external, ask yourself the following questions:

 *  Am I telling the truth about what I believe?

*  Do I honor boundaries?

*  Can I have an honest, respectful conversation?

*  Am I submitting to house rules?

Individuation is Respect and Authenticity turned inward and Effective Communication is Respect and Authenticity turned outward. The key to conflict management is Respect and Authenticity.  Remember that conflict doesn’t have to be negative.  It can be a catalyst for change and growth.

Did this answer your question? Why or why not? Do you feel you have different circumstances that make this topic more difficult?


Is Dating Worth It? | High School Column

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Editor’s Note: We’ve just added Katie Holley to our beautiful team, as Director of High School Community! While our Monday-Friday posts will continue to be directed towards our beloved 18-28 crowd, we realize that so many of you are high school girls – so we want to do something special for you. Every Saturday, we will be answering your questions right here. If you want to submit a question, you can do so on this page! Please join me in welcoming Katie, and reading this week’s question & answer. – Lauren

Question: When it comes to being in a relationship, is it even possible to actually know what love is at this age? How do I know if I’m making the right decisions or if its even worth it?

Katie’s Answer: While I don’t have a formula to give you to tell you if what you’re experiencing is love or not, I think we could take a crack at the second part of your question; how do I know if I’m making the right decisions or is it even worth it?

Is it worth it to pursue relationships in high school? Absolutely. This means different things to different people though, so make sure you’re the one making decision on what you’re comfortable with – not your friends. High school can be an awesome time in life to discover how to have healthy relationships outside of the incredible stresses of ‘adulthood’, and I think we could all agree that learning how to live in healthy relationships early on in life is so worth it.

How do you know if you’re making the right dating decisions in high school? First things first; how well do you know yourself? The key to knowing whether or not you’re making wise choices, dating the right guys, doing the right things, lies within you. A healthy relationship is one where intimacy follows commitment [meaning if you're writing your first name with his last name and he doesn't even know who you are yet, you are becoming more emotionally involved than the level of commitment in the relationship would allow]. If there is a large sense of desperation in your heart, any relationship you enter into lies in danger of letting intimacy lead commitment, instead of the other way around. Do not enter a relationship because you want to take, but because you have something to give. These kinds of questions are only answered inside your own heart, not by another person.

I asked my friend and GWP supporter Kelly for her thoughts on the subject:

Relationships in high school are interesting to deal with because the emotions you are feeling are so real and so strong. I have countless journal pages from high school filled with “I love ______ so much” and at the time, I believe I legitimately felt strong feelings for that person. I only had a few relationships in high school, but each of them were intense and brought on every emotion on the spectrum. They felt so real and important to me that to say I didn’t know love was an insult. However, looking back on those same journal pages now, I see myself as silly and immature. I made a lot of definitive statements, like “I will always love him” or “I know we’ll be together forever,” when I had no idea who I really was yet.

My advice would be to slow down, take your time and know who you are. Even now, I’m 23 years old and have been married for over a year. I run a business with my husband and consider myself an adult, but I still don’t fully know who I am. It’s a long process that takes time. Ask yourself questions. What do you like? Why do you like it? What do you believe? Is it because your friends believe it or because you thought through your options and chose what fits you best? Expand your circle of influence. Read and write a lot! Know exactly who you are so that when you do make a decision about love and relationships, you know it’s the right decision for you.

As you’re figuring out the relationship thing in high school, here are some questions to ask that might help you decide if it’s healthy or not: Are you a better person because of them? Is your sense of purpose stronger because of the other individual contributing to your world? Is your relationship with your parents better or worse because of this guy? Does he respect your boundaries? Are you able to limit your alone time without fearing losing his attention or affection?

Do you have a question for our High School Column? You can submit it through this form. We post here every Saturday & we’d love to answer your questions! Any questions about the High School Column for the Good Women Project can be sent to katie [at] goodwomenproject.com