Flashback to the summer of 2014. All of my friends who are the same age as me are overflowing with excitement, eager to begin their college journeys in a matter of months. But I’m not picking out a dorm comforter or an orientation date; instead, I am planning out my extra year of high school with my mom, choosing various courses to take online and organizing my privately tutored classes. After discussing what I wanted to get out of this year academically, I decided on AP Spanish, Statistics, Economics, Automotive Repair I, Novel in a Year, and Personal Finance.
There were some who tried to make me feel inadequate for being a fifth-year high school student, and there were certainly moments when I let their words affect me, but God helped block out those discouraging voices and focus on the grand year that He had in store for me. And it’s safe to say that the surprises of this year have exceeded all of my wildest expectations.
“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost has been my anthem for this year. When I look back and analyze past events, the recurring theme of my life has been a series of decisions that directed me toward paths that differed from the normal, comfortable, popular roads. I am not in any way a connoisseur of poetry, but this particular poem has stuck with me ever since I read it in the third grade, and with each passing year, its meaning and significance in my life become even clearer. I’m thankful for the uniqueness that is the way the Lord guides me.
I’ve taken some time to sit down and compile a list of the greatest blessings that have come out of this school year. In doing so, I’ve realized that this is something I need to adopt as a tradition for every passing year because there isn’t one single day that isn’t precious in its own right. Every year brings along blessings, and it’s crucial to recognize them.
I got to write a novel
Through Landry Academy, an online school, centered in Christ that also runs these fantastic academic summer camps in Boone, I took a class called “Novel in a Year” taught by renowned Christian fiction author, Amy Wallace. Over the course of a year, I wrote a 20-chapter novel using the accumulated knowledge from the class and the guidelines of how to write an interesting book, from the first page to the last and everything in between. It was easily the most fun class I have ever taken, and I learned quite a lot about reading and writing and analyzing works as a whole.
- For those of you who are homeschooled and still have a few years left until graduation, I highly recommend taking some courses from Landry Academy and also looking into their academic summer camps. I could spend an entire post just on the many ways I have benefitted from Landry Academy, both in my education and my relationship with God as well as the many amazing friends that I’ve met through the camps and classes. http://landryacademy.com
In November, I had the opportunity to write an article for a magazine. I got to sit down with the General Manager of the Charlotte Audi and interview him about the business. After the interview, we discussed topics like our mutual love for politics, cars, and Jesus Christ, and it was awesome. The interview and subsequent article both confirmed my speculated passion for writing about cars. For education, experience, and for fun, I run a Christian car blog called Fueling Faith. I enjoy mixing the subjects of cars and Christianity, and I hope to one day establish a Christian Car magazine that ministers to motorists.
I’ve had time to breathe
This year has been productive in many ways, but it was nowhere near the stress load of my previous school year. Even though I’ve had many other responsibilities, I’ve been able to take a beat and really think about college and about what I want to get out of it. I’ve been consciously preparing myself for the encounters I will have once I am at Charlotte in the fall.
I’ve been able to grow my faith
A well-known fact about college is that it can either make or break a Christian, depending on how solid their relationship with the Lord is going into it. I’ve had an extra year of growing in my faith with my youth group family and learning more about Christ and how to sustain my love for Him all through life. With differing ideologies, religions, political views, and lifestyles, college can be overwhelming for someone who is unsure of what they truly believe, but with this extra year, I am sure of who I am in Christ and who He is within me.
In September, my mother and I went on our dream tour of England and saw places like Highclere Castle, Hampton Court Palace, and Chartwell, and we stayed in the cities of Bath and London. I could write thousands of words about the details and highlights from the trip, but I will just list the greatest one of them all: experiencing it all with my mom. I will always cherish the amazing memories we had together. She is quite the travel companion.
At the end of June and for a part of July, I will be going to Eastern Europe with the DUMC adult choir on a singing tour of Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic. My mom is accompanying me on the trip, and I can’t possibly be more excited about our next adventure together.
I’ve gotten to know myself, for better and for worse
Sure, I don’t have everything in my life figured out (who does, ever?), but this year has brought to light certain traits that I wasn’t aware of before. For instance, I discovered that I am strategic. I can look at a situation and think up 50 different possible outcomes. In a more negative connotation, that means I over-analyze everything, and I certainly can…my closest friends would attest. But that negative side can be turned into something great, especially when I write. Because I am an over-analyzer, I am extremely thorough, so when it comes to a hobby like writing fiction, my plots and characters and themes are very detailed.
I’ve had another year of outstanding friendships
Throughout my life, I have been blessed with the greatest friends anyone could pray for. But I want to take a moment and single out some really special people. Two of my best friends are both younger than me, one by two years and the other by one, so I’ve been able to enjoy them for an extra year. And we’ve had some of the best times. God created the opportunity for me to introduce the two of them to each other, and now we are quite the trio. They are both family to me, and I look forward to all of the future adventures we will have.
I’ve been able to spend more time with my mother
The two of us have a very unusual relationship. I consider her one of my best friends, but I also respect her authority over me as my mother, so I have benefitted from being her daughter as well as her friend. There’s nothing I love more than watching Agatha Christie murder mysteries with her. Combined with the other crimes shows, we’ve definitely watched over 2,000 murder mysteries together through the years. She’s been my teacher, provider, shoulder to cry on, gal pal, leader while also being an outstanding mother. I love spending time with her, from trips across the pond to visits at Biltmore Estate and nights at home with hot tea and Netflix. Even though I will be forty minutes from home, living at college will certainly be a transition, as I will greatly miss seeing her beautiful face and enjoying the privilege of spending time with her every day. I am so very thankful for the woman who birthed me, raised me, and loves me through everything.
I’ve had time to enjoy the present and reflect on the past
It’s easy to focus on the future and completely miss what’s going on in the present, and I’ve struggled with that over the last few years. In such a fast-paced world that seems to be getting faster, I had that grass-is-always-greener mentality, and I thank the Lord that He has ridded me of that mindset. Stop to smell the roses. Stop and thank God for today. Don’t wish away the days, weeks, and months that stand between you and something-better-than-now because none of us is guaranteed tomorrow, so let’s make the most of today.
God has used all of these things to better prepare me not just for college but for life in general. This year, I have learned many lessons and principles that will benefit me for the rest of my life. To love what I do, I must do what I love, so I am going to chase after a career in automotive journalism to write about cars because that is my passion–the passion that the Lord instilled within me. But no matter what I end up doing, it will be to glorify Him.
If you are a junior or senior in high school, and you feel the Lord calling you to take an extra year, DO IT. You will not regret it. Don’t listen to those people who will try to make you feel imprudent for your decision; instead, listen to your encouragers: your family, friends, and the greatest encourager of all, the Lord.