FYI (If you’re a teenage human being.)
Here’s the thing: there’s a lot of concern trolling happening for you right now. (See http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/04/fyi-2-the-one-where-everyones-covered-up/, the inspiration for this, and one of many, many examples.)
There are literally thousands of people out there — moms, dads, youth pastors, televangelists, mom blogs, dad blogs, and probably even a celebrity or two — who are worried about the state of your soul, the state of your mind, the state of your heart, the state of your entire being. They don’t want you to be led astray, to seek forbidden pastures, to be drawn to Sodom and Gomorrah; they wish for you to remain pure, to maintain your childlike innocence, to be holy and whole and have a heart for Jesus, a heart for the gospel, a heart saved solely for that one boy or one girl waiting for you somewhere in the world. They want you to be safe, and solid, and a fully functioning member of a society that values compliance and the comfort blanket of unquestioning obedience. They want you to pray before bed and fall asleep with the ease of the confessor, to drift down under sweet dreams, and to wake up refreshed and renewed, an upstanding young person who knows their place in the world, who knows their place in the world after this one. They don’t want you to deviate from their plan, or God’s plan, or both.
They want you to be all the things they were, or all the things they weren’t.
Girls, you beautiful, wild, wonderful creatures; there are oceans inside you, waves crashing against the shore of every new curve. Some of you sirens, some of you as steady and certain as an ancient shoreline, some of you still curled up in shells under the seabed, not quite ready to wander out into the wide world; but all of you, each of you, so exquisitely, perfectly, fearfully made.
Own your body, your body, this body that so beautifully holds your soul and your spirit. Explore it with reverence, let it be explored reverentially; it was made to give and receive pleasure, to give and receive pain, to give and receive life; live in it, fully, forcefully, have fun and get hurt and be healed and be made whole again.
Wear tight jeans and long skirts and short shorts and bikini tops and turtlenecks and find what makes you comfortable, find the things that make you feel good; your lives are not a fashion show, an exotic dance, a striptease, and the essence of you doesn’t dance around a pole for the enjoyment of others.
Your life is your life, and it is important, and it is magnificent. Your are your own best, and sometimes only, advocate — learn now that sometimes this is lonely, sometimes it is hard, sometimes it feels like a punch in your throat, but it is necessary.
Know that you have the right to say no, whether it’s a whisper or a shout. Know that consent means saying “YES”, it’s not just a lack of “no.”
Know that a text or a Facebook picture or an Instagram of you in your underwear, or in pajamas with no bra, or in a towel, or in a prom dress, or in jeans and a ratty t-shirt you found in Goodwill isn’t the sum total of your worth.
Know that you cannot control the thoughts and minds and bodies of every boy you ever come across, that how we respond to the world around us is ONLY on us, and that we are neither responsible for nor the sole motivator of the actions someone else chooses to take. You are not Eve. There is no apple. There is no snake.
Look up the terms “slut shaming” and “rape culture” and educate yourself and your friends and your parents on what they mean, not only in general, but what they mean for you, growing up in this world that simultaneously asks so little and so much of you.
Boys, you beautiful, bold, unwieldy boys; there are seas inside of you. Some days are nothing but sunshine, and you lie warm and full and content, sparkling under stars you can’t see in the daytime. Some days are full of storms, and you rage and toss, thunder under your skin. There are those of you who rarely see the sun, and those of you who have rarely touched the rain, but all of you, each of you, are so exquisitely, perfectly, fearfully made.
Own your bodies; the way you grow like oaks, your limbs strong and long and reaching into the earth and into the sky. Send your roots down deep and taste the sweet soil beneath you; stretch into the sound of the wind, and feel the kiss of the clouds as they pass through you. Let yourself be climbed. Let someone build a haphazard house in the strongest parts of you. Let yourself be inhabited.
Read a book; read lots of books. Go fishing or go dancing. Wear khakis or Levis or sweatpants or fancy trousers that cost you your first paycheck. Do the things that make the best parts of you sing, and don’t be embarrassed by how your voice sounds.
Know that a woman’s worth is exactly as complex and as simple as your own: she is a person. Treat her like one. Don’t treat her like a woman, just treat her like a person.
Know that no matter what a girl is wearing, no matter how much make-up she has on, no matter how drunk her perfume makes you when you’re standing close to her, her body is her own. Respect her space. Respect her right to say “yes.” Respect her right to say “no.” Respect that any time the latter word is spoken, it’s time to stop what you’re doing and retreat, without rage, without recrimination.
Know that there are girls who will hurt you on purpose, and some who will hurt you with love in their hearts and tears on their faces, and you just have to go on, because this is how life often is: loving and then letting go and living some more.
Take time to learn about privilege, and don’t take it personally. Educate yourself and your parents and your friends on what it means, not only in general, but what it means for you, growing up in a world that simultaneously asks so little and so much of you.
Girls. Boys. Your lives are so small and so eclipsed and so enormous and so important. The universe is vast and we are microscopic, but under the magnifying glass, we are capable of fascinating and fantastic things, you are capable of fascinating and fantastic things, but only if you realize both your unimportance and your undeniable impact. Be humble, but be heroic. No matter who you are, no matter who you love, find people who think like you, and tuck them away inside your heart. Protect them there, love them there. Then go and find people who don’t think like you, and listen to what they have to say, but hold on only to the parts you can learn from, and throw the rest away. We all write our own stories. Edit yours with a keen eye and a brave spirit and let the waves wash away the parts that don’t matter anymore. Be who you are, and let that mostly be enough.
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