As my newsletter subscribers learned on September 1st, I am now the small group leader for freshman and sophomore girls at my church's youth group.
It's been throwing me back to my freshman year a whole lot. I am trying not to relive my glory days in front of them (so they can live their own freshman years), so I will do so here instead.
I brought my freshman and sophomore girls Goldfish last Wednesday night. My freshman year, we were so hungry that my small group leader bought us Goldfish so we would stop raiding the Children's Ministry's snacks. I loved that leader! Who doesn't like someone who gives them food?!?!
Another thing I remember about freshman year is the insane amount of foosball we played. I became a professional level foosball player (if that's even possible!). Every spare second before or after youth group, my friends and I would take the table (usually playing doubles) and obsess with hitting that ball into the opponent's goal.
A lot happened around that foosball table my freshman year, and these are the things that I learned from the hours we played.
1. Hold your tongue. Sure, by the end of the year I was good. But never boast before you have something to boast about unless you want to be humiliated. (See also: Life Lessons I Learned the Hard Way So You Don't Have To...oh wait, I haven't written that one yet.)
2. One friend is more valuable than a hundred enemies. So make friends, not enemies. When playing doubles, you partner is invaluable! You can almost never win alone against two people. Often life comes against you with a force double what you can handle, and you'll need a buddy by your side. It sounds so obvious, but it's not easy: Make friends--not enemies--your freshman year. You'll thank me later.
3. Take action. Sometimes all it takes to win a game is to make a move. Get in there and take your best shot. It might be an epic fail, but it might also be an epic win! My latest definition of confidence is "the knowledge that I will be ok even if this goes terribly wrong."
4. Include others. Freshman year, it is so easy to just look out for yourself. All we're thinking is "Who am I going to hang out with? Who am I going to talk to?" Change your perspective and ask, "Who is she going to hang out with? How can I include her?"
5. Pay attention to the game. You'll be absorbing a lot of information your freshman year, and I'm not talking about school work, though that will be heavy too. I mean that you will begin picking up on social cues and people patterns that you were oblivious to in middle school. It might be hard to know who to trust or how to act. So pay attention to the patterns and data that you get. Learn how this whole high school thing works. And trust God more than anyone else. You may be surprised at what you find when you pay attention and learn from others' actions.
6. Stay focused on the goal. Just as one distraction keeps you from playing your best game, it's easy to lose focus on the things and people that matter. Make a list of your priorities, and stick to your goals. Don't let side things consume you.
7. Lastly, be kind. There is literally no reason that we should be unkind to others, especially when we're just starting out as small fish in a big pond. There are many people I wish I had been kinder to my freshman year. Never make jokes at others' expense, and be careful with competitive smack talk.
I didn't start this post expecting to have so much advice for you freshmen, but it turns out my heart is simply bursting with love for you. You have so much you're going to learn, and sometimes you'll have to learn the hard way. But those are the lessons you can pass onto others.
Hang in there!