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Remember when you were a little kid and you saw a high schooler, or even a fifth grader? They seemed so cool, so sophisticated, so untouchable. And then when you became that extremely hip and knowledgeable 11-year-old, remember feeling like kindergartners were such babies?
I would love to look at my life now and think that I’ve really got it going on, that I have things figured out and I’m super secure about it, but in reality, I feel a lot like that little kindergarten kid surrounded in a crowd of people so much more grown up than me.
I’m just 21 years old. I graduated from college a year early, catapulting myself into the real world totally on my own, leaving all my friends back at school, just trying not to crash and burn when I finally landed. I felt like I was all of a sudden in the real world, like I was supposed to be that grown up, real adult, but I still felt like just a kid.
In my post-grad job hunt, I was constantly discouraged by one little line of information: X number of years experience required. How can a girl ever get a job if every job needs me to have had other jobs? Ridiculous! I applied anyway. So what if they said 3-5 years of experience in a related field was required? I didn’t have that, but I had internships and rigorous classes and summer jobs under my belt, so I gave it a go,
Somehow, I found myself seated at the end of a long table in a conference room, 5 adults in suits and ties and blazers sitting in front of me, just staring me down. I felt about as big as a bug, as qualified for this job as the chair I was sitting on—not at all.
As the people I was intimidated by started firing their questions at me, I started feeling brave. I started feeling bold. I realized I had nothing to lose by giving it all I had. Being afraid and cowardly sure wouldn’t impress anyone, so I might as well lay it all out there and stretch my few internships as far as they would go to show what I knew I could do for this company. I left that interview feeling a little bigger, a little better about myself. I don’t know what I even said to those people in hindsight, adrenaline and nerves wiped my brain clean. But, I got it. I got the job that needed 3-5 years of experience, even though all my experiences combined would have totaled less than a year.
And now, I’m the youngest employee in an organization with several hundred employees all around the state of Virginia. Every hand I shake in every meeting is older than mine. Every email I send or every phone call I make is to someone who has been a working person longer than me. Several coworkers have been at the agency longer than I’ve even been alive, by more than a few years.
I’m also the youngest young adult in my church small group, and I’m the leader, too. And the creative group I blog for? I’m the youngest one there too. In groups of incredible, older people with much more life experience, I kept feeling like I didn’t belong, like I hadn’t earned those roles, like I didn’t have as much to offer.
Here’s the thing about being young though. You don’t have any less influence. You don’t have any less power to change the world, glorify the Lord, share truth and love. You may not have the biggest vocabulary or the most training or the loudest voice, but you still have a voice. It still works, it makes a sound, it makes a difference.
When a toddler breaks into a room full of adults engrossed in serious conversations, the mood shifts. People laugh, spread their arms wide for a hug, change their voice to be higher and sweeter and softer. Even if all that sweet little one did was just waddle around and fall right on down on that squishy diaper bottom, she would shift the dynamic of the group.
That young one wasn’t worried about what those adults would say about her feeble, shaky steps just because they had been walking their entire long lives. She wasn’t concerned with their opinions of her or worried about if she had the necessary qualifications to be in the middle of that group. She was just being her young little self, doing the things she could do, totally okay if that meant falling down. She would just get back up and try again.
So why have I, the young one in my circles, spent so much time worrying? Why have I been concerned with what everyone would think of me just because they’re older? I, like that toddler, can change the atmosphere of the worlds I’m in when I forget my fear and just go for it. If I fall down, I can get back up and try again, too.
When you’re young and you’re passionate about something, people take notice. When you take action, people watch. When you speak out, people listen.
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When you’re the young one, you have a lot to look up to. You have a lot of wisdom surrounding you, wisdom that can help you grow and flourish. You have people who remember what it was like to have passion and energy and ideas like you do, and they envy it and encourage you to embrace it. You have nothing to lose, everything to prove, and plenty of time ahead of you.
I’ve been deeply impacted by 70-year-olds and 7-year-olds equally. I’ve been challenged in my faith by pastors in their 50s who preach eloquently on deep theological ideas just as much as I have been by a two-year-old who sings “Jesus loves me” over and over with a huge, sticky sweet smile.
Everyone tells me age is just a number, and that really is true. I’m learning more and more that the number doesn’t justify, qualify, or define me. It shapes me, yes, and it frames my worldview, but it doesn’t rule me.
I think the beauty of being young is in found in our boldness, curiosity, passion and humility. Knowing you don’t know it all frees you up to learn whatever you can from those who have more knowledge. Keeping your eyes open, seeking adventure, exploring each new day and each new opportunity, and believing in the Lord’s constant faithfulness leads to a full, rich life ready to be embraced and celebrated each new morning.
If you’re 10, 21, 33, or 99, you’re the young one somewhere. Take that to heart, really, truly take it to heart and live with a big, beautiful fire in your soul. Dream out loud and run at full speed. Absorb all you can and be thankful for those who come alongside you to help lead you along the way.
Jesus only lived to be 33, a pretty young guy in the end, and it’s safe to say he made a pretty dramatic influence on this world. Young ones, take heart. A young one overcame the world and is igniting a fire in you to keep changing it. Go do it. Show the old folks we’ve got what it takes.
Rachel Dawson is a writer of blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, daily journal entries and doodles. She is the Communications Coordinator for UMFS by day, and in her free time, she blogs about her life and faith at www.racheladawson.com and as part of the Rethink Creative Group. She is always reading, whether it’s C.S. Lewis or Timothy Keller, Twitter, her study Bible, or vegan and gluten-free cookbooks. She wholeheartedly believes in having adventures, having passion, sending snail mail, and having complete faith in the Lord. Find her on Twitter here.