A LETTER FROM LIZ BALKE

Escape22,

High school is such a busy, crazy, emotional, hormone-filled experience in life. I really think that it has been the hardest and most enjoyable time in life for me in terms of the relationships that I have had. The level of busy that you can reach in high school is insane; it’s truly magic to accomplish all the things you need to some days. In these crazy schedules of ours, we still need to make time for family, church, social media, staying healthy, and maybe enjoying a hobby or two when you get the chance.

The first issue in high school I want to tackle is busyness. In this blog, you’ll see a lot of advice from me, but very little will seem so insignificant yet be so important as this – please just go find yourself a planner. Even the simplest calendar can help you become organized so that you can spend less time being busy and more time resting, being with friends, and especially resting with God. Figure out a happy amount of scheduling for yourself. Are you type A, and you already like following structure? Outline the things you need to focus on each week, and fill in the details later. Maybe you’re type B, and you need to help yourself work on better organization. Put in some effort into prioritizing what you need to accomplish every day. I swear by using a planner, because I can rarely remember what I am doing from day to day in or outside of classes. This will make you a more successful person by organizing the things you want to or must do. It will also help you think ahead so you don’t get stuck cramming for tests the night before. Under busyness comes sports, work, music, church, parties, friends, volunteering, and every other activity under the sun. Just make sure to get some quality rest time in there. Watching Netflix until 3 a.m. sounds really great until you have to live with no energy the next day.

The next thing I want to talk about is health: physical, mental, spiritual health. I have not been a great example of what it means to be really, truly healthy in a physical sense. My freshman year, I participated in three sports which were volleyball, track, and dance team (Yes, dance team is a sport. To put it simply, it makes you sweat. Therefore, it’s a sport.). While I was getting a ton of exercise, I had awful eating habits to support that exercise. I would come home exhausted daily and snack on junk food until dinner. A lot of times, my immune system would literally just give up, and I would come down with awful colds or the flu. So please, eat well, and support your body! God gives it to you to take care of, and it’s very necessary.

Mental health is another learning journey that you will have to take on in high school. Everyone is wired differently and will have different struggles. Some struggle with motivation for school, others with motivation to socialize, and there are numerous other struggles. My best advice on caring for others is just love them the best way that you can. Sometimes you will need to be content in praying even when you think you can do more. You’ll need to let God handle a lot of your own problems in life too. You can’t fix everything (big shock), and you most likely won’t fix a lot of things in four years of high school. However, you can build an awesome relationship with God. And ultimately, by listening to what He has written in the Bible, actually composed into words for you, you can learn His desires for you and the peace that His goodness can bring you. Your relationship with God will last longer than your issues will, so trust His work in you.

Okay, so now we get to spiritual health. Community is a huge part of our spiritual health as Christians. Especially in my own life, 180 and e22 have been a source of such spiritual growth for me. Simple friendship is the best human aid in spiritual growth, because one person will sharpen the other. So in this area of health, like the others, I would encourage you to become healthy with a community of friends. They will be there to encourage you when you feel that the “low point” in your faith has reached you. Sharing your faith in a community makes the community a source of encouragement when you feel discouraged, but C.S. Lewis can teach you more about this than I can. Other than community, find ways to learn about God that you really enjoy! There are a lot plans to reading the Bible and so many ways to worship God (“…whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31).

In high school, one of the most fun things there are to experience is a relationship. This whole next paragraph(s) will be one long hot take: I believe that the best relationship for the majority to have in high school is a friendship, and not dating. You guys, dating really is so unnecessary when you are too young to get married anyway. I know that there are a lot of people who seem to be doing this whole dating thing really well while they are in high school, but it is messy. And it is really difficult to get right. Because I have been able to just observe the chaos surrounding the phenomenon of affections, I know that in high school we really don’t know what to do with ourselves. Dating isn’t bad, but it isn’t naturally wise just because it seems to be natural in our society. It is a phase in life that needs evaluation. What does dating really mean? Are you really ready to be seriously committed to spending large amounts of time with just one person that you may or may not marry? What happens when the two of you graduate from high school and go to college on opposite sides of the country? Would your friendship (the goal of which is to walk alongside a person with the same passions) better serve you in high school?

I know that dating has been a really great thing to have not happen to me in high school. I actually have not chosen this path for myself, and there have been many times that I have wished for a dating relationship. But now I know that I would have struggled with so many things that are attached to a relationship intended for marriage. I can say that at this point in life, I really value the strong friendships that I have with my guy friends. Friendship is an amazing place where you can know someone but not in an intrusive way. There is room for each person to grow independently while we discover more passions of our own and make still more friends. God has made us each complex people so we really can have a lot of things to learn about ourselves in high school. Being single is a great time in life to use in growing with God and growing with friends. Instead of dating, I have formed friendships with both guys and girls who have the same interests as me. Most of the friendships I have I value in part, because I see that they are people that I want to be like in some way. I think it is good to admire the people we are friends with. This admiration shows us the direction in which we will grow and ensures that we continually grow as people so we should be mindful of this in choosing our friendships.

As you do continue to grow throughout your years in high school, I pray that you would become people filled with diverse and burning passions, that you find rest in God, that you remain healthy, and that you find community with people who love God. High school can be such an unsteady time full of highs and lows. Trust that God will continually grow in you throughout everything that you experience.

-Elisabeth