We sat outside, soaking in the last rays of September sunshine before the gray makes a semi-permanent home in the sky for the next 8 months. Fall is a time of change. The leaves show it. Our hearts feel it. The weather follows suit. We can’t avoid it and we have two choices for how we deal with it; sit in misery with furrowed brows and crossed arms as we attempt to deny the inevitable, or choose to embrace the hope and excitement that comes with change and a new season.
I watched her face closely as I sipped my lavender latte and asked her questions about the upcoming year. Her countenance was heavy with the weight of the season ahead. The season wasn’t the only upcoming change in her life. She was working on applying to college. Trying her best to figure out where she will call “home” for the next four years of her life. The next year will be filled with some of the biggest changes her life has seen yet. Next fall everything will look much, much different. And I wondered how she would choose to wear the change.
“How’s the essay going?” I asked. I had gotten a few texts the night before from girls who had been struggling to put pen to paper.
“Not that great.” There was defeat in her voice. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to make myself stand out in 500 words. I don’t feel like I have done anything extraordinary in my life yet. I kind of feel mediocre.”
I stopped to think about what I said in my college essay and drew a blank. I have no clue what I said, but I remember the pressure. Such tremendous pressure. To stand out. To have an epic story. To have the longest list of accomplishments. To have survived the most difficult set of circumstances. To be the most unique or the most marginalized.
And I realized just how absolutely ridiculous it is. This terrible pressure to figure out how to make complete strangers magically swoon over you by perfectly crafting a few dozen sentences.
She was circling the rim of her coffee cup with her index finger and waited patiently for her eyes to meet mine. “Your belief in your own mediocrity is a lie. You are unique. You are enough.”
We live in a society where “to conform is the norm.” We are constantly bombarded with messages from the media that convey that the only way to be cool and succeed and win is by following in the footsteps of the “cool kids”- you know, the ones with the right clothes and the good hair and the trendy Instagrams- and this trend is especially magnified among the tweens and teens of the world. I see it every day in the girls that I spend time with. They’re told to dress the same, talk the same, and walk the same. They are fed the twisted lie that in order to stand out, they must first fit in. And then all of a sudden, they start applying to colleges and they don’t know what to say, because they’ve spent more time trying to figure out how to fit in than they’ve spent leaning in to who they really are. It’s no wonder they feel confused and discouraged when it comes time to express themselves as individuals with unique gifts and passions.
Who on Earth really has the room to claim that any of our lives are mediocre? That fact that we are here, living in this big world with breath in our lungs and hearts that are beating and eyes that are reading and brains that are processing makes us anything but ordinary.
Fall is here. Change is inevitable, and as I look forward at the year ahead, I can’t help but pray that change shows up in more than just the colors of the leaves. In the same way that we choose how to react to change, we have the choice to view ourselves as boring and commonplace, or unique and able. To conform is the norm, but it is also a choice that we make. No one is forcing us. We have space and ability to choose to go against the grain and dare to believe that we are individuals with unique and important purposes in this world, and I hope we do.