This past weekend I saw a lot of pictures on social media of graduates. It’s thrilling beginning a new chapter in life, moving on from the old, comfortable ways we live in to new horizons.
I’ve been there on the brink of new beginnings, many times, sweating in a hideous cap and gown, thinking in that moment the world was mine—I, at last, would be off on a new adventure. I would change some things about my life—I would be freer than ever before to do whatever I wanted!
Graduating is exciting. It’s extraordinary. It’s something to celebrate and be happy about. It really is the start of something new and different in our lives. It most frequently marks the beginning of a newfound freedom for us. Freedom to get a job, go to college, move to a new city, change our lives, whatever it is we were seemingly being held back from.
I have some advice for you: take it slow.
Freedom is precious.
Freedom is precious because it is delicate. There is power in freedom, and you have the ability to take it from others, and the power to give your own away. It’s very easy to get carried away with it.
Both times I graduated (high school and college) I met a lot of people, and many came from backgrounds that had majorly different viewpoints on morality, and especially chastity, than what I had grown up with. A lot of the people I met lived by the principles of our culture, those principles being “say yes to everything and you will be free to truly live.”
We are encouraged by our world to go out and experiment with our lifestyle and sexuality. “Find ourselves.” And we certainly do find ourselves when we are out on our own, because we have a lot more freedom. I learned a lot about myself each time I’ve ventured out on a new beginning, but the biggest lesson I learned was that I am weak.
I am weak. I gave into peer pressure a lot, and I said “yes” to nearly everything. I went to parties. I went to the bar. I participated in underage drinking (and legal age drinking), and I happily joined in on all the “fun” of kissing people I didn’t really know. I let them take my freedom from me, because I didn’t realize that freedom doesn’t always mean saying yes. I also have the freedom to say no.
No one told me all the partying and boys were bad for me. In fact, I was commended for my actions. It was encouraged. I thought this was IT—what everyone in the world strived for.
But I was empty. I thought these things filling my life with “fun” were what living was all about. I took my freedom too far. I abused it. I thought if I exercised it to the max—which for me, was partying every weekend and hanging out with boys I should have been avoiding—I was truly living. Because this is what I was told was living.
The more often I fell into this way of life, the more I felt trapped. I couldn’t get out. I often thought things like: “Well, I’ve already done this before, who cares if I do it again.” “I’m not doing as many bad things as that person, so this must really be ok.”
This only led to me messing up more and more.
All the partying ultimately led to a lot of bad decisions. Giving in to the pressures of my friends, and even more so my own passions, led me to destruction.
If I had known then what I know now, things might have been different. If I had understood who I was, my dignity, my value, and that I had the freedom to choose not to partake, and still be living, things might have been different.
This weekend as I watched photo after photo of smiling faces pop up on my feed I thought about how each person was going to go somewhere new, was going to try new things, and was going to have new freedoms. Maybe this time no one will be there to hold them accountable to their actions or their mistakes. Maybe this time they will have friends who don’t encourage them to properly exercise their freedom by saying no. Maybe they will have friends who encourage going out and have what our culture considers a good time, but that good time could lead to a bad time.
Or maybe they’ll get really lucky and find the perfect community of friends, never make a mistake, and never have a hard time.
But that’s unlikely.
You might be going out to the world to new beginnings, and if so, you are blessed. You are going to do amazing things and have amazing experiences. But you are going to have people in your life who don’t care about what is best for you, because their understanding of freedom has been warped by our culture. You will meet people who will encourage you to have that extra drink, to kiss that boy you don’t really like, and to allow yourself to do whatever feels good in the moment.
Know this: if you fall, you can get back up. You can start again. You don’t have to be enslaved like I was.
But take it slow. Take your freedom seriously. Think about who you are, your worth, and what you’re made for. Keep your eyes on living a whole life that isn’t enslaved to passions. Keep your heart set on what is truly good. And when you do stumble, get back up and try again. Don’t give up.
Ashley Ackerman is first and foremost a daughter of God, and after that she works as a speaker, blogger, administrative assistant, and nanny. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she earned her master’s degree in Theology. You can read more of Ashley’s blog posts by visiting ackergirl.blogspot.com.