There is a Taylor Swift song called “Fifteen” that contains a lyric that deeply resonates with me:
“In your life, you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team. I didn’t know it at fifteen.”
Twenty-five used to feel old to me. Now, looking back, I understand that 25 isn’t old—rather, 15 is young. My teenage readers: don’t misunderstand; I am not calling you immature. However, at fifteen, or at sixteen or seventeen, hindsight doesn’t exist, making it all too easy to live in the moment and much more difficult to see the bigger picture.
When I think about the person I was at 15, my mind immediately flashes to icy bleachers on late November evenings, scanning a football field for the first and only boy I ever really loved, and my heart goes out to that young girl who knew so little about her identity. At 15, my feelings for that boy were so central to who I was. How he felt about me, how I felt when I was with him, what we would become—all of this absolutely consumed me, taking precedence over my identity as a daughter of God.
In our teenage years, even if we might love God because we were raised to love Him, He is often so far from our minds that He becomes an afterthought. Extracurriculars, studying for AP tests, dress shopping for formals, and Friday night movie dates make up nearly the entire pie chart of our brains in high school, leaving behind only a small sliver for faith. For me, dating someone seriously as a teenager clouded my judgment and made me so love-fogged that it became impossible to make sound decisions rooted in faith, because all I really wanted was to give my then-boyfriend everything he wanted. I wanted to put him first. In a sense, it’s precisely because of that selflessness that I know I loved him as well as I possibly could at the time—love demands that we prioritize somebody else’s needs over our own. However, love will never demand that we compromise our identity for another person, which is what typically occurs in most young relationships. As a result of not yet knowing who you are, you become a version of yourself with somebody else that you might not have consciously chosen.
High school readers: I’m not telling you not to date, but I do urge you to consider postponing exclusive dating until you’re in college, with a little more understanding of who you are and what you believe outside of another person. Loving someone so deeply has been the most meaningful experience of my life, and that love originated in my high school years—in many ways, I probably needed that experience to fully understand and embrace all of the beliefs I’m passionate about today. Still, that relationship set me on a path that led away from my faith, and resulted in many years of compromising who I wanted to be so that I could be more palatable to my boyfriend. He was, and is, one of the best men I’ve ever known, but we grew into people with very different priorities that couldn’t be reconciled. What followed was the difficult and painful decision to end a six-year relationship with someone I once thought I’d marry.
Teens: know that who you’re becoming as a result of your own dreams and beliefs is so much more significant than who you are as somebody’s boyfriend or girlfriend. Save the part of yourself that wants to give everything to somebody for the years when it’s actually possible and healthy to do so; when marriage will actually be an attainable and real option. Don’t ignore or fear the electrical currents that run beneath your skin when he or she holds your hand—“sparks” are a God-given gift that stem from our humanity—but understand that your worth is far superior to a feeling. These are your years to be selfish with your identity; your dreams; your virtue, for it is in this “selfishness” that you will grow into the most selfless individuals who are fully ready and capable to give themselves to the right person.
(Check out my book, Freedom to Love, to learn more about God’s design for the authentic love He’s destined for you.”)
Lindsey Todd graduated from West Chester University in 2016 with a B.A. in English, and currently works as a technical writer for Mars, Inc. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, singing, playing with her dog, reading, and exercising. She also loves art, fashion, and deep political and theological discussion. She has a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and a special love for St. Pope John Paul II. Lindsey is passionate about sharing the beauty of chastity with others, particularly as a Catholic writer. Her book about pure dating relationships, Freedom to Love, is now available on Amazon, Kindle, and the FORMED platform for digital Catholic media. Lindsey currently resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. You can learn more about her work at www.lindseytodd.net.