Because You Are Young

Today’s guest post is by Entrepreneur and Teacher Alexandra Rodriguez. In 2017, Alexandra founded Bedside Educators Network an organization that provides educational support for hospitalized and homebound students. Alexandra brings her unique blend of humor and wisdom to our blog today, I know you’ll enjoy this article!

Today I had an experience that many women dread: I found my first gray hair. I stood at my mirror and pulled a strand of hair behind my ear and there it was, a gleaming silver strand in a forest of dark brown. I stopped, squinted, and inched close to the mirror just to confirm. Yep. There it was.

I was elated.

You see, I’ve always thought of gray hair as a sign of wisdom, a rite of passage. To me, gray hair has always been a sign of life experience and the knowledge that comes with it. I think it’s beautiful.

But I know many people don’t feel that way.

In fact, there’s an entire sector of the beauty industry dedicated to hiding signs of aging. For whatever reason, these things are seen as things to be hidden, dyed, concealed with makeup, even injected away.

For many, the signs of aging are reasons to shame.

The other day, one of my second grade students asked me my age, triggering an audible gasp from my colleague. I laughed at my fellow teacher’s response, and gave the girl my honest answer. Satisfied, the child moved along. I turned to my coworker and said, “I hope I am always proud to tell people how old I am.” She responded, “Well, you say that now because you’re so young.” I saw her point. Perhaps I will feel differently when I am older.

But recently, young people have been given reason to shame, too.

You see, I fall under the category of young adults labeled “Millennial”. (You may have even read that word with a sneer.) Just begin a Google search with the phrase “millenials are so…” and the auto-fill feature will populate some pretty harsh endings to your query.

“Millenials are so entitled.” “Millenials are so rude.” “Millenials are so vain.”

It isn’t just the internet saying these things. I’ve heard these statements from the mouths of friends, colleagues, news anchors, and celebrities. Bring up the word “Millenial” and it is likely you won’t hear anything positive.

As a woman in my twenties, I often feel the need to defend or distance myself from the label given to people my age. I want to say, “I know I’m technically a ‘Millennial’ but I’m not like them. I’m responsible. I’m a hard worker. I’ve accomplished things. I’m not entitled. I’mdifferent!​”

The truth is that the world will always have something to say about someone based on her age- young or old. This can be pretty discouraging until you realize that you have the power to believe what it says… or not.

Recently I was reminded of a verse in the Bible that inspires me every time I read it. It’s 1 Timothy 4:12 and it says, “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example… in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”

This short, powerful passage taught me three things.

1. Do not let other people look down on you.

People will always have something to say. Social media has given virtually everyone a platform, and it’s very easy to buy into everything you hear and read. But here’s the truth. YOU get to decide whose voices you listen to, and which ones to ignore.

Perhaps others tell you that “you are too young” or “too old” to travel, to start a business, to lead that small group, to write that blog or book, to serve somewhere or someone else.

It’s a pretty powerful thing when you realize that ​no person can tell you that you are “too” anything to do something​.

Only you get to decide that.

2. Do not look down on yourself​.

This is a tough one for me. Often the voice that tells me I couldn’t or shouldn’t is my own.

I remember when I first became a teacher. I was 22, fresh out of college, and teaching 5th grade at a pretty tough school. About two weeks in, I received a call from an irate parent, asking me who I was to write on her son’s report card that he was “disruptive and rude” in class. She asked me if she needed to come visit my classroom to make sure I knew how to do my job (ouch).

My naive self began to echo her words. I asked myself, “Who ​am​ I to tell her these things? Who am I to educate these kids who are already taller than me and whose parents are probably way smarter than I am? I don’t know any more than anyone else.” All I had was a degree that said I supposedly knew what I was doing. But at that time, it sure didn’t feel that way.

The truth is that all of my experience, both in and out of school, prepared me to be exactly where I was at that moment. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was qualified, I was equipped, I was ready to handle the situation. Why? Because I was there.

You have all that you need to handle whatever situation you’re facing. You have the intelligence, the resources, the people, the experience. You are where you’re meant to be, and you are equipped to be there.

Own it.

3. Do not let your age stop you from serving or accomplishing anything.

One of my favorite stories from the Bible is found in Matthew 14. It tells of a great crowd and Jesus wanting to feed them instead of turning them away. There is no food to be found except for the lunch of a little boy. This boy gives what he has, five loaves of bread and two fish, and it ends up being all that is needed for the miraculous to happen.

Like the boy in that story, each of us is called to give what we can. Do you have a gift? Are you talented in music? Are you a people person? Are you creative? Are you great at organization? Can you do makeup really well? Then YOU have something to give. Notice I didn’t ask if you were 18 or older. Notice I didn’t ask if you had any work experience. Serving others doesn’t require a resume, just a willing heart.

The reality is that you have the same amount of time as anyone else who has ever done something great. Find a place to put those gifts to use.

After all, that is what gifts are for.

So whether you are 15 or 85, whether you have a head of gray hairs or you are still ‘green’, whether Baby Boomer or GenX or Millennial, I hope you find an outlet for all the greatness inside of you. Your age, and what others may say about it, holds no power over what you can do right now.

Only you have that power.

Thanks again, Alexandra for the great post! You can follow Alexandra on Twitter @XandraRodriguez and or enjoy more of her writing on her BLOG.

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