At the age of 18, most young people are making the transition from high school to whatever comes next. It’s a formative time with many possibilities. So Canadian Mennonite asked eight people: “If you could give your 18-year-old self some advice, what would you say?” This is how they responded.
• Rebecca Steiner, 28, is a founding member of Theatre of the Beat in southern Ontario.
“Take some time. You don’t need to rush away to university. An arts degree is a wonderful way to learn more ways of thinking critically about the world. But there are other paths, too. Explore your interests, especially the peripheral ones, and see if they warrant some time in the centre. Don’t worry too much about how life is going to unfold; it’s already unfolding beautifully. Revel often in the words of Martha Graham: ‘There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.’”
• Casey Plett, 31, is a writer in Windsor, Ont. Her debut novel, Little Fish, was published this past April by Arsenal Pulp Press.
“What is best for yourself and what is best for the world are often in conflict, and reconciling them is the hardest thing. But when your vision for the future looks blank, when your gut's sense of the future is an un-future, choose yourself.”
• Tamara Shantz, 38, works as a pastor with Pastors in Exile (PiE) and as a spiritual director. She lives in Kitchener, Ont. with her partner Gini.
“You know, you are pretty incredible, really. You are courageous and are making good choices in life—your trust in your intuition is well placed. I am grateful for the paths where your decisions have led. Keep trusting yourself—and trusting the Spirit guiding you from within. Oh, and keep listening to the Indigo Girls; you’ll need an ongoing reminder to take life less seriously.”
• Jamie Arpin-Ricci, 41, is a pastoral leader at Little Flowers Community in Winnipeg, as well as the author of several books, including The Cost of Community, Vulnerable Faith and Living Christ Together.
“There will be people who you will be unwaveringly sure will love you no matter what—Christians who taught you the importance of unconditional love—who will betray you. The costly love of Jesus is far more rare than the Christianity of your childhood promised, so guard your heart carefully.”
• Steve Heinrichs, 42, is the director of Indigenous-Settler Relations for Mennonite Church Canada; he lives in Winnipeg.
“Be kind to everyone, be attentive to those on the fringe and befriend them. Take risks for Christ and love’s sake, and the Spirit will support you more than you can ask or imagine.”
• Willard Metzger, 56, is the executive director of Mennonite Church Canada. He lives in Drayton, Ont.
“God is not focussed on you. But if you are focussed on serving God and others, your life will feel fulfilling and rewarding. Always be ready to laugh at yourself, not in a deprecating fashion, but with a self-confidence that embraces mistakes and risk. Always remember that what seems hugely important now will probably not be remembered by others in the decades ahead. So relax. Enjoy life. And express all the passion that God has given you.
• Carol Penner, 58, is an assistant professor of theological studies at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont.
“I would tell myself, ‘You are beautiful just the way you are.’ Because as a young woman I had a lot of self-image hang-ups.
“I would tell myself, ‘Every family has its own sorrows.’ Because I felt bad that there was a lot of conflict in our family, and other families looked so put together.
“I would tell myself, ‘You will be happier.’ Because I was very depressed as an 18-year-old, as my father had died and I was filled with grief.
“I would tell myself, ‘God loves you, just as you are.’ Because that is a message we all need to hear.
“I would tell myself, ‘Save money and buy Apple stocks.’ Because I would be richer now.”
• Lydia Neufeld Harder, 79, has lived in Toronto for 31 years and has a passion for the church in the city. Her career path has been in theology and ministry; her family life includes her husband Gary, three children and their partners, and nine grandchildren.
“Claim the name given to you by your God, ‘Beloved daughter, created in my image.’ Live into that identity with freedom and courage as you open your eyes to the joy and pain of the world around you. Embrace honesty, compassion, justice and forgiveness for yourself and for others. Reject the polarities that want to divide you from your neighbours, seeking a third way in the company of others who follow Jesus. Be willing to cry, laugh, sing and lament as you engage in the dynamic dance of ‘abundant life.’”