August 28, 2019

High School: The Formative Years

Originally posted August 28, 2019

Be Present. Stay Committed. Give Everything You Have!

by David O’Neil, Head of School

Welcome back, Tritons! We missed you. Welcome Alumni! It is so good to see you again! And a special welcome home to the newest Class of the Triton Community, the Class of 2023! We are excited for all the good you will bring to our school.

Since some of you don’t yet know me very well yet, here are a few things about me before I get going. My first girlfriend broke up with me at the skating rink because I was too nervous to hold her hand during couples skate. In college, I wrote two different papers on the same Shakespeare play in the same course, and I had no idea I did it. And, as I traversed through my high school years, I feared the unknown and was without peace.

Today, I am married to my best friend, Dayna, and we have two incredible daughters, Chloe and Hadley. I went from failing my Shakespeare mid-term to running a college-prep school, and I now live with a joy that knows no end. So have great hope friends, if this knucklehead can figure out life after high school, you—Pacifica students—are going to be just fine!

This week, we will ask our freshman “What is the meaning of life?”, and at the conclusion of this year we will ask our seniors “How then shall you live?” Pacificans, the four years lived between these two questions forms the foundation for your adult life, far more than you can understand or imagine.

Therefore, my encouragement to us this year is, “Be present, stay committed, and give everything you have—until God moves you on”.

Be Present

One of the hardest places to live is in the present. Many people live their entire lives hoping for the future or longing for their past. All of you know where you will be this fall; where you will be tomorrow. The question I have for you is, how will you use your time? My experience in observing high schoolers over the years is that they spend four years building a resume to gain entrance to college. Then, another four years building a resume to get their first job. Then decades perfecting a resume to get the job to provide the means for a good life. I am not saying that many of the things experienced along this path are not good, some are even very good, but I do caution you to not create the habit of always looking to tomorrow while missing today.

My charge to you is do not become so obsessed with your future, that you miss what God is doing with you right now. Our lives are not linear. We certainly cannot perfectly map them out and none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. So hold onto your plans lightly, making space for God to act, to surprise you, to free you from your scheduled plan so He can lead you on a grand adventure complete with joy and mystery, and even uncertainty.

When you think about your desire to change our world, as Jill Briscoe says, “start with the space in-between your two feet”, and then let God, your passions, and your experiences guide you. Worry less about your future plans and be present with the people and opportunities in front of you today.

You can only truly live in the present, and it is in the present where God is with you, where He is near, literally breathing peace, joy, mercy, grace, and reconciliation into your life. The greatest gift of being present, comes from living each moment in the presence of God. As Brother Lawrence said, “I urge everyone to be aware of God’s constant presence, if for no other reason than His presence is a delight to our souls and spirit.”

The foundation you are building in high school starts with being present, and deepens as you make and keep good commitments.

Stay Committed

Up until today, your lives have been in constant change. In a very short period of time, you have grown from a beautiful helpless baby into a self-sufficient, competent emerging adult. Unless, of course, you are one of those teens who after doing their laundry or buying milk for the first time, takes a selfie, and then posts it to snapchat with the hashtag #adulting. If that is you, I want you to pay special attention for the next few minutes.

In all seriousness, think over the past 10 years. Most of you probably attended at least three different school, if not more. You went through puberty. Your body changed. Your voice changed. You experienced success. You experienced failure. You probably changed your friend groups several times.

In a few months or a few years, you will trade much of what you know today for a new reality. Approximately four years after that, you will graduate from college or pursue a career and then enter the marketplace. At that time, according to Barna Research, 30% of you will move back in with your parents and all of you will change jobs every two or three years on average.

With this much change and uncertainty in life, it is difficult to make and keep commitments. And staying committed is not easy. Look around you. People are constantly moving from one thing or person to the next with the hope that this time they will find what they are looking for, only to find that nothing has changed. They let their circumstances determine their commitments.

At Pacifica, we are in a continual pursuit of the truth of things. Along the way, you receive and give grace, develop convictions alongside your curiosity, extend compassion to your classmates, and practice intellectual hospitality. We do not not ask these things of you merely for a grade, or even to earn admittance to your top-choice college. You are asked to do these things to learn how to make life-long commitments. Commitments to everything that is true, good, and beautiful. A commitment to trust God. A commitment to live the way He has called you. A commitment to do the work He has given you. A commitment to do what is right and good, especially when it terrifies you. A commitment to live a life full of learning and the pursuit of joy. Ultimately, to commit to a life of love, first to God, and then to every human person He puts into your life.

Your accomplishments will not determine the quality of your life, your commitments will. Resolve today, to remain committed in your relationships, to your beliefs, to the church, and to whatever God wants to do in your life, no matter the circumstances.

Give Everything you Have

So, be presentstay committed, and finally, give everything you have, until God moves you on!

Friends, life is a grand adventure, often lived in the ordinary. God will use everything about you to do His work in our world, if you let Him. Your keen mind, your ability to read a room, the color of your skin, your love for people, your lack of confidence, your awkward smile, the failures you have experienced, all of this and more, all of it will be used.

So, do not run from who you are. There is no one else like you. God will put you where you are supposed to be. Do not doubt your value or what you bring to every situation. You matter. And what you will do in each moment and through each season matters. In every season, God will provide you with community, meaning and purpose, work and new opportunities, and He will be with you throughout. This is where your work begins.

So, if you find yourself this year interested in starting a side business or working your first job—give everything you have to create value and spur on our economy.

If after coming home from school your mom tells you that your grandfather has been diagnosed with cancer—give everything you have to be present in his pain, not just for that evening, but for that season of his life.

When your brother or sister is driving you crazy—much like you do to your parents—love them. Love them with everything you have.

On the day when your teacher pulls you aside to commend your incredible work on an assignment to which you gave your best effort—give everything you have to thank God for the gifts He has given you, and in humility, carry on.

When God calls you to serve in the church, or to stand up for a friend who is being mistreated, or to befriend a classmate who feels alone, or to give what you have been given for the benefit of someone else, or to pick up your cross and to follow Him—Go, Go, and give it everything you have!

I do not know what this year will look like for you. But as you continue your preparation for adulthood, be present, stay committed, and give everything you have! Or, as we say here at Pacifica, go and think and live well! And as we do friends, may our Lord be with us!

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