*This post is specifically aimed towards teenage girl readers
It was the summer of 2004. My family and I had gone to Florida nearly every year during summer vacation, but that year was different, namely because I was going through puberty. Luckily for me I didn’t experience a super harsh “awkward phase” other than having somewhat of a unibrow. I wasn’t cursed with acne-buried skin, braces, or terribly unbecoming features; I wore that unibrow with grace despite it annoying me. (Although I will say that it would appear I’m now in my awkward phase at twenty-eight: crooked teeth due to the lack of braces being the ring leader). I had long, brown, sometimes-wavy-sometimes-straight hair that became the epitome of my identity, clear skin, and a slender build. Oh, and mom had finally let me shave my legs after having spent three years begging her to allow me. In other words, I rarely complained about my looks. Thus, having seemingly everything going for me on the physical appearance end, I was ultra excited to head down to Fort Lauderdale and potentially meet boys who would become my summer “fling”.
I became boy-crazy during that summer. I had a journal (I was always writing in general) in which I made pros and cons lists of the guys I had met at the beach and grew obsessed with. There was Nigel, Chris, Mike, and a few others. Nigel was foreign (I think he was from Germany), and had to be in his mid (if not late) twenties. Slicked back dark hair, gorgeous deep brown eyes, a really handsome facial structure, and muscular physique. I remember his teeth being perfectly straight and his smile perfectly wide. I’m not sure how my sister and I even struck up conversation with him, but once we did, we were enamored.
Then there was Chris. Chris Bellen. All I can recall about Chris is that he was really short but had the cutest face I had ever seen up until that point of my existence. He was close to me in age, maybe sixteen at max. My sister had “hit it off” with one of his friends or maybe his brother, which made me feel a little better about hitting it off with him right away. I can’t remember what we’d talk about, but I do remember us having a lot to exchange with one another. I’m pretty sure I shed a tear when it was time to go back home to New York; I didn’t want to say goodbye to him. He may have been my first kiss but again, the details I don’t really remember.
Mike was a friend of my cousin Kyle. He wasn’t as cute as Nigel or Chris, but when it came to him, I guess I just liked the attention of an older guy. That’s when the trouble started. His skin was reddish tan from being under the sun all day, his hair dirty blonde, his clothes dirty and rugged. He smoked cigarettes, drank beer, and had a truck. I guess if I were to categorize him, he’d had been considered a “bad boy”. I liked the excitement, risk, and lure of knowing that I could get into trouble with him, don’t ask me why. But the thing is…”bad boys” played a key role in my emotional and spiritual demise.
Over time, because I “chased the dream” of danger, I ended up giving some pretty awful guys the privilege of being my boyfriend. Now, not all of them were jerks; in fact, the rare good ones that I did manage to land, were the same ones I ended up acting really shitty towards. Rene was my first serious boyfriend at the age of eighteen, although in high school I did date Jason, who was a few years my senior. He had olive skin and dark long hair that was usually kept in a low ponytail. I remember he broke up with me a few days after Halloween, and I’m convinced it was because I wore these goth-looking parachute pants with a studded belt as a way of “dressing up” for the holiday. However, a few days after the breakup, he was cozying up to me all morning and suddenly wanted to get back together. At one point during the day, he flirtatiously told me that he really liked my jeans. It was then that I put two and two together in my mind: “ahhh, okay. I see how he operates; he only wants to be seen with me when I look good to him. Which, apparently I only look good to him when I’m wearing tight jeans”. Perhaps an immature thought, but an idea nonetheless. The seed was planted in my mind: “I have to look a certain way to keep a guy”.
Fast forwarding a few years later, Rene and I met online via Yahoo! Answers. Not kidding. We simply just started chatting after somehow discovering each other. via world wide web. He lived in New Mexico, and I think I had already moved back to New York from Oregon by that time. He was genuinely charming, really funny, very tall (maybe a whole foot taller than me), and loved Red Hot Chili Peppers. The first time we met, he came to me in New York City and I was extremely nervous to MEET my first serious boyfriend! We got along great and had a lot of fun together. At one point during our (what I remember being close to two) years of dating, he ended up moving to Brooklyn (however, I lived in Manhattan) just to be with me, since we were in a long distance relationship. It was when he moved and became a resident of New York that I lost my virginity to him at eighteen. I’m not sure if I necessarily felt ready, or if it was more of a “well, you’re my boyfriend, isn’t this the next step?” kind of thing. And just like that, the sleeping dragon had been awakened.
I did something selfish and ugly and cheated on Rene with my boss. I liked the attention Aaron gave me. Actually wait, let me correct myself. I first cheated on Rene with some dude who ended up being a psycho named Rob. Where did I meet Rob? A bar. That’s right, I was drinking in bars as an underage girl. And cheating on good dudes because I would get so drunk I apparently couldn’t even remember I was in a relationship. Aaron caught my eye one day when I realized he was training to be manager. I thought he was cute, and I liked the fact that he had obviously thought I was cute too by the way he looked at me. Long story short, I ended up sleeping with him unbeknownst to Rene, but the guilt was eating away at me, so I confessed to my boyfriend. What set him off was the fact that when he asked me if I was going to stop seeing Aaron, (I think) I said “I don’t know”. If I was truly remorseful for my actions, you would think I would’ve immediately cut off all ties with Aaron. But I didn’t. Rene ended up moving back to New Mexico, and Aaron and I began dating exclusively. Aaron was eleven years older than me.
While dating Aaron, I was exposed to his sex and pornography addiction, and was introduced to drug use. I was already abusing alcohol by the time I started dating Aaron, but never with Rene. He wasn’t living in New York yet; it’d be during nights out with my sister, which sadly, were most nights. I drank to the point of blacking out and puking everywhere, and made out with whomever my drunken heart desired. I didn’t know at first, but later on I realized that Aaron used cocaine recreationally. We had gone to a restaurant where his friend, Kevin, was the bartender, and once his shift was over, the three of us went into the bathroom and Kevin started cutting up lines on the counter of the sink. I don’t know if I was more mesmerized or nervous; I didn’t know what to expect, and I was in shock that I was really about to try cocaine. Aaron handed me a rolled up twenty-dollar bill, and I proceeded to snort the line, but I wasn’t able to finish it in one snort. I ended up coughing and when I did, some of the cocaine that was on the counter blew away by accident. The cocaine shot up my nostrils and stung. In that moment, I hated it and loved it at the same time. And thus, once more, that sleeping dragon had been awakened too. Alcohol? Check. Sex? Check. Drugs? Check.
My life spiraled out of control. I loved men and getting the wrong kind of attention from them, I loved going out and partying…but I hated how I felt the next day. It was a vicious cycle that I couldn’t seem to get out of! I truly felt like a zombie just roaming the streets and searching for the meaning of life. I became obsessed with catering to men’s appetites, all the while losing parts of myself the more I gave bits and pieces of “Sarah” away to them. Why couldn’t my apparent addiction just stop after Aaron? Why did I continue to do things that would eventually eat away at my dignity? Eventually Aaron and I broke up, I can’t remember the reason why. I had moved in with him, so once the relationship ended, I had to pack all my things and move back in with my grandmother. I continued to meet guys and date them, either exclusively or casually. There was Ed, whom I didn’t even date. When the one night of fun with Ed was over, I guess I was bored until someone else came along. I don’t even remember the order, to be honest with you. The point is, I gave my body away (the same body that my mother always told me should be kept sacred) to one too many men. And in the end, what the worst part was, was that it didn’t even pay to have “gained” those experiences. It one hundred percent wasn’t even worth the feeling of self-disgust. It wasn’t worth the heartache.
Many of the choices I’ve made throughout the past ten years of my life, I regret. Not all, but many. The decisions that I thought would “liberate” me and make me feel like a woman, made me feel exactly the opposite. Being reckless does something to the psyche; it’s not something you heal from overnight. I hurt many people in my quest for identity (Rene being the first recipient of my ugly behavior, but sadly there were others). I acted very selfishly, and there were times I wanted to hurt those I had been hurt by…but even that, ended up just doing the most damage to me. To this day, I sometimes text my mom “you were right about so many things”, and I’m always sure to tell her that she did an outstanding job raising me the best she knew how. Girls, listen to your mom. As annoying as they may be right now, they love you, and when you love someone, you set boundaries to protect that person. She’s not out to ruin your life, I promise.
I don’t want you to have to reach your wit’s end and the lowest of lows to realize your value. Your value as a person, your worth as you. You are such a unique treasure because God created you to be that way, did you know that? And were you aware that you possess qualities and giftings that you were placed on this Earth to fulfill? There’s a special calling and purpose for your life. The decisions we make can either cause us to hit the ground running in regards to fulfilling our purpose, or deter us off course. Yes, while there are many things that happen in life that are beyond our control, we must exercise wisdom when it comes to the things we can control; the most glaring example being the choices we make. Who do we choose to surround ourselves (and become friends) with? Is our focus on the wrong things (such as boys, material things we can’t afford and even causes us to be ungrateful or envious, celebrities we idolize who don’t even know we exist, going out and partying, having sex because we feel pressured to do so, etc.)?
In this day and age, with technology as advanced as it is and social media always grappling for our attention, it can be hard to remember what really matters. Let me tell you this, and again I speak from experience and from a place of wanting to protect: people won’t remember you for how cool your sneakers were or how much makeup you owned. They won’t remember you for how many followers you had on Instagram, or how well you twerked to Cardi B or Nicki Minaj. None of that matters. It never has, and it never will. I’m not suggesting that you can’t buy sneakers, clothes, makeup, whatever. What I am saying, is that when those temporary things become the primary focus of your life, you’re in real trouble. People will remember you for the mark you made in their lives, on their hearts, on the world. How do you want to be remembered? What do you want to be known for? I know for me personally, I want to be known for, and remembered as, a woman of great kindness, humility, and love…among other things. It’s extremely difficult to be selfless and genuinely care for others (perhaps to the point of significant sacrifice on my part) if I’m too busy getting ready and taking selfies in front of a mirror for three hours trying to look like Kylie Jenner. It’s one or the other: I either “die” to myself for the purpose of others, or it’s all about me, myself, and I. And let me tell you something…being conceited and self-obsessed is ugly. Again, of course there’s nothing wrong with looking in a mirror in order to apply makeup. Duh, we all have to do that. When the person in the mirror is consuming your life; rather, when the person who’s Instagram page you keep refreshing is controlling your life…Houston, we have a problem.
In closing, I’m grateful for God’s grace that is freely extended to me at all times. As I’ve stated, I’ve made some pretty horrible decisions, and to this day I still make poor choices, but there’s forgiveness for that. All it requires of me is humility…and an open heart to receive the forgiveness I so desperately need. Not only does God forgive us for all the crappy things we’ve done to others (or to ourselves), he makes us new. We’re not stuck being a mean girl, conceited, or a liar, or an addict (which, did you know you can be addicted to shopping?!), or whatever we may not like about ourselves. We are a new creation when we come to Christ and ask him to forgive us for all the bad stuff we’ve done. In Jesus we find direction, purpose, hope, joy (that no other dude can give us!), forgiveness, life, and freedom. It took me years to finally come to that realization, and had I not brushed it off due to my stubbornness, it would’ve saved me a lot of heartbreak.
Are you ready and willing to discover the true meaning of life, and live out your amazing purpose on the Earth? I promise you…it’s worth it.