Where Are You Finding Your Worth? (Baccalaureate Speech 2021, Arielle Pickerign)

Amy Barnard

Each year three students are invited to share at Minnehaha Academy's Baccalaureate night. Here is what graduating senior Arielle Pickerign had to share. Content has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Most Unbearable Meal

The summer after my first year of high school I signed up to go on my church’s high school missions trip. With a pillow and blanket tucked under my arm, I hopped on the bus and after ten long hours we made it to our final destination in Roach, Missouri, or as my sister and I like to call it “Roach Misery.” 

I was not quite sure what to expect, but I can tell you one thing, it was not what the following week had in store. It was a week filled with flash flooding and cancelled events. Our original mission of leading VBS was quickly switched to the grueling task of rebuilding stairs at a state park. When we arrived at the camp we would be staying at, we were quickly informed that the site had accidentally been overbooked. They had booked not one, not two, but three camps for the week I was staying. At first we shrugged the overbooking off as no big deal now that we were finally able to find a cabin for the girls and booked a motel across the street for the boys, but the consequences of being over max capacity soon became apparent.

On our way to dinner that evening we discovered that our room was set over a mile from the cafeteria and we would be walking to and from each meal. At first the walk was bearable: We were hungry teens and there was food. That was all the incentive needed. But as the third or fourth day rolled around, we began to notice something peculiar: we were eating the same food over and over again. One thing the camp failed to mention is that when a site is overbooked, you not only run out of housing, but you also start to run out of food. Because my group was coming as a missions team, we were the last group to eat, meaning we were stuck with the leftovers (and not the good kind). These leftovers just so happened to be potatoes. We ate them hashed for breakfast and mashed for lunch and dinner. Soon my mile stroll to the cafeteria became a trek through the rain as I began to dread the anticipated plop of mush being scooped onto my plate. Even thinking about it now sends a shiver down my spine. All jokes aside, we made the best of our situation and learned the importance of choosing joy amidst adversity.

Searching for Identity

Several years passed by and before I knew it I was entering my junior year of high school. In all honesty, it was rough. After retiring from gymnastics, the sport I had placed my entire identity in, I was left searching for a new place to find my worth. It seemed like everyone around me had it together. I was in a new building, at a great school, with amazing friends, and yet I still felt a void.

I was in a new building, at a great school, with amazing friends, and yet I still felt a void.

I searched and searched for something new to fill that hole. I placed my worth in my appearance, in my grades, in the new sports I played, and in the way I was perceived by the people around me. I turned to the world for validation and in return discovered that I wasn’t pretty enough, I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t athletic enough, and I wasn’t liked enough. The world told me that I wasn’t enough and I would never be enough. I had never felt so empty in my entire life. My perfectionism began to consume me, but I was the "happy outgoing friend" so I played it off as though I was fine. Spring rolled around, school moved online, and I began to live life through a screen. I woke up, joined my Zoom classes, scrolled through TikTok and went to bed. I was living the same day on repeat.

The next thing I knew it was summer and I needed a break from reality. So I turned off my phone, shoved it in a drawer, and promised not to touch it until the end of the month. I spent my first two weeks phone-free at my grandparent’s cabin up in Crosslake, MN, and it was the first time in my life where I was truly forced to be alone with myself. One day as I was walking, I began to pray. I was like “Hey Jesus it’s ya girl, can we chat for a second? Why is it that I go to church, I go to a Christian school, I go to Bible study, I lead a Bible study, I do all these things in your name, yet I still feel so void? Why is it that no matter how hard I try, I am never good enough?”

And in that moment, God spoke to me, and said “Oh, but beautiful child, I made you.” That sentence changed me. I finally realized that these voices telling me that I was not enough were not from God. Jesus says in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The same things that were breaking my heart also broke God’s heart. I had been so tuned into what I thought the world wanted me to be that I forgot who God tells me I am. God created each and every person in this room with intentionality and because of that you are enough. God knows my imperfections and insecurities and loves me despite them. Knowing this has filled me with so much inexplicable joy.

God knows my imperfections and insecurities and loves me despite them. Knowing this has filled me with so much inexplicable joy.

The More Fulfilling Table

Just like I was busy walking back to the cafeteria where I knew I would only be served gross mushy potatoes, I found myself going back to the same sources of validation that left me feeling empty. I was so focused on the ways of the world that I failed to recognize God’s invitation to his more fulfilling table.

Class of 2021, we have been through it. The highs, the lows, and everything in between. I truly believe that because of this class and this school I have grown so much in my faith. There is a verse I have taped up to my bathroom mirror from Psalm 16:11 that says “You will make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” I have learned that there is so much freedom and joy when you stop placing your worth in who the world expects you to be and start living according to who God calls you to be.

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