21 life rules

I stole the idea of creating a number of life rules for myself equal to the number of years that I’ve been alive from Hannah Brencher Sheats, one of my life inspirations.  She stole the idea from someone else, but I’ll give her the credit (see her blog) and then she can give the credit to the person who actually deserves the credit.  These rules are a reflection of what I’ve learned recently about life and who I aspire to someday become.

I started writing these for myself, and then I realized they actually could be considered 21 pieces of advice to girls entering college, so I figured I would post them for your entertainment or perhaps your edification.  Or maybe you can just learn more about me.  Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy.

  1. You have everything you need inside you or at your disposal that you will need to do whatever God tells you to do. It’s OK to be nervous and afraid—in fact, it’s good because it makes you utterly human.  But don’t let those nerves overcome you but instead ask yourself, “But what if you fly?” 
  2. Listen to moving movie soundtracks whenever you A) need inspiration, B) need to focus and people around you won’t shut up, or C) want to experience your emotions fully. (My go-to’s are The Imitation Game, Schindler’s List, and—don’t hate me—The Titanic.  So I suppose this list demonstrates that I love Benedict Cumberbatch [true], am morbidly obsessed with tragedy [half true—I am very intrigued with the psychology behind evil, such as how Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler managed to manipulate as many people as they did] and into sappy romances [sadly, very true].  Or, this list could suggest I have great taste in music, so give them a listen!)
  3. He/she isn’t yours forever. People—whether boyfriends or best friends or just your average friend—come into your life for a season.  In fact, 95% of the people in your life, even the people who seem like lifers, are only in your life for a short period of time.  Release your grip and let go when it’s either A) they want to go or B) it’s time for them to go.
  4. To go along with #3, realize that many people will claim to be “lifers” in your life. Boyfriends and best friends are the usual culprits here.  Remember that most people will say anything to feel secure.  Either that, or they are completely un-self-aware.  Realize that a promise of forever means very little unless it is from one of those rare extraordinarily steadfast people or made during marriage vows.
  5. Take a full month off of life if you can. Tell people “no.” I just spent the whole last month at home doing almost nothing that has to do with school or my constant pursuit of getting into medical school.  The only way to completely de-stress is to take a month away from everything.  Some people don’t have this luxury, but if you do, take it.  It’s worth it.
  6. Look nice more often! Most people are more productive when they dress well and put a little effort into their appearance.  I’m not saying to take a Kardashian amount of time getting ready, but getting up 10 minutes earlier for a little mascara and a casual dress can turn exhaustion into productivity very easily.
  7. Go to Walmart whenever you’re invited. Ok, I know that may make no sense to someone who isn’t a college student in Aberdeen, SD, but only good memories can be formed when you go with a random group of fellow sleep-deprived students to a place where anything goes.  And make sure to wear your fluffy Frozen Elsa PJ pants and oversized hot pink Split Rock Lighthouse sweatshirt while you’re at it.
  8. Write it all down. I have never regretted writing my thoughts, no matter how crazy, out by hand in a journal.  Those thoughts, no matter how fleeting or seemingly transitory, reflect a time in your life that deserves to be remembered and actually may illuminate what choice you should make later in life.  Stay up at extra hour and be sleep-deprived the next day if it means you pen your thoughts.  It’s always worth it.
  9. Apply for everything you’re remotely interested in. Whether that be a summer research program, a scholarship, a job, or a Fulbright, as cliché as it sounds, the worst that can happen is the same thing that would happen if you didn’t apply.
  10. Learn to take delight in and laugh out loud at your mistakes. I did a couple really stupid things this last school year, and usually I beat myself up about them late at night when I’m trying to fall asleep.  But last night, I was thinking about the situation one of those mistakes put me in, and that situation is one of the few times that I lived all-out-crazy-no-regrets in my life.  For the first time, I started laughing to myself about how fun it was.  I can’t change my past mistakes, so why not take joy in the side effects that are now great memories?
  11. Eat homemade tater tots whenever life gets hard. They feel like comfort food but are really not bad for you because they’re baked instead of deep-fried and are made of almost 100% potato instead of 98% preservatives like the ones at restaurants—and they’re only $4 for a giant bag at Walmart.
  12. When you feel the need to control a situation or a stupid person, focus on controlling your own response. This is more for Type A people (i.e. me) than anyone else.  I have really struggled throughout college with trying to control both people and situations that aren’t mine to control, and recently I realized that this desire is actually good.  I just need to channel it into controlling myself—and that can take the form of controlling just simple aspects of me, down to just my breathing.  I was really frustrated Saturday night with someone, and I felt the urge to control control control, so I just concentrated on the rate of my breathing.  That helped me to feel in control of the whole situation, and I handled it better than I normally would have.
  13. He’s not yours to save. The best way to describe this is via lines from Sarah Kay’s poem, titled B: “Don’t keep your nose up in the air like that.  I know that trick; I’ve done it a million times.  You’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house, so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him.  Or else find the boy who lit the fire in the first place, to see if you can change him.”  You can’t save him, you can’t change him—and it’s not your responsibility to.  His choices aren’t your fault, they aren’t a result of your failure to be “enough,” and don’t let him tell you they are.  It’s not your fault.
  14. You are never a victim, so stop acting like one. You have a choice in how you respond to everything around you.  Yes, you have your initial involuntary influx of emotion, but once that passes, just like he has his choice in #13, you have your choice.  Don’t you dare act like you don’t.
  15. Have an idea of what you’re doing in the future with a few rough blueprints, but don’t plan too much. Set yourself up to successfully make any of those blueprints a reality and then diligently and strategically ride the waves until one of those can become a reality.
  16. Spend as much time with family as possible. Parents get cooler the older you get.  Snag any moments you can with them, and make sure to go to your 12-year-old brother’s baseball games when you’re home (and walk away and go for a quick walk to blow off steam when you get too competitive and want to yell at the kids and/or ump—they’re only 12).
  17. Create a prayer corner where you can literally get on your knees and write out your big prayers. Tape those big prayers on the walls in your little corner and read them whenever you are struggling in your faith or life—you’ll be amazed at how faithful God is by reading them.
  18. Say no to frivolous expenses so you can study abroad and travel. I have failed epically at this, so this is a new rule for me as I go into my senior year of college and plan to study abroad the summer after.
  19. If you hate doing something you once loved, wave goodbye to it, even if it was a lifelong dream. You aren’t letting yourself down by doing this, you are actually loving yourself more fully.
  20. Consistently read poetry. Read modern stuff and old stuff and in-between stuff.  My favorite modern poets include Tyler Knott Gregson, Lang Leav, Sarah Kay, and Mary Oliver.  John Donne and George Herbert are great oldies.
  21. Don’t believe him. If he, whoever “he” is for you, told you (whether through actions or words or connotations) that you aren’t enough, that you aren’t beautiful, that you are too much, that you will never be truly loved, that you aren’t worth loving, don’t believe him.  For me, that “he” isn’t a father or even an ex-boyfriend, but another guy from years ago.  Make sure he doesn’t win.  Don’t believe a single second of it.  Don’t waste a day of your life even sifting through what he said to see if there’s any truth to it.  Just don’t. As Warsan Shire puts it in her poem “For Women Who are ‘Difficult’ to Love,” “You are terrifying and strange and beautiful something not everyone knows how to love.”   



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