23 Lessons (Re)learned

  1. The couch is comfy, but that comfy feeling is only concealing regret. Get up and do things. You don’t have to go cross-country to have a ball (though it definitely helps). Make the most of every Saturday by checking out museums, parks, and other wacky things.
  2. Take the chance. Life is short. Sometimes the chance comes with risk: like going on a date with an islander in a foreign country (okay, so he was a Canadian and I’m not sure that counts, but still) or putting your heart on the line with a friend. Neither of those ventures panned out for me, but that’s okay. Sometimes chance rides side-saddle with pain. Sometimes it runs free-spirited with rewards.
  3. Laugh. Actually, make appointments for it. John Crist and Tim Hawkins comedy shows undid more emotional damage than all my therapy sessions combined.
  4. Go to the doctor. It’s a hassle, a definitive nuisance, but regular check-ups save lives. Don’t be a missed diagnosis because you were too busy building a life to care for it.
  5. Jump on a fandom bandwagon. They’re a great deal of fun. Just don’t become obsessed. No matter how entertaining the fandom is, it can’t possibly replace the sheer ecstatic of worshiping our Savior.
  6. Worship harder, longer, every time. Feelin’ it? Don’t care. It’s not about you. And while you’re at it, worship at home. Dancing like a lunatic isn’t just reserved for praise breaks in church. Bobby pins should go flying no matter where you are dancing, especially when you don’t feel like it. And exude praise, especially when you’re tired. Sacrificial worship only occurs when you’re not feeling it, not feeling up to it, not feeling at all. If you’re scared of what people think, you’re nailing it.
  7. Meet new people. The process is uncomfortable, but it’s also fascinating. Their stories will fuel your own.
  8. Celebrate people. Not everyone is going to be in your life forever, so celebrate them while they are still around you.
  9. Keep standing for what you believe in, even if it makes people mad at you. But be nice about it. You don’t have to tear down the beliefs of others to demonstrate your own.
  10. Be a Christian before you are an American. Your country is amazing, your eternity is better. It’s okay to care about the state of affairs, but if your American beliefs begin to overrule your Christian beliefs, who is truly your god? So just shut up more often and love like Christ did, even if it lands you on a cross. And by the way, if it does, carry the thing. Pray for the souls who gave it to you. Don’t nail them to it instead.
  11. You’re required to try at least once, even twice, but then you’re allowed to walk away. If someone is hurting you, and they repeatedly disregard your attempts to kindly bring the situation back on track, you are allowed to walk away.
  12. Look up. Never forget your significant insignificance.
  13. Explore your own backyard. Adventures are still adventures, even when they’re just in your state or just in your city or just in your backyard.
  14. There is a literal devil on your shoulder. Beat the crap out of him.
  15. Finance support groups are fun. Yeah the discussion is about money (and usually how we’re failing with it), but at least we’re talking. We’re being vulnerable and sharing our dreams and aspirations. It’s beautiful.
  16. Don’t waste your time envying the gifts of others. God has painted unique strengths on you to perfectly fit your piece of His puzzle, so perfectly that the seam is invisible. Don’t screw the puzzle up by trying to duplicate the piece next to you. There are nooks and crannies you were never meant to fit, and there are nooks and crannies that desperately need you.
  17. There’s not much to glean from TV. Books, however, are a rich source of inspiration and knowledge. That said, you don’t have to collect them. A bookshelf can very quickly become a source of guilt instead of inspiration.
  18. Create from the soul. Words. Speeches. Conversations. Paintings. Dramas. Songs. Prose. Life.
  19. When nostalgia hits and you forget all the why not’s, force yourself to sit back and do and say nothing until the wave goes away and sanity returns.
  20. Take time to remember. Go through your photo album, read old blog posts, scroll through old timelines. Remember who you were, where you were; use remembering as fuel for planning.
  21. You are the only one preventing you from anything. You want to dance in public? Dance. You want to learn a language? Learn. You want to adventure? Adventure. Stop complaining and just do it already.
  22. People will never live up to your expectations. You will get hurt, and it will happen every single time. Yes, sometimes it will cut you like a knife, and you will bleed and ache and cry. But don’t stop expecting. Without expectations, there is nothing to keep us striving to be and do and believe better. Lord knows you are relying on others to expect greatness of you.
  23. Except in the case of Heaven, the journey, the anticipation, is always better than the destination. And that’s okay. After all, you were designed to be just passing through.

Here’s to the next year of life. 

23 Lessons (Re)learned

Own every decision you make.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and teen years of late. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about how productive they were in comparison to my 20s thus far. That’s a little lot sad. But anyway.

I’ve also been thinking about what I would tell myself if I could go back in time. After mulling this over for a week or so, I came to the conclusion that it would be: “Own every decision you make.”

I don’t mean to own it by flaunting (which is apparently the new definition??), but by taking ownership. As in: taking responsibility.

Something that really gets under my skin is when people say “have to.” No matter what they’re referencing, if they’re not a paralytic whose every body movement is only made possible through others, they don’t “have to” do anything. They choose to. I choose to.

Every single thing I’ve ever done has been because I chose to do it.

Even if someone has a literal gun pointed at my literal head, if I do something they demand, it is because I choose to do it to avoid death. It is not because I have to do the thing, but because I want to do it in order to live.

I’m frequently accused of seeing the world as a black and white picture.

First off all, why is it a bad thing to only see the world in black and white? Everybody loves a good black and white picture. Especially us minimalists.

Ahem.

The truth is: I see all the colors that other people see – all the shades of green and blue and red and yellow. I even see purple, though I wish I didn’t. But what I also see is that every color is rooted in either black or white, and therefore is, in essence, black or white.

If we boil it all down like this, understanding there is a root to everything is a pretty good way to start second-guessing your decisions.

To start taking ownership.

Because if you don’t.. well, that’s how we got purple, people.

But more seriously, similar to color, every single action is rooted in one of two things: good or evil.

This is why it is so stinking important to take ownership of our decisions!

Every decision we make results in some kind of action, and, as we all learned in grade-school science, every action has a reaction. These reactions are always a reward or consequence.

Sure, sometimes they’re both to some degree (hello shades of gray). But for the most part, reactions can be filed under one category or the other. If you’re struggling to figure out whether an action is good or evil, look at the reaction.

What is the consequence/reward of eating an entire bag of chips?

What is the consequence/reward of a catnap?

What is the consequence/reward of standing up for the downtrodden?

What is the consequence/reward of gossip?

What is the consequence/reward of holding onto an extra sweater?

What is the consequence/reward of telling your neighbor about Jesus?

Once we decide what the consequence or reward is (which may vary person to person), we can make a decision fairly quickly. It doesn’t mean that we always make the right decisions, but we do decide.

And also, there’s no one making us.

I wish there was. I wish I could blame someone else for my teenage rebellion years, or for my past with pornography, or for my choice to take out student loans for a degree I never got around to completing.

But those decisions were my own.

I chose to talk back basically every single time my mom gave me instruction.

I chose to wander onto sites I never should have been on.

I chose to ignore the Holy Spirit nudging my heart in directions other than college.

I’ve had to live with the consequences of those decisions: the tumultuous relationship I had with my mom for years, the shame of having a past and the fight against temptation to return to it when life hits lows, the payments wasted on a loan I didn’t need that could have gone to travel or ministries.

I didn’t own my decisions then. I tried to blame my relationship with mom on her behavior; honey, it takes two to fight. I tried to blame my struggle with pornography on the rampant access the world provides us through internet; honey, you can turn off the computer. I tried to blame my college choices on the pressure society puts on me to conform; honey, you were made to be transformed, not conformed.

But I do own my decisions now.

In fact, I actively choose to take ownership of my decisions. I tell people, “I don’t want to,” instead of “I can’t.” I tell people, “I’m sorry,” instead of “Well if you hadn’t done blah, then I wouldn’t have been forced to blah.”

I take ownership of my decision to drink coffee every morning.

I take ownership of my decision to take out a $23,500 loan for my car.

I take ownership of my decision to cut people out of my life who were toxic and bleeding me dry.

Why?

Because when I don’t take ownership, when I foolishly blame my life, my circumstance, my environment on someone else, I make bad decisions.

And I don’t want to live with the consequences of those bad decisions.

If I accept the responsibility of my life, my free will, my God-given right to direct the course of my future, I choose good things.

Like road trips across the country with my sister.

Like starting a Bible study with my Mormon neighbors.

Like serving God on the mission field of Ohio through Undignified Event.

Like family dinners with my mom.

Like God-talks with my brother.

Like reading the Word.

Like praying.

Like answering the call of God.

Like dancing for Jesus as though I may never get another chance.

Own every decision you make.

Unplugging.

Well, I’ve finally done it. I’ve been obsessing over the idea for well over a year at this point, and I finally woman-ed up and just did it.

I cancelled Netflix.

I cancelled Amazon Prime.

I cancelled WiFi.

My connection to the last of these will be terminated on the 15th of the month, in T-minus seven days.

Starting on the 15th of the month, I will no longer be a Netflix-binger, online-window-shopper, or internet-user in general.

At least for the foreseeable future.

At least until January.

Rather, I’m hoping I can make it that long.

Here’s the thing: my productivity levels at home su-uuuuck. Once I’m home, I’m basically done for the day. I turn on the TV, select a Netflix show, and promptly become a mindless zombie.

I can’t even be bothered to respond to texts; how dare they interrupt my solace.

I once read that a study was done on people who watched TV – they came out literally dumber than before the episode or binge or whatever. I don’t remember where or when I read that, but it has stuck with me for ages. And I’m probably imagining this to some extent, but I feel dumber lately.

When I was 16, I was working two part-time jobs and going to two colleges full-time. I was exhausted. But, like, a good exhausted. The kind you feel when you know you’ve used up every bit of energy your brain and body can produce for the day.

Now I feel bad exhausted.. pretty much all the time. The kind you feel when you have a mountain of to-dos and spend three hours binging Friends rather than completing even a single task. The kind you feel when you’ve been a zombie for so long that you struggle to get creative juices flowing, juices that used to flow freely and allow you to bang out a 5-page essay in 20-30 minutes.

EL. OH. EL.

Don’t even ask how long it would take me to write that essay now.

I was talking to a friend last night and he point-blank asked me if I was living any of the advise I freely give others about pursuing their dreams.

The answer was an obvious and awkward: “um, no..?”

And it was just the push I needed to finally get it together.

So I called Spectrum at 12:05 PM today, and cancelled my WiFi.

I’m hoping this exercise in unplugging will make me so. stinking. bored. that I actually want to tackle that mountainous task list.

I need fewer distractions and temptations to waste my life, and by getting rid of WiFi in my apartment, I’m getting rid of almost all of them.

Thanks to the recent declutter, I don’t own much in the way of entertainment. My books are purged down to just a Bible and 3-4 non-fiction books I’ve been meaning to get to for ages. My collection of movies is downsized to 3 – the Anne of Green Gables series. I have a handful of games and five partially empty notebooks. I’ve got an iPad, MacBook, and iPhone. Oh, and a keyboard.

All of these things are generally ignored in favor of Netflix or YouTube or window shopping on Amazon.

Getting rid of WiFi is getting rid of pretty much everything I do in my free time.

And this idea thrills me.

A world with no old habits to fill the time is a world of endless possibilities.

Who knows what I’ll do first.

I imagine I’ll catch up on sleep again, and maybe finally read those books. I’ll probably get outside more and call friends more and study the Word more. I’ll probably goof off on the keyboard and spend focused energy on developing my vocal range. Maybe I’ll finally get around to experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen. Maybe I’ll go on more adventures to local museums or random far off places. Oh, oh – I might even become a consistent blogger (aaah ha)! After all, there’s nothing else to do.

Just to clarify for the nay-sayers: I’m not cutting the internet or entertainment out of my life entirely.

This should be obvious since my job is 100% an online gig.

Also, as I said, I have an iPhone which has data which means internet. And there’s no way on earth I’m giving up my GPS, the ability to check open/close times of businesses, or an opportunity to fact-check people in the middle of a conversation (because yes, I’m one of those annoying people who has to fact-check EVERYTHING).

I can even use the internet for other things if I should so desire, just not at home.

There’s a Starbucks with great indoor and outdoor seating areas and free WiFi less than a mile away. I’ve got a MoviePass membership (that will soon be swapped for the AMC membership because MoviePass just passed a bunch of new policies that are complete suckage) that I will use to enjoy the frequent theater experience. I have a DVD player and a library card. My iPad is already filling up with books I want to read, and my phone is overwhelmed with Podcasts I intend to listen to on long evening walks. I also have Ronnie, my delightful car that is more anxious to hit the roads than I am.

The point is: I want to make distractions harder to get to; I want to make them a reward, rather than my norm.

So here I go, starting my experimental mutiny of the internet. Wish me luck.

Unplugging.