I don’t particularly look forward to birthdays. Nor do I dread them. They’re just kind of “meh”. This year was different: I was genuinely excited. It was my golden birthday. My boyfriend and I were were going to go camping, and then we were going to come back in time for 2-for-1 night with friends at my favorite bar in Nashville, The Beer Sellar. (They have Kentucky Bourbon Ale on draft, folks. This place is serious about their brews.) Then…
I love her for laughing about this.
Fate had other plans. Instead of camping, I spent Saturday hacking up a lung in my apartment. Sunday morning (birthday morning) I went to the doc, got my diagnosis, and spent the rest of the day floating in and out of consciousness.
Since I’m stuck in bed for a bit, I thought I might as well take a moment to reflect on what I think are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my 23 years of life. Cue the emboldened list.
1) Don’t make any important decisions when you’re sick. Or really tired.
Better yet, try not to make any decisions at all. Because even the most mundane ones will likely cause you to use facewash as toothpaste/trip in potholes on the path you don’t normally take/set your kitchen on fire.
Obviously this one is in the forefront of my mind right now.
2) Make a list of personal commandments.
This nugget of wisdom comes from The Happiness Project. I just started my list and have nine (she recommends twelve). They are:
Don’t be so fond of safety.
Do what love requires of you.
Choose faith over fear.
Dust off your little-girl dreams.
If you want to say it, say it.
Cultivate gratitude with each step.
3) Your college major doesn’t matter.
If college is something you want to tackle, all that matters is that you get a college degree. If you don’t have a 70-year plan embossed into a willow tree on the Martha’s Vineyard property that’s been in the family for twelve generations, it’s okay. Changing your mind post-graduation is easy as microwave nachos. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, give them my name. I’d love to chat with them. Or point them to this book:
4) People are the same pretty much everywhere.
We all have the same basic needs and wants. Regardless of culture or country or language or looks, everyone wants to live the best they can. What this means may change from person to person, but I have been constantly surprised in my travels to find that relating to just about anybody is a way easier task than anybody thinks.
5) The golden rule is golden.
Do unto others as you would do unto yourself. For an addendum: do unto yourself as you would do unto God. Self-love is an endangered species in Western culture, but it’s one of the most important traits you can ever cultivate. I used to think that it was okay to be mean to myself, but now I realize there’s nothing that hurts others more than self-hate. In order to give away love with a pure intention, you first have to cultivate that kind of love inside yourself.
6) Anyone can stop the car.
This saying comes from my dad. I grew up with bi- and sometimes tri-annual epic car trip adventures to far-away Grandparents’ Land. Somewhere between twelve and seventeen hours in a car can be grueling, and he made sure everyone knew that we each had a say in how far we went. We rarely spent the night along the way, and I believe this is largely because we each felt we were individually in control of how far we could go. No one felt coerced into any more miles than the ones they wanted to travel.
The same is true in life, although I think it’s easy to forget. You’re the only one in control of your life’s direction and destination, and you can stop the car, turn it around, repaint it, trade it in – you can do anything you want – at any time.
7) Have patience with everything, but especially with the two C’s: Cooking and Crafting.
Basically, if you don’t have to be in a rush, then don’t rush. Whenever I truly take my time with a cooking/baking/craft project, I always end up thinking, “Look ma! I am capable of good presentation!” I think this is why my slow cooker has become my favorite way to make meals: I’m not allowed to touch it until it’s done. I can’t mess with the temperature or the rack it’s on or even lift the lid. It forces me to slow down.
8) Get outside.
Fletcher Park in Cleveland, TN
Nature is good for you. Drink up.
9) Get a dog.
Woman’s best friend. Also goes by “JoJo”.
“I’m allergic” is not an excuse. There is nothing like a forever-cheerful animal that will love you unconditionally and cuddle with you and give you kisses when your grandma passes away, or when you’re going through a terrible breakup, or when you have pneumonia.
10) Finally (because I have to stop somewhere), do what love requires of you.
This was part of a message I heard at Rock Point a few weekends ago. I immediately added it to my list of personal commandments, but I had to re-emphasize it in its own point because it’s just that important. In any tough situation, ask yourself: “What does love require of me right now?” It may not be what you want to do, it may not be what is comfortable to do, but it is always what you should do.
Okay, one more for luck:
11) It’s okay to nap.
For some reason, I have a hard time convincing myself of this and always feel like I’m wasting time when I nap. But really, if you need the rest, you need the rest.
At least I got cake! Delivered right to my bedside, in between naps. Thanks, boyfriend. You rock.
Speaking of, I think I’ll go take a nap now. Here’s to making my 23rd year a golden one, even if it starts out with pneumonia.