Saturday, June 16, 2012

30 Things I Want to Tell My 18-year-old Self

Life Lessons...and Things I Wish I'd Known Before College 
[Things I would say if I could pull my young self aside and tell me what's what.]

1. First of all, Little Ashley, the reason you started crying at the sight of your empty P.O. box today is because you are very, very tired. You were up until 4 a.m. hanging out with your roommate at a diner, and you are not functioning properly. The truth is, you suck at life when you're tired. Take a nap, kid. You will need more naps in college than you did when you were a toddler, and you will be able to take them. Don't miss this window of napportunity. Ditch Western Civilization, climb into your lofted bed, and pass out until dinner. You will still pass that freshman gen. ed. with flying colors.

2. Your college experience will not be just like Keri Russell on Felicity. I mean it. Skip buying the giant sweaters and finding a friend to send your recorded self-obsessed messages to. That's what blogs are for. Give up on this tv show dream; it is fake.

3. If you go on a date with a guy who tells you he hates reading books, do not go on another date. 

Unless he's a really good kisser.

No not even then. Don't listen to me. 

4. Learn how to drive in the city. Soon. Not knowing how to drive in they city at 18 is precious and endearing, but not knowing how to drive in the city when you are almost 26 years old is sad and pathetic. This cannot be your crazy cat lady quirk.

5. Jump in a lake with your clothes on with that one crazy guy who takes you on that one crazy date your junior year. It will be fun, and it will not get weird. 

6. You also need to get over your fear of old people. They will always be there and you should be nice to them. They are not trying to lure you into their homes in order to eat you, like the witch from Hansel and Gretel, and the odds of them dying of old age, mid-sentence, while talking to you, are very slim. 

7. Sit your butt down and write your uncles two thank you cards for collaboratively buying you that laptop for high school graduation. I know you think the appreciative email you sent them was enough, but it wasn't. I know, I know, we hate thank you cards. But if you do not do this thing, they will vibe you/me for the next seven years. Write them cards. It is not hard, and it will save us from years of awkwardness.

8. This is selfish, maybe, but switch banks now. If you don't, then I will have to take care of it this week, seven years later, when all my direct deposit and withdrawal stuff is set up. It's super annoying. Please do this thing. Do it for me, your elder self. 

9. Don't cut your hair super short your sophomore year of college. You will hate it, and yes, you will look like a mom. 

10. You're not going to find your husband in college. I don't care what all of those games of M.A.S.H. said. Feel grateful for this, and don't worry about it. You will be tempted to worry because you will surrounded by girls who are worrying about this, but don't get sucked in. Life goes on after college. As a matter of fact, it gets better.

11. DO NOT. AND I REPEAT, DO NOT try to dye your hair Gwen Stefani blonde by yourself at 2 a.m. in your dorm suite bathroom, with a $5 box of hair bleach you bought at the grocery store. You know the guy who hosts Diners, Drive-ins and Dives? Yeah. You will end up looking like him. Don't go there.

12. Figure out the difference between a boring guy who is super responsible and a non-boring guy who is completely irresponsible. Find out the character traits of a happy medium between the two. Do it now. They exist, I promise.

13. You are not a failure at life because of whatever currently overly dramatic crisis you are currently facing. Stop telling yourself you are. You're eighteen, for Pete's sake.

14. Everything you own does not have to be from the Gap. In fact, owning trendier clothes will prevent you from dressing like a teacher or a little boy every livelong day, which, unless you change your ways, you will, until you turn 24.

15. Take your sister up on her offer to teach you how to cook. Someday (it will come very, very soon) you will have to cook for yourself, and you cannot live off of peanut butter, yogurt and grapes.

15.b. I know you think your inability to cook is a cute and interesting fact about you, and that it makes you mysterious and independent. Unfortunately this all goes to crap and ends up making you look rather pathetic by around age 23. Learn to cook. Do this thing for me, Young Ashley. I would love to know how to make lasagna, and it all depends on you.

16. You don't have to like Wilco. You can find them boring and pretentious. It's okay.

17. It is also okay that you like Alfred Hitchcock movies, painting things, reading books, folk music, and going to flea markets with your mom. I know you are a dork now, but in seven more years, this will be super cool. You're basically a trendsetter. Keep dorking it up, sister.

18. You live in a world where the bank closes at 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Denying this fact will not make it open when you go there at 3 p.m., so please learn this very important, harsh life-truth right now.

19. People are not always mad at you. Sometimes their mood has absolutely nothing to do with you. I promise. On the same note, Jesus is never mad at you. Stop thinking he is.

20. Start a savings account right now. You don't pay rent, you don't pay utilities, you don't pay for a car, and your student loans haven't kicked in yet. We could be so rich by the time we are my age. We could buy our own chef and then you wouldn't have to worry about my instructions in number 15.

21. Call your parents more, especially your mom. I know you don't want to call your her right now, but you need to. Seriously, though.

22. Keep being best friends with Steph. Treat her like a rockstar. She will be your pillar of sanity and loyalty through all of college and your early twenties. Be nice to that guy she starts dating your junior year. He never goes away. As a matter of fact they get married. But you will continue to refer to him as Smelliott, and Steph will continue to find it just as funny as you do. This is why she's your bff4life. 

23. When God says he'll provide, he means it.You will re-learn this everyday.

24. Don't change your major four times. I know you will get super freaked out when you go to your first journalism class, but it's the only thing you've ever wanted to do. Don't let it scare you away. You do not want to be a social worker, a teacher, or a professional communicator. (What do communications majors do, anyway?) Study the Chicago Manual of Style. Study good writers. Write all the time. You love writing--you want to be a writer.

Do not make a pros and cons list that tells you otherwise.

25. Buy tickets to go see Nickel Creek EVERYTIME they are in town. I hate to tell you this, but shortly after you graduate from college, they will break up. You will continue to stalk Chris Thile and his new band, but it will never be the same. Don't waste this precious time with them.

26. Hang out with your college roommate, Alyssa, more. She kicks butt and someday soon she will marry a Swiss rocket scientist and move to Boston. No, I'm not kidding. Make sure when you are working on a paper at 3 a.m. in your dorm room, you don't wear headphones. You will accidentally be much louder than you think you are, banging your coffee mug on your desk, etc., and you'll keep her awake, but she will be too sweet to say anything. Do not do this. Preventing one from sleep is a form of torture. Have some social grace.

27. Be ballsier. Just in general.

28. Don't be such a snob about music, movies, or books. Someday, you will harbor a very intense love for an 18-year-old Canadian popstar who looks strikingly like a woman. And you will think that this fact about you is very awesome.

29. Your sisters are always right. So is Steph. Get used to this now and you will save yourself a lot of wasted time.

30. Life will not end after college, just like it didn't end after high school. You will like your early twenties an awful lot. You will, dare I say, have even more fun than you are having right now. I promise. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Little Something on Grace and Honesty

Hi folks. I've been the crappiest blogger on the face of the earth lately, because I've been spending a lot of my time writing for Here are a few of the posts I've done recently. Please known that for Kyria, I've written twice in the last month about kinky porn in society. I do not have any way to explain myself.

However, this is a post I wrote last year, on my old blog. It's about Jesus. And honesty. And grace. I've been reflecting a lot on the mayhem that recently took place in the life of Brian Presley, including the circulation of an interview I did with him two months ago. It's all been very odd for me to watch, but it's made me think a lot about how, simply stated, we are never going to be perfect. you go. A little something for you Wednesday.
I read this last night, and it has never read so beautifully before.
"27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
 - Luke 5:27-32
After that, I read this.  Jesus said it.  I like it.
"37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
    41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."
 Luke 6:37-38; 41-42
Christ was sinless and perfect, and he told. us not to judge each other. 
But we do. 
We do it in conversation. 
We do it in our minds and hearts. We do it when we pass people on the street or drive past them in our cars.  We do it when we watch the news and hear about the different ways that people are trying to fill the voids in their lives with relationships and substances that continue to hurt them.  We shake our heads and say, "How could they do something like that?" when really, what we should be saying, is "How wonderful would it be for that person if they allowed Jesus to fill that void.  Thank God for His grace and mercy that allows me to feel whole, even amidst confusion."
 My pastor always says that there is nothing worse than a conversation between a Christian and a non-Christian in which our main goal is to "fix them."  It's just gross.  
It was one of those crazy weeks for me where God kept telling me the same thing so persistently that I would have to chop off both of my ears in order to NOT hear Him.  I'm not down with the ear-chopping.
We were not put on this earth to judge one another.  We just weren't.  At least five times, just this week, I have been on one side or the other of the following conversation:  
"I didn't want to talk to you about this/call you to talk because I was scared I'd be bothering you/I didn't want to disappoint you/I didn't want you to let you down."
Translation?  We are terrified of being judged by each other, and so we isolate.  And when we isolate, we suffer even more, and that fear continues to build.  Two nights ago I talked to my best friend for a good hour, and we both admitted to each other that we'd been scared to talk to each other about some things that we were dealing with.   But the fear that we both felt was a lie.  Through our conversation a film that had been covering our friendship over the past few months was lifted, and we were able to see clearly that we will receive nothing but love and understanding from one another.  And yes, sometimes we tell each other that we are acting like morons.  And that is a good thing, because it is based on love. 
But why does that fear exist in the first place?  Why do we get so scared to talk to each other about the truth of our lives?  I think that sometimes the lack of grace we are surrounded by in this world becomes a direct correlation to how we perceive our relationships with one another.  In the church, we deal with the anomaly of striving to become perfect in Christ while knowing in the deepest part of our hearts that we are nothing but a bunch of sinful bastards.  We are given mercy through the faith that we have, not because of our perfection.  We don't deserve the Father that we have in Heaven, but He loves us just the same. 
We know that we can't hide our sins from Christ, but sometimes we start to believe that everything will be so much easier if we DO hide our sins from one another.  The biggest problem with this, of course, is that the more perfect we try to appear, the more hypocritical we become, and also, the less likely it will be that anyone who is actually struggling, who is actually in pain, will be willing to talk to us about it.  When we shut out God's grace for ourselves, the grace that allows us to joyfully admit that we are imperfect, we also stop giving that grace to those around us.
"16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Hebrews 4:16
I am talking to myself more than anyone, today.  We have to get it out of our heads that being saved by grace makes us "better" than anyone else.  We aren't better, we are just incredibly blessed with the knowledge of a loving Savior.  We have to stop freaking out about the minute things that make us think that our society is "going to hell in a handbag," and start freaking out about the incomprehensible amount of suffering that is taking place around us.  Jesus spent His time on earth with those who were suffering and confused.  The outcasts.  The people you'd never trust to babysit your kids or hold your purse or go to for advice.  Those were the people He ate dinner with.  So I guess what I'm trying to say, and struggling to do so, is that this judgement and fear that we live in is not the Gospel.  It's not the truth.  Jesus loves us sinners, and He demands that we love others in the same grace-filled way that He does.
This week I had another conversation, too. This one tore me up, because it gave me, with clarity that I believe must have come from the Holy Spirit, an outsider's view on the graceless, selfish "religion" that Christians today are always in danger of becoming, and often, have become.
I'm paraphrasing, but in unbelievable truth, a friend  of mine said something pretty close to this:
"Do you want to know the reason that everyone who isn't a Christian looks at the Church and laughs about what a big joke it all is? It's because you people spend so much time judging non-Christian music and movies and listening to your contemporary Christian music and preaching at others about how they need to get "saved," but in reality, your lives don't look any different from ours.  Your lives become about what you don't do.  Where are you being the hands and feet of Christ? Where are you actually being the light that is showing the world that you are different?  No one gives a crap about what you have to say if you are living a life that is full of judgement towards us.  Show me someone who is living like a light.  Who is really trying to spread that love that Jesus gave.  I'll listen to that person." 
I think that God speaks in a lot of ways.  Wednesday, this is how He spoke to me.  And now there's no going back to normalcy.   Not when you get convicted like that.
Happy Wednesday, y'all.