20 Years On This Planet:

Back in June my lovely sister wrote me a letter on her blog as a birthday surprise.  In it she wrote 20 pieces of advice that she had gained through her years of life on Earth.  20 pieces of advice for me since I had turned 20.  It meant a lot knowing that she took the time to write that for me and was thinking of me.  You can find her post here.  I decided that while I do not have her way with words, and I wouldn't want to copy her post anyways, I do have a couple words of wisdom that my experiences have blessed me with as well.  They are a little bit more general since I'm not writing this directed towards any one person.

So without further ado, here are 20 things I've learned throughout my 20 years on this planet:

1.  Be a nerd.
If you have a strong interest in something embrace it.  Whether that interest be in old school Nintendo games, Harry Potter, fashion, soccer, Disney, or even Pokemon.  Be a nerd in the highest meaning of the word.  Enjoy your interests, and don't let other people talk you out of them simply because their interests lie elsewhere.

2.  When you get the chance go to concerts.
Music changes a little when you're at a concert.  It becomes more personal.  I can't tell you how many times I've listened to Kimbra, Foster the People, or my Passion CD and thought "I remember them playing this live!  That was so awesome!"  Artists and bands cross over a whole other level when you watch them live.  You get to see them interacting with their own music and not in an edited and cut way like in music videos.  It's real life.

3.  Don't be a flirt.
I admit it, I'm guilty of this one.  Most people are.  I'm one of those unintentional flirts in that I don't realize that I'm flirting.  But flirting with flirting is dangerous.  It may seem harmless and fun at first, but soon people's feelings get hurt unintentionally.  Set appropriate boundaries for when you interact with the opposite gender.  And be intentional with how you relate to other people.

4.  Dictate your own style.
Fashion rules say this and trends say that, but none of those rules and regulations have any idea who you are as an individual.  While I love fashion and style is important to me.  I also believe in what Stacey and Clinton represent on What Not To Wear; fashion doesn't have to be boring, and having your own sense of style doesn't have to mean mismatched frumpy clothes.  The two worlds can live harmoniously.  Let your own style shine through.  Love graphic tees?  Awesome!  Want to rock a scarf 24/7?  Sweet!  Only wear super short shorts?  Please no!  Put some pants on.

5.  Devotions don't have to be a chore.
I've found that the more I give my time over to God and dig into His word then the more interesting it becomes to me.  

6.  Surround yourself with good friends.
Create a support group for yourself full of people who encourage you and build you up.  And do the same for them, friendship is a two-way street.

7.  Don't be afraid to be yourself.
Whether you're an artist, a writer, a musician, a jokester, an encourager, a teacher, a listener, or any of the many things I haven't listed, God created you with these unique abilities and talents for you to use in miraculous ways.  
You are not like anyone else in the world in the most wonderful way possible.  Some people are introverts, and some are extroverts.  Both are important.  I, an introvert to the core, love hanging out with friends and spending time with people.  However, I recharge during my alone time at home.  I adore being by myself, having no pressure to impress other people or live according to their schedule.  I love being my introverted self and have no desire of changing that.
I also know I have weird quirks like my fascination with cats, or saying words wrong on purpose, or singing along with songs all the time.  But those are just pieces that fit into the infinite puzzle that is me.

8.  Learn at least one instrument.
Whether you go with more common instruments like piano, drums, guitar, or something more obscure like banjo, harmonica, upright bass, or keytar, I believe that music creates an outlet unlike any other creative outlet.  It lets you express yourself in new ways.  Besides, who doesn't love a musician?

9.  Boys make awesome friends.
Growing up my guy friend circle mainly consisted of my cousin Bobby and all of his friends plus a couple guys from school that I didn't hang out with outside of class.  Since college that has changed drastically.  I adore my guy friends who have become like a group of brothers for me (having only two sisters this actually means a lot to me).  I enjoy getting to watch them grow through these years into young men who are great leaders, super fun to hang out with, and awesome frisbee players.  I feel comfortable around these guy friends knowing that they support me and have my back.

10.  Pay attention in class.
Don't listen to the people who tell you you don't actually have to pay attention.  Listen and learn.  Go to class on time, take notes, and do your homework.  Do your best at everything you do and glorify God with it.

11.  Don't be afraid of trying new things.
Burritos.  A couple years ago I had never tried a burrito, mainly because I'm a super picky eater.  But after my first time trying it I found myself craving them all the time.  I am now practically in love with burritos (don't worry, I make sure to keep it at a healthy level of obsession).  I never would have known that if I had chickened out and refused to try one.  You might be missing out on a potential favorite of yours because you're too afraid to try a new thing.

12.  Eye contact.
Eye contact is a precious commodity these days.  Everyone is so accustomed to looking down at their devices.  But looking at a person in the eye shows interest in them.  It shows you know how to hold a conversation and it also helps you relate closer to people.  Just... don't stare at people.  That can get creepy.

13.  Learn to step out.
One thing I have learned from living on campus is what it is like to be out from under my parent's roof.  And while I love being back under it (#commutinglife) there are many things I miss.  Mainly, it's just the feeling of being out on my own and feeling like my decisions can truly be my own .  Eventually it comes time to leave the nest (and in the most respectful way possible, I feel like my mind has even though physically I am planning to live at my parent's house 2 more years 'till I graduate.)

14.  Go without your phone.
Every once in a while it is so refreshing to leave your phone behind and just enjoy being with people, or embracing nature without being separated by a camera and filter.

15.  Be okay with you.
This may sound suspiciously like number 7.  Well it does.  Titles are hard.  But this time I want you to be okay with you, the you you see in the mirror.  Everyone has issues with body image at least to some extent.  And learning to love how you were made is never an easy thing.  I remember in middle school and early high school when there were a few select things I could list off as being my least favorite things about myself. Namely?  My eyebrows.  I have very bold eyebrows and I've never really cared to the extent of actually getting them shaped because Ouch! and it costs money.  Plus then you have to maintain it and it's just a hassle.  But even though it was my decision to keep them how they are I still wasn't thrilled with how I looked.  Through the years I took the slow journey of coming to appreciate how God made me eyebrows and all.  Freshman year of college I painted an abstract self-portrait in which my eyebrows were painted very boldly.  One of my peers critiqued it by saying something like "I love the eyebrows.  You made them really bold and if you had done it differently it wouldn't look like you."  Learning to like yourself is a journey and it begins with understanding and accepting that God knew what He was doing when He made you.  You are beautiful!

16.  Don't take yourself too seriously.
Laugh.  A lot.  Even at yourself.  Humility is big, and learning to be humble is one of those wonderful things where if you do it life will generally seem better, and if you don't life will teach you humility on it's own terms.  

17.  Know which relationships are top priority.
Boys, surprisingly, should not rank first.  Who would'a thunk? I'm still learning how to put my relationship with God before all other relationships.  After that for me comes family and then friend and romantic relationships.  "Seek first the Kingdom of God and these things will be added to you."

18.  Be organized.
Don't let your life get cluttered.  Not to sound like a mom, but honestly life seems to seem a lot less stressful and a whole lot easier when your work space, car, room, closet, dresser, desktop, and mind are clear.

19.  Don't hold on to friends who pull you down.
Like I said before, relationships are a two-way street.  Friends are there to encourage you, help you learn, and have fun.  I've had my experience with friendships that just felt draining before.  That's not healthy.  Sometimes it's better for you & even them to cut ties and move on.

20.  Read.  Read.  Read!
Reading is one of my favorite pastimes alongside with drawing and singing.  I love entering other worlds and enlarging my vocabulary (which reading naturally does).  Reading promotes brain growth and you also get to explore the world from the comfort of the armchair in your room.  Fill your bookcases, my friends, and explore the worlds inside the pages.

-XO Juls


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