Advice is one of those concepts that seems to go in one ear and out the other. So many people give it, but it is never really received or processed. When I think about why I am the why I am, it all points to the advice I have been given by people that I respect and look up to. I now realize just how big of an impact it has made on me. A lot of advice is so cliche that we chuckle and brush it off, but when you actually think about what the string of words mean, it makes a lot of sense, and is a logical way to live my life. In this post, I want to highlight just ten of the most important, perhaps cheesy, pieces of advice I have gotten over the years, and why they have been so important to me.
1. “If it isn’t fun, don’t do it.”
Seems simple, right? Growing up, this is what my dad would tell me and my brother often. Usually, it applied to in-house sports. While he doesn’t say it much anymore, he doesn’t have to, because it has stuck with me ever since then, and has generalized from beyond the days of orange slices at soccer practice. It’s pretty vague, but it applies to so much. While it seems like a “well, duh” kind of thing, it is harder to follow than most would think. This is due to expectations from others, feelings of failure, not knowing what you really want, and self standards. I have been stuck in situations where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue with what I was doing or not, and ultimately, the decision was made because of this. Choosing to retire from gymnastics was a giant decision that I had to make. I was going back and forth for weeks, and I still remember my dad coming up to me and dropping this advice as he had years before. When it was put that way, the decision was made clear for me that being in pain wasn’t fun anymore! Just because you have loved something for a long time, doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. My dad always assured me that choosing not to do something anymore because it wasn’t fun doesn’t mean failure, and that is what has validated my decisions all these years. Unfortunately, this did not apply to mandatory things such as math classes.
2. “Know your worth”
One cannot simply go through life without adversity, or bad news hitting you in the face a couple times. I know I have had my fair share. Maybe you didn’t get selected for an internship, a relationship didn’t work out, you were stuck in an unfair situation, or someone made you feel small. These things can really put someone in a tailspin if they don’t believe in themselves and what their importance is. It has been enforced time and time again that everyone has a gift to contribute to someone, something, or somewhere. My parents have made it very clear what I contribute, and just how important it is to never doubt myself. Being able to know who you are and being confident in what you bring to the table is like hitting life right back in its face. The hard part, is waiting for that someone, something, or somewhere to pick up on it, and realize just how amazing you are, but ultimately, it is worth the wait no matter the situation. Being confident in my abilities, and knowing my worth is how I have the upper hand in tough situations, and it is what gives me power to pick myself up and prove everyone wrong who doubts me.
3. “Stay true to yourself, no matter how hard”
This one can be tough with the constant feelings of peer pressure to be something you are not, fit in, or be anything but different. Through middle school, high school, and college, I have stayed true to my values. This is mostly due to the teachings of my parents, and the great role model I had growing up, being my brother. It is easier to stay true to yourself when you see someone else stay true to themselves, and end up in a great spot while doing so. Everyone’s values are different, but for me, following the rules, and engaging in behaviors that keep me on the right path is a goal I intend to maintain. Choosing the right decision is not always the easiest, but each time I do, it strengthens my integrity, becomes easier, and more people become aware just how much I value my values! I don’t mind being “different” or making the minority decision if that is what keeps me confident in myself and successful. I have the goal of being a model to others who struggle to make the tough, but great, decisions that they ultimately want to make, but just don’t know how to yet.
4. “Don’t let anyone or anything define you”
This one also goes along the lines of being confident in yourself, but for me, it is more aimed at the “anything” rather than the “anyone.” To those of you who have followed me on my FND journey, or have read my FND blog post in the past, this is the piece of advice I got from many people. There have been a lot of opportunities where I could have let my disorder get in my head, and control me. I like to say that while my movement disorder can control me physically, I absolutely will not let it control me mentally or emotionally. Every time it got in the way of gymnastics, school , friendships, and relationships, I could have let it eat at me, but I chose not to every time, and I am stronger because of it. To those of you who are perfectionists like me, or put a lot of pressure on themselves to do well, you are more than a test grade, a bad hockey practice, mediocre gymnastics meet, a lousy inning, or a bad decision. Knowing that I am in control of what I let myself be defined by, is a power that has so much potential. I refuse to let someone who doubts my abilities, or something that tests my abilities, get in my head. Filter out the bad!
5. “Watch for deer”
So far, I’ve talked a lot about being confident in yourself, and knowing what your abilities are. When it comes to deer running in front of your car, NONE of that matters. My family has a running joke about this because every single time (literally every time, I am not exaggerating this) we get in the car to go somewhere, my mom says “watch for deer” before we even have the chance to buckle our seatbelt. My dad, Christopher, and I will not be shy to say we get annoyed of it, that is, until a deer actually runs in front of the car. It is one of those things where you think that it won’t ever happen to you, but living in Minnesota at this time of the year, it is starting to become inevitable. I have avoided a couple run ins with a deer just because my mom’s voice reciting this phrase is like a song that gets stuck in your head. You know what they say, mother is always right!
6. “Take at least five minutes for yourself everyday”
This is one of those pieces of advice that I can’t remember who said it, but ever since, it has stuck. Five minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but when I am running from class to class, on top of going to meetings, writing papers, working out, cramming for a test, volunteering, worrying, stressing, (I could go on, but you get the idea…BUSY), those five minutes are the most refreshing and glorious five minutes that I have ever felt. Being a college student, an employee, athlete, parent etc requires so much giving, and sometimes, you just gotta take something for yourself. It doesn’t matter how you spend those five minutes, as long as you take them. I’ve spent my five minutes by writing lists, a note to a friend, starting a new blog, stretching, crying, laying on the floor, sitting, a short nap, calling my mom, doodling, social media, and staring blankly off into space simply because I can. It also doesn’t matter where you spend these five minutes. Don’t deny it, we have all taken longer in the bathroom just because it is a safe haven.
7. “Take things one day at a time”
Another great piece of advice that I hear way too often, but seem to have the hardest time doing. This is why my dad tells me this at least three times a week. Being a future oriented, type A person, I am always planning and looking ahead. This is an absolutely terrifying and terrible thing to do, because looking at all the things you have to finish before the month ends is unrealistic, and sometimes I forget that a week is actually longer than it sounds. My parents know very well that I get ahead of myself and don’t “live in the now” very often. I’m a pro at looking for the next thing that needs to be done. So far I have improved to taking things by a week at a time rather than month at a time. For those of you who struggle to deal with everyday stresses, and days seem to never end, it is comforting to know that each new day is a clean slate, and that some days will be tougher than others. We often always forget to tell ourselves that some days will be easier than others as well. This can be a hard thing to do when it feels like there’s so many things that need to be done, but think of it this way, would you stuff a whole 20 piece McNugget in your mouth all at once and choke? Or would you take it one nugget at a time?
8. “Do yourself a favor and go to bed”
To college students, this should be taken to heart because we seem to think we can solve all of our problems at midnight. So many of us stay up terribly late to finish homework, cram for a test, or just sit there worrying about everything under the sun. We always complain about how tired we are, and how badly we want to go to bed, so why don’t we? In the end, losing sleep in order to study doesn’t help at all. Sleep is healing, calming, and something we deserve at the end of a long day. As I sit in my room and my watch tells me it is almost midnight, my dad’s voice will now pop into my head telling me this. So if you are one of those people who stay up all night thinking you are doing yourself a favor, but can barely function the next day, do yourself an actual favor and go to bed like a normal person. I promise you, your episode on Netflix will not disappear.
9. “Don’t be afraid to try something new”
After living the same routine of school, gymnastics, and homework for 16 years, it was hard to imagine anything else other than that. When gymnastics was no longer a part of my equation, it gave me a lot of free time to fill. I had the option of not filling it, but because I have always been told to try new things even if I don’t picture myself doing them, it made me want to explore more of my options. I am so thankful that I did. I love writing for the Gustavian Weekly, as it is another outlet where I can voice my thoughts just like this blog is. I will admit, I was hesitant on starting my blog at first, I chewed on the idea for about two years before I actually did it, and I am so happy I did. Think about it, what do you have to lose by trying something new? Maybe a little pride if you fail miserably, but also, maybe you gain the ability to laugh at yourself, or really find what you are passionate about. I joined the Gustavus choir for a good two months before I realized that I would still rather stick to my performances in the shower. It is better to try something and learn it isn’t the right fit, than to leave yourself wondering.
10. “Don’t worry about the things you can’t control”
No matter how many times I hear this, I struggle with it. Telling me not to worry about something is like telling me not to breathe. Even though I consciously know there are things totally out of my control, I still feel like I have some sense of control over it in some way. The example that comes to mind is the “gymnast lean” (all my former teammates and coaches know what I am talking about). In the gymnastics world, it is so common to see a team lean to one side to try to “help” their teammate performing stay on the beam if they wobble, or try to make it over on bars. We know it does absolutely nothing, but we do it anyways because deep down we believe it does. While I know that I can’t control people’s decisions, or the results of something, I know God can, so I have turned to him when I feel like I need to feel some control. Knowing He has a plan, gives me the comfort I need to let go of my worries. Besides, worrying about something that you literally cannot do anything about is not productive, it is more like shooting yourself in the foot.
It is interesting how certain pieces of advice come to mind when a situation arises that requires it. There is a quote, verse, or advice that can apply to every situation, but it is times where we really need them, that we remember it. That’s how the system works though; when you need a boost, a few string of words are there to give you a boost back to baseline. Even the most cheesiest, shortest, cliche words are all you need to keep moving forward!
Stay warm, y’all!