To the Class of 2016: Ten Things I’ve Learned

To all my sweet, young friends who will be graduating tonight. I want you to all know how proud I am of the humans you have become.

As you embark on this thing called adulthood, let me pass on a few things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe one or two of them will help you avoid some unnecessary pain or frustration. There are many other things I have learned, but no one wants to read an infinite list. Ten will do for now.



1.
Don’t believe your own press. As you grow older, things will be said or written about you, both good and bad. You’ll even say things about yourself, both good and bad. We’ve all had to make ourselves look as good as possible for a job interview or an audition. Maybe things will even be printed about you. People will put you on a pedestal, and they will think you can do grand things. Don’t get me wrong; you can absolutely do grand things, but the minute you replace confidence with ego, that’s when your downfall begins. Stay humble. Stay grounded. Know who you are, and know who you’re not.

2. Find your people. Don’t settle for any group of friends that you can’t be yourself around. Be your quirky, weird, fun, absolute true self, and keep being that person until you find a group of people who are similarly quirky, weird, fun and true. Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ men and women. People who suck up to you are not your real friends. Don’t allow it. You can’t grow without positive resistance. Conversely, don’t allow yourself to be bullied by anyone. No one has the right to tell you how you should live your life. Or to make you feel small or unwanted. This isn’t high school anymore. You can walk away, and it’s a beautiful thing. Keep walking until you find your people.

3. Never stop learning. If you are pursuing higher education, take it as far as you possibly can, and past that, keep learning. Even if you’re not pursuing higher education, keep questioning, never take anything anyone says at face value, and never accept the answer, ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ That’s they way it was always done before you got here. You bring value to everything you do. Keep reading, watching, listening, learning. You can never have too much knowledge. Also, travel. See things, see them in person. Meet new people, seek out opportunities to grow your mind, and expand your personal world.

4. Find your calling. You may or may not work some really crappy jobs in the next few years. Keep working, because they are the jobs that make you humble. A job is different from a calling. A calling lights a fire under you, brings you joy, challenges you, and makes you look forward to another day. Find your calling, and find a way to get paid for it.

5. Do all things in moderation. This is so important, and so very simple. Don’t drink/smoke/sex/drug/study/stress/sleep/work/play/spend too much. All of these have the power to take over your life. Some of them can ruin your life, and destroy many years, or shorten your life by many years. I’ll let you decide which those are, but they all have that power, if you give it to them. Don’t.

6. Choose a mate you like. Hormones are extremely powerful. You will have feelings for people you didn’t believe were possible. Strong, passionate, lusty feelings. Don’t listen to feelings. Do listen to that inner voice. It’s not enough to love someone, you must like them too. Do you like who they are? Do you like who you are when you are with them? Do they support you? Do they challenge you? If the only thing you have in common is physical attraction, then what will you have when that fades away? Choose someone who doesn’t push you to do things that make you uncomfortable, instead, choose someone who makes you the best possible version of yourself. Choose someone who brings you peace, not turmoil. Choose someone who makes your heart, mind, and soul say, “Ah. There you are.”

7. Be kind. Always. You are busy living your story, but you have no idea what your fellow man (or woman) is going through. Be kind whenever possible, and it’s always possible. If you find yourself becoming jealous of another person, ask yourself if you are willing to put in the amount of work they have for the result they have. If you are, then do it. If you aren’t, then be happy for them, and stop being jealous.

8. Learn to read body language. This will save you years of heartbreak and wonder. Learn to listen to what people say with their bodies, not their mouths. If the two don’t match, it is the body language you should believe. It is the purest form of truth.

9. Keep your sense of humor. Know that Life only gets harder. It will not always be kind, forgiving, or fair. Especially fair. Bad things will happen. Good things will happen. Sometimes, they will happen at the same time. Keep your sense of humor, because if you lose that, you could possibly lose your mind. Someone you love may not love you back. You might not get the job you know you were meant for. Eventually, you will lose people you love to distance, breakup, or death. This is Life. But you are in it for the long haul. Hang on, because it can also be beautiful, and full of wonder. Keep going for those moments. The big ones, and the small, simple ones. They make all the bad times worth the journey.

10. Seek God/Don’t blame God. He is the ultimate teacher, granter of wisdom, favor, and love. Seek Him in everything you do. He extends the hand of friendship to every human being. Those who accept it live an enriched life. Be careful to understand that it is not an easier life, in fact, at times it could be harder. In that vein, do not fall into the trap of blaming Him when Life beats you up. Trust Him. Trust that he will work all things together for your good. Bad things happen because this is Life, and this is a world with good people, bad people, disease, accidents, and tragedy. Know that He weeps with you in the bad, and rejoices with you in the good. Know that He loves you more than our human hearts can understand. That is, until you become a mother or a father. Then, I think possibly you will understand the depth of His love for you.


I don’t have all the answers, but these things have worked for me. In short, welcome, my friends, to all the possibilities of your Life. What an exciting adventure awaits!

 Happy Graduation Day. 🙂

35 Days to 35: Joy Comes in the Morning (6 More Days)

“…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” – Psalms 30:5

I went to bed with a book, a some furry people and a Hershey bar. I fell asleep around midnight and slept fitfully, waking around 6:30 a.m. I tried to go back to sleep, but when I was problem solving in my head about the day to come, I knew it was no use.

I decided to make the best of it by cooking a nice breakfast and photographing the sunrise. I sat in front of the glass door facing the rear of the property with a cat on each side and snapped photos every few minutes.

I like the above image. Though fashionably late, the sun teases me with his presence. A promise of the day to come, and the certainty of a fresh start. I certainly need the fresh start.
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35 Days to 35: Even Farm Dogs Get Cold (8 more days)

Day Four of being snowed in the house.

I didn’t even bother to get out of pajamas. The day was spent, as per usual, in front of the computer making book revisions with furry supervisors, candy, and copious amounts of water, hot tea, and Dr. Pepper. (Liquid of champions).

Around 5:30 p.m., I decided I needed a break. The mail hadn’t been collected, so I spent five minutes suiting up in order to fetch it. The end result was that I looked more like Randy in “A Christmas Story” than I care to admit.

I waddled down toward the driveway, wind stinging my eyes and crystalizing the tears that involuntarily welled up. I passed the garage where my car is securely stuck, and walked on down the driveway, drifts reaching up to my knees at some points. Finally making it to the mailbox, I opened it like a pirate finding his treasure chest. Oh! The battle it took to make it here! Oh the riches that undoubtedly awaited!

It was empty.

“Figures.” I thought, and trudged/waddled back up the driveway. The chickens had obviously not been let out today, so I needed to get them food before dark. Back at the house, I opened the front door and let out an exuberant Riley. He began his sprint toward the chicken coop.

IMG_9789

Only, today, he got stuck.

The snow was legitimately more than he could jump over. I did not feel that bode well for me and my analogy from yesterday. He made it to the shelter of the chicken coop and waited for me while I fed them.

When I left, he just stood there, shivering. I told him, “You have to make it! I told everyone on the Internet that you were Farm Dog!”

He looked at me, probably thinking, “Just pick me up and I WILL make it. Even Farm Dogs get COLD.”

So I did.

I carried him back until the snow levels got lower. I set him down when he could make it and he sprinted happily toward the house, waiting for me at the door.

If I wanted to get analogous, I’d say that sometimes we need to let our Owner carry us over the rough patches until we reach the safety of home.

Or I could just straight up say, “Stay inside! It’s cold!!”

Both are true. 🙂

P.S. Riley has the perfect outline of Abe Lincoln on his right side. I think it shows up quite nicely in the featured image.


Right at 35 days before my 35th birthday, Rachael and I found out that a book we wrote about our experience making our first film “No Lost Cause,” was being returned to us by the publisher after a year of waiting for it to be printed. Instead of wallowing in our collective misery, I committed to blogging every day while I searched for ways to overcome this perceived rejection and obstacle to our goal. I currently also have about three other projects brewing at the same time, and write about the progress of each of them. This is part of that series.

Read the first entry here: https://ashleyraymerbrown.com/2015/01/23/35-days-to-35-dealing-with-rejection/

35 Days to 35: The Gift of Peaceful Geese

Aching muscles and stiff joints were my alarm clock and a tinge of leftover stomach malady was my snooze button.

I had only been awake twenty seconds, and I sat there– just sat there, eyelids heavy with a weariness that usually comes after a long day of work. There’s a lot of things I’m good at. Mornings just isn’t one of them.

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35 Days to 35: So many, many shades of grey

Yesterday, I said that it was the most boring entry thus far on my journey blogging about the creation and distribution of our book.

I was wrong.

Today. Today is bound to be the most boring. It was all shades of grey. Not the naughty kind, the literal kind that come from turning about a billion color photographs taken during the filming of No Lost Cause to ‘black and white’ or, more accurately, ‘grey and less grey.’

First, I had to locate all the original photos used in the book. Thankfully for present me, past me had sorted most of those away in a folder. For the benefit of future me, present me then re-saved all those same photos in a different folder, optimistically labeled ‘black and white.’
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35 Days to 35: Cheating on Simon

I have a confession.

Once a week, every week, I sneak off and visit Mike. I meet up with him and kiss his face and tell him how handsome he is and how much I love him. And then I go into another room and find Wiley and tell him the same thing.

Then I try to make time to give Gigi, Dolly, Bob, Sabrina and many, many others a brief hug or kiss. I tell each of them how special they are, and how good they are, and how loved they are.
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35 Days to 35: Six Toilet Day

There is a saying that goes, “Never ask God for patience.” I would like to amend that to say, “Never ask God to help you become more humble.”

He will. He totally will.
There is absolutely nothing more humbling than cleaning a toilet.

No, wait.
There is absolutely nothing more humbling than cleaning a toilet that isn’t yours.

Hang on.
There is absolutely nothing more humbling than cleaning a toilet that isn’t yours in three separate locations. Six times. In one day.
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