Advice To Myself At 18-Years-Old

Last Friday G and I were leaving the county clerk’s office to apply for our marriage license when we ran into one of my high school teachers. Even though I graduated eight years ago (O.M.G. has it truly been that long ago?!) we recognized one another right away. Partly due to me working for him at summer camp for several years, but also because I come from a high school boasting an average of 30 graduating students each year. In other words, there aren’t that many students to forget.

After a bit of catching up, I asked him how his school year had gone and how many more days until summer break. I don’t keep up with my old high school so I was surprised to hear the senior class would be graduating the next day. The whole encounter had me vaguely reminiscing on the past and all the changes which have happened since I stood on the stage myself in my cap and gown.

Then today my Facebook’s daily memory was of my graduation. Looking through my FB photo album of that day in 2010 had so many memories flowing.  I could recall the feelings on that day: the fears of the future, the thrill of college looming, the excitement of my first summer as an “adult.” It was like looking into the life of a stranger. There have been many lessons learned since that day. So many experiences have brought me to where I am today and molded me into this 26-year-old Ashley.

The memories continued as I was lazily scrolling one of my nightly go-to apps and came across a great question posted by RobbeVermont. The user asked,  “What is something you wished you knew when you were 18 years old?” And as I read through the vast majority of the 10,800+ comments I realized so many of the life advice being provided were 110% on the money. Pulling all three discoveries together — the run-in with my teacher, the flashback of my graduation, and this Reddit question — I started listing a few key topics I wished I’d known upon leaving high school and considered what difference hearing that advice as an 18-year-old would have made. Perhaps none, but then again, maybe some…

You’re going to make mistakes, and that is okay.

Mistakes are a daily way of life for everyone whether they want to fess or not. Every day you are going to make a decision that may or may not work out in the way you intended. You might hurt someone’s feelings or say something without thinking or forget an important to-do item that causes stress to you or someone or something further down the line of time. The only daily guarantee is that every single person on this planet is not omniscient when it comes to how Life works.

This can be a humbling thought: that no matter how much experience or knowledge you receive, there will always be something you know nothing about. However, this can also be empowering. Use your lack of skill to better yourself, better those around you, and better the world. Making mistakes teaches you a new lesson every single time. Don’t get down on yourself for not being perfect because no one in this world is! Learning and teaching is an ongoing struggle, so throw yourself into the fight.

Apply yourself in the present and let the future worry about itself (especially if you choose the college track.)

I was that student in high school who skated through. Every class was easy for me and I excelled. By the time I made it to college though, I was tired of school. I was tired of homework and reading textbooks and listening to boring lectures that did not apply to my future aspirations. I was just plain tired of the norm I’d played for the past twelve years.

College could care less if I was tired though. College is the metaphoric high school bully who beats you up, laughs at you, and steals your lunch money. Except the beating lasts at least four years, the laughing can follow you through your career path, and your lunch money is thousands of dollars for a paper certificate. High school can never fully prepare you for what college is about to do to your health, sanity, and wallet.

Looking back, I realize I held a high disregard when it came to college. I was tired of school so I did not care about my college career. I didn’t apply myself while in college. In high school, I was the “the know-it-all” who could study five minutes for an exam and pass with flying colors and I expected the same results once I started at my university. However, college requires you to actually apply yourself and study and work hard. My main concern became my future — what would be my career, where would I end up, who would I be with, and how would I pay for it all. My current courses, and ultimately my present grades, took second seat to the future because I relied too heavily on my past successes.

If I could go back in time, I’d do everything differently. I would apply myself completely in every single one of my classes because each adds up in the long run. If you drop or fail one course in your early years of college, it is a big deal. Not only do you lose GPA status (which is incredibly important when job seeking or applying for graduate school), but you also lose credits necessary for graduation AND money for those credits. Can I express the importance of money in adulthood? The vast majority of college students come into their minimum-paying careers with $50,000 or more in student debt. Do not increase that debt by giving up credits or prolonging your graduation by forcing yourself into more semesters of college. Seriously. Be mindful of your present situation and go into college knowing every credit, class, homework, exam, extracurricular, etc. are preparing you for the best future possible.

Time moves at an alarming speed, so enjoy what moments you have.

They say time flies when you’re having fun. These last nine months of my engagement have flown for sure. But before I was engaged, time still flew through both the good and bad times. It seemed once I graduated high school, time started to slip by faster and faster. Sometimes I wonder where that time has gone, but then I reflect on all I’ve gone through and am thankful for each and every minute. Some were happy, some were sad, but all have helped me become who I am today.

Do not rush anything in your life. Enjoy the good times, learn from the bad times, and embrace everything in between. Everything shifts and changes, people come and go, and the memories we have of our time spent in this world are what we have to hold onto.  Remember we’re all given only a certain amount of seconds during our lifetimes, so why push any faster than another? Relish every second!

And relish every person who shares your time with you. Those in your life are what are most important, not the adventures, toys, or anything else. Tell your loved ones you love them because today will never come again and you are not promised tomorrow.

Heartbreak is a part of life. Use the situation to better yourself and your life.

Another constant in Life: you’re going to be hurt. Again and again and again. One of the pieces of marriage advice which G and I have been told multiple times (and depresses me each time I hear it) is even in marriage you’re going to have your heart broken. In any relationship where two imperfect individuals interact there is going to have differing opinions, beliefs, and backgrounds. You will never see eye-to-eye on every subject and that means someone is bound to be hurt somewhere along the line.

When I graduated high school, I also entered into a new romantic relationship. My first relationship actually. And over the past eight years I have had my heart broken by my first love, my second love, my third, and so many others. Heartbreak sucks, but heartache is a very real part of Life that we all must pass through.

One of the best pieces of advice I could give my 18-year-old self is each time your heart is broken use the situation to better yourself and your life. It was not until after my first break up that I began to discover who I am as a person. I was forced out of my comfort zones to make those discoveries, but that shove into reality was exactly what I needed. I found my courage and flexibility and fierce independence. I learned what I wanted for myself without the shadow of someone else in my mind. I tried new hobbies and met new people and placed myself into new situations all to discover who I wanted to be and what made me tick.

And most of all, I learned to love myself, something which you must do before you honestly and unconditionally love someone else.

In the same way I fell in love with myself, I also learned a lot of my faults through reflection of failed relationships. It is easy to look back on your exes and call them out for what they did wrong, but it’s much harder to reveal your own mistakes and failures. But you know what? You have them.

When I look back on my relationship with X, I realize I was too dependent on my significant other and was demanding on my expectations for him. When I look back on Wilbur, I see how I allowed myself to be quiet on topics that deeply hurt me and cast a blind eye to the reality of the relationship. Light has been shed on issues I had never noticed during the relationships. Issues either in my own personality or in the make-up of the relationship. As I’ve come to take responsibility for my own faults, I can work to better myself to not only have a happy life but also a healthy relationship with G. And that is worth the heartaches of my past, and the heartbreaks of my future — knowing I’m continuously growing and moving forward to be the best person I can be for my loved ones.

Also, remember relationships do not necessarily mean romantic. Relationships can be friendships, partnerships, colleagues relations, etc. All of the above are going to break your heart in some way and it is on you for your reactions and transformation. (Which brings me back to #1 above in that we all make mistakes. Live and learn, friend, none of us are perfect in this process.)

High school really isn’t that important.

In the end, I wish I would have known at 18 that high school doesn’t have a huge impact on the person I am today or the position I am in now. I was the stigma of a nerd in high school, but I was also a hopeless romantic with low self-esteem and no clue on where I wanted to go in my future. My closest friends in high school contact me maybe once or twice a year nowadays with the exception of Saki, who is my monthly wine date. I have no urge to return to my high school for alumni sporting events or host a class reunion or any other nostalgic reason. High school is strictly a short, four-year blurb in the past. A blink in your life, honestly.

Once you leave high school, you begin again. You start fresh in college or trade school or a career. High school labels stay in the past and you can create the persona for which you want to be known for the future and the things you did in high school no longer matter. If you were homecoming queen or a spectator in the stands, if you were valedictorian or 150th in your class, if you shot baskets or skipped classes or played trumpet or, or, or… None of that matters once you graduate. You’re now a nobody who can make a new name for yourself and become who you want.

So enjoy the celebrations and your summer before launching into the next stage of Life. Make memories, make mistakes, and most of all, make yourself who you want to be.

And for my personal favorite piece of advice shared on the AskReddit thread:

It doesn’t get easier. You get better. – mastercadium

Life never gets easier. The trials you had in high school will be replaced with trials of college or work or relationships or simple Life. It’s just a fact. So work with what you have and learn from every experience to become the best person you can. That’s the Human Project after all, right? We’re all just rambling through Life with no clue on how to obtain the ultimate goal, but we’ll get there though, friends. We aren’t alone in our attempts and we all have people to help support us, encourage us, and teach us.

Love the Life you have and know high school were not the best years — those are yet to come!

Is there anything you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self? What is it?Please feel free to share here or on RobbeVermont’s growing thread. You never know who is reading and who may need that little nugget of advice as they begin their adult life.

Warmest wishes for a happy Life, blogosphere, 

Savory Sundays: Banana Boats

G and I are gone camping this weekend with our bridal party in a joint Bachelor/Bachelorette Camping Weekend. We’re enjoying a number of awesome meals and snacks prepared by our best friends, Luke and Leia, and are positively in heaven. There is nothing I love more than campfires and good company.

As I head off to do some hiking in the dunes, I wanted to leave my recommendation for the weekend’s snacks: banana boats. This is a snack I remember making every year at summer camp as a kid and brings back great memories of carefree days. Expect a savory and sweet treat where forks and napkins are necessities!

Banana Boats

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Moderately Easy
  • Print

Gather 'round the campfire for these ooey gooey treats.

Want a new snack while camping to give your S’mores a run for their money? Try this customizable goodie and prepare to be amazed!

Ingredients

  • 4 bananas
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows

Directions

  1. Cut four 12-inch sheets of foil
  2. Make a deep lengthwise cut along inside curve of each banana, being careful not to cut all the way through
  3. Open slit to form pocket.
  4. Fill each banana with 2 tablespoons chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons marshmallows, or any optional additives below
  5. Wrap each banana in foil, making sure that foil opening is on top
  6. Using tongs, set wrapped bananas in coals of campfire
  7. Cook 8 to 10 minutes
  8. Carefully remove from fire, peel back foil, and serve immediately

    OPTIONAL
  • 1/2 cup crushed Golden Grahams (to make a s’mores banana)
  • 2 Tbsp caramel syrup
  • 2 Tbsp hot fuge
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Enjoy, friends!

Reblog: To The Best Friend Who Cut Me Out Like I Never Existed

I have gotten into the habit of reading some awesome blogs over the past few weeks. As someone who is trying to grow her blog into something more, learning what sparks interest for both readers and myself seems the best route. During my wind-down time each night, I scroll through WordPress, PuckerMob, and other mass-writing arenas to find new and exciting pieces that catch my eye.

Unfortunately, all credit for this little thinker goes to my mama. (Shout out!) She sent me a link to this article written by Gabby Elizabeth on PuckerMob knowing the topic is near and dear to my heart, especially as I busily plan my wedding. The author is writing a letter to that old best friend who simply disappeared from her life. Actually, she is writing an open letter to any best friend who has left someone’s life. We’ve all been there. We’ve all struggled with feelings of betrayal and guilt and confusion and anger and sorrow after someone we cared for has left us, sometimes with no explanation.

Any relationship is work. And the loss of a friendship will bring about differing views on both sides. As some of the commentary on this article reference, some phrases in Gabby’s open letter make her into a victim. Yes, sometimes that victim-mentality is a result of the end of a friendship. Both sides will have opinions on the “break up.” There’s always two sides to every story. Yet I think there is a lot to say that Gabby is beginning to be at peace with this new lack of a friendship. We each go through grief differently, and if she needs to go through denial before coming to contentment, then all the more power to her. I’ve been there; I’ve done that.

For me, I’m thankful for this open letter and found it calming. Perhaps you also need to know there are a lot of others out there who have triumphed through this same scenario. Here you go, friends — read this and find some solace. Personally, I want to thank Gabby for putting many of our thoughts into words.

To The Best Friend Who Cut Me Out Like I Never Existed

Growing apart from anyone is hard, but growing apart from a best friend is one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. I am able to forgive you. I have new best friends who have showed me some of the most incredible friendships I could have imagined. But I still think about the past, it’s not easy to move forward from.

There’s a lot of things that I can do when I think about our time as best friends. I can question if our falling out was my fault. I can blame myself for it. I can be nostalgic and miss you dearly. I can even get angry that you seemed to want to lose our friendship.

But here’s what I can’t do.

I can’t devalue all of our memories, they were wonderful. I can’t take away from the friendship we had, or act as if it never happened. It’s not possible. You were a huge part of my life and you helped shape me into the person I am today.

I’m not mad at you anymore. I don’t have bad things to say. It’s beneath both of us to hold on to any bad blood. But I still can’t help but wonder what happened. What was it that made you let go of the person you called your best friend? Did it hurt you to throw me away? Did you miss me?

It seems like a lost cause to have any hope of getting your side of the story, and I can accept that. But when I look back at my life, just know that you are still the reason for some of my favorite memories. I can still smile at the things we did, and the way we were. I hope the same goes for you.

I don’t know if you’ll ever see this, but I hope that you will because I need you to hear this:

Thank you for being there for me when nobody else was.

Thank you for helping me break out of my shell.

Know that I still treasure some of your advice, it’s always in the back of my head.

And that I still talk about some of our memories. They’re too incredible to not share.

I look at old pictures a lot. More than I should, probably.

Our friendship meant the world to me….

And your betrayal was the hardest thing I have ever went through.

I never will understand your reasoning for letting go…

But I don’t think you’re a bad person…

And I want you to be happy.

I miss you, though.

Written by Gabby Elizabeth for PuckerMob on Friday, May 11, 2018. Find the original post here.

Savory Sundays: Crack Potatoes

I realized most of my recipes involved chicken and all of them were an entree, so today I’m bringing a great side dish option to your table: Crack Potatoes. True to their name, these glorified cheesy hash browns are extremely addicting and typically have no leftovers. This is my usual dish to bring to cookouts, potlucks, and sporting events knowing I won’t be bringing any home. (Which is a great excuse to use a disposable foil tray!) With the first warm-weather holiday rolling around next weekend, I’ll be drawing this little diggy up for Memorial Day celebrations and thought you might need a little inspiration for something new to bring with you…

Crack Potatoes

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

My most-asked-for go-to at any get-together with friends and family.

Have a cookout coming up for Memorial Weekend or needing a dish to pass as you watch the Cubs at a friend’s house? Whip together this easy recipe and bring the instructions with you because everyone will be asking to take it home with them!

Ingredients

  • 30oz bag of hash browns, shredded
  • (2) 16oz sour cream
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 6oz bacon, crumbled
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 package ranch mix

Directions

  1. Combine sour cream, cheese, onion, bacon, and ranch mix
  2. Mix with hash browns
  3. Add mixture to greased 9×13 pan, evening out along all sides
  4. Cook 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees
  5. Serve immediately (also good as leftovers, if you have any)


I usually buy a small pouch of real bacon crumbles rather than frying my own. You can also use an additional ranch mix packet for that extra PUNCH of flavor.

Enjoy, friends!

Why We Chose An Adults-Only Wedding

Our RSVP deadline was last Friday and though we had received the majority back through the mail, we still had a few invited guests to reach out to in order to confirm their attendance. As one who dislikes any sort of confrontation, wording my messages correctly was important as I didn’t want guests to feel attacked. I considered how best to phrase my inquiries so no one took my affront as saying, “You didn’t send back your RSVP, are you coming or not?” I know better than most how busy life can get and can only imagine replying to a wedding invitation takes second/third/fiftieth priority following Spring ball games, cleaning schedules, school graduations, weekend vacations, etc.

I completely get it.

However, as I took to reaching out to those last 50 or so guests who hadn’t responded, a similar topic arose as to why some would not be able to attend our celebration. As this post’s title states, G and I chose to have an adults-only wedding. Since this is the hot topic of the week, I figured I’d dive into it in case anyone else is mucking through this sticky scenario as well. To the brides-to-be, breathe. This is a long-standing debate among many couples and families — you’re not alone — and one which takes special care to maneuver.

When G and I were settling our guest list, the topic of children emerged like a snarling dragon shortly into the discussion. As a wedding coordinator in the past, I had the majority of my weddings be adults-only. I personally liked those kids-free celebrations more than the ones which invited children. (I have a number of stories involving kids at weddings I coordinated — like the one where I had to go on the roof to track down two teens who had gotten bored and decided to go smoke a joint instead. Fun times!) But such parties were berated by a number of critics, including this certain article, and made us seriously consider our options. The Number One thing we wanted for our wedding was for it to be a fun, stress-free, and memorable celebration with our closest family and friends. We weighed the options. We asked for advice. We researched other’s weddings. And in the end we made our decision: to have an adults-only wedding.

And here is why:

1. We Love Your Children
First off, G and I absolutely adore children and we especially love the children of our loved ones! We cannot wait for the day (a few years in the future) when we become parents to our own little sunshine. In no way was our decision to host an adults-only wedding meant to be mean or exclusive. Rather we have some extremely legitimate reasons that broke our hearts to make that choice.

2. It Is A Financial Issue
When we began our guest list, we had a goal of less than 170 guests to be included. And even that amount was stretching it. Neither of us are keen on being the center of attention (I tend to have panic attacks when put in front of an audience) and neither of us wanted to spend a fortune for a large wedding. By the deadline of sending our invitations, though, our guest list had climbed to a hefty 250 guests, and that was only our adult guests. I have a fiance who has an incredibly wonderful but incredibly large family, and each member was important to us and our families to invite.

However, as we began looking into renting options, that hefty number seemed to glare at us. We realized we wouldn’t be able to utilize our inexpensive tent find of only $600 because the tent was simply too small. Which meant an increase of $800 that original amount to double the tent plus add tables and chairs. With knowing our families have been blessed with an abundance of little ones, adding children to our guest list would have meant an additional 80 seats, 10 tables, and the necessity of an even larger tent! As two people paying for the majority of their wedding and wanting to also have some money left over after the Big Day, we had to make cuts. And don’t even get me started on the additional cost of mouths to feed!

Unfortunately, when a budget is tight, the 2-year-old who will remember nothing or the 7-year-old who could care less about a wedding (but yet still cost something) were easier to cut than the friend known since kindergarten or the great-aunt who would never let you forget she wasn’t invited.

3. It Is A Legal Issue
Another huge impact on our judgment was in concern of our special event insurance. I spoke about our decision to purchase special event insurance a few months back in my post Special Event Insurance: Yay or Nay?. We opted to get insurance at our family’s private residence where we are hosting our reception. In the unlikely circumstance that something were to go awry at the farm, we wanted to have coverage for ourselves and our loved ones. Especially with alcohol being served, this was a necessity for us.

We were pleasantly surprised to find out special event insurance wasn’t expensive in terms of what is covered — we paid $125 for a great policy. This policy covers an adults-only event though. An additional $500 fee is associated with policies including minors being present. And if a minor were to be present at the reception under our current policy, the contract would be null. Legally (and financially) our only option was to keep the wedding adults-only. In one way this made things easier for us because we didn’t have a “gray area” on how we defined kids; our insurance policy states no minors so our wedding is restricted for 21-years-old and older. In another it brought some stress as it made us feel trapped in the off-chance a guest chose to bring their minor with them anyways. But we had to choose to draw the line.

4. It Is A Personal Choice, And A VERY Difficult One
The fact should be stated that G and I did make the wedding adults-only before all the financial and legal logistics became clear. And for those reasons we are thankful we did; I’m honestly not sure how we would have handled things had we invited children before coming to terms with everything else. However, it was our decision to have an adults-only wedding and we had a few personal experiences as to why.

First, we had a discussion on alcohol at the wedding. With G’s past and family members who do not drink, he preferred we not have any alcohol available. For me, I preferred we do. Not only because I would like to enjoy a glass of wine as the bride, but because my family do enjoy drinking (in moderation) at celebrations. Plus, in my experience, dry weddings tend to have a less-entertaining atmosphere and earlier end time. We compromised and settled for a self-service beer and wine bar with a limited number of drinks available. This meant both G and I were on alert that minors may be at risk since we were not going to hire a bartender, and chose to make the wedding 21+ only.

Second, not everyone likes kids at weddings. I don’t mean that in an insensitive or heartless way, but simply as a fact. A child’s behavior cannot be predicted at all times. G and I attended four weddings last summer, and somehow sat next to children at every single ceremony. Though the tykes were adorable, neither G nor I could hear the vows being exchanged at any of the weddings. At one ceremony we missed the final kiss because the little boy in front of us decided to stand up in the pew. At another we spent an hour having the backs of our seats kicked because Mom and Dad didn’t like discipline. As a couple wanting the best experience possible for our guests, hosting an adults-only wedding seemed ideal.

5. We Did What We Thought Best
Lastly, we knew we’d have some backlash for our decision to have a kids-free wedding. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we all make choices in our weddings that are going to offend certain people. It is inevitable. Our decision was not based on our preferences, or even our wallets. Our decision was made by what we thought was best for all involved in our Big Day — from the bridal party to the invited guests to even the vendors. We simply took what we considered the best route to take.

With all this being said, there are a few things I would have done differently. The biggest difference would have been adding “Adults Only” to the invitation. I know, I know, I know, EVERY SINGLE WEDDING ADVICE COLUMN TELLS YOU NOT TO DO THIS. Trust me, I know. That’s why I didn’t add those two words. Instead I kept to “perfect etiquette” rules: I addressed each invite to the adults only, I asked family and friends to spread the word, I made sure to mention this detail numerous times on our website, etc. If there was an award for correct etiquette when it came to this topic, I’d be receiving a trophy.

Yet there’s no trophy in my hand and a few hurt feelings from my guests.

As a bridal convict, I would highly advise adding those two words. Some may be offended. (But honestly, if they are, come on…) Some may never even notice. But maybe those who have children will, and you’ll be confronting the issue months before the RSVP is due. Frankly, you have enough to worry about when planning your wedding so just add “Adults Only” and move on to the next phase in the process.

All in all, I tried my best to navigate this sensitive subject. For the most part I succeeded, but there were still a few guests unhappy with our decision. Hopefully you can take some of my advice and use it for your benefit in your own planning.

As for this post, I hope I didn’t continue to offend anyone. The main point I am attempting to make is this: take a step back and realize how much thought goes into each and every decision of wedding planning by the couple. The vast majority of couples do not purposely offend their closest loved ones guests. I mean, they did consider you important enough to attend their multi-thousand dollar party, right? Use an adults-only wedding as an excuse to spend the night with your spouse, drinking, laughing, dancing, and celebrating one of your family member’s/friend’s most important day!

Happy planning, friends,