Lists of Note

Ten Pieces of Advice to My Former Self

  1. Drink more water, alright?
  2. Get an old fashioned alarm clock. A phone is just not the same.
  3. Bangs are a big life commitment. Think long and hard before taking the leap.
  4. Sometimes it’s okay to spend money on yourself. As Tommy Haverford would say, “Treat yourself!”
  5. Stop checking Instagram ten times an hour. Definitely not productive.
  6. Apply for things you think are ‘above you.’ You never know– why not you?
  7. Call your family members often.
  8. Read voraciously. The world belongs to those who read.
  9. Write, even when you think it’s crap, just keep writing.
  10. You have a nice laugh. Use it often.

My Favorite Relationship Advice

IMG_4737I once read an incredibly simple, obvious piece of relationship advice that struck me like a bolt of lightning. It was: They either like you or they don’t. 

Yup, that’s it. Nothing too earth shattering, but for some reason it has stayed with me ever since. Most people know whether or not they like someone. It’s not typically something they have to think long and hard about. I remember once I asked a boy if he liked me, and he said no almost immediately (lol). Plain and simple. It doesn’t matter what lipstick you wear, how long you wait to text him back, which movie you ask him to see. If they don’t like you, there’s really not much you can do to change their mind. And vice versa, if they do like you, chances are nothing trivial will jeopardize that, which I find incredibly comforting and reassuring.

While it might sound over simplified or callous to some, I find this advice liberating because I’m an over thinker to the max. I will slave away for hours crafting the perfect text to send to a boy I like, when in reality a simple ‘hey’ would do just fine! Basically, I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff so freakin’ much.

Of course there are cases where people change their minds about someone over time (this relationship crap be complicated), but in my experience I’ve found this advice helpful 99% of the time.

What do you think, does this advice resonate with you? I’m dying to hear your thoughts!IMG_4716



Why Ascribing Intent Is Making You Miserable

IMG_3270.JPGYour friend never responded to your text. Another driver wouldn’t let you merge lanes. Your housemates didn’t invite you to dinner.

Incidents like these occur every day, and they’re usually things we have no control over. Nine times out of ten, our first reaction is to take offense. We assume it was a personal insult, a slap in the face intended to hurt us. We walk around feeling offended, and can let it ruin our day or even our relationships. By ascribing bad intent to other people’s actions, we are making ourselves miserable.

In today’s digital world, taking things too personally is one of the quickest ways to drive yourself insane. Happy people do not ascribe bad intent to innocuous actions.

That friend who never responded to your text? She doesn’t hate you, she was probably just in class and couldn’t get to her phone.

That driver who wouldn’t let you merge lanes? He isn’t a jerk, he probably just didn’t see your car.

Those housemates who didn’t invite you to dinner? They’re not intentionally trying to exclude you, chances are the dinner was an unplanned, spur of the moment outing.

You see, by playing out the realistic intentions behind any scenario, you can talk yourself down from the edge. I am not an expert at this by any means. Ascribing intent is one of my main struggles in life. Perhaps it stems from lack of self-confidence or impatience, but I tend to be over-sensitive and easily hurt. I get caught in the downward spiral of over-analyzing, and can quickly work myself into a panic over the most trivial matters. Too many tears have been shed over things that never actually happened. It’s a gift, really.

In addition to talking through the most likely reason behind any scenario, I also find it helpful to eat a big slice of humble pie. Believe it or not, you aren’t the center of the universe. The world does not revolve around you. People do not exist solely to text you back promptly. They have bigger, more pressing matters to attend to. As obvious as this sounds, it is actually quite a hard pill to swallow. It requires constant reminder to shift your mindset, take a step back and view the big picture. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes a few failed attempts before you finish that piece of humble pie. Humility is a learned discipline, it takes practice.

Lastly, I find Teddy Roosevelt’s words, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” to ring true when talking about intent. The times when I’m most hurt by what I think other people did, are the times when I compare myself to others. It usually looks a little something like this:

She didn’t call me back because she prefers hanging out with her other friends.

They didn’t tag me in that picture because I’m not as pretty as everyone else in it.

He didn’t like my post because he doesn’t think my caption was as funny as others.

Comparison and intent form a vicious cycle. But don’t despair, there is hope. Plenty of people have learned how to take things at face value, and nothing more. They do not ascribe intent, and live happier lives as a result. It comes with practice, maturity, and healthy boundaries. If your phone is the main source of most of your misery, maybe try unplugging every once in a while. If certain friends seem to always leave you out, try inviting them to do something for a change.

If you go about life with a well-intentioned heart, chances are everyone else is too.IMG_3262.JPG

3 Tips for Avoiding Overwhelm

As exciting as the start of a new school year is, it can also be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. After my first few days of class, I’ve realized I am a little rusty at this whole school thing. I haven’t written an essay or read a textbook in over four months, even my handwriting looks sloppier! I am a born stresser– it’s one of my spiritual gifts actually. It doesn’t take much to overwhelm me, so I’ve had to learn how to minimize overwhelm in my daily life. Here are three practical steps I take when I have too much on the brain:
1. Do A Brain Dump- A brain dump is when you transfer everything in your brain onto a piece of paper or other device. I often find myself lying in bed at night unable to fall asleep because of the million future ‘to-do’s’ floating around in my head. But if I write all of those down onto a ‘note’ in my phone or a Post-it, I am able to relax, knowing I can address them again in the morning. Try it tonight- I promise you will instantly feel less overwhelmed!
2. Know Yourself- Are you more productive in the morning or at night? Do you thrive in silent or loud settings? Are lists helpful or stressful to you? Asking yourself questions like these helps you know yourself better and then set yourself up for success. If you place yourself in optimal situations, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed and more likely to perform at higher levels.
3. Get Moving- This is the simplest, most common advice you’ll hear from everyone and their mom: Exercise clears the brain! When you exercise, you aren’t thinking about anything, just getting through the motions. Afterwards, though, you can look at your to-do list with more clarity and practicality. If I’m in a slump or feeling over-emotional, I try to get outside and get moving. Even though it initially feels like I’m wasting time I could be devoting to my tasks, I do it anyways because I am always ten million times faster and more productive after exercise than before.

I hope you’re readjusting well to school/work life friends! Can you believe it’s already September? I sure can’t. Christmas break will be here before we know it!

Question of the Day
What tips and tricks do you use to avoid overwhelm? I’d love to hear- lord knows I need them!

10 Words of Wisdom To My Pre-Expat Self


Howdy friends, how’s it going? I recently submitted this post as a guest post for the blog Route Bliss. I thought you might enjoy reading it here as well, so I hope you enjoy.

Hello friends, Micah here from Passports and Paintbrushes. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share a little bit about myself and my life with you today on Route Bliss. I am a Southern California native currently living and studying abroad in northern Germany. My major is creative writing and my minor is German, and my blog is the place where both these passions converge.

Deciding to move abroad is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and also one of the most challenging. Every day is a new adventure, filled with some pretty incredible highs as well as some pretty crummy low. The cultural differences, language barrier, and distance from loved ones can all heighten the chaos of normal life. I’ve had my fair share of hilarious and awkward situations when things get lost in translation, aided of course, by the fact that I’m an awkward person in general. I wouldn’t change them for anything though, because they are what have shape me into the strong, determined person I am today. I don’t think there is any way to fully prepare for the expat roller coaster, but if I could go back and give my pre-expat self a few words of wisdom to ease the transition, it might have gone something like this:IMG_5493.JPG

1. Set realistic goals- Before moving abroad, I majorly romanticized and over-simplified the whole experience in my mind. I thought living in Europe meant living in a fairytale. Reality check: It doesn’t. I set unrealistic, unattainable goals for myself, and these goals were doomed to end in failure and frustration. For instance, I whole-heartedly believed I would be fluent in German by the time I moved home in August. But I quickly realized it takes years to be fully fluent in a language, and I simply don’t have enough time. So I was forced to adjust my goal and instead strive to be significantly better at German by August than I was when I arrived. Now that is a goal I know I can achieve and won’t beat myself up over in the process!IMG_5501.JPG

2. Friendship takes time- Silly me, I thought I’d step off the plane and immediately make a million life-long friends! I’ve never had too much trouble making friends at home, so I figured abroad wouldn’t be any different. I soon discovered that friendship takes a lot of concentrated effort and time! Friends weren’t handed to me on a silver platter- I had to work for them! It took putting myself in some unfamiliar, even intimidating situations to start building connections. You might not click with everyone right away, but don’t give up. Join a book club, a gym, a Bible study, etc. Take an interest in their lives, meet them half way, and above all, be yourself. If you stay true to whom you are, genuine friendship is sure to follow.

IMG_5530.JPG3. Homesickness is normal- I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time feeling guilty about my homesickness. So much so in fact, guilt became one of my primary emotions, right up there next to hunger and tiredness. I told myself, “a million people would kill to be in your shoes, why do you want to go home so badly?”! But then one day I realized (light bulb!) it’s perfectly normal to feel homesick. It means you come from a good home, a home worth missing. I wish I knew a cure-all for homesickness, but it honestly varies for each person. Find the right balance for you, whether that be Skyping every day or only once a month. Everyone abroad struggles with homesickness no matter how grateful and happy you truly are for the opportunity!IMG_5474.JPG

4. Simple tasks may be harder- i.e. Grocery shopping may cause a break down! Unbeknownst to foreigners, there are certain unspoken rules and assumptions about grocery shopping in Germany such as, bringing your own bags to check-out, or knowing that shopping carts require a one euro deposit before use. It’s funny how the most mundane things can become incredibly overwhelming! You may have to buy sour creme instead of whipped cream a few times before you learn the right words, or carry your groceries in your backpack until you remember to bring bags from home. These are lessons that can only be learned through trial and error. There are no books about the subtitles of every day life in another culture. Baptism by fire baby!IMG_5473.JPG

5. Fake it till you make it- You will need to perfect your, “I understand what you’re saying” face when people speak to you in another language, even though you have no clue what they are talking about. Sometimes abroad you just have to act like you know exactly what you are doing and that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. If you feel out of place in a situation or lost in translation, just nod your pretty little head and smile. Slowly over time, the fog will clear and you will know what is going on. It’s incredibly frustrating not to be able to chime in on a conversation because you don’t know the right words or to feel isolated in the midst of a large crowd. Don’t worry- just smile and try your best because it will get easier.IMG_5460.JPG

6. The little things are what count the most- If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or even bored, add a little unnecessary sparkle to your life to cheer yourself up. For instance, I was down and out about my pathetic German skills the other day so I bought a bouquet of fresh peonies (my favorite flower) for my nightstand. You wouldn’t believe the wonders fresh flowers can do for your mood! Every time I glanced at them I was reminded of how beautiful life is and how luck I am to be living it. And POOF…German failure completely forgotten! Little details here and there can add up to something significant.IMG_5442.JPG

7. Different, not deficit- When I first arrived, I was shocked by just how many things were different from home. My immediate reaction was to say, “That’s weird.” For instance, I learned Germans often eat a heavier meal for lunch and only a light snack for dinner. There is nothing strange about this custom what so ever, but because it was unfamiliar, I labeled it as weird. I’ve since learned to retrain myself to view things as different, not right or wrong. Just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s worse. This practice has led to a greater appreciation of different cultures, a more open mind, and wider point of view.IMG_5419.JPG

8. Relationships back home will change- You know the saying, Out of sight, out of mind? I’ve found this to be true with some relationships, and false with others. There are times when you will miss someone so bad it hurts and feel left out or forgotten. But, there are other people from home you won’t think twice about. Neither is wrong, it’s all part of the process. Work hard to maintain the relationships you care most about, but don’t try to keep up with every single one. The ones that are the strongest are the ones that will last. Cherish them and you’ll be reunited before you know it. Chances are, you’ll pick up right where you left off!IMG_5393.JPG

9. Go ahead, ask for help- This advice is coming from little miss independent! I’m serious… I think the Kelly Clarkson song was written about me. Pre-expat Micah would never have asked for directions or help of any sort.  She would struggle with it on her own until she either succeeded or gave up. Now, though, I ask for help all the time. I don’t hesitate to ask for directions, recommendations, advice, etc.! Asking for a hand doesn’t make you look needy or incapable, but rather it makes you look humble and open-minded. It says, you obviously know your country better than I do and I would be honored if you shared it with me! IMG_5374.JPG

10. It’s ok to go it alone- I used to never do anything alone. Go ahead; ask anyone. I was the girl who needed someone to accompany her to the bathroom! Since moving abroad, however, I’ve started to love doing things by myself. I learned the hard way that if you always wait for someone else, you end up missing out on amazing opportunities. Make plans to have a solo adventure and odds are, someone will ask, Hey, can I come along? But even if they don’t, traveling/spending time alone can be wonderful. You notice details you might have missed in a larger group and it’s much easier to make new friends with other travelers or locals.IMG_1190

The expat roller coaster is certainly not easy, but it is most definitely rewarding. Choosing to live abroad is to choose a life of perseverance, humility and adventure! And it is 100% worth it. If you live abroad or are considering taking the plunge, I hope my words of wisdom and reflections have been informative and encouraging. I wish I could go back and tell my pre-expat self this advice, but in the words of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (I’m trying to be insightful and poignant here at the end), “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”IMG_5352.JPG