Switzerland 2018

Me and 3 of my childhood friends have talked about going to Switzerland together for some time, and I’d started wondering if a trip like that could work out. Well, this year the stars (ahem, our schedules) aligned and we made it happen. A lot of research went into the trip, and it went off with only a few nerve racking moments.

Courtney lives in New Zealand, but was planning to spend a month in Germany where her sister lives. Brett, Min, and I planned our Switzerland trip with her meeting up with us in mind. I’m on the Scott’s Cheap Flights mail list, and had been monitoring that for a while, and tickets popped up for our time frame. Me and the boys purchased our DC to Zurich tickets and off we went!

 

Where We Stayed In Switzerland

After a lot of research we decided to stay in the town of Frutigen. If you plan on using public transportation your entire trip like we did Frutigen is an amazing choice. We could walk to and from the train station, and we had an amazing restaurant as well as a Migros grocery store (great prices) right up the street as well. Plus, the view from our AirBnN? I mean. Incredible.

We purchased groceries with the plan to eat breakfast at the AirBnN, pack lunches and snacks, bring water in our own water bottles (refill wherever), and then to eat dinners out. Food ended up not being super costly with only eating one pricey meal out a day.

Food & Transportation In Switzerland

We purchased a 4 day Swiss Travel Pass for our time in the country and it turned out to be a great choice. The pass allowed us to take buses, trains and boats all over. You hopped on and eventually someone would come through and check your ticket. Show them the Swiss Travel Pass and you’re good!

We were able to take a bus up to Adelboden from Frutigen, a boat ride with amazing views from Interlaken to Brienz and, of course, the train to places like Thun, Interlaken, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Zermatt, etc. We planned our days so that we would leave the train station in the morning and go to the cities that were all located somewhat near each other.

I recommend the Swiss Travel Pass for SURE. It saved the hassle of driving and parking, and the views are incredible along the way.

Where We Stayed In Milan

After a few days of seeing the beauty that Switzerland had to offer, and I can’t put in words how beautiful it was, we spent a night in Milan. We hopped on a train from Frutigen, and were in Milan about 3 hours later. Again, you simply get on the train with ticket in your possession and they come through and check it at some point on the journey.

We purchased a 24 hour public transportation pass when we arrived, and stayed in the Navigli district which is right on the tram line. We did a LOT of walking in our short time there, and saw a lot. The highlight though was in the evening when we ate dinner along the canal in the Navigli district near our AirBnN.

We ate most meals out in Italy because it was MUCH cheaper than Switzerland had been and also…pasta and pizza.

Our second day in Milan we did some more site seeing, then took a train to Zurich. We stayed in a hotel there that had a shuttle so we could get to our flight home early the next morning. My only regret is not getting to spend time in Zurich and see what it had to offer. Next time!

London Layover

We left Courtney in Switzerland and me and the boys headed back to the states by way of London. We had a 9 hour layover there, so I’d found coupon codes to purchase tickets on the Heathrow Express. We hopped on the train once we got to London, dropped out baggage at a sketchy looking convenience store where you can reserve baggage storage through bag nanny and off we went. We walked a lot, ate some good food, and saw Kensington Palace. It was worth taking the time to leave the airport and do some site seeing.

After that we headed back to the airport where we ended up being delayed 6 hours before our flight back to DC. After we got home I filed a claim through British Airways for the flight being 6 hours delayed and they reimbursed us. We ended up getting more money back than we’d spend on our flights altogether. So if you’re even in the situation, give it a try!

The trip was amazing. I still can’t believe we made it happen and I can’t wait to go back. I found myself so many times throughout the week just feeling grateful for people and places, and beauty, and the ability to take the trip with these people I’ve known since I was 5 years old.

 

New Years Haiti Trip 2017

On the first full day of my 3rd trip to Haiti, I looked at my travel companions and said, “Maybe my years of taking these trips are done.”

I felt terrible that day, so I blame my statement on that. The reality is, I just couldn’t seem to focus on the present, because I was still thinking on all things 2016.  On January 1st, I was ready for normalcy of some sort, and a trip to Haiti did not fit into that.

By the end of the second day I was back in the game thanks to some sleep, prayer, fresh air, and time. Basically it took a full day for me to chill out internally.

This was my favorite trip to Haiti yet. No matter how hot, sweaty, tired, or sore we got during the day, the nights ended the same. Some people playing games, and others laying in a field staring at the sky. Everyone pointing out the constellations, and me, trying my darnedest.

YES I SEE ORION’S BELT, BUT WHERE ARE HIS LEGS.

The best night was the one we stayed out long enough for the generators to shut off. To be staring at what already seems like a pitch black sky with the brightest stars the moment the electricity cuts off, is amazing. Dark to darkest. Bright to brightest.

The community we worked with was impacted by Hurricane Matthew and the people are working hard to help each other rebuild. Money is being committed to build 30+ homes in this community. Homes that can handle storms better. I can’t wait to see how they’ll thrive in the years to come, and I’d love to be a part of it.

We held a soccer tournament during our time there. Several Haitian teams, and one U.S. team. I loved seeing how seriously the kids took it. How much pride they took in winning, and how much joy they got from the prizes.

What I want people to know about Haiti is that it’s beautiful. The people are grateful, the children are joyful, and if you ever get the chance to travel there with a group of almost-strangers, go for it.

Iceland 2016: Day 3

– General Overview – Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 & 4 –

On Wednesday we decided to do the Golden Circle. This is a route that offers lots of different things like a crater, geysers, a waterfall, and a national park. Because of how exciting the previous day had been we were a little underwhelmed at first on the GC. To be fair, it was pouring rain, so we couldn’t truly SEE what we were driving by most of the time.

When we saw the Geyser, were were all “…that’s cool”, but then we realized that if you stand on a certain side of it you get soaked. We sent Crystal in to try it with the GoPro, and it was hilarious. So we all did it. We were already soaked, so WHY NOT. This is what started turning the day around for us all.

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After the geyser, we headed to the Pvingeler National Park, and drove around. The wind was REALLY picking up at this point. We had made a list before we went of things we wanted to accomplish on the trip. This included to stand on a grass roof, and roll down a hill. We did both of this things in the park. Again, we were already soaked so, down the hill we went.

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From there we headed toward our next stop for trying to find the Northern Lights. We grabbed Subway on the way (so American of us) because it was all we could see and now were not only soaked, but some of us were a bit HANGRY.

We found a forecast for the Northern Lights and headed out. With the constant rain, I doubted we would find a place that had cleared up, but what else do you do at night in Iceland, but search for the lights?

We drove further and further from our host city, not a care in the world. NOTHING could keep us down! Until we turned onto a road and hit a massive pothole, which tore up one tire and flattened one. In our rental car. In the middle of nowhere. Where the very kind people spoke very little English.

Mark called the rental car company who told us that they would not come get us, and that we could leave the car on the side of the road, and walk to a hostile or hotel. In the 27mph winds. LOL. No. We did not do this. We saw a police car a little ways down the road, and Mark walked down to talk to them. In the mean time, we stayed in the car and Snapchatted the events, while Beverly called insurance and credit card companies.

A woman came up to our car after a bit and told us to come with her, and Mark would be close behind…so off we went. She seemed nice enough.

I mean, a lady with 2 car seats in her back seat isn’t out to murder stranded motorists, right?

We found out she was the tow truck drivers wife. I was in the front seat, and being very good with human people like I am, I immediately asked her a long question right after she said she spoke very little English. I am awkward.

She drove us to the tire place, and eventually Mark and the police showed up with our rental in tow. The after hours guy kindly fixed the car, and sent us on our way.

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3 things:

1. We didn’t have to pay anything, because the police had complained about that very pothole already to the city. Someone had called the police when they saw us stranded and the cop had actually come out to guard the pothole while they waited for the city to come fix it. This worked in our favor, FOR SURE.

2. We were told that the roads we had been driving had shut down earlier because the wind and rain was so bad. Our bad.

3. The police called the car rental company for us, because it’s actually illegal to leave ones car on the side of the road. Thank you, Iceland police.

Day 4
I had big ideas about using our last morning there to go see Reykjavik, or our city a bit. Our bodies ideas were more along the lines of, “let’s have breakfast at the coffee shop and take our sweet time because we are so so tired”.

After our breakfast at the adorable shop, we headed back to the Blue Lagoon to grab some photos, then dropped off the rental car and headed home.

– General Overview – Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 & 4 –

Iceland 2016: Day 2

– General Overview – Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 & 4 –

We didn’t head out for the day until about 10, because we were all moving real slow with the time change, and the exhaustion from the 2 days of getting to Iceland.

We decided to head to Black Sand Beach, which was 2.5 hours from our AirBnB. We had read about an abandoned U.S. Navy plane you could hike to on the same route, and we had determined we were going to make that hike. Rain or shine.

When we planned our trip we all picked something that we definitely wanted to do. Mine was the Black Sand Beach/search high and low for the Northern Lights. Beverly wanted to see a herd of sheep crossing the street, and stand in the middle of them. Crystals was the abandoned airplane. We knew were going to hike and find that dang thing no matter what.

Along the way to the beach, we saw a waterfall from the road, and realized we could drive to it. It was incredible. You could walk behind it. Once we were done there we walked down the path a little ways, and found an even better waterfall spot. That spot ended up being one of the highlights. As we were leaving, a film crew was coming in to film something in that same spot.

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After the waterfall, we happened upon a glacier. It was a lot more amazing than I would have expected. We walked it a little bit, and I’d recommend taking the time to do so if you get the chance!

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After the glacier, we drove out the Black Sand Beach which was really beautiful. It was rainy, foggy, and windy though so it was a little anticlimactic, but I was glad to get to see it. We each picked rocks that fit our personalities (whatever that means) and left them behind for some soul to find.

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THEN, cold and wet, we ventured to the abandoned plane.You park on the side of the road, and take a path that’s about 2.5 miles, and eventually you come upon it. Wear tennis shoes if you have old lady flat feet like me. The walk isn’t bad if you’re prepared!

We found the plane right as it got dark, but WE FOUND IT. Crystals dreams came true. Life was good. Then we walked back in the dark to our car. I’ve never been so happy to sit in side a warm car (until the next day, when we were even more frozen).

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I think we all figured out early on that if we wanted to experience everything in our short time there, we would have just be ok with feeling miserably cold and damp most of the time. Because, adventure.

After the plane, we headed home, did some laundry and called it a day.

– General Overview – Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 & 4 –

Iceland 2016: Day 1

– General Overview – Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 & 4 –

Iceland 2016 Day 1
Our plan was to arrive at 6:00 AM Monday morning, grab breakfast, check in to our AirBnB, check out the city we were staying in (Harfnajour), then head to the Blue Lagoon.

Because we were delayed 6 hours, we ended up just checking in and heading to the Blue Lagoon. We chose that for our first day, as it’s relaxing. Knowing we would be flying overnight, and have a 4 hour time change, we wanted something easy the first day.

It was a great decision. We bought the Comfort package which gets you towel usage, one free drink at the swim up bar, and Lagoon usage. We stayed for almost 3 hours, and it was amazing.

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Blue Lagoon tip: Hold on to your towel. Perhaps, keep it in your locker, while in the Lagoon. All the towels look the same, so some of us had our towels taken, or used. They’ll trade them out for dry ones though. I also brought my own flip flops.

That night we grabbed pizza for dinner in our city, and headed toward Reykjavik in search of the Northern Lights. We found a place the Internet had said was a good spot. With it being rainy, and cloudy the entire week we had VERY little chance of seeing the Lights. [Spoiler Alert: We didn’t see the lights during our trip. But, the search for them gave us some adventures, especially on our last night there.]

After that, it was back to the apartment to sleep for the first time in a whole lot of hours.

– General Overview – Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 & 4 –

Iceland 2016: Overview

My friends and I went to Iceland last month, and it was amazing. People have asked a lot of questions about the trip, so I figured I’d do a few posts to give you an idea of how we did the trip. Especially since blogs were helpful when we were planning.

– General Overview – Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 & 4

FLIGHTS
We found tickets from Baltimore to Reykjavik for $267 round trip. We parked for about $6/a day at a local hotel, and took a shuttle to BWI. This worked really well for us, and was worth it even with the 3.5 hour drive from Newport News.

This was our first time flying with WOW Air. The flight there was smooth, once we got up in the air. We did have plane trouble that kept us on the Tarmac for 6 hours. [Be flexible. We planned out so many aspects of our trip, but flexibility became the name of the game, for sure].

There wasn’t excellent communication from the flight crew to the passengers, as to how long we may be stuck,what was happening, etc.But they basically gave us all the food on the plane for free by the time we did actually take off. All in all it was fine, but it changed up our day one plan a bit. We were too delirious to be mad, and were just thrilled to arrive there alive, albeit 6 hours later than expected.

PACKING
You can now carry on a bag that’s 22 lbs, as well as a small purse/laptop/camera bag. If you’re going for 3-5 days you should be able to work with that, and avoid purchasing checked baggage. Especially if you stay at a location with a washing machine. At the time of our booking the carry on luggage allowance for WOW was ONE bag that was 11 lbs or less. Due to this, our group of four purchased one checked bag to share ($100 round trip). It was helpful, but we could have managed without.

I basically packed 2 whole outfits with the goal of washing clothes midweek. Layers were important. We spent 3 days walking around Iceland in the pouring rain. My advice is to take two coats if you can. Even if you just take a rain coat to wear over whatever warm coat you take. [Embrace the weather. If you’re blessed with a sunny week, thank the good Lord. But if you’re given a rainy, windy, cold week like us? EMBRACE IT. You can, and will, be warm and dry later. And…ONE day I’ll see the Northern Lights, right? I’m not bitter. You are.]

AIRBNB
This was my first time using AirBnB. It was a great experience really. We got to stay in an apartment in Hafnarfjordur, which meant kitchen and washing machine (no dryers). Both were very useful. Also, it beat the cost of a hotel. Divided among 4 people, it was about $80/each for the week.

This leads me to food. We bought groceries when we arrived, and packed food for lunches and snacks each day. A lot of the places we drove to weren’t really near restaurants, so it ended up being a lifesaver. We ate a lot of meals on the road, and saved a good bit of money. We ate meals at a couple of cafes, and got pizza one night as well.

TRANSPORTATION
We rented a car through Thrifty (more about THAT adventure on Day 3). Gas is much more expensive there, but we still did well with that cost, as we were in a tiny fuel efficient death trap, or if you prefer its given name, a Ford Fiesta.

The car was tiny, and we were carrying around most of our clothes, and food each day. If you plan to drive a lot, and can splurge on a little bigger car I say go for it.

Before you go, get on the Google Maps app, search the area you’ll be visiting in Iceland, and download that map offline. This will help you get around without needing data or wifi. The maps stay on your phone for 30 days and proved helpful.

GAS
We found that when we used N1 gas stations we could use our credit cards without a PIN number. We tried two other stations that would not let us. So, before you go, get the pin number, or stick to N1.

We didn’t use cash while in country. I had taken some just in case, but I used my card everywhere I went.

– General Overview – Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 & 4 –

Choose Your Hill Wisely

To those within the church, who speak with disgust about “the gays”. Those using hate filled words fueled by your love of God, or the Bible, or maybe just your need to be right.

This thing you see as the “biggest problem facing the church EVER IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY”? It’s in your church. I promise. I believe that if we really understood and accepted this fact, it would drastically change the conversation we are having around this topic.

When we stand on our pedestals (I’m looking at you Facebook memes), and speak hatefully about this topic, we silence people within our church. We make church and God unsafe.

I’m not debating whether homosexuality is right or wrong. You’re allowed to believe what you want to believe about that. Because, FREEDOM OF ALL THE THINGS.

But, choose wisely the hill you’re willing to die on.

Are you willing to allow your hateful words to run people out of the church? I believe God is going to hold us accountable for that. I mean, there’s a chance that those words make Him just as sad as you believe being gay makes him.

I mean….maybe…I don’t know…moving on.

Are you willing to continue heaping shame on people, some of whom may be your closest friends, without even realizing it?

Let’s work on making the church a safe place for people to ask questions, and wrestle with things. A place where people can come to conclusions that are different from yours, without being shamed for it.

Before you post or say certain things, consider the fact that your words are not “loving”, but homophobic.

Side note: Every time you say “I have gay friends, BUT…” and proceed to speak hatefully about the entire population of people, an angel loses its wings. Or something like that. No one is fooled. If those are words you use to preface hatred, I’m willing to bet these friends are not so inclined to call you the same.

Hashtag Purity Culture

By Church standards, I am a successful product of church culture.

I’m straight. I’ve never been drunk. I only swear sometimes. I go to church by choice.

And, above all, I guarded my carnal treasure [Win A Date with Tad Hamilton reference, anyone?]

I did all of the things, and followed all of the rules, and at 31 years old I’m not scarred by my experience in the church.

I’m finding that last part is the real miracle. But in a lot of ways I’m an exception.

Last month I read through tweets that included the hashtag #PurityCultureTaughtMe. I wasn’t at all surprised by what I found.

#PurityCultureTaughtMe that men have no responsibility for their desires. The responsibility is all mine to keep their minds pure. — Alya Marquardt (@AlyaMarquardt)

#PurityCultureTaughtMe that I would only be valued or respected in equal proportion to how much of my skin was covered up. — Jessica Rackley (@imjessrackley) 

#PurityCultureTaughtMe to judge my fellow women by their wardrobe first and their character second.— Violinknitter (@violinknitter) 

Here’s what I tweeted:

#PurityCultureTaughtMe that it was normal to hold an all girls assembly centered on modesty while boys went to play basketball in the gym— Cindy Warren (@cindy_warren)

I’m not against teaching abstinence (although, that could be a whole other post, y’all). I’m not against teaching girls to respect themselves and their bodies.

I’m against creating a culture where girls are sexually assaulted, but somehow believe it is their fault or that it makes them less valuable.

I’m against creating a culture where girls get pregnant and are treated like outcasts. Often while the male in the situation is treated very, very differently.

I believe that we can teach guys from a young age that they alone are responsible for their actions. Will their hormones rage? YES. Will it be difficult to focus from time to time? YES. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that your teenage son is going to think about sex whether there’s a girl in a bathing suit or a girl in a full length head to toe covering.

It’s just, I’ve long felt that we focus so much on modesty from an early age that we create the thing in men where they don’t believe they can control themselves. And we create a thing in girls where they believe their body is the key to receiving attention wanted, and unwanted.

I remember in high school when we went to the previously mentioned all girls’ assembly. We sat for what felt like forever and they told us about modesty and about not causing the boys to stumble. They told us not to front hug boys. And I clearly remember asking the guys afterward what their meeting was about. They had literally spent 5 minutes being told something along the lines of “respect the girls”, and then they went and played basketball in the gym for the rest of the time.

Hey, teenage boy (or grown man, while we are at it), a female front hugged you? You saw a girl with a shirt on that didn’t reach her neck? CALM DOWN. She is not responsible for your morality. She’s not.

My internet friend, Tiffany’s response to my tweet made me laugh, but it was also really telling:

@cindy_warren The fate of every young man’s purity was resting on our well-covered shoulders.— Tiffany Dorrin Olsen (@NotThatOlsen)

Instead of teaching our daughters that they are responsible for the thoughts and actions of every single man, maybe teach them how valuable they are, wholly, as a person. A smart person.

Maybe we teach our sons about self control, and taking responsibility for their own actions.

I was having a conversation about this topic with my best friend from childhood, and she said some things that I thought were really great:

“…and what if we put more interest into girls minds instead of their bodies. Because self confidence will create more modesty than shame ever could”

and “instead of spending all that money on True Love Waits rally’s, let’s put that money toward finding strategies to boost teenagers self confidence and prepare people to be independent, productive citizens”

I think she’s pretty smart.

You’re Brave Too

There is this trend among the twitter-sphere of creating really amazing 140 character thoughts about living life to its fullest. About how if something you’re doing isn’t scary then it’s not brave or valuable. If you hate your job, then you AREN’T LIVING. FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS, every single human.

I like the thought that there’s something better than the 9-5. If I walked out of my job today it would be scary, but it would, quite honestly, only affect me.

Well…me and my parents, when I would inevitably have to move back in with them. Hashtag YOLO.

Point is, if I had some big dream, I could easily attempt to follow it.

The 140 character sentences encourage so many to get up and fight, to leave jobs, and pursue dreams. Many of the people who heed the advice will have their lives changed for the better and THAT’S fantastic.

But there are so many more people who get up and go to their jobs each day- jobs they don’t love, because that’s what the next thing to do is. Because that’s what bravery looks like for them.

My parents felt very strongly about putting my brother and me in a private, Christian school. This isn’t the way everyone needs to go, but for them it was incredibly important. So they got up each day and worked. They BOTH worked 40-60 hours a week. There was always just enough money. Rarely more than enough. They came to our sporting events when they could, and we were fine with it. They always seemed to be there for the ones that really mattered. They did what worked for their family.

The people that take giant leaps of faith are brave, but so are the ones who work countless hours for their families.  The men and women who don’t leave their 9-5 job even though they want to. They don’t leave because the bravest thing they can do that day is to stay.

It is ok to be THAT person. It’s OK NOT to walk out of your job today with a big ol’ middle finger to the boss. Your work and your life is still so, so important. It’s also OK to be the person who takes the leap of faith.

If it’s not scary, that doesn’t mean you aren’t living. Nor does scary always mean it’s what you should be doing.

You are not required to fail between 1 and 53 times to make the work you do matter. Surprisingly, you don’t even have to fail once for it to be meaningful.

Taking the leap of faith is brave, but so is working a job that you don’t love with every fiber of your being. Supporting your family is brave. The way you choose to do this is up to you.

The world needs the dreamers and the adventurers, but it also needs the people who stay. The ones that keep our systems running, so the dreamers have the opportunity to even try. We are all just trying to figure out this thing called life. Do what works for you and your family.  That’s brave.

Dear Me…Us…We?

Dear 19 year old Cindy,

You like people a lot. And you like night-time sleeping very little. This means you are up all hours of the night NOT STUDYING, but talking to all of the people in your dorm. This also means you sleep for hours during the day. At 31 years old you will still not have figured out how to sleep at night, and you will always be tired during the day. Still worth it.

As for liking people, and wanting to help them. This will cause you to choose Psychology as your major. The day you receive your diploma you’re going to realize you don’t actually want to go into counseling. Today Cindy is here to say CHOOSE SOMETHING THAT WILL MAKE MONEY. You like computers. You’re good with them. Go that route. Learn something that will always be useful.

Thirty-One year old Cindy is very happy but she would have a lot more money if you would CHANGE YOUR FREAKING MAJOR.

I know there are a million dudes at your college. You are not going to get with them. Maybe because you spend all your daylight hours sleeping and watching Friends and Homestar Runner.

Also because Fear of Talking to Dudes + You = SINGLE FOR LIFE…or at least that seems like the formula? I’m still not great at math. ANYWAYS, 31 year old Cindy still has not found “the one”, so we will ALL HAVE TO WAIT and read that letter in a few years.

Would you like some more advice? Awesome.

1. Break some rules. Seriously. Not the big ones, because KNOW THYSELF. But, take some risks. Around your 30th birthday, you’re going to realize you’ve missed your window of opportunity for making bad choices. Past college, people’s level of grace for poor decision making decreases greatly. Also, you have the good fortune of being 19 pre “Everything Goes Viral”. You’ll understand that one circa 2004.

2. In a couple years you’re going to realize the world is full of some kind of crappy people who do kind of crappy things, sometimes in the name of Jesus. You are officially an adult, 19 year old Cindy. And while you still have a lot to learn, you aren’t dumb. You get to stand up for yourself and for others. When your challenging the way things are at your school/job is a threat to men who would prefer you not rock the boat, don’t back down. You’re not wrong. It is entirely possible for their systems to be flawed.

Lasatly, be kind to people. Don’t be a jerk, even when it’s the easy thing to do.

Sincerely,

31 year old you

P.S.- People are going to try and make you walk at your college graduation. They’re going to tell you that you’ll regret it if you don’t. Spoiler alert: You aren’t going to regret it.