Courtney Rust: What I Haven’t Learned Yet

by: Courtney Rust

1. Making a to-do list is not the same thing as doing the things on the to-do list.

I love lists. And not just in a love-between-friends kind of way. I am in love with lists. I even have a special notebook designated for lists in which the first list in it is a list of all the lists that it contains. Constructing a list makes me feel like I’ve actually done something productive with my life. And that feels real good. Problem is, this is where I stop. I use lists to stave off responsibility, believing that acknowledging what all needs doing in my life is sufficient enough action for the time being. The items on my lists get buried or forgotten, or else continue to show up on each new installment of what all I need or even want to spend time doing. I hope that someday I’ll learn that I need to do a bit less listing and a bit more living, and then I’ll finally get around to those archery lessons I’ve been meaning to take since I was 12 (The Hunger Games movie has significantly rekindled my interest in this).

2. The general public really doesn’t care about my day-to-day life

I’m a rather paranoid person, and I’m always afraid that the people around me are critically evaluating my every move. Each instance of inadvertent eye contact could actually be a stare of accusation. Every whisper carries the possibility of being a derisive comment. And if I happen to walk past a group at the moment someone laughs? Well, you can bet that I will spend the next half hour examining every minute detail of the situation until I can finally accept that maybe it was just coincidental timing and not that my gait was somehow visually offensive to them and, oh gosh, probably is to the rest of the world as well. But the reality is, I lead a pretty unobtrusive life. And people have infinitely more important things to do than observe and deconstruct the way I walk. Except for when I trip over the same crack in the sidewalk on the way back to my dorm each day. I really don’t blame anyone for snickering.

3. Email is a valuable and easy-to-use tool for communication

Each new bolded subject line in my inbox sends a shiver of dread through me because, holy electronic mail, Batman!, someone is communicating with me and there is a very strong possibility that they expect me to communicate back. My need to please everybody and my inability to follow through on things (see #1) combine to create a state of paralysis that grows in severity at the same rate of increase as does my inbox count. So if you find yourself receiving an email from me, I hope you recognize the painstaking effort it took to click that “send” button.

4. The telephone is a valuable and easy-to-use tool for communication

No. Nope. Not true. The phone is email, but worse. You have to talk to people! Real-time verbal communication! It is terrifying. I will continue to pull the dial-number-and-hand-off-the-phone-to-someone-else routine for as long as I can get away with it. Sorry, Mom.

5. Moderation. It’s a thing.

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. For me, books are to be read in single sittings. TV shows are watched by the season. Caffeine is consumed in quantities that make me shake so much that I’m forced to cease my intake because I can’t get the coffee cup close enough to my lips. Ben & Jerry’s is to be eaten by the pint (why else would they sell it like that?). And going to the gym is only worth it I can be there long enough to result in being unable to move for the rest of the day. I’m not the best at utilizing small windows of time, finding it difficult to be motivated unless I know I can start something and see it through to its completion. Learning to occasionally break things into increments might help me do them more effectively and gain more enjoyment from them. But there are still times when it is necessary to watch Downton Abbey in quantities that make you forget what century it is and on which continent you live.

6. Sometimes it’s good to internalize.

I have fallen prey to the pervading mentality that it is imperative that I share the miniscule details of my life with the rest of the world, utilizing every available form of social networking to do so. I mean, you all would surely be lost without these updates! It’s a civic duty I’m performing, really. Now, I have no problems with other people exhibiting this behavior. Social networking is part of today’s culture and there is a continuous pressure to perform and showcase your life in a way that will seem most attractive to others. But for my own sake, I feel it would be beneficial if I could break the habit of evaluating a conversation by how cleverly I might recount it in a tweet. I need to learn how to appreciate things in terms of how they affect me instead of how they can be presented to other people, and I need to stop thinking about how to remember and relate an experience while the experience is still happening.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some photos that still need doctoring on iPhoto (not enough lens flare!) before I upload them to facebook in an album that will have a name so witty that you will be too impressed by my effortlessly-occurring cleverness to question how long it took me to come up with it.

7. David Tennant has a wife and child and will never know of my existence, let alone be interested in my offer of marriage.

You know, I think there’s still a chance he’ll come around. I refuse to give up hope. David, if you’re reading this, call me. Actually no, text me because talking on the phone is scary. We can build our relationship from there.

8. Everyone around me is a Person with his or her own Person-y things to deal with.

Sometimes I forget that the people in my life exist as individuals in their own right beyond the context of my relationships with them. I forget that each of these not-me people has a consciousness performing its own never-ending internal monologue musing about things almost as bizarre as mine is. Everyone has things they think make them quite neurotic compared to the rest of the population (I have to eat small food items like M&Ms and fruit snacks in twos. Anyone else? Anyone?), and everyone has things they are struggling with. Sometimes it’s just not apparent on the surface. It’s like what Shrek tells Donkey in the first Shrek movie [1]: people are like onions. We have layers. And we start to peel if we’ve been left in the sun for too long.

9. It’s okay to not be okay.

Life has its ups and downs, and I seem to bounce between those extremes with little regard for the available spectrum of experience between them. I’ve come to realize that I have a hard time getting out of those low times on my own, yet I would prefer to languish in such a state rather than ask for help. I have an incredibly hard time dropping the “I’m fine!” premise and letting people in. I’m sure no one buys it that things are always going well, and it would probably be healthier and easier for everyone if I abandoned the charade every now and again. Because it’s okay to not be okay. That’s life, and no one expects it to be otherwise.

10. Live in the pursuit of wholeness.

I’ve also come to realize that fearing or dismissing the hard times in life carries great peril. It’s dangerous to live life in the pursuit of happiness. Sadness, frustration, anxiety, and pain are all parts of life that must be experienced and navigated through rather than trivialized or denied. Recognizing, accepting, and paying attention to them as they come might allow me to be more present in my own life. So I can dare to be sad. And I can also dare to be happy. I can stop denying the experiences of life and focus instead on how they are contributing to my wholeness as a Person.


[1] Ah, remember those good ol’ days before Dreamworks got sequel fever?

Courtney Rust is an undergraduate student at Loyola University Chicago pursuing a major in English and minors in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies. She leaves her room every now and again to take part in Advocate, Loyola’s LGBTQA organization, where she serves on the advisory board. She is continually attempting to learn what it means to be a good ally to the LGBTQ community. Courtney moonlights as a barista, and has a strong love for musicals, coffee shops, big cities, exploring, Doctor Who, the internet, and most everything else in life. She hates olives though. With a fiery passion.


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