How To Survive Your Hometown Bar This Summer

The Definitive Guide To Your Crappy Hometown Bar This Summer

Good luck, buddy. You're gonna need it.

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It's got some ridiculously Irish name like Paddy O'Finnegan's or Murphy's and the lighting sucks. All the bartenders look like ex-cons, but you know them and their girlfriends by name. The drinks are overpriced, the floors are sticky, the bathroom walls are covered in profanity and phone numbers. The patrons are either scary, bearded townies or 17-year-olds with fake IDs. It's where you grew up, it's where you felt like an adult for the very first time in your life. It's your hometown bar, and you always seem to love it until you're actually there.

It's summer now, and chances are, you won't have much else to do than sit down in a booth with some friends and a pitcher while you wait for the school year to roll back around. Your hometown bar can get tricky very quickly. Because while it can be fun to catch up with your group of friends from home, it can rehash some long-gone stuff that you definitely could have done without.

Being the gracious and generous human I am, I've created a definitive guide, just for you, to navigate the sticky situations you might encounter during a night out at said hometown bar. You can thank me later. Good luck out there, my brave soldier. And remember it's never that serious — you'll be back at school in no time.

1. Pregame, pregame, pregame 

A very old and wise man named Chief Keef once said that he hates being sober. You must take this advice to heart tonight. You are going to see things beyond your wildest dreams, things that will make you wish you were born without eye sockets. You will need to harness the power of alcohol more than ever before. Use it as your armor. Use it as your guide. Use it so you won't have to walk into the bar, see everyone that went to your high school, spend 15 minutes hysterically having an asthma attack in the restroom, and leave immediately.

2. Avoid the high school seniors 

You're going to walk in and immediately wonder who let this establishment turn into a McDonald's Playplace. Yeah, I'd say it's a pretty universally awkward experience when you see the kids you used to babysit taking pulls of Skye and grinding on each other like the world is about to end. Keep it cool, though, and remember that this was once you and your friends, way back when. As a general rule of thumb, avoid anyone with braces.

3. Sometimes it's okay to lie 

"Wow, I didn't even realize I unfriended you on Facebook, must have been a total accident!" "You look amazing! I barely even noticed the meth teeth." "Yeah, I have a few internships lined up right now, it's just a matter of choosing." "I missed you! Let's get lunch sometime and catch up." "I swear, I never hooked up with your boyfriend sophomore year."

4. Don't go home with your old flame 

Want to know where you'll end up? I'll tell you. Hooking up with the person you lost your virginity to on your twin-sized mattress while your old Harry Styles posters watch in disappointment and your parents sleep in the next room over. Those walls are thin, Mamacita.

5. Keep it classy!

If you fall off a table, everyone and their mothers will know the next day. Remember that you simply can't get away with doing some of the stupid stuff that's acceptable at your Big Ten party school. Literally, just calm down, pace yourself, and strike up some good conversation with old buddies. Steer clear of the group of girls bawling in the corner of the bar about how much they missed each other. Don't be that person.

6. Honestly, just enjoy yourself 

If you're an anxious wreck like me (and you are, even if you're good at hiding it), I know that going back in time a few years can be a bit unappealing. Remember that you're spending the night out for a reason — and that's to have a great time! The friends from home you've kept over the years are true ones, and they love you. Even if you didn't have a high school experience from an 80s movie, remember that running into certain people isn't the end of the world. Everyone is in the same situation as you are.

7. Don't give your parents a heart attack, remember to come home at a reasonable time 

This isn't like back at school where you can pass out in a literal ditch at 8 p.m. and wake up to zero text messages. If you're still living under your parents' roof, you should probably have the decency to be a somewhat good child. Your parents do a lot for you. Don't forget about them!

When summer gets boring and you miss going out, you know where to go. Your hometown bar sucks, but it sucks in a bittersweet way in that it will always hold a special little place in your heart.

Seriously, though, next summer you should probably get a job.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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A Few Birthday Thoughts

Goodbye teenage years, hello twenties!

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So, it is looking like I am about to leave my teenage years behind. I think that I want to reflect back on this time in my life and think about what I want to keep with me in my twenties and maybe some things I can let go. My teenage years have been full of love from my family and friends; hard work to make good grades in school and creating art. I developed several great friendships that I have held on to across the miles even though I went to college 14 hours away from our previous home. I am so thankful for the friendships I have made in college as well.

It seems like friends you make in your childhood and younger years can really stand the test of time. Maybe it is because when you became friends you were truly who you were. Everyone was genuine and didn't put up walls to protect themselves. You got to know someone on a deeper more personal level more quickly than if you had met later in life. I also think we laughed even more as children and that always creates good memories to look back on. So I think in my twenties I will try to hang on to the "childish" way of making friends. I will try to show my true self and will accept them for who they are, and we will laugh....a lot.

I think a good thing to let go of is always trying to make dead-end relationships work. When we were children on the playground and we tried to play a game together or jump rope and it just wasn't working, we would run off and find someone else. It was easy. It was just natural. Now sometimes I find myself trying to stay in a relationship by being overly nice, giving gifts, trying to find what pushes the persons "good" buttons. I might spend so much time trying to figure this person out that I leave out more solid relationships that are worth my time. So in my twenties, I will try to be more realistic about who to spend my time on. Some people are just never going to stand the test of time. I can continue to be cordial but won't let them rule my time and thought life.

As children, we loved our parents and siblings and would show love to them in a myriad of ways. Maybe it was hugs, pictures on the fridge, good night kisses, playing games, or just quality time spent together as a family. Starting my twenties, I am mature enough to realize the value of these people in my life. Thankfully, I have always known this. I was never the type that was embarrassed if someone saw me walking with my Mom or Dad or being dropped off in the Mom Van somewhere. I always knew these people loved me more than anyone else I was about to meet. But in my twenties, I plan to keep up with my family even when I am eight hours away from them. We are never too old to need the love of family.

As weird as it is to say goodbye to my teenage years, it's honestly helped me to soak in the precious moments of everyday life and treasure them even more. Every year when birthdays come around, it always serves as a reminder how quickly the days, months, and years fly by. I think that has been one difficult part of this birthday season. It's hard to say goodbye to the past, without a clear map of the future. But, I must remind myself that this is why growing up is a beautiful thing- as we live life and experience new things, we are better prepared for what the future may hold. Everything that I have experienced in my 20 years has served an important purpose- to make me into the person I am supposed to become. Yes, life is always changing and so am I... and change can be hard. Very hard. But one thing to remember is God is always constant. He will never change. No matter what number is on your birthday cake, He is always there...the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Rock that we will always be able to cling to. Isn't that a wonderful thought? Even if we don't know what's in His plans for us in the coming year, it's important to make Him a part of our plans. Rather than worry about change, let's embrace it all- the good and the bad- and look to the Lord to see how He will guide and shape us.

Teenage years- the time has come. I must say goodbye to you now. But, you will never be forgotten. I will hold your memories in my heart forever. Twenties- I am excited for all that awaits me.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

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