Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Take It to Awesome

for Kat and Tab

On paper, my life is not that interesting. I'm a middle-aged spinster English teacher who reads three books a week, spends her Saturdays perusing the library stacks, and typically longs to curl up in bed as soon as it gets dark. I spend nine months of the year pacing back and forth in a freezing, white-walled classroom while defending the Oxford comma and speaking out against the evils of split infinitives. Not exactly the stuff that dreams are made on.

My life, however, is far from dull. Over and above the sometimes-insipid tedium of my daily routine arcs a sensational rainbow of sheer awesomeness. I've found the secret, you see. The secret of Taking Life to Awesome.1 

How to Take It to Awesome:

1. Make mundane tasks interesting. A few weeks ago, I decided to start using the speech-to-text function on my phone almost exclusively for answering messages from my sister/roommate, Beef. It didn't take long for her to begin returning the favor. Not only does the speech-to-text function preclude capitalization and punctuation (at least, when I do it, because I haven't figured out how to work it yet), but it also doesn't always interpret our comments correctly. We've decided, for entertainment purposes, never to correct these errors.  The upshot of this is that although we may not always know what the other person is talking about, we have the unique privilege of exchanging such intellectual gems as:

"i shudder to think would be hot"

"elbow like elbow like"

"i shall make it puppet corn"

"ola should of gotten a blue spruce there later"

And our personal favorite: "even though i mobster hallway something so bad"

2. Find someone with whom to exchange pranks. The sheer number of pranks that Beef and I have played on one another is not nearly as profound as the far-reaching effect that some of these pranks have had. Most memorably, there was my book that she mailed around the world to be photographed having adventures with friends, family, and eventually, utter strangers. Stunning in its scope, this two-year prank spanned the globe and actually precipitated some life-long friendships. Then there were the weeks that I was removing one piece of clothing per day from her room and squirreling them away in trash bags until she finally cried out in frustration, "WHERE are all of my CLOTHES?!" She responded with an elaborate ruse which tried to convince me that I was sleepwalking. In turn, I got up at four o'clock one morning to deck out her truck in "JUST MARRIED" regalia: streamers, cans tied to the back, balloons inside, and "Honk For True Love!" scrawled across the back window (a surprising number of people honked even though she was obviously alone). She removed all of the light-bulbs from the entire house on a night that she knew I would be coming home late. I froze her keys into the center of a block of ice. She collaborated with five people in order to convince me (unsuccessfully!) that I was on a blind date. I threw her chair onto the roof of our apartment complex. She went through my phone and renamed all of my contacts so that for a while I was receiving calls and texts from people named "Col. Sheppard" and "Shamrocks" and such.

Never a dull moment.

3. Entertain strangers whenever possible. As has been mentioned in a previous post, being challenged in the area of spatial orientation and motor skills does have its fringe benefits. For example, it's comforting for me to know that dozens of Spanish-speaking teenage tourists went back to Cuba (or Spain, or wherever) telling the story of how they saw some white woman shrieking and flailing her arms as she flew through the air while falling off of Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, MD, in 2008.2

I'm equally glad to know that the German tourist at Shakespeare's Globe in London enjoyed my epic geekout as much as I seem to have done:

She thought I was crazy

Entertaining strangers does not need to take place only by accident, however. Ideally, it is done by design. Since long theme park lines are the best places to overhear conversations, I sometimes have been known to stage epic, dramatic sagas for the benefit of the middle-aged couple in line behind us who is pretending not to listen, but who totally hangs on every word.

Under certain conditions, the best thing that you can do to entertain strangers is to break down and talk to them.3

The internet also provides much fodder for entertaining both strangers and friends alike. Hence, social experiments such as my public Flickr set The Surgery Was Unsuccessful, which you will find always available to entertain you and chase your blues away. The world needs this!

In short, Taking Life to Awesome is not about taking part in fantastic, outlandish adventures. It's not about being the sort of person who's always hiking Everest with one arm tied behind his back, performing heart transplants while blindfolded, or putting down a coup d'etat with a delicately-arched  eyebrow and a flame-thrower.

No, no. Taking It to Awesome is all about discovering the improbable adventure inherent in daily life.
1 - I'm hazy on the origins of this phrase. I remember where I was at the time it was coined (Canada) and whom I was with (two really fabulous women), but I can't remember who first used the phrase and in what context. Other than my obvious awesomeness, of course.
2 - More on this in the future post "How to Jump Off Things (and Not Die!)"
3 - See previous post "How to Talk to Strangers." Sadly, I didn't find space in the post to talk about any of the remarkable strangers I've been privileged to have amazing conversations with over the years. What a pity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to Talk to Strangers

for Beef

I'm big on communication: I like to talk, write, emote, gesticulate, lecture, sign, and raise a well-manicured eyebrow in the most speaking of manners. Since I'm big on communication, it should come as no surprise to anybody that I like to talk to strangers. (Except, on occasion, to the strangers themselves. Some of them are very surprised. But more on that below.)

The difficulty in talking to strangers is that it goes against everything that our mothers taught us about being safe. And it also goes against common sense. Sometimes.

The trick, then, is not really in knowing how to talk to strangers, but in knowing when it is appropriate to do so.

When It Is Okay to Talk to Strangers:

1. When they are sitting on or directly in front of your apartment stoop. Even though when you speak to these people they might stare at you as if you have just landed from Mars, it is still totally within your rights to speak to the pot heads sitting directly outside of your apartment. It's important to greet them in a friendly way in order to establish that they are the interlopers, not you. Even though they will stare at you as if you are something that they just recently found on the bottom of their shoe, do not be concerned. This is mostly because their brains usually are not firing on all cylinders.  Besides, if they are loitering directly outside of your apartment, they are probably friends with your neighbor (you hope), and it's always nice to foster positive communication with your neighbors whenever you can. Especially if you plan to ask them to crank down their music at 3:00am.

2. When you can't remember what is on your grocery list. Sometimes when I'm standing in the produce section and can't remember why I walked over there, it's helpful to begin musing aloud about what I might have been planning on purchasing. I know, however, that it's highly likely that one of my students or friends from church might chance by at any moment, and I don't want to be caught talking to myself; therefore, if another person happens to be nearby, I make eye contact with him so as to seem as if I'm not talking to myself. I wouldn't want people to see me talking to myself in the produce aisle: that would make me seem crazy.  

3. When you have done something silly. Slip and fall while running into a store during a downpour? Spend more than two seconds pushing on a door that says pull? Get the pocket of your sweater caught on a knob while walking past a door and have it half ripped off of your torso? Fall off of Ft. McHenry National Monument in Baltimore while trying to take a jumping picture?1 We've all been there. Chances are very high that the people around you have not only witnessed your spectacular display of incompetence, but that they  are also already mentally preparing how they are going to tell the story around the dinner table that night. What better gift could you give to them than to leave them with a parting comment that is both pithy and adroit? Or a quick verbal satire? Or a clever pun? The options are endless. (Unless you have sustained a blow to the head. In that case, hush up. Nothing you are going to say is going to make any sense.)

4. When you are time traveling and cannot find a newspaper to check the date, making it necessary to talk to a passerby in order to ascertain your place along the space-time continuum. This one is self-explanatory. 

When *NOT* to Talk to Strangers:

1. When you are in the United Kingdom. I don't know why, but the Brits don't seem to like it. Perhaps the 1940s era "Loose Lips Sink Ships" campaign was a bit too effective and far-reaching for its own good. Anyway, if you can't stand the thought of people fixing you with withering stares and looking down their noses at you on the Tube, then don't attempt it while on the other side of the Atlantic.

2. When the stranger in question is a creeper. Ladies, I mean it. If your Creeper Alarm is ringing, resist the urge.2 In the event of a creeper-neighbor crossover, we have found it best to err on the side of caution with this one. In the event that your neighbor or your neighbor's pot-head friends emit a creeper vibe, follow this rule rather than Rule 1 in the above list.

3. When the other person looks to be the type that will never stop talking to you. People like this are everywhere, but I've found them to be especially prevalent in thrift stores. You make one well-intentioned (ironic) comment about a ceramic dog, and the next thing that you know, you have a new best friend who cannot wait to tell you about every ceramic piece (or every dog) that she (or her daughter or her grandchildren) has ever owned.

The truth about talking to strangers is that it really is a double-edged sword. There are pros and cons, pluses and minuses, boons and banes; however, with adult supervision (if needed), talking to strangers can be both entertaining and rewarding for all parties involved.
1 - More on this in the future post "How to Jump Off Things (and Not Die)!"
2 - More on this in the future post "How to Avoid Stalkers."

Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Finish a Writing Project

It's certainly not easy to complete a writing project, is it? Hey, it's not even easy to start a writing project.

First of all, anybody who has ever had to complete a writing project will tell you that one never notices how many household chores one has allowed to stack up until there is an important writing assignment to do. Then, suddenly, nothing is more important than cleaning out the keypad of the computer with a Q-tip, reorganizing all of the books in the living room according to color, dusting all of the overhead fan blades, vacuuming all of the dust out of the fan intake in the bathroom, making sure that every single water spot is off of all the faucets in the house, going through all of the kitchen cabinets to see what's there, making a pile of things to donate to Goodwill, going through stacks of old bills dating back to 2003, looking through all of one's photo albums on Facebook, re-reading middle school diary entries, etc.

Eventually, however, the writing task can no longer be avoided. It's time to sit down at the keyboard and write.

How to Finish a Writing Project:

1. Be sure that you've waited until the last possible moment. I'm not sure why this is a requirement, but it seems to have held true for every single writing project that I've worked on. Unless I've waited until the last possible moment, I absolutely cannot get any momentum going. Oh, I try. Weeks before a deadline, I sit down at my computer and go so far as opening a document and saving it under a new and spiffy-sounding title. But that's about as far as I get until the last possible moment.

2. Start panicking. The good thing about a panic is that it generally comes with a surge of adrenaline, which you can put to your advantage by typing out everything as fast as possible. Under the inspiration of panic, you will find that you are suddenly able to write as you have never written before. And some of it will even make sense later! Just remember: once the panic sets in, it's very important not to get up from the keyboard, even if you are suddenly overcome with the desire to go and clean out all of the Tupperware containers at the very back of the fridge.

3. Resist the urge to delete the entire project halfway through because you've become convinced that it's utterly horrifying. Somewhere between the halfway and three-quarter mark of any writing project I've ever completed, I become convinced that what I've written is the most ridiculously inane collection of banalities ever strung together all at once. Forget deleting the document: I want to take a blowtorch to the entire computer, obliterating not just what I've written, but the tools involved in producing such an appalling accumulation of asininity. This is a very dangerous stage. Once I've reached this juncture, I will (hopefully) realize that it's time to move on to Step #4.

4. Get away from it. Blatantly ignoring the advice given in the end of Step #2, step away from the computer (after hitting save, of course!) and go do something active. When you come back, you will be astonished at how less ridiculous everything that you've written has magically become in your absence. Unless it hasn't. Then you really might be in trouble.

5. Repeat Steps 2-4 as needed until the project is done.

The truth is that like any skill, writing just requires a lot of time and hard work. There really is no trick to finishing a writing project other than investing the time necessary get it done.

Oh, and drinking lots of coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How to Borrow Other People's Brains

President John Adams (1735-1826), by Asher B. Durand (1767-1845).
Source: Wikipedia Commons
During my reading and study over the years, I've often daydreamed about borrowing other people's brains just to see what it would feel like.

Like Schumann, I want the experience of hearing music in my head. I want to know if Shakespeare thought in iambic pentameter. I want to know the exhilaration of brilliant mental quickness along with Dorothy Parker and trip the line between genius and madness with van Gogh.

I envision a day in which scientific advancement proceeds at such an exponential rate that such things will be possible. (At least, I envision a future in which I write a science fiction story in which it's possible.) Until that day, we will have to rely on feeble substitutes for borrowing other people's brains.

How to Borrow Other People's Brains:

1. Actually listen to what they are saying. I do not mean that you should merely quiet down and listen to the words other people are saying (although you probably should do that as well). I mean that you should listen for the messages behind their words. Ask questions, working to understand the thoughts and influences that have driven them to the conclusions that they have reached and the resulting decisions that they have made. If we know anything about human nature, we know that people love to talk about themselves. Capitalize on this, using it as an avenue for borrowing someone else's brain. Most people who have been around me for any length of time know that I love to ask questions, even deep, searching questions of people whom I have only recently met. I try to preface this when I'm talking to new friends by letting them know in advance that I'm extremely curious, and that they don't have to answer all of my questions if they don't want to; however, I can think of no single occasion on which a person has been affronted by or refused to answer. (I have, however, had people claim that I can be exhausting. So there's that.) The upshot of this is that I've learned an enormous amount about what motivates some of the people around me. In the end, this is one of the best substitutes for borrowing other people's brains.

2. Read books written by interesting thinkers. Don't be intimidated by the name on the cover: if he's a clear thinker and has done his job correctly, he will be able to make his thoughts comprehensible to you. Take, for example, The World As I See It, by Albert Einstein. Although I can't say that I agreed with all of Einstein's assertions, I did understand his essays perfectly well and felt that through this book, I started to get a peek into what it might feel like to borrow his brain . His clearly-delineated essays put me in mind of endless rows identical filing cabinets, each full to the brim, but well-ordered and neat. I imagine that borrowing his brain would be a restful experience. The same can be said of C.S. Lewis, Thor Heyerdahl, Marilynne Robinson, G.K. Chesterton, Connie Willis, and Charles Dickens. Not that their brains would all be restful places full of well-ordered filing cabinets. Not by a long shot. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Dickens.) But reading their work in large doses has forced me to bend my mind to match the ebb and flow of their thought patterns. If you don't think this occurs, watch what happens when you sit down to write a letter after having read a few Jane Austen books back-to-back. 

3. Read journals and correspondence. Of course I don't mean without permission. (You creep.) I refer here to things such as the published correspondence of John and Abigail Adams (smart is sexy!), or Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning (swoon!), or the diary of Samuel Pepys (saucy!). This sort of brain-borrowing is both informative and entertaining. I highly recommend it.

4. Invent either a creepy electronic machine that steals people's memories and/or a machine that reads their brain waves and may or may not finally launch us all into a grim post-apocalyptic future. I've seen things like this on Fringe. To all of my scientifically-minded friends: please make this happen. Once you've perfected the technique, I will be the first one in line to attach the diodes to my skull.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How to Stay Humble

Some who know me well might tell you that I'm not the best person to be writing an essay about how to stay humble: not with my bullet-proof self-esteem and nearly undeflateable ego.  Some might even go so far as to compare my ego to a zeppelin: massive, always sailing to new heights, full of hot air and gas, given to dropping bombs and incendiaries on people, and liable to go up in a ball of flames at any moment.

One can only wonder what heights my hubris might reach if not for the following tools of humiliation in my life. I suppose, in the end, I ought to be thankful that God has seen fit to temper my Hindenburg of pride with a little humility.

How to Stay Humble:

1. Have a job like mine. Over the years, I've come to realize that teenagers act as perfect foils for proud, opinionated egomaniacs who always think that they're right about everything.1 In other words, they make perfect foils for people like me. First, they absolutely delight in pinpointing anything in my lessons that is not absolutely, 100%, grade-A certified as accurate. I could deliver the most scintillating and intellectually-satisfying lesson ever known to man, but if I accidentally reference a poem by Tennyson as appearing on Page 43 of their books instead of as being on Page 44, then all is completely lost. Second, teenagers delight in my accidental verbal flubs and will continue to quote them forever. Long after the stars of our solar system have all gone into supernova, my students will still be giggling over the time that I accidentally referenced my parents' generation as "Baby Boobers" instead of "Baby Boomers." Third, they're really great about interrupting my lectures in order to deliver, apropos of nothing, little darts capable of puncturing even the most high-flying dirigibles of dignity: "Hey! You have pepper in your teeth!" or, "Why do you always have such dark circles under your eyes?" or, "You don't ever wash your car, do you?" or, "What's going on with your hair?" Things like that.

2. Have a family like mine. Sure, they're awesome and all. Everybody knows that. And don't think that I'm about to go off on a rant about how I find my family members embarrassing to be seen with in public, because I'm not. All I'm going to say is that when it comes to being able to deflate my personal airship of honor, my family absolutely takes first prize. First, there's my mother, whose natural response to the majority of my antics is to sigh and say, "It's no wonder you're not married." Then there's my sister, who has taken to pushing me off sidewalks in public, just because she can. Or my brother, who has attempted to train his five children to call me Aunt Awful (all the while claiming that it should be spelled Offal).  Oh, the humanity.

3. Have motor skills and spatial orientation like mine. Or, should I say, a lack both of motor skills and spatial orientation. If I could actually dribble a basketball and walk forward at the same time, it would probably be a good time to cue the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The humility that a lack of motor skills brought to my life began early on. I was ten or eleven before I could ride a bicycle on my own, and this was only after many, many training sessions in which my father ran behind me, gripping the back of the bike to keep me from hitting parked cars. One of the first times that he let go, I ran the bike directly into a tree. By some miracle, I eventually learned not only to ride a bicycle but also to drive a car. One day while driving home from church, I saw in the rear-view mirror a minor traffic accident occur about half a block behind me on the otherwise empty road. Due to spatial disorientation, my primary response was to hit the brakes and lay on the horn. My sister, who was in the passenger's seat at the time, still regales friends with the experience of looking up from her book to the shock of my slamming on the  brakes and laying on the horn in the face of an empty stretch of road.

I could probably go on with tales of how my students, my family, and my own lack of agility have led to bringing down my airship of arrogance, but I think you get the general idea. This leads us directly to #4.

4. Learn to recognize, admit to, and laugh at your failings. Everyone else in your life has already realized how flawed you are and is having a good time laughing at you. You might as well bring your blimp down to join them.
1- Literary foils are most often a study in strong contrasts, although in some very rare cases, foils are mirror images of each other. This would be one of those cases.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to Avoid Getting Hit on at the Gym

Photo by Bethany Buchanan
(Catch the audio.)

From my vast experience of only having started to work out now that I'm in my mid-thirties, I've already gleaned the following tips for the ladies among my readership. 

Without further ado, here's everything I've learned so far about how not to get hit on at the gym:

1. Go to a gym like mine. Avoiding well-lit, commercially-successful gyms such as the sleek and popular LA Fitness hub across the street from the apartment complex, choose instead to work out in the low-budget workout room off the side of the clubhouse of your low-rent apartment complex. That way, instead of being ogled by well-muscled workout gods in their snappy new Under Armour leggings and fitted short-sleeved crew shirts, you are instead more likely to be ogled by an entire Hispanic family who has come to the clubhouse to use the free computers and instead stays for the show. "The show" being the rare spectacle of you flailing around on the elliptical (see below). The point is that by working out in your apartment's free workout room, you are more likely if you do encounter people of the opposite sex to encounter those who are not likely to hit on you, since hitting on girls often leads to dates, and dates have been known to cost money. Furthermore, it is a well-established generalization that women have been known to use the gym to put themselves on display as ready and available for the pick up. If you don't believe me, just ask my friend Alissa, who often bemoans the prevalence at her gym of cutesy-cute girls in their Pink workout gear who come to the gym freshly made-up and manicured and who are obviously working very hard never to break into a sweat. I've even heard of women who join particular gyms across town--far from their own homes and jobs--because, since these gyms are in a more upscale area, the chances are higher that they will make themselves available to be picked up by wealthier men. None of these matters are an issue if you choose to work out in your low-rent apartment's free workout room instead of in a fancy gym.

2. When you do work out, give the impression that you actually might be Special Needs. I'm really not sure if this is something that you can fake. Fortunately, I've found that it's just something that comes naturally to me. There are few things less attractive than a woman whose appearance while using the elliptical puts one in mind of a mentally-distressed and mortally-injured seal pup going into the final throes of death.  So if you can strike that impression--as I've discovered that I can--then that's one point in your favor. Furthermore, nothing turns a guy away sooner than a girl who cannot understand how to work the most basic tools (in this case, exercise equipment). And I'm not talking here about the standard malfunctions which would actually necessitate some adorable male assistance, such as, "Excuse me, do you know how to set this weight press on ten pounds instead of on--goodness! Someone set it on two hundred pounds! Whoever was using this machine last must have been so strong. Oh, wait. Wasn't that you?" No, what I'm talking about here is making mistakes so colossal and mind-boggling  that the rational side of the male psyche is so horribly offended that he cannot even contemplate looking in your direction again, even if you are as hot as the sun's core. I'm talking about getting into the machines upside-down, backwards, or inside out, and continuing to use them that way despite obvious discomfort and confusion. I'm talking about mistaking the water fountain for a stationary bike or the soda machine for a Gravity Inversion Table, and then complaining loudly that the ones in the workout room are vastly inferior to the ones that you saw on the infomercial. That kind of thing. 

3. Read books while working out. Apart from the sheer relief of having something to look at other than all of those mirrors, you will find that this is a natural repellent to a large percentage of the men at the gym (though this can backfire). The more weighty and ponderous the tome, the less likely that a male will use your reading material as a conversation starter. If I may be so bold to make a recommendation, I put forth the second edition of Millard J. Erickson's Christian Theology. Not only is it sufficiently off-putting as conversational material (except to a small demographic unlikely to show up next to you on the weight press), but at 1,312 pages it can also double as a free weight. Plus, it's actually both an interesting and an informative read. You'll actually be killing three birds with one stone: working out, repelling unwanted advances, and learning to navigate the intricacies of evangelical theology. Win-win-win.

4. Have hair like mine. First, get your curly hair cut into a wedge style that requires a sleek blow-out every day. Then, start to grow it out. (And I do mean out. Hair like mine doesn't grow down until far, far into the growing-out process.) Get it into that sweet spot in which your hair is too long to pass for a wedge, but not long enough to pull back into a pony-tail yet. Next, manhandle your hair back for workouts by dint of using a complicated system involving two separate banded curl bunches on the top, a motley assortment of bobby pins scattered across the front to hold back especially wiry curls that escape from the alien-ear bunches. Leave the hopeless and mullet-like neck fringe that you just can't do anything about--this is your saving grace.  It alone has more potency than #1-3 combined. 

You'll be happy to know that by employing the above methods, I've managed to achieve a 100% success rate in not getting hit on at the gym.

Ladies... good luck.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How to Succeed at Being Single

Photo by Jodee Nicholas

If you find yourself still unmarried in your thirties (and beyond), chances are very high that you don't need advice on how to stay single. Fear not: if you've successfully sailed the emotionally-charged seas of your twenties without being wooed into matrimony, you'll probably remain single through your thirties well enough on your own.

The key here is in how to succeed at being single.  If you're looking to succeed at being single, I offer the following pieces of advice:

1. Decide early where you stand on the issue of cats. The way that I see it, in-our-thirties-and-beyond singles can be divided into two camps: those who embrace cats as a calling and those who do not. (Knowing the temperament of most cats, I use the word embrace metaphorically.) Those who embrace cats often find fulfillment in the continuous rounds of scooping out the litter box(es), tempting picky kitties with tasty treats, playing simplistic games with bottle caps and bits of string, and in administering triage in the event of accidental love maulings. For those who do not choose to pursue the cat route, there are other options in filling the long, lonely hours. You could be one of those people who arranges the clothes in her closet first according to sleeve length, then according to color shades, and then frequency of wearing. Or you could  be the one who arranges his home library according to the Dewey Decimal System. It takes all kinds. The real key here is to stay busy at all costs. If you're busy, you'll have less time to sit at home by yourself in the silence of your tiny, one-bedroom apartment contemplating the solitude of your existence. So, join a club. Take long walks. Pick up a new hobby. Volunteer for more activities than your retired neighbors do. Babysit your brother's five kids so that he and his wife can have a nice night out. If nothing else, that last one will make you feel remarkably more cheery about returning to a quiet, empty apartment at the end of the night.

2. Capitalize on the positives of your situation. Order your meals with extra garlic and onions. Leave the laundry until tomorrow if you feel like it. Fill the vegetable crisper with pungent, imported cheeses. Spend Saturday mornings taking long walks up the beach instead of ferrying children to soccer practice. Enjoy impromptu trips to Europe that necessitate living on Ramen and Saltine crackers for a month afterward. There's nobody around to complain about the budget or to blame you if everything goes wrong. (Other than you, of course. But I think you can handle you.) The key here is that for every single person bemoaning time spent alone, there is someone else out there who would give an eye tooth for the opportunity to sit still in a darkened room, sipping a cappuccino in the bliss of solitude. It's high time that you learn to enjoy the positives of your situation and ask for grace to deal with the rest, a lesson that your married friends have had to learn as well. In the event that you have enough time to sit around feeling sorry for yourself, see #1.

3. Give yourself a goal. As we move through the educational system and early adulthood, goals are pre-set for us: get good grades, graduate from school, get a job, get your own place, etc. When we become adults, our goals become a bit more arbitrary. As long as your goal is not "To get married as soon as possible!!" this piece of advice will work really well for you. I'm not talking here about something noble and nebulous ("to impact the lives of those around me in a positive way") but something concrete and achievable ("to learn knife-throwing well enough that I can hit the bulls-eye consistently from fifty paces"). The more interesting your goal, the more fun you will have while achieving it, and the more fun stories you will have to tell about it later. The key here is to keep yourself moving forward. All too often, I meet singles (women especially) who seem to be living their lives in a holding pattern, as if their lives are only going to start once they are wives and/or mothers. Snap out of it, people.

This is your life. Enjoy living it.