Jane's List for Surviving Life This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

August 20, 2010
By , Houston, TX
1. If you are making a life list, it's probably gonna be hard to think of all the tips at once. Pace yourself. Write one every day.

2. Humor is important to life. Laugh a lot. It's worked well for me.

3. Music is the key to your soul. Nothing can compare to an amazing melody. At least, nothing can compare when you are a 16-year-old girl.

4. Don't work against curly red hair. You will fail.

5. Popularity doesn't matter. Seriously, it's inconsequential. It has no value. Zilch. Zip. Nada. I can't think of more ways to say it, but it's true. Good friends are hard to come by. Keep the ones you have close to you.

6. Don't take anything seriously. Even me.

7. You don't need a boy to complete you. Truly, you don't. Even when you have a gaping hole in your chest, don't let yourself believe it's because he's gone.

8. If your parents argue late at night so loudly that you cannot sleep, try playing Coldplay's “Fix You” on high volume. At least, as high as your crap iPod will go.

9. If an attractive boy smiles at you in that crazy beautiful way when he sits down next to you in math class, ignore him. He is just messing with you. All boys suck and will break your heart. I know.

10. When your best friend, Lucy, spends the night, your parents will be on their best behavior. Really, it's amazing. Take advantage of the silence. Savor it. It is a melody of its own.

11. Get your hands on as many good books as you can. They make you feel alive. I recommend Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, Life of Pi, Great Expectations, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Especially A Tree Grows in Brooklyn if your family is like mine, because it all works out for Francie, even though her dad is irresponsible too.

12. If math boy introduces himself after class, be polite. You don't have to inform him that you haven't even considered dating again since your last boyfriend, Trey, dumped you for that cheerleader.

13. When you see said cheerleader in the hallway, avoid eye contact.

14. Don't be afraid. Take risks. Live it up. Life is only as fun as you are rebellious. You have to make yourself live like this. It doesn't come innately.

15. A good place to hang out after school if you don't want to go home is the Barnes and Noble around the corner. Think about it – good books, music, and coffee. It can quickly turn into your haven.

16. Do not under any circumstances get into a conversation with cute math boy. Cute math boy actually has a real name now. Cute math boy is Eric. But don't let him wrap you up in his flirty lies. Don't feel all happy and smiley when you walk away.

17. If you are looking for a purpose in life, lists are a good place to start.

18. Okay, maybe Eric-math-boy might not be as threatening as you first thought. Keep your guard up. But it's kind of okay to be excited when he asks for your number and texts you later. Still, remember that you are just friends. Nothing more.

19. Buy a Beatles album. You will never regret it.

20. When things get really bad, it's okay to ask to sleep over at Lucy's house. Even though she doesn't know about all the stuff going on at home, she's still your best friend. She'd do anything for you.

21. Sometimes boys named Eric actually like curly red hair and quirky jokes. Sometimes they will tell you this.

22. When you see Trey and the cheerleader looking all perfect getting out of his car in the morning, do not care. Under any circumstances. Even though it hurts a bit (a lot). Even though it was four months ago when he dumped you. Do not care.

23. Sometimes it's okay to just be goofy and do inconsequential things with your best friends. Run around the mall and try on clothes without meaning to buy them. Make up silly dances to cheesy songs. Take drives to Dunkin Donuts in your pajamas on Saturday morning and don't care that people see.

24. Occasionally you are wrong about your first impressions. Occasionally people who sit next to you in math class turn out to be hilarious and compassionate and have great taste in music and love life just like you. ­Occasionally you turn out to be really really great friends. Maybe more.

25. Thinking deeply isn't a bad thing. Don't be ignorant.

26. If your mom kicks your dad out, don't let your parents see you cry.

27. When terrible things happen, they sort of show you who is important. They let you know that Lucy will leave in the middle of a movie with her cousin to drive to your house when she hears your voice quivering like crazy on the phone. They let you know that she will hug you when you pour the whole thing out to her.

28. When you get to school the next day, avoid Eric. Males cannot be trusted. Your father has shown you that. Trey has shown you that. Guys are cheating, lying messes. You were wrong to get mixed up with him.

29. You know you are miserable when your iPod shuffles to a trashy Ke$ha song and you just let it play.

30. What is the purpose of a list, anyway? What is the purpose of life? Isn't that what writers and musicians have been contemplating for centuries? And I though I could figure it out on a simple numbered piece of paper.

31. Don't let Eric corner you after class. It's just a recipe for disaster. He will be asking about his many unanswered texts with that miserably wounded look, and you won't be able to make eye contact. All this sadness and hurt will begin building up inside you and you just won't be able to take the thought of trusting another guy enough to give him the power to kill you inside like this. All of a sudden you will yell things you don't mean. You won't even know where these untruths come from, somewhere deep inside. But you will see him walk away. And you won't be brave enough to stop him.

32. Immerse yourself in books and music if all else fails. Ignore your empty cell inbox and turn to the glory of iTunes and your bookshelf. Continue writing your list, although at this point you probably don't even know why anymore.

33. Best friends are good for a lot of things. They are good for fun trips to the movies and chocolate ice cream marathons at midnight. But they are especially good for being there when you are hurting.

34. If your dad wants to meet you for lunch, ignore him.

35. If your dad calls a second time to try to talk, ignore him again. And then turn off the ringer.

36. Make sure to remind your mother to leave the ringer off. She will probably turn it on eventually, and you will unwittingly answer the phone to hear your father's deep voice, and you will be forced to say yes to his lunch invitation for Sunday.

37. Algebra will be kind of awkward after you reject Eric. He will move seats and not grin at you when the teacher isn't looking. You will miss that a bit. But you must convince yourself otherwise.

38. It's really no fun having nobody to text. You can get used to having a good conversation partner after a while and take it for granted. Dialogue on a page just doesn't substitute for real communication.

39. Sometimes things aren't as bad as you think. Sometimes going to lunch with your dad makes you kind of realize that things are a bit better this way. That he really isn't the enemy. That maybe you've been being the tiniest bit unfair. To more than just him.

40. Admitting you are wrong takes a lot of work. It sucks, actually. But if you are wrong, you need to fix things.

41. Explaining stuff over text message is harder and easier than in real life. Pro: You don't actually have to look your cute boy-friend in the eyes when you apologize. Con: You are confined to several 160 character blocks. Pro: Nobody interrupts you. Con: You never know if maybe the boy-friend just deletes your apology outright. You know that's what you would do if the situation was reversed.

42. Spilling the details of a month-long crush to your best friend at the beginning of a marathon sleepover is about as suicidal as telling a 13-year-old girl that you “just don't like Justin Bieber's music.”

43. Other people are much more forgiving than you are. Much more even-tempered. You must give thanks to God for this fact. Especially when the person in question is a certain floppy-haired, beautiful, smiling boy you happen to sit next to again in Algebra.

44. After hearing the truth about what's been happening, Eric will give you a giant bear hug the next time he sees you. It will feel incredible. And you will realize that this whole time you have felt something for him. Something more than friendship. Hopefully you haven't missed your chance. After all, there aren't many boys out there who think curly red hair is the cutest thing in the universe.

45. Sometimes you need to make lists. You need to write things down and get it out and figure out what the heck is going on. But ultimately it is most important to go out and live your life. To do what you love and be with whoever you love. So maybe you don't need a list anymore. Maybe you have actually figured out the purpose of your life. And maybe it feels really good.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the March 2011 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.

Join the Discussion

This article has 24 comments. Post your own now!

LastChapter said...
Feb. 28, 2011 at 9:26 pm
this is such a cool writing style! i've never seen a story-list. its very creative, i love it! i limits you to only saying what needs to be said, only the essentials. i too am a list-addict, and they really do help you see everything laid out, simple and true. i love how you showed the slow transition with the main character, and...okay, this was just a really amazing story. could you please take a look at some of my stuff?
destinyleighh said...
Feb. 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm
i really like your way of writing, and how it all builds up to a story!
johnjohn123 said...
Feb. 28, 2011 at 1:27 pm
i disagree on almost all of this, excpesioly 5-14 but i do very much agree with you on 15
BooBooBunny said...
Sept. 6, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I really liked this! I loved how uniquely you set the story up and I really related to the character. There were a few grammar errors, but nothing too major. Good job! :)

Now, if you wouldn't mind reviewing something of mine I would be much appreciative! 

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