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I’m going to go out on a limb here and take a risk. When you read this post, I could very well end up sounding like an egomaniac, but bear with me. You see, I, Alison Robertson, am going to quote myself. So up front I am going to ask your indulgence and beg that you know that I am not so fond of myself that I think that everything I say and do is perfect, quite the contrary, my kids teach me on a daily basis that I am indeed fallible.  I do, however, like to practice what I preach, and I hope the following story illustrates that.

I was reminded of the incident in question by someone whom I’ve known since I was 18 years old. We became friends when we met on the very first day of college in New York City. One night we got together and for lack of anything better to do, we decided to give ourselves manicures. I’m lucky enough to have good nails and have made sure they look nice since a young age (hey, I’m a Jersey girl!) and looking at them my friend said “I don’t really know the rules about the right way to do a manicure”

I think you know where this is heading. Even at 18, I was certain of one thing. I said to her, “There are no rules. The only rules are the ones you make for yourself.” I knew even then that the successful people I saw growing up around me were those who were firmly planted in the captain’s chairs of their own ships. My friend recently reminded me of this conversation and told me that my words had shaped her life ever since then because she believed prior to our discussion that somewhere there was a rulebook about how to live life to which she was not privy, and that when I said to her that there were no rules, it had given her a sense of freedom to be able to forge ahead into situations outside of her comfort zone. Who knew a manicure could be so powerful.

Please remember almost the entire canon of human thought since the beginning of time, unless it is quantifiable with mathematics, is opinion. There are few actual “facts” when it comes to the majority of what we know to be true. Even the great and noble Science, with a capital S, is constantly refining and changing its hypotheses and theories on a daily basis. And certainly when it comes to lifestyle choices, there are no concrete ways to do things except those that work for you based on your personal experience, beliefs, values and needs. The Buddha is quoted as saying “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” In other words, question *everything*, especially if you are going to adopt something as a “rule” or a “should” and live your life by it. You would be surprised by how many people’s problems stem back to basic, simple faulty thinking. Don’t just believe something because someone who is a supposed expert said it was true. There are many people with a long list of initials at the end of their names who have no clue what works for us but are more than happy to tell us what they think we should do. If it doesn’t ring true to your own common sense, research it. Get a second opinion. Ask around.

I really want people who read my work to understand one thing and that’s this: do not carry shame or guilt for who you are and what you have done in the past, I don’t care how scandalized your friends and family would be. Do not let the rules set forth by some person who is long dead dictate how you live your life. You are learning as you go, you are having experiences and observing them and making better choices as you experiment with life. When you know better, you do better. Sure, that drunken one night stand five years ago with someone you just met in a bar might not have been the best of all possible choices, but it taught you something, and it made you who you are today, so don’t apologize for it. The only rules are the ones you make yourself, and even those are subject to change upon further inspection.