10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Country Music

I’m moving to Nashville in 10 days, so obviously I’ve been listening to a lot of country music. I’ve discussed the many merits of country before, but recently I’ve discovered how many bits of wisdom are written into these twangy songs. Read on for 10 life lessons–some serious, some funny–and the country tunes that inspired them…

1. Your boss is your worst enemy. Last week, I was listening to a lot of Eric Church, which inspired me to start calling Amelia “Boss man” and viewing her with a general feeling of contempt, even though she’s literally the best boss I’ve ever had. But hey, I don’t make the rules! Country music dictates that your boss is the bad guy, and whenever possible, you should tell him (or her!) to shove it, rip up your time card, go get a beer with your buddies, and tell them about that awesome time you told your boss to shove it. Example: “Drink In My Hand” by Eric Church (see also: “9 to 5″ by Dolly Parton):

2. Don’t underestimate a woman scorned. Cliche? Yes, but also true. Often you don’t find out someone’s true strength and intensity until you’ve wronged them, and that goes double for women who have spent their lives keeping quiet and trying not to complain–once they hit their breaking point, watch out! Example: “Tornado” by Little Big Town:

3. Appreciate your hometown. Predictably, country music is overflowing with nostalgia for hometowns, which always happen to be idyllic small towns in the South where people spend a lot of time sitting on the porch and eating biscuits. But wherever you come from, there’s probably something to love about it. Example: “Where I Come From” by Montgomery Gentry (see also: “Thank God For Hometowns” by Carrie Underwood):

4. But also get the hell out of there. Coming from a small, rural town myself, one of my favorite country music themes is gettin’ gone, AKA leaving wherever you’re from and striking out to make your own way in the world. Example: “Independence” by The Band Perry (see also: “The Long Way Around” by The Dixie Chicks):

5. A cold beer solves any problem. This belief is probably why 90 percent of male country singers are alcoholics, but it makes for some fun songs. Example: “Tip It On Back” by Dierks Bentley, which suggests drinking heavily to ease the pain of the bad economy:

6. Nothing is sexier than a pair of cutoffs. I’m inclined to agree. My boyfriend looks great in cutoffs. Example: Every country song ever, but for now let’s use “One Of Those Nights” by Tim McGraw:

7. Grief takes many forms. My boyfriend is completely obsessed with the song “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice. It’s about a man whose brother is killed in the war. His mother wants him to visit the grave site, but “that flag and stone” mean nothing to him. Instead, he gets in his brother’s truck, listens to the radio station that was left on, and grieves his loss while driving the back roads and tearing up fields. Corny? A bit, but also a good reminder that grief is complicated and intense and you should express it in whatever way feels right to you:

8. Get some fresh air every once in awhile. Do you live in a bustling city? Are feeling stressed out? Do me a favor: get in your car (or rent a car, or get on a bus, whatever), and drive to a place without a skyscraper in sight. Take a deep breath of fresh air. Run your hands through the grass. City life is great, but don’t ever underestimate the calming, centering powers of getting away from it all. Example: “Cowboy Take Me Away” by The Dixie Chicks (see also: “Banjo” by Rascal Flatts):

9. You don’t need much to be happy. No other genre of music does “down and out” quite like country does. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe your boyfriend cheated on you. Maybe your car broke down in the middle of nowhere. Maybe all of those things happened to you within a 24-hour period (damn, rough day!). Luckily, no other genre does “you don’t need much to be happy” quite like country does, either. Focus on the positive, and pretty soon you’ll realize your life isn’t that bad after all. Example: “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” by Keith Urban:

10. Don’t settle. This lesson has surprised me, especially considering how country music tends to glamorize a more traditional life, but there are so many great country songs that remind us to reach for something more, better, bigger. Whether that means not accepting a second date with a so-so dude, or moving across the country alone, or pursuing a big, crazy dream, country music encourages us to never settle for mediocrity. Example: “Settlin'” by Sugarland (see also: “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” by Eli Young Band):