[Warning: Don't take this seriously. Until the end, then I say serious things. Kind of.]
Growing up is scary and weird. It's also frustrating, confusing, and extremely difficult. Nobody really tells you this. They might try to, or they drop little hints along the way, but nobody outright tells you: "Growing up sucks. It's scary, weird, frustrating, confusing, and extremely difficult. Prepare for lots of shit to go down. Prepare to be miserable. You'll likely fuck it up at one point; probably many points. If you're lucky, you'll actually survive and be a functioning human by the time you die. So good luck with that, kid." Nobody says it! Perhaps they've all forgotten, all of our parents and mentors and older people in general. Perhaps they've forgotten what a clusterfuck it was to grow up. Maybe they think it's better if we figure it out ourselves. But I'm indignant. Come on, older people, you really couldn't warn us? It's that hard?
Look, let's break it down. They drop hints. Sure. Thanks for that. They said, when we were in elementary school: "You must always write in cursive because in middle school they require you to write in cursive, always! Otherwise you'll fail and never make it to college!" When we got to middle school they didn't give a shit about cursive, but said, "You must always write in pen because in high school they require you to write in pen, always! Otherwise you'll fail and never make it to college!" Yeah, that didn't happen. In high school they didn't give a shit about pens. And then all throughout high school they went, "HOLY SHIT you'd better be a valedictorian and donate your spare organs to poor people and clean up trash with your teeth so you can put it on your resume and get into the Honors Society and then a halfway decent college! Otherwise you will fail at life and die!" Those were the hints we got in our early years. Do it right or you'll fuck up your entire future. Okay, fair, fair. I mean I worked hard in high school, I took AP classes because all my friends were doing it, and I got into college. A mediocre in-state university, but still. Huzzah, I thought, now the world is my oyster!
Wrong. When you get into college, people start giving you even more more useless life lessons in order to show you that no, life will never truly be your oyster. It starts with stuff like, "You'll never have more fun than when you're in college! Boy, enjoy that shit while you can! Sleep through all your morning classes and then drink heavily throughout the week, because you can't pull that crap in Real Life!" Yeah, okay. I didn't do that, really, other than the sleeping through class bit. But seriously, guys, that's your advice to young students? Enjoy it while you can, because pretty soon it's gonna suck? That just sounds like a myth to scare us into spending lots of money at the shit Montana bars. But that wasn't all. Then you started making us worry about grad school. "What grad school are you going to? Have you asked for letters of reference yet? What's your dissertation? Thesis? Applications! Resume! Work experience!" Abject terror. I came out of college filled with this horror that I was supposed to go to grad school or else I'd end up unemployed in Portland, Oregon with a BA and a cupboard full of expired ramen.
Luckily that only happened for a short while, but what I'm saying is, we're thrown all of these arbitrary yet very specific words of "wisdom" from the world, saying do this and do that or you'll fail. Don't do this and don't do that or you'll end up as a transient hooker on the streets of San Francisco, gross-sobbing because you wish you'd listened to your father and majored in business instead of English literature. I find that offensive. I find that their words of wisdom should have been more honest and all-encompassing. Here's what our parents, teachers, mentors, and the world should have told us while we were growing up, according to my very limited and biased experience.
|Haribo Starmix is scientifically proven to increase instances of criminal behavior.|
1. You will make many, many mistakes, and you will just have to deal with that (and hopefully learn from them). This is something I'm just now discovering, if you're curious to know, children and twenty-somethings (who are basically still children) of the world. Nobody tells you you're gonna fuck shit up repeatedly and be forced to go on living afterwards. They tell you inspiring things, things you want to hear, like, "We've got your back," or "Do what makes you happy." No. No. Don't do what makes you happy 100% of the time. I mean, I could get a serious endorphin rush every time I curb-stomp an orphan, but do I do that on a regular basis? No. In fact never, because that would be what we call a Life Fuck-up. That's right.
However, maybe one time I ate one too many Haribo Goldbears, suffered from an intense sugar rush, and ran through the streets of Northeast London until I found an orphan to curb stomp. Maybe the next day I felt horrible, really awful, because damn even though that kid has no family he's probably brain-damaged or dead now. Maybe I spent a week in bed, quietly weeping, writing poems about that poor lonely child. Then after a while I felt better, saying to myself, "Well I think I've learned from that little mistake! I won't be curb stomping anyone ever again." Jump to six months later, the Haribo headquarters in Germany. I've just gorged myself on Tangfastics, Starmix, and Strawbs. My mind a whirr of nothing but sweet sweet sugar and my cavities in agony, I stumble out onto the darkened streets of Bonn, and begin my hunt for an orphan.
"Holy balls," you might say. "Why would you eat all those gummies if you knew it could send you into an orphan-curb-stomping spree?" Good question, dear reader. Good question. The only answer I have for you is this: You will fuck up many times. You will hopefully learn from those fuck-ups. Hopefully after only one. But life is hard, and being a human in this cold, cold world is hard, so maybe you'll have to fuck up repeatedly before you get the message. Just don't hurt yourself afterwards, because we call that "self harm" and it makes you seem emo.
|Direct their attention from your sad existence to your rad wardrobe with a New Look coat.|
2. Not everybody likes you, but they totally should. This is one I'm working on with the help of my dear boyfriend Greg, who has it down pat. I've found that I go through most of my life feeling hated by about 99% of the earth's populace. The reasons vary. One day it may be because my music is too loud on the tube and I'm forcing everybody to listen to second-hand Patrick Wolf and Florence + the Machine, which is enough to make anybody suicidal and full of rage all at once. Then another day it may be because my hair is windblown and disheveled, so I must look pathetic and disgusting in equal parts, offending the unsuspecting eyes of all those unfortunate enough to pass me. Or maybe it's just because somebody glanced at me, and the only possible reason they could have to move their eyeballs in the direction of my face is that they hate me with every fiber of their being.
These are the thoughts that go through my head on a pretty regular basis. Is that fun and exciting for me? No. Do I need to work on this? Yeah. So here's what I try to tell myself when I end up doubled over in a fetal position on platform 3 in the Green Park tube station because I'm hung over and too scared to get on a train for fear I'll hurl all over the holiday shoppers: Maybe these people see me looking pale and sickly on the bench. Maybe they think, "God what a sad excuse for a human that is. I hate that she exists." Or maybe they think, "That sick-looking girl has a pimp coat, did she get it at New Look? What a badass winner at life."
When in times of social duress (every moment of my life), I try to imagine that people think things like this. I mean, even if they're not wondering where I got my fabulous cheapo high street coat, they definitely should be. If I'm in the kitchen fiddling with the oven for an hour trying to figure out how to turn on the bottom left burner without causing an explosion, and then my barely legal flatmate enters the room and gives me a cutting look of repulsion and pity, I can hold my head high and think, "Well at least that bitch doesn't have a swank Primark sweater like I'm wearing today. I bet she's afraid I'm gonna open up a big can of American whoop-ass on her right now." It's best to imagine that your cool outfits inflict equal parts terror, longing, and admiration upon your foes. I mean, sure, maybe this girl actually hates me because I refuse to buy more toilet paper after buying it twice in a row, and because I left an angry note in the fridge berating her for eating my mature British cheddar cheese. But should I dwell on that? No. I should think to myself, "Wow, sucks for this girl that she isn't me, or at least my close ally. Because I'm pretty much the greatest thing created by mother nature. If she wants to give me the stink eye, that's her own sad little problem."
So just remember, if somebody doesn't like you, they're one of the world's many Life Failures and deserve to be force-fed sauerkraut. That's because you rule. Who cares if this is all in your head? Doesn't matter. Delusion is your best friend when it comes to worrying about whether or not people hate you.
|Maruchan Ramen: worth eating every day for a week after buying those River Island booties.|
3. It's your money, do what you want with it. You will never learn how to live on a budget if you're smart with your expenses all the time. If you don't do it all wrong at first, on a regular basis, you'll find yourself having a major nervous breakdown every time you overdraw your account by two dollars. Nobody wants a major nervous breakdown every Friday. So do yourself a favor and take it easy. Be a young person for a while and get all of that irresponsible shopping and drinking out of your system. That way, when you get a career and a spouse and (god forbid) children, you can begin learning how to balance your budget and acting the "adult" without any regrets or panic attacks.
I've found that a good method to keeping myself in line when it comes to money, without doing all the work of assigning myself an actual budget, is to spend thoughtlessly until my bank account is empty. Then I can comfortably live off of half-moldy bread and tap water until the next paycheck or student loan refund comes along, without stressing about whether or not I should buy those furry ankle boots from River Island. It's win/win. I get to feel like a proper starving artist wasting away in poverty half the time, and the rest of the time I enjoy a daily latte and trip to the shopping center to indulge in unnecessary and excessive consumerism. (Disclaimer: This might eventually backfire if your parents are supporting you, and you could end up disowned. But if you're the one who's applied for the student loans and whose name is on the credit card, spend away. Nobody else is getting hurt, so just use that money however you damn well please. Until you get married, that is; that shit's a whole new can of totally gross worms.)
|Best not to drunkenly book a ticket to Thailand, regardless of marital status.|
4. If you don't get hurt, and if you don't hurt someone, then you're probably doing it wrong. That's right. If you go through life like a perfect angel, doing everything right and kissing babies while you're at it, then you've officially Failed at Life. I don't like to say it, but it's true. You're a goner. Everybody hates you and you haven't learned a thing. Here's the deal, O Perfect One: You haven't grown. The minute one difficult situation crops up in your life, whether it be sooner or later, you're going to be so unprepared you'll undoubtedly defecate in your pants and then run around in circles screaming until you pass out.
Some people are born knowing how life works, and being really good at it. Those people are called Liars, or Satan. Eventually, something will happen, and you've got to know how to deal with it. Therefore, don't be surprised when your long-term girlfriend decides she's tired of the way you eat cereal in the morning, pours a gallon of 1% milk over your head, and walks out the door for good. It's not fun, kids, but it's life. And just remember: that's not the last time this will happen. If you're lucky, you'll only have a gallon of milk or some other beverage poured hatefully over your head by a loved one about five or six more times over the course of your life. It'll probably even happen more than that. The important thing to learn from this is that you can survive it. Maybe you've listened to eight different boyfriends telling you how he didn't mean to, but he ended up sleeping with that hottie 16-year-old who works at McDonald's, and how he'd love to stay with you but he's busy working out the logistics of his now illegal love affair with an underage fast food employee to give you the attention you deserve. Maybe each of those conversations hurt a little less, or maybe a little more. But did you learn something from the ordeal? If it happens again, probably not. But if you finally realize that maybe you should stop dating pedophile Happy Meal addicts, then you've taken a step in the right direction. The direction of maturity. That's all we can do, really, is take steps toward that functional existence we all dream of, the one only Liars and Satan claim to live.
Now before I move on, let's talk about the other side of the coin: When you hurt someone you care about. This one's harder. Nobody wants to admit they've hurt anyone, because only assholes hurt people they love. While growing up your dad always said, "If he hurts you, I'll take a shotgun to his face." It was always about others inflicting pain upon you. Nobody ever said, "If you get drunk, fly to Thailand and have a cocaine orgy on an uninhabited jungle island but then tell your boyfriend you didn't answer his texts because you were busy saving a drowning puppy from an approaching great white shark, what are you gonna do about it?" Few of us were ever given that talk.
So when it came time to decide whether or not to board that plane to Thailand, some of us went right ahead onto that aircraft, not thinking what the ramifications to our relationship could be. Then some of us, the ones with sharper instincts, thought, "Hmmm it might be a bad idea to drunkenly fly to Thailand and engage in a cocaine orgy without first consulting my significant other. I'd better call my boyfriend to come pick me up from terminal 2, and explain everything to him." The ones who thought that are assholes, because they got it right. (Mostly. They did still book a ticket to Thailand.) I hate those guys. Lording it over the rest of us with their "morals" and "honor codes" and "ethics". Not everybody is hard-wired to get it right every time. Most of us have to make those repeated mistakes as mentioned in lesson #1 before we can confidently say we won't hurt that poor long-suffering boyfriend anymore. Not that we ever wanted to hurt him, we were just stupid and really craved authentic pad thai. Some people just learn faster than others though, and I hate those people. Share some of the wealth, assholes.
|Why would you ever want to eat this.|
5. You're not always right, but stand by your guns if your guns are worth it. Don't be stubborn, though. Stubbornness is for dicks who don't want to know what idiots they're being. That said, accept this one thing: You are not always right. Got that? You are not always right. I've yet to learn this one, and I've gone through a lot of training. It's hard, especially when you're such a cool person as I am. If you think you're always right, you'll inevitably be wrong at some point -- it's statistically probable, I did the math -- and then what? Do you admit it immediately? Do you hold out for a really long time, and then when somebody finally googles it and you discover you're actually wrong, just shrug and act like you're not as humiliated and ashamed as you actually are? The latter is a tough one, because usually it's impossible to conceal that level of humiliation and shame. I've tried. They can always tell.
So before you start making grand claims about how you know to spell Mozart's full baptismal name in front of your friends, always know you're right. I don't care if you think you're right, know it. If you don't have his name tattooed on your body somewhere, you're probably not enough of a hardcore Mozart fan to know his entire name, and you'd better stop while you're ahead. If, on the other hand, you have "Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart" tattooed in script on your butt cheeks, then please. Tell us more.
That said, sometimes it's okay and even important to stand up for your beliefs even if they're not necessarily correct or popular. However, don't get confused and think that just because you believe something, it's necessarily true. It's easy to forget that nobody likes kippers, even if you do. So if you throw a dinner party and the main course is just plates full of whole dead fish, people will try to murder you in your own home. I don't care if you like them. I don't care. "But they're so delicious and fishy, those kippers!" you might say. Okay, you think that, but do your guests? Hell no, your guests came expecting a Sunday roast and instead they got foul, odorous denizens of the sea resting in their own juices, fresh from the tin. You didn't even make proper kippers, you just bought the pre-cooked kipper snacks and dumped them, metallic and oozing, onto plates. You could give us all a billion reasons why you love kippers, why their taste is unparalleled and out of this world, but we will never agree with you. So don't stand by that gun. It's a stupid gun and you'll never win with it, and it's not worth it in the end because all you've achieved is a dinner party of kippers.
However, if the stakes were higher and your argument meant something, like if these kippers were in fact fished out of the sea by your own father in his last act before dying of pneumonia, and his last words to you were, "Please... enjoy the kippers. Fishing them up was the last thing I did in life that I was truly proud of," then stand by those guns no matter what. If your dinner guests still refuse to eat the kippers, even though they are a symbol of your father's loving and fruitful existence on this good earth, then your guests are assholes and you should kick them out and eat all the kippers yourself, remembering that by standing by your beliefs you were truly loyal to your deceased father.
So there you have it, my five life lessons. It's important to remember that I am 25 years old, I know very little about life, and most of these lessons I haven't even learned myself. I do know that growing up sucks, though. And let me be serious for a second because god knows this post isn't very serious. Just let me say this: I feel like I'm doing more growing up now, in London, thousands of miles from anything familiar, than I'd done in the 24.5 years of my life previous. I mean, Portland helped a bit, but this is some intense shit right now and it's quite difficult. Did anybody ever tell you that long distance relationships were hard? They were right. Hardest thing I've ever done. If you think it's easy then you're a Liar or Satan. If you are forced to take part in one then probably about 80% of your life mistakes will be made during this time (I did the math). Also, it's more than likely that you'll get hurt and that your partner will get hurt, unless you're one of those hateful perfect humans who were born knowing how to live life.
So if it happens and you fuck up, don't worry. You're human. We're all human. You will live through it, unless you climb to the top of the London Eye, King Kong style, and fling yourself into the Thames. You'd likely not survive that. Which is why I haven't done it yet.