Last Wednesday was my birthday, and with its conclusion, so marked the end of my 25th year as a human person. This experience has been bizarre and oft a conduit of existential screaming, both internal and external. Like some sort of disorienting amusement park attraction, such as the Steel Venom roller coaster at Valleyfair. Actually, now that I think about it, exactly like the Steel Venom. Right down to the split-second shifts between gleeful anticipation and fight-or-flight induced anxiety. And just like that ridiculous ride, so far, after two and a half decades of continual emotional gymnastics, as I wait in line to take another year for a spin, I can’t help but feel that time-honored, contradictory mixture of excitement and dread.
My birthday being so close to the completion of Earth’s orbit around the sun affords two regular observations. One, it’s always cold (thanks Minnesota), and two, given that the occasion serendipitously finds me little more than a week after the New Year has began, I have an urge to reflect upon my experiences and create resolutions for the upcoming 12 months that is compounded to levels that simply cannot be ignored. It’s a vicious cycle, and one I suspect I am doomed to repeat ad nauseum until, presumably, I have died or transcended this earthly form to the 5th dimension where a band of Scientologists are waiting to greet me and gloat how they were right all along.
Spiritual inadequacy aside, the immutable fact remains: I am now a quarter century old. That’s a whole increment of an arbitrary length of time, and not, as I understand, an insignificant one for a species that has a rough go making even the entire century to begin with. My youth, it would seem, is behind me, or at least waning like the elven kingdom of Rivendell during the War of the Ring. Ahead lies adulthood in earnest, and with it the continual promise of increasingly complicated life experiences. Careers, significant others, wholesome family outings, more unwanted celebrity deaths, potentially the death of the entire planet. It’s all lying in wait like a house cat looking for the opportune moment to stick its paw up through the crack between a living room couch and end table.
What’s my point? I thought it might be fun to share some of my accrued wisdom and insights from my rich 25 years of ill-advised behavior. I’m not sure it really amounts to much, but hey, as I’ve said before, nothing really matters anyway.
So, since we’re all sufficiently bored and disillusioned, here’s a list of stuff I’ve learned that may or may not useful.
- Being able to rely on your family is a nice extra benefit I feel people who are fortunate enough to have and call upon at will maybe don’t fully appreciate. A lot of folks are on their own when they come of age in the big bad world, and having a sympathetic ear when your car breaks down or you have absolutely no money for food is probably the greatest resource and stress-reliever one can have in this corprocratic hypercapitalistic near-apocalypse we all find ourselves trying to hustle inside of. Support systems allow you to field problems more effectively, shocker, I know. If you have people like this in your life, make sure they’re aware you appreciate them. Kind, heartfelt words from loved ones are good for brains.
- I don’t understand the resentment toward “PC Culture”, and I haven’t met anyone make an un-ironic reference to it that wasn’t sprayed all over with alt-right or misogynistic mind-diarrhea in a YouTube comments section. “PC Culture” is basically being respectful of others. Holding each other accountable even when nobody’s watching. Your character speaks volumes, yada, yada, yada. It’s all right to say something insensitive and not realize it. Mistakes are the easiest way to learn. And yeah, sometimes it’s a pain in the ass and you feel like you’re walking on eggshells. But I guess I’d rather be annoyed and be made to feel uncomfortable from that end, than a person of a marginalized group adding another moment to their life-long reel of people saying things that discount their humanity and make them feel shitty about themselves just because I feel like running my mouth. Ya dig?
Also, anybody freaking out about the Gillette Me Too ad: fighting and touching people without their permission, especially in a professional setting, is not cool. That just seems like common sense. Don’t really see how that’s controversial messaging. Also, I’ll have you know Gillette razors are perfectly serviceable, so the whole campaign is a win-win as far as I’m concerned.
- Narrative and philosophy are powerful complementary tools in breaking down psychology, history, communication, and a host of other useful and nuanced humanities. I have been struck by how the effort to fuel one’s own education based on personal goals and interests is one of the most satisfying means of connecting with the world, and one that does not have to be nearly as tiring or time-wasting as being bound in service to a prescribed program of instruction at an academic institution. This isn’t to say I don’t value my education. It’s provided a helpful template for me to pull from in directing my current vocational pursuits. But the learning you accrue after school can have as much say, if not more, in your life trajectory as your studies. I can tell you I have learned much more about creative writing and myself in the last 2 years of working on my novel and reading relevant texts that I choose for myself than I ever did with someone handing me pre-rendered curriculum at the U.
- Try not to shout, even if you’re excited, and especially if you’re angry. Yelling and personal insults are the two biggest ways to ensure people shut down or get defensive in any dialog. This is something I still struggle with personally (I’ve never been good at modulating the volume of my voice), and an issue I hope to meaningfully address in the coming year.
- Animals make life better. They reduce stress and teach us the value of being unconditionally kind. The only reason I do not own any is because they make traveling difficult, but I will have a dog and a cat or two someday, I reckon.
- If you have the funds and opportunity to do so: live in multiple places, and see as much of the world as you can. Stay in hostels, make friends with locals, hike up mountains, sample a wide variety of alcohol. Learn another language. Globalization becomes much less scary when you become a part of it. I would not be who I am today without my adventures, domestic and abroad, and I will always have a very particular kind of love for the friends I’ve made along the way. Thank you for enriching my life. I hope I’ve brought some amount of comparable joy and wonder to yours. You inspire me.
- Admit when you err. Err often. Err with confidence. Being challenged and embarrassed will make you stronger and help you learn what’s really important to you on a fundamental level. Some people disagree with me, or my methods for doing so, and that’s ok. I’m only right, I’ve found through scientific observation, about 50% of the time, if that.
- Value experience and connection over all else. I believe it is the only meaningful measurement of personal success in an otherwise apparently meaningless universe. Money is important for a certain level of security and the continued opportunity to build happiness, but only in having enough to facilitate the aforementioned goal. Money won’t make your soul purr, and it won’t help you get into heaven if you subscribe to that sort of thinking. To quote my high school senior play: “You can’t take it with you.”
- Be weird and develop a sense of humor. It will make everything much more bearable. Life is absurd.
- Read books. Specifically mine when it’s published.
I think that about covers it. I wonder what more there is to discover in the next 25 years. Here’s hoping 2019 provides a strong start. Cheers, friends, and remember – when in doubt, chunch it out.