Warning: some naughty language below!
First, be born a human. Obviously, you’ve already done that—so good job.
Now, make mistakes. Tons of them. Know this is unavoidable, because as a general rule, we humans are not perfect. Not even close. We are, in fact, total fuckups.
We mess up and say the wrong things and mistake the wrong people for our soulmates. We walk off jobs without having another one lined up and ignore our ensuing credit card debt. We fail classes, crash cars, disappoint people, get inappropriately drunk at weddings, and act like total dicks to each other for no good reason. Some of us actually used to cut our own bangs, which never, ever works out.
Keep going. Do more of the same stuff. Or worse.
And by worse, I mean _______________ (fill in the blank).
Be all, “whatever, I’m just young,” even after you reach the age where you’re actually kind of not, but it’s the best excuse you can think of. Responsibility was never your thing anyway. That’s a word grownups use.
And come on. Does anybody really want to be a grownup?
Can I get an N?!
Can I get an O?!
What does that spell?!
Cling to your youth. Call it being “smart.”
Watch the grownups around you. Study their mannerisms, the jeans they wear, the jokes they tell. Make a conscious effort not to do what they do, or wear the jeans they wear, or tell the jokes they tell. This is how you will manage to avoid a fate you consider putrid. You can also choose a career path that can hardly be classified as a career path, like cocktail waitressing. Then get incredibly annoyed by people who tell you you’re not “living up to your potential.” Judge them in return for not “getting you.”
Clearly, they have no idea how smart you are.
Take nothing seriously.
Play it off.
Pride yourself on the fact that you are a person who doesn’t have to punch a time card, own an alarm clock, wear sensible shoes, or pay back student loans. That’s what “slaves to the man” do, and you definitely ain’t no slave.
Not you, baby. Uh-uh.
Eventually, you will turn an age when this kind of thing is no longer cute. (Not that it ever was.) I’d say 30 would be about the cut-off. At this point you may find yourself in one or more of the following: A) Therapy. B) Rehab. C) One terrible relationship after another. D) One go-nowhere job after another. E) Utter confusion about everything.
Take up interesting coping mechanisms. Sleep until noon. Smoke cigarettes until you choke. Join the gym, even though you hate the gym, and you’re pretty sure you’ll never go. Rearrange the furniture over and over. Drive 45 minutes to the beach by yourself in the middle of the night with the music cranked, just to breathe in the ocean air for five minutes.
Dye your hair bright red. Or pink. Or blue. Or all three.
Then wake up one day with the overwhelming realization that you may have made some awfully stupid life choices and that you actually have no idea what the hell you’re doing.
Erroneously assume you are the only one in the whole wide world who ever makes stupid life choices and that nobody likes you. Base this solely on that one time you called four of your friends in a row and not one of them answered.
Screw those bitches. They’re such bitches anyway.
Decide you need space. Don’t answer the phone when they eventually call back.
Stop opening your mail.
Get completely sick of yourself. Go to the gym. Hate it. Hate everyone.
Notice how easy others appear to have it—because again, they probably never make stupid life choices. They make responsible life choices. This is the only feasible explanation for why everyone but you seems so goddamn well-adjusted.
Did you hear about Heather? She and her husband just bought a new house up in the hills. Looks like her investment firm is really taking off. And did I mention she’s having twins?
Heather sure sounds happy. And why wouldn’t she be? Heather has her shit together. You eat Oreos for breakfast and haven’t done your taxes in three years. So hats off to the Heathers of the world, because someone needs to buy the houses and have the babies, even though the whole thing makes you feel as if you are destined to be on the outside looking in on life and there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it.
And it will hurt.
It will hurt because your life turned out nothing like you thought it would. It will hurt because it feels like you’ve blown it. It will hurt because your boss yelled at you for being five minutes late to the bar the other night when you were already feeling lonely and bitter. But mostly, it will hurt because hurt hurts.
Off you go now. You don’t want to be late to work again. And those drinks certainly aren’t going to sling themselves.
Exactly one of three things will happen next.
Scenario #1: In a vain attempt to stay a step ahead of the situation, you will choose to overcompensate for your shortcomings by slapping on an air of self-confidence and imperturbability usually reserved for the likes of high-ranking military officers or members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan. (In other words, you’ll fake it.) The upshot to this is no one will ever guess how flawed you’re really feeling or how tragically human you really are. You will, however, probably end up alone and perpetually estranged from meaningful contact with others until the day you finally die.
Scenario #2: You might begrudgingly admit you could have tried harder. (But not out loud.) You’ll also start to wonder if you should be doing the things others do, and wearing the jeans they wear, and telling the jokes they tell—if and when you can remember them—because for some reason, jokes are hard to remember. And if you do, be sure to tell them right, or people won’t laugh. Then you’re not only unoriginal, you’re unfunny.
This one is also kind of depressing.
Scenario #3: Something will happen. Something huge. And definitely life-changing. It could be something amazing, like holding your best friend’s brand new, healthy, 30-minute-old baby girl for the very first time. Or something else, like finding out you have a terrible illness. It could be winning money in Vegas. Or losing money in Vegas. Or winning nothing in Vegas in the first place, because you suck at gambling. Or losing a parent. Maybe it’s a first kiss with a gorgeous person who actually does end up being your soul mate. Or maybe it’s something as simple as noticing the saltiness of the ocean air on one of your nighttime drives to the beach, and how much you love that smell because it reminds you of when you were young.
But whatever it is, whether it’s something good or bad—both of which will happen, all the time, because that is life—as a result, you will end up having one of those moments where you are suddenly, wholly, beautifully enveloped in the fact that in the broad scheme of things, none of your problems of the moment matter.
“But my life is a total fucking mess.”
I know. But it’s yours. And as long as you didn’t murder anyone today—or do something else equally heinous—everything else will work itself out. Not to sound all platitude-y, but it always does.
“I just wish I could go back and not make the same mistakes.”
See paragraph #2. Or let me just pull out the important part for you: “As a general rule, we humans are not perfect. Not even close. We are, in fact, total fuckups.” If you didn’t make those mistakes, you for sure would have made other ones. And you can’t go back anyway.
“And what if that one moment never happens for me, and I’m the one person who’s doomed to walk the planet confused and alone.”
It will. And you’re not. Unless you think faking your way through life is the way to go, but as someone once told me, nobody is interested in people who are pretty and fake. Barbies are pretty and fake. And no matter what’s going on, I’m guessing you’d rather be human than plastic. It’s so much more fun.
Keep it ugly and real, this person also said. Ugly and real. Because so what if you’ve made stupid life choices. You can still be kind to others, and sensitive to their feelings, and call your parents for no other reason than just to say hi, and be helpful when you’re in a position to help—even if it means just listening to a friend when they need to talk about their problems—and maybe not be the person who loses it on the Starbucks chick who accidentally made your chai latte with the wrong milk, or gets in full-on Twitter wars with people who have opposing political views, or screams at the dog for chewing on the furniture, and on and on.
Basically, you can still be happy. Or sad, if that’s the case. Then there’s being happy and sad at the same time, which does happen, and all I can say is just go with it. And just be you.
And that’s what you call having your shit together.
Author: Anne Clendening
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Travis May