Thought Catalog
April 10, 2012

8 Things Everyone Must Know How To Do

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Let’s get one thing straight: I am amongst the least wise and mature people I know, and if left to my own devices, I would probably have all the know-how and cunning of the little semi-born kangaroo baby that blindly crawls around to find its mother’s pouch. However, I have been lucky enough to have parents that forced me to learn useful things against my will, as well as situations that have left me in tears at the last minute, swearing to myself that next time, I would come prepared. Though I’m still very much in the process of mastering them myself, I at least know what they are. (I hope.)

1. How to drive a manual car.

Let me tell you, learning how to drive on a 4-speed 1994 Toyota Tercel with no air conditioning in the jock-strap-esque humidity of Maryland in the summer is less than ideal. But even in more temperate climates, you will probably spend the first few weeks/months simply dropping the clutch and lurching forward uncomfortably while whoever was unfortunate enough to have to be stuck teaching you claws into the sides of their seats and bemoans their poor gear box. However, once you make it through the awful trial period of doing everything in your limited power to ruin the machine, you’re pretty much golden from there on out. There will be few, if any, cars you can’t drive more or less immediately, and you won’t be left being the derpy American if you go abroad and need to get somewhere that even the socialist tentacles of European public transportation have not yet reached. The entire world makes fun of the States for not having been brought up learning how to actually drive actual cars — we lean more towards the side of go-carts with television screens in the middle of the steering wheel — and it’s unfortunate. We’re a smart people, we owe it to ourselves to learn what it driving really is.

2. How to make minor sewing repairs.

Have you ever found yourself, in an inconvenient or embarrassing moment, realizing that there was a tear in your jacket or a button suspiciously missing from your shirt? If you haven’t, I commend you for buying only the most resilient and durable of clothes, and never snagging your sleeve/pant leg against one of the myriad pointy things we walk by in our daily routines. For the rest of us, though, there have been several uncomfortable realizations that whatever we were wearing or planning to wear now looks significantly less professional/civilized, while simultaneously being reminded as to exactly why we can’t have nice things. But this shouldn’t be the end of the world! We should be able to understand that sewing a button back on, or mending a fallen hem, is amongst the easiest tasks we can take on in a day. If you can poke a pointy thing through a soft thing a few times in a row (heh), you already know how to use a needle and thread. Watch an instructional video, read a guidebook, find any old lady on the street — learning how couldn’t be easier. You shouldn’t have to shuffle shamefully back to your mother to fix your things. You are a grown-ass adult now, time to learn how to replace a button.

3. How to change a tire.

I’m not even going to lie here, I know how to change one in theory. I’ve read about it several times and even watched a few YouTube videos. I’ve had several men, ranging from gawky to burly, do it in front of me and even explain what lug nuts are (aside from hilarious sounding). However, leave me on the side of the road with a sad little flat and some cold rain pouring on me, and I’ll likely just sob quietly as I go through my contacts looking for someone to come help me out. If you manage to get this one down to a science, I tip my hat to you. You’re a better grown-up than I’ll ever be.

4. How to break up with some dignity.

Most of us have had to break the news, at some point in our lives, that things just aren’t working out with that person we used to love so much. It’s extremely uncomfortable, and can often be dragged out over enormous periods of time because we’re just too spineless to suck it up and rip the emotional band-aid off. But even worse than the Breakup That Lasts Twice As Long As The Relationship is the breakup that shows absolutely no respect to the dumpee, or to the relationship itself. If you’ve ever been broken up with via email, text, finding out about a budding new romance, hearing from someone else that they want to break up with you, Facebook relationship status, IM, or complete lack of communication for an extended period of time, you know how much that sh-t blows. Though it’s still awful to have someone sit you down and be like, “You no longer interest me on an emotional, physical, or intellectual level, and I will enjoy life more without you” — or something along those lines — it’s infinitely better than having someone slink off into the night and not even have to deal with your rage/tears/flatware-throwing. We owe it to each other as humans — especially humans who at one point cuddled post-coitus — to give each other the truth and accept whatever reaction there might be. It may not be fun, but it’s definitely what an adult would do.

5. How to do some basic cooking.

For some reason, I have a lot of friends — male and female — who openly pride themselves on not knowing how to cook anything. “I use my kitchen for liquor storage,” they’ll say. “I spend all my money going out to eat.” “I can’t even boil water.” And don’t get me wrong, I know that cooking is far from being everyone’s thing. There are some people who love to do it, for whom cooking is a hobby, an art, something to take endless pictures of and put it on every single social media platform because what do I wanna see more than Instagram pictures of a bowl of rice?! NOTHING. Anyway, for many people, it’s just a means to an end, and I get that. But still, how pathetic is it if you take pride in not being able to get at least a boiled egg from the refrigerator to your stomach? How can someone f-ck up cooking pasta? Don’t you realize that you are going to be amongst the first to get picked off in the zombie apocalypse?!?! You should have at least a minimal understanding of what food is and how it goes from the wilderness to your mouth. You should have a few basic dishes that can always be made in a pinch, and that prevent you from spending 1/3rd of your income at Chipotle and Chinese restaurants. You should be aware of more ingredients than “the sweat of someone else’s hard work.” I feel like it would just be better for society in general, don’t you?

6. How to apologize.

Perhaps the hardest on this list, as it’s so ingrained in our pride to do not want to, we have to get over ourselves just the tiniest bit and be able to own up to our transgressions. We all struggle with it, but when we’re looking at someone else’s apology objectively, we can understand that saying “I’m sorry you were hurt,” “I’m sorry you were upset,” or “I’m sorry for expressing myself, I’ll shut up in the future,” are the linguistic equivalent of making a raspberry and running in the other direction. How satisfying is it when someone truly feels remorse for what they did, learns from it, and expresses sincere contrition over what happened? It’s basically a moral orgasm. We could all benefit from doing it more — and meaning it.

7. How to write a professional email.

I think one of the most shocking things about entering the professional world is often how un-adult it can be. When we’re kids, or even still in school, the world of offices and emails and handshakes and suits seems so foreign and distinguished, everyone participating in it seems a class of human that has gone through an extra phase of evolution. Then you actually arrive in it yourself and realize that people your parents’ age are putting emoticons in business emails and including more exclamation points than a 13-year-old girl describing her first kiss over AIM. There is just a huge disconnect, it seems, for many people as to how to put exactly what they’re trying to say in as pleasant, professional, and inoffensive a tone as possible. So many are the times that I find myself thinking of the sign off to use and whether or not what I’m saying made me sound like as much of an asshole as I actually am, or successfully covering it up with enough extra words. There should be a seminar we all can take that will teach us the difference between “Best” and “Regards” as well as when, if ever, it’s cool to use a smiley face. We should just be on the same page once and for all, and leave the true humiliation for when we accidentally end a business call with “love you.”

8. How to make a budget.

I wish that this came into practice as easily as it comes to mind. I’m pretty sure we all know that we need to spend less than we make, think about the future, and make the most out of the money we have. Knowing just the basics about money, savings, interest, retirement, investment, or even how to balance a check book (things that you never learn in high school, of course, because you’re too busy taking standardized tests full of information you’ll literally never see again in your life), would make a huge difference for pretty much everyone. It’s shocking the amount of us who really just live paycheck-to-paycheck (even if we don’t have to), or pay almost no attention to what we’re taking in vs. what we’re spending. Some of us barely even look at our accounts regularly, unless we’ve gone on a particularly brutal spending spree of late. But it seems that so many of our problems would magically melt away if we were able to maybe draft up an Excel spreadsheet or two, talk to our bank representative occasionally, and manage to put a little aside every month. Or, you know, whatever. Let’s just go to brunch. TC mark

image – Emerson Library

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