Your quarter-of-a-million dollar Liberal Arts degree is great for many things, of which few are conducive to becoming what the late D. F. Wallace once called “well-adjusted.” The following is a non-exhaustive list of 6 ways in which you can prepare to avoid disillusionment when your intimate understanding of Plato’s Forms does not land you a job as an analyst for a top-performing hedge fund in New York City.
1. Develop a Definition
You have spent the last 20 years of your life being defined by others: parents, professors, coaches, friends, siblings (and their various accomplishments that far exceed your own), lovers, et cetera. It’s high-time you learned more about You. You are not an astronaut, and you will never be an astronaut. And that’s OK. You are not the people you fucked in college, or the reason someone wakes up in the morning. You need to get drunk and honest with yourself. Celebrate You with a night-in, and an unholy amount of gin for company while you come to terms with the size of your penis, the money you make, the women who won’t sleep with you, and the fact that (for all intents and purposes) you’re probably not going to write The Great American Novel. Until you have defined yourself—both honestly, and with full-disclosure—you are probably not ready to share yourself with anyone else. Nietzsche called this “giving style to one’s character.” When it’s 4 A.M., and you’re bathing in a pool of vomit that smells indisputably like Pine-Sol and shame and you’re crying but you can’t tell whether they’re happy tears or sad tears and the only judge in the room is ¼-full handle of Tanqueray and your half-erect penis—in that moment, you will know that you’re doing it right.
2. Follow Through
Make a list of things you want (need?) to accomplish in the next 3 hours, 3 days, 3 months, and 3 years. Be realistic. Commit yourself to these goals, and take the necessary steps to put yourself in the best position to succeed. Tell a friend that will make you feel guilty if you miss the mark. If you want to run a marathon, stop smoking a fucking pack-a-day. If you want to stop sleeping with strangers, then stop sleeping with strangers. If you commit to plans, keep them. Nobody likes a flake. Your word is all you have.
3. Learn to be Assertive
This morning I couldn’t tell a friend how many eggs I wanted prepared for breakfast. That’s fucking embarrassing. Remove the following phrases from your Plans Vocabulary: “I don’t know,” and “I don’t care.” You do care. Everyone gives at least ¾ of a shit. When someone asks you where you’d like to go for dinner, you want to go to that shady Mexican restaurant with the outstanding margaritas, and OK tacos. If you are asked whether you’d like a medium or a large, you want a goddamn large because that’s the kind of guy you are. Say yes, and mean it. Children are indecisive, and you are not a child.
Your education should not have ended in that “Phenomenology & Existentialism” course you got suckered into during your otherwise alcohol-induced-coma of a senior year. Educate yourself every day. Read the paper from both sides. For every NYT article that you blow a holy load over because the columnist “just really gets you,” balance it out with some rightwing agenda (WSJ, Dallas Morning News—anything but FOX, really). Pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read, but “never had time for.” All you have now is time. Take a night class, or become a specialist. Learn a new language (French is especially worthwhile if you’d like to diversify your sex life). Be the friend who shits on everyone at your local bar’s trivia night—the glory that comes with this is unparalleled.
Spread your knowledge, goals, fluids, and shortcomings. Be open and honest, and when you hug: hug hard, and often. Share your fears, and you will feel less secluded. Trade your favorite novels with friends—you will learn more about your friends from their choices than you ever will over a shared bar tab. Share meals, stories, partners, good news, and bad. Do not fear disapproval.
When you feel yourself getting dragged under the current by waves of debt, failure, dissatisfaction, or unrequited love, and your lungs begin to fill with water, and the only thing you want to do is sink or drown or both, and you just can’t will yourself to breathe: keep your feet moving, and kick like hell. Breathe in, out, swim, and survive.