I was drinking Yuengling for the first time in the nook of a San Francisco bar exactly two years after I graduated from Berkeley. It’s that type of beer with a cult following I wasn’t privy to until a lovely person, with eyes Charles Bukoswski could comment on, introduced it to me. It was glorified brown water — drinkable and extra-American tasting because it was imbued with “value”: the type of value that’s not authentic or intrinsic to the beer’s actual quality but entirely dependent upon its presentation. Yuengling is bootlegged from Pottsville, PA, and trucked into the west coast where hoodied barmen in the Mission unload the bottles and keep the reserves off the menu to increase its mystique.
I wish two years ago, someone reminded me to be more aware of this conundrum when graduating from college— it’s embedded in our culture (and nature) to want things we can’t have, but that doesn’t mean that’s the best thing for us or the highest quality experience.Things seem more desirable when they are out of reach, when they have rebuked you once, only to keep you wondering and wanting more. Even if it’s shitty beer; if that shitty beer isn’t available for some time you’ll want it as soon as it comes back. The way we “package” things is artifice and an advertorial construct proven to be successful in business.
I hope you remember in moments of desire, impulse, laughter, deep sadness, and the spectrum of emotions you bear generously in this world, that you are not business. Your value is not dependent upon your productivity or measuring up to others in dollar signs or how others view you in a bar or against another. Do not relate your human-ness to the tactics we’ve built in efforts to sell and make money. Why? Because a person of substance cannot be packaged; he or she cannot be thought in terms of transactions.
One of the best lessons I’ve learned is to recognize when something is being “messaged” to me; when the artifice and presentation glosses over the truth to make something seem more than it is. Check your sources. Know who is true and acting with integrity. This will take practice and experience. It’s your responsibility to unpack the story presented to you, to find the truth and remove the smoke and mirrors refracting a spectrum of angles trying to convince you to believe because someone has something at stake.
With this, do not punish someone who is honest with good intention. Being an honest person isn’t just about telling the truth. It’s about what you do with that information: how you act, how you approach someone and how you respect someone when you know that person isn’t privy to the entire story.
What you do with information is the truest indication of integrity and character because the truth is a sacred and powerful thing. When you deceive someone because of ulterior motives, or out of jealousy, you’re not just hurting that person, you are tampering with the one thing we can tether our lives to— the truth. Plots will always be revealed; narratives are played out and when you are untrustworthy you have done a disservice to the world.
I don’t disregard the existence of political theories, the work of self-interest to leverage success, of Machiavellian might that’s being played out every day and in our history books. There’s a time and a place for politics, but not when it comes to matters of the heart.
Emotional politicking, someone being dishonest or conniving, tells a gross tale of littleness that demeans themselves in efforts to get something for personal gain or satisfaction. Playing with someone’s heart is cruel and threatens the dignity of your own personhood. Your life, being a human being, isn’t reliant upon constructs of withholding, empty presentations and counterfeits that are trying to sell you something, or entice someone to believe something that’s not true in order to “win.” Love was never made to be a competitive sport.
It’s far more satisfying to decide what it is you want and go out to find it because you are self-determined. Your decisions and desires should not be dictated by the trappings of advertisement or “playing hard to get,” contrived to make someone interested.
Two years ago, I would have liked to have been told that when you graduate, when you are here in the world like you’ve always been, you are here to be honest, to find your fullest self and share it, unafraid, and with no judgment.
It takes a lot of bravery to go out there in the world and radiate your essence, to shed ideals and husks of “coolness.” Recently, on Medium.com, Rachel Sklar wrote, “But! This is the deal we’ve made with the world. We interact with it.”
Live your life with urgency and shape the hell up if you’re not treating each day as if it’s something to celebrate.
Be brilliant by listening more than talking. You’ll never be fully “enlightened” and you’ll never want to be friends with someone who is self-proclaimed as being “enlightened.” Don’t forget, you are more than a person stapled to a routine, a routine you think makes you more of an “effective” person. Cherish your idle time immensely and consume yourself in what truly engrosses you. Go on road trips. Don’t sleep if it means you can see a lunar eclipse. Never forget the power of a hand written letter. Set your heart on something you’ve always wanted and be ready your break your heart over and over because some days it’s a fucking slog and others you realize this is the point of it all. This type of joy will never come from the contrived and empty pleasures you will buy.
Two years ago, I would have never wanted to hear this, but: be really bad at something. You won’t have to try with this. You might have already experienced it. If not, don’t worry, it will find you eventually, and you’ll be really bad at it and you’ll fail so many times that you might not know who you are anymore. If you haven’t reached this point in your life yet, it’s a special brand of human development that helps our egos and bolsters us for the future. Eventually, you’ll feel okay, find value and esteem in your efforts because you are talented and bright at so many things that you must know the lows to know the highs and to know what it means to toil.
We might never truly be able to fully understand what governs the swings of our happiness or our sadness, or if attempting to categorize and over analyze them, makes sense of them at all. But imbuing your feelings with meaning is “wise” and it is also possible and it is also your utmost responsibility to know how to make yourself happy and how to source your own happiness. Your life is not an assignment or a list of boxes that needs to be checked. If you treat it this way—if you go through the motions without intent, you will reach crossroads in your life where you do not recognize yourself.
You’ll be walking to work with the masses, see your face in a store window, unrecognizable and ask, “Where have I gone? Where am I going?” You will ask all your friends, you will seek solace everywhere to get the permission that “you are okay.” And only you will be able to determine this, to determine if you’re living an honest and full life, that you actually give a shit about what you’re doing day to day.
This is an invitation to love and find yourself, to have the patience and faith that you will let others love you in your truest form and to trust in your constitution.
Two years ago, I wish someone had told me that you have full and equal stake in this world because you’re creating it by living in it. And you can determine what you want by simply doing something about it. This is a time to bring yourself to the table—to think — to live and ask the questions— to laugh — to drink beer, to peel off the labels and clink the green glass.