I took a few weeks to spend time with family, overindulge in Netflix and leftovers, and waste a good portion of my life that I will never get back reading articles on the internet. Don’t get me wrong — I wouldn’t dare skip a mind-blowing piece that shows me 35 Photos Of Naughty Restaurant Signs (You Have To See To Believe!!!), and I love making sure that my significant other lines up with all of the 127 Signs You’re Actually Dating Your Best Friend, and how could I pass up the opportunity to confirm that I already feel old as shit with my medicine cabinet consisting of Osteo Bi-Flex and Fiber Gummies, my inability to consume more than three alcoholic beverages before falling asleep at the bar, and my dwindling knowledge of hip, new music because it all just sounds like “noise” to me by taking the How Old Are You, Really? quiz (SPOILER ALERT: I’m actually 42).
While these are all imperative to my growth as a human being and an active, knowledgeable member of society, I can’t help but start to break into a cold sweat when I see articles with titles such as “20 Things You Should Know In Your 20s” or “25 Things Women Need To Stop Doing” or “10 Places You Need To Visit RIGHT NOW, Just In Case You Die A Premature Death And Never Get To See Them When You’re Old And Probably Need A Hoveround Or A Life Alert Button Or Some Shit Like That.” My demeanor switches from interested and optimistic to depressed and a little nervous about halfway through the list because I think to myself, “well damn, homegirl missed the boat on all of these, I guess my life sucks. I didn’t know that there was an expiration date on learning how to make a quiche, pay bills online, sew a button, and properly pronounce Sauvignon Blanc” (I still have trouble with 3 out of 4). And I would really like to meet the figure who deemed himself or herself Ruler Of All Things Women Should And Should Not Do, because as far as I’m concerned, I don’t even have the will power to tell myself that I shouldn’t have 5 cupcakes in one sitting, so the chances of me listening to a some anonymous, bossy cyber writer? Slim, my friend. Very slim. And let’s be honest, if I’m expected to travel around the world RIGHT NOW to these MUST SEE places, shouldn’t the writer of this article hook me up with a scholarship or like, some grant money? Maybe a rowboat? Anything?
It’s overwhelming, ya know? I’m constantly being told that I NEED to do this, or I HAVE to know this. Why doesn’t someone write an article titled “Reasons Why It’s Okay To Be 22 And Have No Idea What You’re Doing And Not Have A Bucket List, Because You Don’t Even Know All That You Want To Know To Create A Bucket List Because You’re Constantly Learning New Things And Your Life Is Constantly Changing And There Is Absolutely Nothing Wrong With That”? or, “The Fact That You Are Broke And In School Is Actually Really Admirable And You Shouldn’t Go Gallivanting To The 10 Places You Need To Visit RIGHT NOW, Just In Case You Die A Premature Death And Never Get To See Them When You’re Old And Probably Need A Hoveround Or A Life Alert Button Or Some Shit Like That, Because Your Degree Is Actually Worth A Damn, So Just Tough It Out For Now” or “You’re a Woman. Keep Doing Whatever The Fuck You Want.” I’m sure I’d be really popular on the interwebs.
So, if I were to hypothetically go against everything I just said and make a list of Things You Need To Know Before You Read Another Article Telling You About The Things You Need To Know, then this is what I would say. Hypothetically.
There is no set formula for happiness.
Why people still try to give universal answers to individual happiness is still beyond me. Chances are, that article about “5 Steps To Happiness” probably won’t change your life, and probably won’t make you any happier than you were 5 minutes ago when you sat down in front of your computer with a bag a Fritos and opened up Internet Explorer. It’s not like you’re going to walk back into the kitchen and open the pantry to grab a Chip Clip and accidentally bump knuckles with a golden bag labeled HAPPINESS. Finding happiness is a completely personalized thing, no matter how many books or articles claim to offer all the secrets. Some find it in friends and family, some find it in money and material items, and some find it in a bottle of Riesling and day-old pizza in an apartment that smells like dog and has half-chewed underwear strewn across the floor. Stop looking everywhere else for the answers and living vicariously through proposed solutions. Just go out and do something that makes you smile, and make it a habit.
Age is experience, not an expiration date.
There’s really no basis for putting deadlines on when something should be learned or accomplished. I mean, if you’re having trouble wiping your own ass at age 36, then you probably should be getting that taken care of instead of fiddling around on a computer. Living is about learning at a pace that you set by yourself, not by some blogger who makes you feel like your life is worthless because you haven’t traveled to Thailand or taken a picture holding a baby seal by age 19. That’s the beauty of it all; if you learn everything early on, what improvements are to be made further down the road? And how can you pass up all the fun it is to make mistakes and not have a clue what you’re doing? Take advantage of the experiences that you do have, and don’t worry if some idiot tells you that you’re doing it wrong.
Undesirable character traits are interesting.
So don’t listen to any malarkey about making yourself more desirable by nixing these qualities. They’re part of you; embrace them. I am loud and whiny and I bitch and complain like I have a royal vendetta against almost everyone. I am impatient and intolerant toward behaviors including but not limited to: impatience, intolerance, tardiness, rudeness, grammatical ineptitude and just general incompetence. I get cranky for no apparent reason sometimes and then say things that make no sense, but still use the “I’m always right” justification, because it makes me feel better about my incapability to argue my way out of anything. I also don’t censor myself when I talk about bowel movements and menstruation. I joked about having herpes on a first date. So don’t let anyone tell you to hide what is deemed “undesirable” if it’s just who you are. There might be more dates and more herpes joke to come.
Relationships are self-evaluated.
I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but I KNOW there is someone out there who broke up with her boyfriend after taking the “Is He The Right Guy For You?” quiz in Cosmo. Go ahead, you can admit it. Just solemnly shake your head. No one is watching. I understand that it’s nice to evaluate your relationship every once in a while to make sure your needs are being met (this goes for significant others and friends, or best friends that act as your significant others [we all have them]), but that evaluation should never be based on a third party decision. I’m the queen of dishing to all of my friends about my relationship, whether it’s good or bad, but ultimately, I make my own decisions, despite what other perspective someone might offer. The important thing is to understand whether or not YOU are getting what you need, not what some teenybopper magazine is telling you that you need. And personally, I don’t need someone to tell me whether or not my best friends are actually my soulmates/boyfriends/whateverthehellelse in disguise; we’ve all seen each other naked. We know it’s real.
The future is not one size fits all.
When I was in high school, my plan was a little different. I would attend the top med school to become a radiologist and be the top radiologist in the country. I would be rich and I would have a lake house and a beach house. I would be hot and skinny and Botoxed and liposucked and my husband would be hot and buff and penis-enhanced and our kids would be hot and talented child models and we would have the perfect life. Because THAT is the American dream, right? Just being like, hot and rich and stuff? I thought I had nailed it with my future plan. And then I shadowed a radiologist and had a lukewarm time, at best, then had to write a personal narrative about the experience, and when my high school English teacher handed back my paper, she asked “why a radiologist? Why not a writer?” Wait, what? I don’t think there is a concept of “the American dream” anymore, just Americans with dreams. All sorts of dreams that shouldn’t be judged based on whether they meet an imaginary standard. Some people my age are engaged or married or having a baby, and you know what, that’s fine. I shouldn’t knock it just because it’s not my dream. Some people are going to business school and law school and med school and will be throwing around hundos at the restaurants and bars where I’ll be forced to work to supplement my shitty income if I follow my dream to be a writer. And that’s totally fine. Because there’s nothing I need to do or have to do if I don’t want to. I’m still just figuring it out, yo. So if I haven’t been to Antigua by the time I’m 25, no biggie. I made it to grad school in Boston at age 22, so I’ll take what I can get.