Okay, you’re 20-something and you aren’t dead yet and also you can read. Congratulations, that’s better than most of the people who have ever been born. You’re kind of low-level winning already. But let’s be real, you’re still not building rocket ships or driving a Tesla Roadster or filling the passenger seats of your Tesla Roadster with giggling, scantily clad (male and/or female) models. You are not yet residing in Bruce Wayne’s mansion or traveling to Tokyo on business, and you certainly do not yet know how to use a katana (well). You do not own a bar that is modeled after the Bronze from Buffy, and, while we are on the topic of vampires, you do not yet sit on a throne in that bar all night whispering to your sexy man (or woman) servant like Eric from the first season of True Blood.
Fortunately, there are many helpful guidelines for winning the eff out of your 20s. Here are a few.
1. Do not fall in love with the bartender.
Hear me, Internet: this is a bad scene.
Your 20-somethings are tumultuous times, and you will need a bar. More than “a bar,” you will need your bar. “Just stopping at my bar for a quick drink,” you will say to your jealous roommates if you put in the effort, here, and forge a friendship with the cute guy who works there. And that relationship will be a beautiful thing. Will be free shots. Will be looking very, very cool when you have friends visiting from out of town and your bartenders says, “Sup, friends of my friend, I control the booze and the music up in here, let’s party.”
If you fall in love with your bartender — who, by the way, everyone else in the world is also in love with, because his job is to be loved — you will burn this relationship to the ground and salt those grounds and then explode those salted grounds with a dirty bomb and then the earth beneath those salted, dirty-bomb exploded grounds will abruptly cease to comprehend the rules of gravity and will be sucked up into the cosmos. The relationship with your bartender, at your bar, is a sacred relationship that you do not. want. to ruin. Your bartender will cradle you with stories when you are sad. He will nurse you back to health with his tequila. He will provide you with the invaluable insights of a man who watches people make horrible mistakes that could have been avoided every single night. So tread carefully, friend.
Because you are going to need a home. A bar, a backstage, an actual, you know, home, even. Your Fortress of Solitude. Your place of power. Surrounded by folks who put you at ease, who dig you, and who you dig. You need an HQ, uncomplicated by the never-ending labyrinth of horrors that is romance. Once you have found this special love cocoon that you are not dating within, you are ready to cut out into the world, and the first thing you’ll want to do is:
2. Burn your degree (unless you’re a doctor).
Nobody cares that you majored in gender studies except maybe they’re embarrassed for you. The sooner you accept this the stronger you will be, and the greater the chances you will have of winning your 20. Unless you’re a medical doctor or trying to be a professional student, that piece of paper doesn’t matter. English, history, psychology, anything in the arts, anything in the communications, anything in business, even, does nothing for you six months after graduation.
Do you know what does do something for you? Building stuff. Doing stuff. Your internships are actually important. Your work history, the projects you’ve managed or collaborated on, actual skills you have — that’s what matters. I look at resumes all day and do not give a shit about a person’s degree. What I care about is what that person has done, what that person wants to do, and, most of all, what that person cares most deeply about.
At 21, no one is entitled to some cool ass job like “columnist at alternative weekly press” or “person who assembles soundtracks for movies” or “storm chaser” because they went to college. Believe it or not, many, many people have gone to college. And many, many amazing people have not. So what have you done in your field of interest that nobody else has? What are you working on right now? Where are you volunteering? Who are your heroes? What are you reading? How are you spending your free time? This is what comprises your individual person, which is what makes you interesting. Run with it. Be unique. Play your own game, by your own rules, and be the star of that game — compete with no one.
If you want to win your 20s, you must never fool yourself into believing that the world owes you something. You must decide what you want and hustle for it, which brings us to:
3. If you want Dunkaroos, pack Dunkaroos.
When I was a kid, my mom would pack me: a healthy sandwich, a bottle of water (or, even more offensively, an apple juice), and a piece of fruit. Not “fruit snacks,” but actual fruit. Like, the kind of fruit that you pick from a tree.
Have you ever tried to trade a banana for Dunkaroos?
The cafeteria was my first experience with supply and demand. The demand for sweets and savories was high. The supply was low. I had fruit, and I wanted chocolate. Even sweetened with the ubiquitous “I’ll be your best friend,” ain’t nobody trading a brownie for an apple. Early on, I lamented the system. I raged against the machine, if you will. ‘Unfair!’ I thought, and pounded the table with tiny, clenched fists. Until I learned that money given me for birthdays, for holidays, for treats on the weekend… worked anywhere. Including the grocery store.
And so it happened, then, at age 9, with not one lunch-sized container of Dunkaroos but a WHOLE EFFING BOX OF DUNKAROOS IN MY BACKPACK, that I became the master of my own life.
Do you want to work at a company that needs programmers while you are naught but a lowly-English major still talking about how much you wish you’d learn to code instead? Well learn to code right now, dude. You’re already sleeping in your parents’ basement. Use the time wisely and improve yourself. Attracted to a girl or guy with a great body while you yourself do not have a great body? Well, first of all, I think you look fine, but if it’s bothering you go the eff to the gym and get your ass ripped or svelte or whatever. You hear me? You feel this? If you need a skill, acquire it. If you need a contact, make it. Email exists. Welcome to the 21st Century, in which pretty much everyone alive is accessible to you.
You do not have to trade for Dunkaroos. You can buy your own Dunkaroos.
And then you will control the world.
Now be gone with you, sir. Now be gone with you, madam. Go and win your 20s.