Hey, you know what you should do? Get some life experience under your belt. It's an important part of transitioning from the hope-filled glory days of youth to the soul-crushing regret fest that is growing old. You need to go through a few things, you know? Not just the major things, either. Sure, getting married, having kids, and then subsequently wrecking those kids by getting divorced is fun and super important ...
"Of course it's your fault, don't beat yourself up about it though."
... but you want to make sure you set aside a bit of time to go through some of life's lesser struggles. If possible, get them out of the way when you're young and not yet bogged down with legitimate adult problems. We talk about some of those awkward but necessary life situations on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
#4. Shit Your Pants in Public
Be honest, you have shit your pants once or twice in your life, most likely at one of the least ideal moments possible. After all, if things were ideal, you wouldn't be shitting your pants. Part of the definition of the word "ideal" involves being close enough to a bathroom that you run little to zero risk of making a disgusting mess of yourself because you have lost control of your bodily functions.
It's going to happen, however, and if you're lucky, it will happen while you're still young. I mean, it's obviously going to happen a lot when you're first starting out in life. That doesn't count. I'm saying it should happen at a point in your development when you understand what kind of crisis you're facing. You certainly don't want to shit your pants for the first time ever as an adult, right? You should have already choreographed your routine for dealing with that calamity by that point in life.
Just follow along.
For me, the first really vivid memory I have of shitting my pants happened when I was maybe 9 years old. I was about as good at making friends back then as I am now and, as such, had walked to a nearby church to throw a ball against a wall. So, I was basically playing catch with a building when I had that undeniable rumble in my stomach and knew disaster was imminent. It was. So imminent. I don't recall what I had for breakfast that morning or for dinner the night before -- I just knew my body wanted something out of me, and it wasn't going to wait for me to throw an imaginary perfect game against a house of worship to make it happen.
The span of time between me realizing what was going to happen and that awful thing actually happening was unspeakably slim, to the point that I didn't really have time to plan. I only had time to react when it was over. And that's the important part! That's the thing you don't want to have to sort out as an adult. Go into your responsibility-filled years confident that you know exactly what to do if you shart (or worse) while out in the wild.
Stare back at them.
I had a friend who shit his pants on the first day of school in sixth grade, but managed to make it through the entire rest of the year without being known as "that kid who had the power runs on the first day." Why? Because he handled the situation without making a spectacle of himself. That's what winners do. In fact, if my quick Googling of his super-common name in conjunction with the state I grew up in are any indication, that guy runs a bank now.
I also handled my introduction to public explosions pretty well. The first order of business, as it should obviously always be, was to find the nearest bathroom. For me, that meant an Apollo gas station six blocks away. From there, as should be the case for anyone, animal instinct took over. That's the part of a pants-shitting story you don't tell -- the gritty details about the cleanup. You're stewing in your own filth. Get that filth off in whatever way you need to, and dispose of the evidence, even if it's just long enough to flee the scene without anyone getting a good enough look at your face to form an accurate description.
Beyond that, shitting your pants is like a snowflake -- every experience will be a little bit different, which is exactly why you want to equip yourself with the skills to deal with it while you're still young.
#3. Fall While People Are Watching
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Ah, the public fall. It's our earliest introduction to shame and failure. We try to walk, we fall, and we cry because we know our stupid baby brains aren't developed enough to operate a pair of legs, and we know that we should be ashamed. We are totally right about that. But, over time, our natural relationship with falling is torn asunder by the rigors of coordination and forced uprightness.
Then, one day, it all comes crashing back down -- literally.
Again, I was lucky enough to experience this way early on. I was in second grade at the time, in the thick of the final round of a class spelling bee. The girl I was competing with somehow managed to misspell the word "lion" twice in a row (L-I-N-O, each time), and I knew that victory was imminent.
I was full of pride, like the mighty lino.
In my excitement over the prospect of taking home a meaningless award that I would have just as much of a chance of winning at the exact same time next week, I did that thing where you put your hands on two desks, raise yourself up, and swing your legs around a bit.
And then, I just fell -- straight down, face to the unforgiving tile floor below, and right in front of every colleague I had in life at that point. Even worse, it happened in a high-pressure situation during which people were expecting greatness. Instead, they got the sound of second-grade face connecting with solid ground.
This is not how you win a spelling bee.
It was humiliating. I don't think it even hurt. If it did, the overwhelming sensation of shame coursing through my body numbed the pain enough that I didn't notice it as I trudged to the principal's office, sobbing for no other reason than I had just hit my face on the goddamn floor in front of an audience.
I'm glad it happened, though. There's no better way to drink down the bitter taste of failure like fucking up the basic human function of walking on two legs. It doesn't even matter how it happens. A fall is a fall, be it off a stage while Kelsey Grammer-ing ...
... or as one-half of the two expendable parts of Destiny's Child.
It's a beautiful thing that should absolutely be embraced, for a few reasons. One: It teaches you how to react when you see it happen to someone else. Quick -- think back to your most brutal fall ever. You were fine, right? I mean, maybe you broke something or whatever, but in the grand scheme of things, you were fine, right? In fact, you were probably so fine that you can even laugh about it now. If you weren't, you would be dead, which totally happens sometimes.
Anyway, the next time you see someone fall, spend the exact same amount of time you just did to reflect on your own mishap, but assess if that person is badly hurt. Once you are confident he or she isn't badly hurt, feel free to start laughing. Pause to check for injury and then point and laugh -- it's an unwritten rule of society, and you only learn it from falling a few times yourself.
Also, as I said before, it's the perfect metaphor for life. Think back to the worst thing that has ever happened to you. Whatever it was, you're still alive, and you're at least fine enough that you're here now reading this article. I accept that could and probably does mean you're homeless and killing time in a public library, but even then, at least you overcame being outside for a bit, you know?
The point is that sometimes you're down, and the only thing you can do is to get back up. There's no better way to remind yourself of that than by falling in an embarrassing fashion in front of a lot of strangers.