The biggest (perhaps obvious) thing that no one ever tells you about getting older is that it happens a lot earlier than you think it will. It sneaks right up on you, and as much as you'd like to think that you'll handle it efficiently, gracefully and with some level of dignity, like a Gentleman Ninja, the reality is that you'll spend a few years awkwardly stumbling around like an embarrassing baby deer learning how to walk for the first time, (except also the deer has a lot of knee pain from an old basketball injury). You will not be good at it, because it's a brand new life for you, and while there are a lot of really awesome things that go along with that life, there's also a terrible, brand new vocabulary. Words and phrases that either didn't exist to you or had a completely different meaning when you were in your teens and early twenties. Here are some of the ones I've learned so far.
When you're in high school or college, a "cleanse" just sounds like a pretentious version of "wash." You'd hear someone say "I'm going to take a shower and cleanse myself," and you'd hate them, and you'd be right to.
But cleanse has an additional meaning, one that most kids in their teens and early twenties have no reason to know. When I was a freshman in college I did know the alternate meaning because, for a few months, (to help pay for school), I worked as a telemarketer selling an all-natural Bowel Cleanser over the phone. It was a kind of juice that you were supposed to drink every single day. The goal of the juice was to flush absolutely everything out of your system, via your butt. It is not, (my employers would have me stress to potential clients on the phone), a simple laxative. It is a cleansing agent designed to rid your body of all its dangerous and unhealthy toxins that would otherwise build up in your colon and stay there for years. It was supposed to make your skin healthier, your energy higher, and your bowel movements smoother and more pleasant. In my training session, my managers told me that, when he died, 25 lbs of human fecal matter was found in John Wayne's colon, and while we weren't legally allowed to say that using a bowel cleanser would have saved his life, we were encouraged to casually bring that story up and let our customers draw their own conclusions about the magic, healing power of bowel cleansers.
But, at the end of the day, yes, I was selling a juice that made you poop harder, faster, and forever to a bunch of strangers, over the phone.
"Mrs. Johnson? Hi, Dan O'Brien here, quick question: How ya poopin'?"
I thought the entire concept was hilarious. I'd go back to my dorm with my nineteen-year-old friends and tell them all about this stupid, wacky product people were actually paying for. "Can you believe it? These folks will pay real, American dollars for a product that will 'wipe out toxins.' Uh, hello, toxins aren't even a thing! Those people are so dumb. Being 19 rules. Isn't it great that we're going to live forever?"
But Now ...
You say it'll wipe out all of my toxins?
There are plenty of cleanses nowadays, the most popular probably being The Master Cleanse. They all revolve around a special diet of juices and water, and spices or teas, and all of them are designed to rid your body of... just everything. I mean, mostly toxins and excess fat, but due to the nature of any cleanse, (the nature is it makes you poop), you're bound to get a lot of non-toxins involved, too, it is a non-discriminating bowel evacuator.
And don't get me wrong, getting older doesn't mean you suddenly have to do some kind of cleanse every few months. I don't. But being older does mean that "cleanse" will enter your life. It's a word that meant nothing to you, and suddenly you'll hear it everywhere. A bunch of your friends will try it, you'll see ads for it, and maybe you'll even read up on it. Because one of the things most cleanses claim to give you is buttloads upon buttloads of healthy, natural energy. And you'll seriously think about doing it because, when you get older, all of that excess energy you had in high school and college is the very first thing that goes, precisely at the moment when you finally have enough money and intelligence to know what to do with energy. You suddenly won't have it anymore, and you'll do absolutely anything to get it back.
"You say this'll give me just as much energy as the Master Cleanse but I DON'T have to shit myself for ten straight days? Well, this is kind of a no-brainer."
#3. Sleep Schedule
Back in college, a buddy of mine once stumbled into my dorm room and asked me if I wanted to see how many days in a row we could both stay awake, and even though it was the middle of the week, I said "Yes," because I was 18, and because coffee was a thing, and because I was 18.
18-year-olds are stupid.
And we did. We stayed awake all night for the sake of staying awake, then went to class, ate food, watched movies and played whichever Tony Hawk game was out when the band Goldfinger was really popular. Then at night, we drank more coffee and stayed awake again. And again. We did this until we were bored, and then we slept for a couple hours and felt fine. In a few months, we'd forget how boring this little experiment was, so we'd do it again. (And, eventually, someone would give us both pieces of paper that said we were full-fledged adults and totally ready to enter the real world. For no reason.)
But Now ...
No one ever asks me if I want to stay awake for several days in a row anymore, thankfully, but every so often, someone will ask me if I want to go to a midnight screening of something, or hang out on the beach late at night, or go to a ... like a ball, or gala, or whatever it is mature and reasonable people are supposed to do at night.
"Yes, thanks for the invite, this has been a truly wonderful cotillion."
And instead of saying "Yes, I'll do that, because coffee exists," I'll say "Well, let's see, I need to make sure I get a solid eight hours of sleep tonight ... I do have to get up at 7am tomorrow ... Usually takes me 12 minutes to get home from the beach, and I know I'm gonna wanna spend a few hours there ... It's already 9 now ... It doesn't- Yeah, it doesn't look like I'll be able to get my full eight hours. Even if we left right now, I'd be cutting it close ..."
What I'm trying to say, (other than "Try as hard as you can to not to fall in love with the wild party animal and man-about-town that is Daniel O'Brien, Women-of-the-Internet,"), is that, when you reach a certain age, the majority of your decision-making will revolve around maintaining your sleep schedule. Sure, you'll deviate once in a while. You'll stay up all night with friends, you'll drink too much, you'll only get four hours of sleep before work. It'll happen. But it's not like in college, where you can wake up after two hours of sleep, drink a Red Bull and then be absolutely fine for the day, (and, in fact, the year). It's real life, where getting a few hours means you can physically prop your stupid body up in your cubicle, but you're still not quite "at work," mentally or emotionally speaking. You're a red-eyed, headache-ridden zombie typing seven words a minute and waiting for the clock to strike 6, so you can go home and get the eight freaking hours you desperately need. You don't prefer eight hours, you don't choose it, you need it so you can function the next day. It just happens. You reach a point where your body says "That's enough. I've put up with everything you've done to me for 25 years without a word, and now I'm calling the shots. It's time for you to start taking care of me.