A lot of what grownups say is bullshit. You figure this out in your teens, and wind up just tuning it all out. By 15 I got to where every time I was offered advice, I just nodded in mock agreement and then laughed at them behind their back. "Can you believe that pompous douchebag tried to tell me that? Christ, I'm not 14 anymore!"
So it winds up taking years to filter out the bad advice ("Son, don't ever loan your car to a negro") from the good ("That Def Leppard tattoo isn't gonna be relevant five years from now, John.") I think I heard all of the below at some point, but it would be five or ten (or more) years before I'd realize it belonged in the good advice pile.
#5. Butterflies in the Stomach is Not Love
When I was in school, I lost track of the number of couples I knew who got engaged at age 16, and went right into wedding planning after graduation. And why not? Try to talk a 17 year-old out of it, and they'll tell you that of course you don't understand -- you've never felt love like this. No human has. What they and their guy or girl has is the kind of love that freaking changes the orbits of planets. In all of the universe, there has never been a love like this, so back off, old man.
And you sure as hell can't point out to the couple that their hormones will never be at these levels again. They'll think you're dismissing what they have as teenage horniness, not realizing that those hormones also mean that every emotional impulse is piped into stadium-ready stack amplifiers and cranked to Woodstock levels. You will feel that burst of adrenaline and stomach flutters when you touch their hand or just glance at them from across the room, and think, holy shit, if this isn't love, nothing is. God knows I thought that. Over and over. The songs talk about your "heart" but the feeling kind of radiates from the gut. Close enough.
Look, love is clearly located somewhere in the torso area, that's what matters.
Yep. This is exactly what love looks like.
That feeling is as addictive as any drug, and once you experience it for the first time, you'll start to crave it, or think that a relationship is dead without it. The problem is that a lot of the fluttery feeling you get is a physical reaction to anxiety and the physical reaction goes away as you adjust -- that's part of the mechanism. So the longer you're in the relationship, the more comfortable you become around that person, and that rush disappears. And if you're anything like me at all, you'll mistake that for "falling out of love." It's most likely the reason only 14% of high school sweethearts make it to the marriage stage.
The difference between that rush and actual love is the difference between seeing a picture of an adorable puppy and actually owning a dog. Yes, part of the experience is its adorable brown eyes and soft fur, but it's also about you carrying its poop around in a little plastic bag. The teenager in love thinks that's cynicism from a boring old man ("He says our love is just dog shit!") but that's not it at all. The point is that love is the whole package. It's not a single emotion that can be identified and distinctively felt like anger or happiness. It's a series of connections that exists above and beyond day to day emotion or circumstance, something you feel even after you wake up to find she has grown a third arm shaped like Randy Quaid.
Why You Won't Believe it for Years:
I can harp about it all I want but the truth is, the next time those butterflies gut shot you into a drooling stupor, all of the text I just typed will evaporate. Because this relationship is the one you've been waiting for. You can feel it.
"The one." That's the key, because every single love song or romantic movie insists that you only get "one true love," one "soulmate." So you get used to the idea of a supernatural King of Emotions that bestows "true" love upon you exactly once in your life... and if you don't latch onto it when it arrives, that's it. That was your only chance. So when you're hit with that tide of emotions the first time, you think, "Well, I'm one of the lucky few to have found my 'one' on my first try. All the more proof that it was meant to be!"
Then, about the sixth or seventh time in your life that you feel this emotion, you'll realize that the idea of "one true love" is bullshit. Unfortunately, the only way to truly learn this is to experience it for yourself, to feel it come and go and come again. Just ask the dozen or so of my old classmates who had to drop out of high school to take care of a baby. Or the ones who married right after graduation and now can't say more than two sentences to each other without breaking down into a violent fit of screaming and crying.
Every. Fucking. Day.
Don't misunderstand the message, I'm not saying the feelings you have for your partner are just side effects of an unruly burrito. But... hold off on the wedding and the babies for a while.
#4. Learn How to do Stuff Around the House, You'll Need It
"Chores." That's the word they use to mean the tedious, bullshit tasks Mom and Dad make you do around the house before you're allowed to have fun.
Chores suck seven shapes of dick. And most of you do them, begrudgingly. Or you split them with a sibling, or whatever the system is to make sure they interfere with what you really want to do as little as possible. But much, much sooner than you think, you're going to be responsible for all of that shit, from top to bottom. And if I could go back in time, I'd grab my teenage self by the shoulders and say, "Go learn how to do all of that shit Mom is doing. And I mean all of it."
Bed, clothes, food, dishes, floors, bathroom... everything. Pretend that you're the only one living there, and just completely take over the things your parents normally do for you, for a week, or a month. Because in just a few short years, you're going to be living on your own, you will be fucking shocked at how fast your living space turns into an unlivable shithole. God help you if you get stuck with roommates who treated "chores" the same way. Hey, did you know if you leave dirty dishes out long enough, flies lay eggs on them and then you have maggots on your dishes? You will! Ever wonder how those people on Hoarders can live with garbage piled on every piece of furniture? Just live with some dudes who refuse to take out the trash, you'll see -- that shit piles up in the blink of an eye.
The scratch 'n sniff version would make you vomit your own soul.
For several years after moving out on my own, I treated doing dishes as a task on the same level as painting a house. So I found the majority of my sustenance coming from The Dollar Menu and little frozen boxes that are prepared with a microwave and the ability to push "4," "0," "0," (which is not only an expensive way to eat, but will kill your ass eventually).
If you haven't already, learn to use the washer and dryer. There's nothing sadder than sitting in a laundromat and watching a newly divorced husband stare at a washing machine like it was a nuclear reactor. And I'm telling you, go to a laundromat right now and you'll see this guy, with every single piece of clothing packed up in trash bags because he wore literally everything he owned over and over until his neighbors sniffed the air and asked him if he was cooking mushrooms.
"Mom, I've bought a new outfit every day for a month. I need help."
Why You Won't Believe it for Years:
Because you can put this shit off for years without being judged for it. You can haul a bunch of laundry home over Labor Day weekend and Mom will do it. And let's face it, when you're in college, you're not going to be rejected for sex because your bathroom is dirty. All dorm bathrooms are dirty. But after you're out in the "real world," with your own job and apartment, the rules change. If you're 25 and your date smells the stagnant rot of week old dishes and strewn garbage, she's thinking, "What a lazy fucking slob. I'm not doing the whole 'date a teenager' thing again. Just tell him you're on your period and then change your phone number."
"No, Rob, it's disgusting because it hasn't been cooked yet.
I know guys who are older than me who still can't take care of their place, and every one of them is alone. Their houses are so bad that I can't visit because the smell gives me a headache. I helped one of them clean once, and we found dead birds and mice under the garbage on his living room floor. And the frightening part is that it's easy to get into that mode because if you live in it long enough, it becomes normal. And they can't break out of that idea of basic cleaning and maintenance are just lame "chores."
#3. Pay Attention in Writing Classes, It Turns Out You Need Them
Several years ago, when I was working at a low-level manual labor job, I was tasked with picking out a few applications for potential hires. Keep in mind, we weren't hiring fucking lawyers here. We just needed people who could do a job without somebody standing over their shoulder every second of the shift.
I came across an application from a 21 year-old man who had a high school diploma and two years of college. Half of the application was filled out in blue ink -- large, loopy, pretty writing. His girlfriend's writing, in other words. The other half (personal information -- the stuff that his co-author didn't know) was in black ink, and written in a way that suggested he may have been filling it out while being attacked by bees during a gang related drive-by. Nothing was in the disability section, so we assumed it was not a physical or mental problem.
But what made me put the application in the "Not a Chance in Hell" pile was when I saw his response to, "Why would you like to work for our company?"
2 C some $$$ 4 a chng!!!
"ME WANT JOB GOOD FOR PLAY ON FUN BALL!"
I don't have to tell you that this is an online world, and I've touched on this subject before in a past column. So I won't repeat the same point beyond stressing how important it is that you learn to type in your native language better than the average 12 year old.
I swear that some schools still treat the subject of writing the way they did in 1911, when only a select few people would actually need to be able to write eloquently and all the rest just needed to know how to fill out a check at the feed store. Hell, when I was in high school, typing class was optional -- and that was in the 90s. Today, you can't function without a PC and every job makes you write.
If you're working in the warehouse at Cockrings International, odds are that every day, you have to send out at least one email -- maybe you have to file some kind of report, or send a request for forklift repairs, or maybe you'll be in charge of ordering, whatever. And I don't care how uneducated the guys in the buttplug department may be, if your messages are full of typos and jumbled words, they are going to make assumptions about your intelligence.
"Ok, let's all point and laugh at Bob's rampant fucking idiocy!"
Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying you have to be Hemingway by any means. You don't need to know how to write descriptions that touch the human soul. But you need to learn to be concise and clear in print, or it will be coming back to bite you in the ass over and over.
Why You Won't Believe it for Years:
I'm not going to bullshit you -- if you're still in school, a significant portion of what you're learning right now will be absolutely useless once you settle into your adult life. No, I don't use my Algebra, and I've yet to encounter a decision that hinged on me knowing what year the Battle of Crunchfist Fuck-Knuckle took place.
"Fuck you, we use Algebra all the time and we live under a mountain of panties."
Writing is one of those that gets thrown into the "useless bullshit" pile because so much of English class is spent on obscure grammar rules and categorizing words. It comes off like another boring, arcane and ultimately useless subject. "Why do I need to know what a dangling participle is?" You don't, but you do need to learn how to not accidentally type the opposite of what you meant. In an online world, your writing is going to form a shell around you, and most of the people who interact with you will only see the shell.
But again, until you're in the break room and you overhear a coworker talking about how unfixably stupid you are and questioning whose dick you sucked to get your job, it's not going to hit home. No amount of intelligence or degrees or life experience can make up for the fact that the majority of her contact with you is in the form of emails and memos -- so the person she knows isn't the educated, loyal employee and cool guy. She pictures you as a slobbering four year old, slamming his palms across a keyboard and hoping it forms a thought. Because to her, this is shit that should have been learned in elementary school.
"Screw you, I'm going to be a princess when I grow up!"