Our society has an unhealthy obsession with youth: We idealize naivete and innocence, confuse "beauty" with "still getting through puberty," and focus our most profitable entertainment on satisfying the whims of people who are, at the end of the day, babies. It's probably because our society is getting older and going through a midlife crisis, which means it'll break down and buy a bright yellow sports car any day now.
So society idolizes all the major milestones that happen in the first two decades of your life, like losing your virginity, getting your driver's license, and being able to drink, but it skips over most of the major milestones that happen after that -- even though they're way more important. Stuff like ...
#5. The First Time You Aren't Ashamed of Your Groceries
Like every college student, I survived on a steady diet of frozen pizza, light beer, and surely some third thing (there has to have been a third thing). Which is fine, because 20-year-old me was like some weird combination of Pac-Man and the guy from Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece, in that I put weird stuff in my mouth all day and never suffered any consequences. But I also felt like my shopping habits were ... wrong, somehow.
To be clear, my groceries never bothered me at home, because I could just close the door to my cupboards and, like magic, look like a real person who knew how to feed himself. The only time my groceries were actually shameful was in the checkout counter, when I piled my boxes and cans onto the Conveyor Belt of Truth and stood in judgment of Cashier Lady Doris. Back home, I could hide my shame, but Doris saw me for what I really was: a soft, smelly sack of pizza, beer, and whatever that third thing was (vegetables, maybe? That doesn't sound right) who, through the dark magic of youth, hadn't collapsed and died from malnutrition in the past week.
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Did you know vitamins aren't just a candy company with a Flintstones license, but something you need to live?
Until one day (and it wasn't even that long ago) I loaded my purchases onto the conveyor belt and saw ... well, beer, yes, but also tomato paste, and raw meat, and vegetables that weren't even in a package. That's the difference between the stuff I used to buy and actual groceries. My purchases were no longer a collection of individual meals, but items that could be assembled into a meal, at a later date, by me. And that's the essence of maturity: sacrificing convenience and instant gratification (a quick, frozen meal that will make you feel shitty later) for long-term satisfaction (something you have to put effort into cooking but tastes good and won't launch an insurgency against the oppressive regime of your digestive tract).
For the first time, I could stand in front of the cashier's judging eyes, smile widely, look Doris in the eye, and say- Easy Cheese! That's what the third thing was. You put it on Ritz crackers, and, man, that shit's divine.
The fact that they can legally call it "cheese" and not "cheez" makes me trust it more.
#4. The First Time You Forget It's Friday Night
There's a point where the song "Working for the Weekend" by Loverboy became the theme song of my life, and that point was right around the time when I got my first job and the movie Zoolander came out. Friday wasn't just the one day of the week named after the queen of Asgard, but the one source of constant glory in my life. Monday through Thursday were spent in bated anticipation of its sweet release, and Saturday and Sunday were my refractory period, but Friday was the day my entire life revolved around, because it was my day off. I would no more forget about Friday because of work than I would forget to enjoy a pizza's topping because the crust was so good.
Dammit, there's an exception for everything, isn't there?
Until ... that day. The day I was sitting at my computer, taking care of some stuff, and suddenly realized that I had left my phone in my jacket pocket. But that's OK, because who's going to be calling me with anything important? It was only Thursday -- or so I thought. I took care of some chores, organized emails, and then dicked around on Netflix. "Why not?" I thought, "there's nothing else to do on this, the Thursiest of Days."
Don't look so mad. Your day is kinda shitty, but you've got a pretty sweet costume. Uniform! I meant uniform.
It wasn't until I fished my phone out of my jacket pocket to set my alarm for the morning that I saw the texts (dozens of them, some with SMS images of boobs) and realized my mistake -- but that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was realizing that I didn't mind, because I was kinda looking forward to finishing A Dance With Dragons and, besides, it was nice to know that I had gotten my student loan payments in early. And speaking of student loans, there's also ...
#3. The First Time You're Proud of Something You Do With Money
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A few nights ago I awoke drenched in a cold sweat and struck with a terrible realization: I was a sellout. A goon. I had high-fived a friend of mine over some money I had made. And not even money for doing some cool job or pulling off some crazy stunt with a motorcycle and a shark, but just for paying off a loan. How did this happen? Wait, this seems familiar ...
How did I become Rod from Birdemic?
When I was a kid and my understanding of the world was being shaped, I heard a lot of stuff about money -- mostly cliches, like "money is the root of all evil" and "money won't bring you happiness" and "love don't co$t a thing." And the thing is, while that shit's true, it's misleading, because even though money isn't the end-all, be-all of your existence, you're going to spend way more time thinking about it than you expect. Even at the best of times, when you feel like you have a grip on your life, it's still like having a really badly behaved puppy: take your eyes off for even half a second, and it'll shit all over your life. Then grow gigantic legs and kick your ass out onto the street.
"This is my home now."
It becomes a constant struggle, a game with massive stakes -- and like any game, you get happy when you "win." And in this case, "win" means "pay off some debt" or even "get your rent in on time." And since you're dealing with this all the time and hanging out with people in the same economic bracket as you, you start to commiserate. When you have a good victory, you celebrate. And what's the best way to celebrate? A high-five. So I do that. That's who I am now. A man who celebrates money stuff with high-fives. And I can never go back.