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Have you ever wished you could go back in time and warn your younger self about some of the ridiculous crap Past You is going to encounter? Like a crazy ex? Maybe a poor career decision? The championship match where your opponent's manager distracted the ref just long enough for you to be knocked out by a folding steel chair, costing you the title?

I think the things I'd warn myself about are more general knowledge than specific incidents. Things that, had I known them back in my 20s, could have saved me an estimated assload of headaches between then and now, in my 40s. So, just in case Google ever comes up with a way to send emails into the past, I'm telling Past Me to listen up, because there are some important things you need to be aware of ...

Learn To Apologize ... You're Going To Need That Skill

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Hi, Past Me. Don't get defensive, but I need to tell you something that's kind of upsetting. Right now, you're doing a whole lot of things that are going to embarrass your face clean off in just a few years. A lot of it centers around the fact that you can't admit or even recognize when you're wrong ... and trust me, you're wrong way more often than you think. Some of what you're bullshitting about seems pretty harmless: incorrect movie trivia or repeating urban myths as fact. Other times, it can be directly damaging: giving romantic advice to a friend, even though every relationship you've ever been in ends with someone praying for a meteor to fall on your crotch.

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"Just stare at her without blinking or speaking. Chicks dig the mystery."

I know why you do it. Being wrong sucks. It's humiliating to be called out in front of other people. You end up looking like an idiot, and everyone thinks you're either a dumbass or a liar. The thing is, when you stand your ground and refuse to acknowledge that someone else is right, even if it's about something minor, you're dumping those terrible feelings on them. You're making someone else feel like crap, even though they totally don't deserve it. You need to apologize to those people when it happens. Even if that person is Chad, who always deserves to feel like crap.

Most of your inability to apologize comes from your ego, and, unfortunately, changing that isn't something you can just decide to do and then make it happen on the spot. Don't sweat it too much; everyone goes through it. Mastering that is a huge part of graduating into adulthood, and everyone learns at different paces. But the brutal truth is that you're at the tail end of the most egocentric phase of your life and, when you look back on it in 20 years, you're going to wish you could physically fight your past self. We're talking Mortal Kombat-style, complete with spine-exposing finishing moves and groups with stupid-sounding acronyms protesting your existence.

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Again, totally normal. In fact, I doubt you can even read this warning without that ego kicking in and telling me that everything I'm saying is philosophical horseshit. But what you're about to find out very shortly in life is that ego is a poor man's substitute for self-confidence. Ego is emotional rust. It clouds your ability to empathize with other people and, if it isn't kept on a leash, it destroys relationships.

The good news is that unless you're a psychopath or a narcissist, shedding that ego comes fairly naturally. The bad news is that empathy isn't something you choose to obtain ... it's a byproduct of living. It takes time. Learning to apologize is a huge step in getting there, because it forces you to acknowledge not only your mistakes but other people's ... not-wrongness.

This isn't a small issue. Between where you are now and where you want to end up, you're going to go through a lot of crappy jobs, with a lot of crappy bosses, dealing with a lot of crappy customers. You're going to be passed over for promotions that should have been a slam dunk for you. You're going to think that you're being overlooked and unappreciated. But the truth is, you're being looked at very closely. Your inability to bite your tongue around authority and paying customers is being noticed, and it's often what holds you back. That's what your ego does for you. It cock-blocks.

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If someone pays in pennies, don't tell them to go fuck themselves until they die of semen poisoning.

Your natural reaction to me pointing this out is going to be, "Hey, this is the real me. If they don't like it, they can suck half of my dick. Then they can take a break, get something to drink, maybe grab a quick lunch or something ... then come back and suck the other half of my dick." But I'm telling you the most solid truth I've ever learned about positive change: "The real me" is just an excuse to avoid it. Learn to apologize. Until you do, virtually everyone you know just sees you as an egocentric, know-it-all asshole.

You Are Going To Be Someone's Annoyance -- Accept It And Move On

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Right now, your house is the hangout spot. Every day is a cycle of beer, Magic: The Gathering, Killer Instinct, and more beer. Friends drop by on a daily basis, and it feels pretty damn good. Well, for the most part. Not all of those people are awesome. Every group, no matter how tight, comes with a person or two you just sort of tolerate. They don't hurt anyone. You don't exactly dislike them. They're just not people you'd call friends, because they kind of annoy you.

What you don't realize -- and won't for many years to come -- is that for some people, you are that guy. Don't freak out, because I know that the thought of someone not liking you sends you into a blind panic, and you start throwing out friendship attempts like a lawn sprinkler that sprays desperation. You'll go out of your way to correct their impression of you by trying to be funny, talking about things they like ... really making the effort to crank up the charm and win them over.

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The thing is, that's impossible to keep up, regardless of what your ego is screaming at you. You have to learn to accept this because it's going to come up a lot more often than you think, and most of the time, there's simply nothing you can do about it. Sometimes, you are just the Chad in the room. Let me give you an example:

Right now, I work with a whole bunch of people whom I respect and would love to call friends. We have similar worldviews, the same sense of humor, the same desire to create and entertain. But the biggest thing we have in common is also our relationship's downfall: If we're awake, we're working. If I message any of them at any given time, I'm likely interrupting something important that they're working on. If that message is just some goofy joke or even a simple, "Hey, how are you doing," that interruption is an unnecessary one ... and it is as annoying to them as a kid bursting through the bedroom door 10 seconds before a parent's orgasm.

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Bonus points if they did it to ask where babies come from.

That means even the simple attempt at connection is rooted in annoyance from the very start. My instinctual reaction is to try to "fix" it by doing the whole "look at me, I'm funny and adorable" song and dance ... but every one of those messages are also interrupting them. Trying to fix it only makes it worse. It's inescapable.

This is going to come up in your life on a regular basis until the day you die and annoy one last room full of people by making them come to see your stupid corpse. If you're not prepared to accept this fact and move on, it's going to leave gigantic teeth marks all over your fragile little feelings.

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Your Idea Of A "Dream Job" Is A Romantic Fallacy

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From your very first summer job -- throwing rocks at police cars -- the idea of a "dream job" was always on your mind. That image changed on a fairly regular basis because you had 10 billion hobbies and virtually no focus to settle on one. But no matter what the actual point of the career was, it always had these basics:

-Short hours
-Requires little to no effort
-No asshole boss
-It's your favorite hobby

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And if you must commute, only the finest free Learjet would suffice.

A "dream job" is something you'd do even if you weren't being paid. I'm not going to tell you that those jobs don't exist, because the good news is that you do find one. I'm doing it right now, and it's awesome. (Note to anyone eavesdropping on this conversation with myself: You can do it too.) But what you have in your head is an unrealistic exaggeration.

The reality is that if you do anything long enough, no matter how fun that thing is, it becomes a job. Yes, even being a porn star. The reason is because you're not working a dream job. You're working a dream career. And careers aren't a clock-in-clock-out sort of deal. They become your life.

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A late night at the Blowjobs And Video Games office is still a late night at the goddamn office.

You're going to find out sooner than you think that, once you're committed to a career, your most formidable enemy is Burnout. It's damn near a supervillain, complete with a cape and a stupid-looking metal hat. Burnout shows up when you've spent every waking minute, including days off and vacation time, making damn sure that you put out the absolute best work you can. Then holding everyone who reports to you to the same standards. You feel like if you slow down for even a few minutes, you're cheating both yourself and the company.

I know that this is a weird thought to you, because right now you're thinking, "If you're truly working a dream job, burnout should never be an issue. A real dream job will always be fun no matter what." While that sounds logical, I know that your favorite food is lasagna. Try eating that every day for the next year, and see how long it takes you to say, "If I eat one more bite of lasagna, I'm going to fork-murder everyone in my entire neighborhood."

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Garfield must have entire underground bunkers filled with bodies by now.

Everything I've said so far has been the long-form means of telling you to take your fucking vacations. Don't just take them, but actually use them like vacation days were meant to be used: sleeping until the late afternoon and then playing Diablo 3 until the sun comes up. Don't check your email. Don't check in to make sure people are handling the workload while you're away. Those vacations are your reset button, and it absolutely needs pushed from time to time so you don't stress yourself into an ulcer.

Understand, I'm not telling you to abandon all hope of getting a dream job. I'm just saying that if it doesn't perfectly fit in with the fairy tale expectations that are floating around in your big ol' face-skull, you can't let yourself be disappointed. Otherwise, you could easily convince yourself that this just isn't the job for you. You could end up passing on an incredible opportunity, in search of something that just quite simply doesn't exist.

Every Once In A While, Eat A Goddamn Salad

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Don't worry, I'm not going to go all "old person" or "health nut" on you. I just need to give you a heads-up on something that takes you by complete surprise at age 41, and it has nothing to do with weight. See, right now, as you read this in your 20s, you are blessed with a high metabolism. I remember eating anything and everything, and never having to worry about the effects, outside of making my toilet cry. Even eating an entire large pizza by myself, which as you know happens often, I'd still look like the living embodiment of Jack Skellington.

I understand that this is probably coming across as obnoxious to the eavesdroppers who are trying to lose weight and can't, but there's a point. I've always thought, "I'm skinny, therefore I'm healthy." What I totally didn't expect was my recent visit to the doctor, where she told me while reviewing blood results, "I'm actually surprised you're not having a heart attack right here, right now." Then she punched me in the face and referred to her fists as her "pain pills."

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You're allowed to violate the Hippocratic Oath when your patient is particularly stupid.

I'm not going to preach to you about reading food labels or forcing yourself to do backflips into pools filled with kale. (I know you don't know what kale is now, but trust me, in 20 years it's all you'll fucking hear about.) Hell, even if I wanted to talk about labels, I couldn't because a large portion of them are full of shit.

Seriously, I've been trying to read them for the past month to make sure I keep my cholesterol intake as low as possible, and what I've found is that either all food manufacturers are flat-out lying or cholesterol doesn't exist. Everything claims to be low sodium. Everything claims to have a health benefit. I'm genuinely surprised that pork rinds haven't claimed to cure cancer. So, no, I'm not going to preach. I'm just saying that, had I substituted some of my cheeseburgers for fish, or chose to bake my chicken instead of deep-fry it, I might not need to be taking medication to prevent me from falling over dead before age 50.

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Being 90 and eating plain broccoli rocks, because you're 90 and still breathing.

It's a hell of a lot easier to prevent these problems from happening in the long run, because once you find yourself ass-deep in a "stop eating like you're suicidal" situation, you're going to have to become a master of wading through swamps of bullshit. Because the job of the people who make that food is to get you to buy it. It doesn't matter to them if their product contributes to your truncated lifespan.

But here's the real kicker: Most of the cholesterol in your system (both then and now) has less to do with food than it does with genetics. Even if you eat right and exercise your ass completely off of your stick-legs, it may not even matter. That doesn't mean you should give up and keep eating wheelbarrows full of shit; watching what you eat can only help. What it means is that you have to get off of your ass and get to a doctor so they can catch this stuff early. They're going to draw blood, so don't pussy out on me. They're going to give you some pills so gigantic that you'll think you need a knife and fork in order to take them. You need to take the pills; whining about it is totally optional.

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Just be glad they're not suppositories.

But trust me on the salad thing. Just eat the damn salad.

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February 22, 1997 -- 4:14 p.m.


It's Depression, And It's Totally Manageable

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On top of this being the tail end of the most egocentric phase of your life, it's also the tail end of the firestorm of hormones that have been kicking your ass since puberty. During those years, you have lived through a shitload of depression, but you always knew that the depression was just a part of being a teen. Hell, most adults you talked to about it told you the same thing: "It's just hormones. Every teenager goes through it. It'll pass."

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"There's sad children in China who would love to have your smiles, you know."

Well, it turns out that none of them had any goddamn clue what they were talking about, because in many cases it doesn't "just pass." It's definitely true that, in your case specifically, it's not going to go away on its own. Not in 20 days. Not in 20 years. That's why when you're at the doctor, crying like a toddler because they're drawing blood for your cholesterol test, you need to talk about that depression. They can help.

You won't find out for another 20 years, but it turns out that your insomnia isn't just insomnia. That chronic back problem is causing a lot more than just physical pain. The fact that both sides of your family are saturated with depression ... that didn't skip you. All of that shit is related, and it can be treated, but you have to get up and go.

It's going to be annoying. They're going to try out several different prescriptions before they find the right one, and it's going to take months. They're going to adjust the dosage until they get it right. You're going to feel nauseous when it's too high. You're going to drop back down into depression when it's too low. Some of that medication is going to make your shit as hard as concrete. All of these are just minor drawbacks, and they will be corrected once you land on that medical sweet spot.

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After that, your shits will be so smooth, you'll never want to stop.

It's important to know that the medication does not make you happy. Happiness is something you provide for yourself -- it doesn't come in pill form. Well, not the long-term type you're shooting for. I concede that Vicodin makes you happy as an impromptu blowjob, but the point is that the pills don't send you in the polar opposite direction. They just take away that constant dark feeling that makes you think, "If I died today, I'm fine with that."

Through all of that, you're going to reach a point where you think that you're finally cured, and you're going to be tempted to stop taking the medication. After all, why would you need to keep taking it? You finally feel fine, right? That's not the way those pills work ... at least not the ones you'll be taking. They're not an instant cure; they're a gradual buildup to correct the chemical imbalance that's dick-whipping your brain into "I give up" mode.

But pills alone aren't a solution. They help manage the problem, but you need to find someone to talk to. Preferably a counselor, though I know you won't be able to afford one for another decade or two. Barring that, talk to your friends. They can help you honestly understand that these feelings aren't your fault. That, no, you're not doing it for attention, regardless of what your fractured thought process or even other people are trying to convince you. Those thoughts and those people are all assholes, and you need to suplex them out of your life, followed by an enthusiastic, "OOOOH YEAAAAA!"

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Speaking of: Enjoy him now, because sadly he won't make it as long as he should have.

You need to know all of this before you spend years thinking this is just a part of your personality. It's not. It's a simple chemical imbalance. No more. No less. And it's totally fixable.

Looking for more pearls of wisdom passed down from the great seer himself, John Cheese? Check out 5 Reasons Today Isn't Going To Suck and remember that you're one step closer to your desired goal. If you aren't yet 20, then check out the Benjamin Button version of this article in 4 Terrifying Myths About Adulthood Every Kid Believes and learn that, despite how much we complain, being an adult has some sweet perks.

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