If man's existence was being snuffed out within hours, you wouldn't have time to do much beyond shovel the rest of the Entenmann's All Butter Loaf Cake into your mouth and then run into the street for a frenzied gravel-coated encounter with a stranger.
But what if everyone had some lead time before the world was going kaboom? Not too long; let's say one week.
We'd have just enough time to sit down and truly contemplate who we are, who we were, and what we contributed to the world. And most of us would want to write these things down.
"#845: Never said 'YOLO' intentionally or ironically."
Not all of these things would be meant for someone else to read. You may merely want to pour a bit of your heart onto a page before it and your eyeballs are incinerated by the ever-approaching sun.
But these letters could be the only metric by which others decide whether to invite you to their raging end times cannibalistic orgies. Hey, it's not like you're going to organize your own. And these orgy-havers will certainly not turn to YouTube to find prospective candidates. If the Internet is still up and running, imagine what a sticky horror show that joint would be in our final week. No, they will turn to the written word.
So, like resumes in a bad job market, the world will wind up flooded with farewell letters.
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"... but we'll be sure to keep you on file for future sexpocalypses."
If you want yours to rise to the top of the despair pile, there are a few tips and tricks you should consider ...
#10. Focus on what you accomplished, not what you wish you had accomplished. Does any employer want to hear about how you wish you'd gone to Stanford but didn't because you found the complete DVD collection of The Jeffersons on the street and ended up watching it in one sitting while doing nitrous oxide and forgot the application date? Well, they might want to hear that so they can tell the story over beers at Beef 'O' Brady's, but it would never get you hired.
So in this case, don't focus on how you "never got around to donating that kidney to your sister" or how you wish you would have "occasionally raised the blinds in the living room." Do boast about how you poured the smoothest, most water-impervious asphalt driveways in the greater Baltimore area and there is a good chance that will get someone very, very excited.
"I'd start with a hot 2-inch base mix. Then top it with a smooth, firm surface coat."
"Take me ... now."
#9. For once, use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation and proofread the damn thing. Expressly because mankind and its triumphs are about to be wiped out, it's more important than ever not to make a mockery of the great achievement of written communication. Don't embarrass your doomed species. Besides, no one has time to decipher your misplaced and dangling modifiers or slog through your incorrect possessive pronouns. The world's ending, dummy.
One of these girls hates Oxford commas. Choose wisely.
#8. No song lyrics. Do not define your life with someone else's words, particularly if that someone else is Morrissey or Jim Morrison. Anyone who does that will die alone in a basement. And that goes double if you type said lyrics in Comic Sans.
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You quoted Winger, dude. Even Helvetica wasn't going to save you.
#7. No "cute flourishes." Back in the day when one "mailed" resumes to prospective employers, certain numbskulls thought it would make them stand out if they filled their envelopes with glitter and sparkly stars. The only person who remembered them was the administrative assistant who spent her day covered in glitter, which made it look like she rolled in to work straight from a side job stripping as Serena the Space Princess. Likewise, no one wants to be bothered unfolding a goodbye letter that you intricately crafted into dinosaur origami. That will get tossed right in the fire being used to roast human thighs.
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"Chester's roasting on an open fire. Jack Ross' nibbling his nose."
#6. This is one time when you do not need to reveal any convicted felonies. Unless, of course, you did something absolutely amazing while in the pokey, like earned a law degree or wove a colorful poncho using nothing but your cell block's combined chest hairs.
"It really helped bring us all together."
#5. Verb choice can really set the tone, so go with strong action verbs to make an impact. In a resume you would select verbs such as "demonstrated," "achieved," and "spearheaded" instead of "did," "was," and "stabbed." Likewise, in your farewell letter, instead of "sat," "ordered," and "ate," spice it up with "perched," "demanded," and "devoured." Presto! Just like that, you're transformed into an exciting bird of prey instead of coming across like some bloated, halfwit seagull.
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"It's water weight. Jerk."
#4. Everyone's going to lie a little, but don't make your lies so outrageous as to be pathetic. This may seem like the perfect time to spin fanciful tales of a fantastic yet imaginary life precisely because no one wants to waste precious minutes separating wheaty truth from the fabricated chaff. But just because the planet's power grids all got fried by solar flares doesn't mean everyone's bullshit detectors suddenly switched off. No one's buying that you were an astronaut, Best Buy guy. However, you could probably get away with something a little sexier, like "when I worked in electronics."
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"And then RZA thanked me for the phone and made me an honorary member of the Wu. But I don't mean to brag ..."
#3. What if there are huge gaps in your life? Look, you're not really human unless you've spent at least one or two years in an unemployable, paralyzed funk doing nothing but watching The Price Is Right and eating marshmallows out of a bag. Don't make excuses for yourself, but these dead spots can always be finessed with a positive spin. You learned exactly how much every item in the grocery store costs, didn't you? Plus you probably thought about writing a novel.
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"I've theoretically authored three New York Times best-sellers."
#2. While it's unlikely we'll be caught up with ageism in the run up to doomsday, still be mindful about dating yourself. If you write a 10-page memory book about all the drugs you did and sex you had and bands you saw in the 1960s, you can be sure a lot of people will read your story through with great interest. But you are likely to get passed over for the festivities in favor of someone who could use a last go at excitement. You already got your good time, hippie.
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"You can go. The Viagra can stay."
#1. On the flip side, how about if you're too young to have had much life experience? Enthusiasm for just getting a shot at life goes a long way. You may not have had a career, but you appreciated sunrises and trips to the mountains and puppies and the smell of summertime rain. Just don't make yourself sound too tender and delicious. You'll get invited to the party for the wrong reason.
Let us pitch you a sitcom ...
Sometimes the follow-up is worse than original headline-grabbing story.
Some people in entertainment don't even bother trying to come up with fresh ideas.