4 Valuable Life Lessons (That We Never Follow)
Whenever we hear some tired old platitude designed to teach us how to be responsible adults who can be left alone for 10 minutes without selling half our hair for rent money while eating the other half for sustenance, we tend to roll our eyes. After all, how much truth and power can some silly one-liner, useful only for those too lazy to come up with an original idea, actually have?
A lot, as it turns out. People utter these borderline cliches for a reason, one we tend not to realize until we've royally fucked up their intended lessons. Sadly, most of us need to kick our own asses once, twice, or a hundred times before we finally realize ...
You Get What You Pay For
If you have only a few bucks available but really need to pick up a few things for the house, it can be extremely tempting to cut corners and buy a $2 pack of generic batteries, or a tiny $20 vacuum, or a $30 "dozens of games already inside" bootleg gaming console.
Who needs Skyrim anyway? This baby's got FOUR TENNIS GAMES.
Unfortunately, not a single one of these will satisfy your needs longer than maybe a minute. The batteries will die out almost immediately, the vacuum will overheat after an extra gnarly dust bunny gets stuck in the vents, and good luck finding even one decent game on that shitty system. You'll find yourself back in the store far sooner than intended, on the hunt for Duracells, a Dyson, and the coveted Ninsonysoft X-Station One-60 Thrii Box.
This is "you get what you pay for" in its purest form -- you spend a little bit of money on a hunk of dried yak vomit, quickly realize dried yak vomit clashes with the wallpaper, and then have to spend more money on a legitimate product that does actual things.
"It's a box. You put things inside it. It's a hell of an investment, '50s guy."
It doesn't take much more than a glance at your bank account to realize how bad an idea this is, and that you truly do get what you pay for. While buying top-of-the-line shit is financial torture at first, you'll make that money back soon enough. Once you do, you'll find that, holy sack, the vacuum you bought months ago is still perfectly good. You'll have that same reaction years, decades, maybe even centuries later.
I myself have been slow to learn this lesson, even though I'm the one writing about it. My main bugaboo is how I constantly attempt to improve my life with anything and everything from local yard sales, while forgetting that my friendly neighbors sold me that dirty 10-year-old coffee pot for $1.50 for a very good reason.
With a crack in the pot as an added bonus! I didn't even have to pay extra for it!
Staying away from cheap shit is several universes away from simply getting good deals on good stuff, by the way. A half-price package of General Electric light bulbs is awesome, because the brand name guarantees a proven and reliable product. On the other hand, even if a box of Bob's Bulbs from the Dollar Depot costs less, stay the fuck far away. They'll work just long enough to illuminate your spouse's face as he or she threatens you with murder unless you get some real goddamn bulbs right goddamn now, but that's it.
Give Yourself Extra Time for Everything
I do this at-home-writing thing full time. And thank Clapton, because I may be the worst commuter of all time. Ideally, I should be awake, showered, shaved, fed, and ready to go with tons of time to spare. Hey, with enough time, I might even fit a few pushups or squats into my morning routine (yeah, sure I would).
In Reality World, if it takes me 30 minutes to get somewhere, I'll wake up with maybe 35 minutes to go. Five minutes of showering become 20, I do the Superman quick change into the first set of clothes I can find, and, oh yeah, food can go fuck itself. I bolt to the car, start driving, swear repeatedly at all the douchebags who dare obey the speed limit, and am shocked when I arrive 15 minutes late with a rumbly tumbly.
"Unless those are corn dogs, you need to fuck off."
You don't have to be this shitty with morning routines to understand my point. The concept behind giving yourself a ton of time to get ready for anything is a shockingly tough one to grasp. On the surface, it makes perfect sense and should be easy to implement. Our brains, which don't give a crap about our social evolution and still see us as a bunch of dumbass tree-dwelling apes, often forget to factor in anything beyond "remember pants this time." Preparing for intangibles takes thought and effort, and nuts to that when SportsCenter needs watching.
You plan a road trip, and Google Maps clocks the travel time at seven hours. This almost certainly will not happen. After a dozen traffic jams, endless construction, pee breaks, poop breaks, long lines at the tollbooth, and your inability to decide between a Big Mac and a Double Quarter Pounder at the rest stop McDonald's, you arrive four hours later than you envisioned, and with maybe a quarter of your hair left over.
The Han Solo "sorry about the mess" line just doesn't sound as badass in this situation.
This shit starts at school, by the way. Have you ever started writing a paper or book report the night before it was due? How often did that rush of panic actually produce anything beyond a rapid pulse and a dozen saunas' worth of sweat?
Ideally, as you tend to figure out after the Fs and groundings commence, a paper should be drafted days beforehand. Then, almost at your leisure, you can refine and revise and make it as paperlicious as possible. You can hand your teacher something like that with pride and without smelling like an NBA locker room.
As for me, I'm getting better at clock management. So, ladies (particularly, late-'90s pop star Natalie Imbruglia), don't let my tale of woe deter you from messaging me and setting up a romantic dinner for two. I'll get there on time.
Preventive Maintenance Is Cheaper Than Emergency Repair
This might be the most frustrating lesson one could possibly learn, because it's often unavoidable. A major appliance, like your sink or your fridge, is a bit dinged up and needs a professional to help make it purr again. Yes, sinks purr, and you don't even need to stuff the cat down the drain to make it happen.
The problem is, professionals charge money. And, if you're anything like me (which, again, is a horrible idea), you don't have a lot of it. Unless you're willing to cut your family's grocery bill down to one Cup O' Noodle a month, you're probably going to have to forgo calling Repair City.
Eventually, though, what happens? The thing dies outright. The sink refuses to drain, and suddenly water's all over the place like Splash Mountain from hell. Or the refrigerator stops cooling the second you stick $300 worth of groceries in there. Now you're forced into buying a new one, or you give in and hire somebody to fix every last hole in the old one. You're now out way more money than you would have been if you had just spent a few bucks on proper maintenance every so often.
At the same time, can you truly beat yourself up for this? If you have only $100 to spare for the next month, would you rather pay a doctor to find out why your chest is so tight lately, or pay Mario Brothers Plumbing to make your garbage disposal less noisy? Both are important, but now you're forced to choose which one is more important -- an agonizing and frustrating decision indeed.
I got slapped in the face by this about two years ago, when my car failed inspection. I'd tell you exactly what was wrong, but my knowledge of cars begins and ends with "they're pretty and go vroom." Let's just say the engine was on fire and leave it at that.
"Does anyone have a screwdriver? I think I can save it."
I learned it would cost me over $3,000 to repair my baby. Yeah, I quickly abandoned my baby and adopted a newer, cuter one. I blame myself, as five-plus years of procrastinating on tuneups and ignoring problem after mounting problem because my stupid, stinky landlord wanted big-dumb-jerk rent money all the time came back to cornhole me in the form of a very dead vehicle.
At the same time, what else could I have done? When forced to choose between overhauling an engine and keeping my apartment, I consistently chose "apartment," just like you'd probably do. If you're in a similar situation and truly can't afford preventive maintenance, please don't beat yourself up -- there's precious little you can do.
Well, except learn to fix stuff yourself, or make a shitload more money. Either of those always helps. So get to it, ya slacker.
Well, I tried.
Your Health Comes First
We hear about putting our health first time and again, and it sounds pretty reasonable. However, we realize we're supposed to always put health first, day in and day out, which sounds far less so, namely because that leaves exactly zero days to eat an entire quadruple-chocolate cake in one sitting.
Oh, starting an exercise routine and a healthy new diet is easy enough. We're good at writing Chapter 1, especially when it's preceded by a prologue where the hero comes face to face with mortality. The second you realize something isn't right here -- your favorite pants are suddenly too tight, you can't make it to the bathroom without sucking wind, you pee frosting -- you resolve to make a change, regardless of whether it's New Year's Day. And for a short while, it works. You work out every day, trim your menu down to boiled kale and plain yogurt, and make everything an excuse to squat. As a result, you drop a few pounds, it now takes three trips to the toilet to get winded, and overall you're looking and feeling great.
"Well, hello there, Wang Chung. It's been a while since we've seen each other."
And how do you react? You forget to exercise one day. But that's OK, because it's a "rest day." You slack on your diet and order a pizza. But that's OK, because it's a "cheat day." Unfortunately, often one rest or cheat day extends into another, and another, and suddenly you're back to your old fat and winded self. All that progress made by eating well and moving around now means absolutely nothing.
Eventually you'll start to feel like shit again and realize that your lifestyle needs to change, stat, and the cycle begins anew. And this will keep cycling until one of two things happens: you stick to it and become a non-roidy version of the Rock, or you drop dead of heart disease at way too young an age.
But goddamn, those pizza rolls were worth it.
It's taken me forever to figure this out, and I've paid for my ignorance. Literally. In my continuous start-stop attempts to get in shape, I've purchased at least five goddamned gym memberships throughout my life, none of which I've utilized even sporadically. I always had something better to do than work out, even though that "something better" was usually "update Myspace."
Each time, I convince myself it'll be different. I'm going to go five times a week. I'll spend two hours a day there. I'll actually work out instead of lounging at the juice bar all day, watching Judge Judy.
Nope to all counts, because I quickly remember why I stopped going every other time -- every hour spent walking up imaginary stairs and lifting heavy chunks of metal is an hour spent not masturbating, doing something productive, or masturbating while doing something productive. So I scale back from five times a week to three, then down to two, then one, and then, fuck it: I'm fat, just gonna accept it.
"This is the episode where Judy yells at dumb people. I can't miss this one."
But you don't have to accept it, or anything else, for that matter. Learn from your mistakes, get better, stay better, and, perhaps most importantly, never ever, ever, ever be like me.