30-year-old Wisdom for 20-year-olds

Dear friends and cousins born in the 90s,

Congratulations on graduating high school. As you look forward to starting college or career during the greatest economic uncertainty anyone but your great-grandparents can remember, it’s got to be a little daunting.

Some people would lump you and I into the same generation group, but we both know that there are some irreconcilable differences in our experiences. I ironically listened to the Sex Pistols in high school, you ironically listened to Journey.  My parents were just starting to dabble in attentive child-rearing in their post-hippie 1980s lives; you were most tightly scheduled, supervised kid on the block. We both grew up with the Internet at home, but your devices are smaller, cooler and more adaptable.

No matter.  There are still many, many things I feel qualified to tell you about, advice I wish someone would have given me when I was striking out into this crazy-changing world with no life experience to back me up.  I don’t know if it will help, but in the words of Uncle Bill, I’d like to offer a few simple admonitions for young and old.

1. When moving to a new place don’t become romantically involved within the first ten days. Particularly with anyone you share a laundry room with.

2. Casual sex is exciting, and not always a terrible idea, but don’t do it with anyone too annoying to eat breakfast with. Sleeping with someone you don’t even like makes you a jerk, can get you a stalker. Which sounds glamorous but is actually no fun.

3. Get used to using condoms and don’t wait to be asked.  I know the sex ed you received consisted of some nuns showing you barbie dolls with fake HPV lesions drawn on them with red sharpie chanting “bad! bad! bad!” but condoms really do work for most things.

4. Respectable drug dealers should be named after an insect or arachnid. Distrust pushers named “Brad.” Try out new substances in the comfort of your home. Stay away from opiates as a general rule. If you start craving something, stop immediately, seek assistance.

5. If you are compelled to use or drink before going to work/class, you officially have a problem. Shotgunning booze with water will not make you less drunk, will save your head in the morning. If you’re contemplating cheap tequila, you’re already over the line.

6. Go to class. It’s hard, nobody is breathing down your neck anymore, but self-discipline is one of those things you have to train for.  Might as well start now before you’re sucking away your sick days having Ferris Bueller moments at 26.

7. Get a credit card but don’t use it.  Purchase one pint of ice cream with it per month and pay the balance off entirely. Do this for as long as you can hold out without accruing revolving debt. Hide it somewhere you won’t remember when you’re drunk. Good credit history is more valuable than actual dollars when it’s time to apply to graduate school.

8. The best cure for drama is work. Heartbreak, turmoil, frenemies gone wild? Masturbation addiction? Get to work. Write that paper, do your reading, clock into your double shift at the Home Depot. Just keep going. You’ll make money and it’ll help you move on.

9. Do not believe people who say you can sleep when you’re dead. This is false.

10.  These are not the Best Years of Your Life. No amount of money in the world could induce me to relive ages 18-25. You’re still not really sure of what you really want to do, what you actually want out of life, what you’re capable of.  You look to others for examples and guidance, but nobody can really tell you because everything from media consumption to job skills is excruciatingly individual now. The only thing you can do is hold onto your friends and keep working.

Believe me, though: it’s so worth it. Nobody ever told me how much more interesting and fun it is to be an adult than to be a child. Sure, you have to worry about rent, health insurance, your carbon footprint, surviving in the decline of an empire. But once you figure out how to cover the basics there’s this amazing freedom in taking care of yourself. You need to be responsible, sure, but that includes the responsibility of making yourself pancakes for dinner or having sleepovers whenever you damn well feel like it.

Being a grownup is an excellent and wonderful thing. I know you’ll make the best of it.

xo,

Hope

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