Reluctant Townie: Passing on things I learned in my 20s
I turn 30 on Saturday. As this is the last column of my 20s, I figured I should mark it by sharing whatever knowledge I have acquired during the past decade.
You're probably saying to yourself: I remember my 20s, back when man invented the sharpened stick. But you are mistaken. You can't remember your 20s forever, and starting Saturday, I will begin to forget mine.
So did I learn anything in my 20s that I can condense into a list of navel-gazing, new-age-y platitudes the likes of which you might read on Thought Catalog?
I can sure try.
YOU WILL FAIL
In so many ways, all the time, every day — you will fail during your 20s.
You will fail at jobs. You will fail at relationships. You will fail at diets. You will fail to remember where you put your keys. You will fail to send your mom's birthday card on time. You will fail to realize your dreams.
But that shouldn't get you discouraged about life.
During your 20s, when you're feeling down and out, you will look around you and realize that you live in a world full of failures. Take comfort in knowing that somewhere in the world, Lou Bega is listening to "Mambo No. 5" while dropping a basket of fries into the fryer and feeling the same way as you.
SOME PEOPLE WILL NOT APPEAR TO FAIL
But that only means they are better at hiding their failures. It is important that you understand this in the age of Facebook and Instagram, where people can carefully cultivate their image.
Nobody is winning all the time. Ask Charlie Sheen.
SOMETIMES YOU JUST GOTTA SHOUT
I'm not a fashionable person. I wear my shirts and socks inside out if that's how they come out of the drawer. I don't care. Nobody has time to turn all their clothes the right way — and who says the right way is the right way, anyway?
Articles of clothing wander in and out of my life like feral cats. So when I find something I click with, I tend to grab it by the scruff and give it a heavy rotation. Of course, heavy use leads to heavy stains, and I spent far too much of my 20s walking around with permanent grease spots on my man boobs.
Near the end of my 20s, my wife introduced me to the wonder of Shout stain remover, and thus I became a man and put away childish stains.
SOMEDAY IT WILL BE ILLEGAL TO CHARGE SOMEONE REAL, ACTUAL MONEY FOR A FINE ARTS DEGREE; UNTIL THEN, PICK YOUR MAJOR WISELY
The smartest and dumbest decision I ever made in my life was to drop out of college. It was smart in that I was a film major, who later switched to an English major, and by pulling the plug on my higher education early on, I saved myself a mountain of debt that many of my peers are now buried at the foot of.
But by not choosing to go back to college and major in something sensible — business, science, engineering, marketing, medicine — I made a stupid decision and have delegated myself to a decade of low-paying service industry jobs and humor writing gigs.
I still do the stuff I wanted to do in college — the film stuff, the creative writing stuff, this column — and throughout the years, I have found ways to turn those things into revenue, but not nearly the amount of revenue I would have generated as a dentist or a lawyer or a circus clown.
Life is not all about money, and you certainly don't need it to be happy, but you do need it to pay your phone bill.
YOU ARE NOT A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE; IN FACT, YOU ARE NOT EVEN A SNOWFLAKE AT ALL
You are a grain of sand in a vast desert of sandy dunes. But you shouldn't let that get you down. When you accept your lack of importance in the history of the universe, you might find that with it comes a lessening of expectations and a certain peace of mind.
YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING
Your teenage years are all about realizing you know everything you'll ever need to know about the world. Your 20s are about learning over and over again that you don't know anything at all. You don't even have a concept of the things you don't know yet.
It's like everything on the Internet is already there, but you've got to know where to look to find it. You have to learn the right questions to ask.
I imagine that your 30s and 40s are spent trying to acquire an understanding, your 50s and 60s are spent viewing the world from your more informed state and your 70s to your 100s are spent slowly scrubbing the hard drive of your brain.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
I don't know that there is one. Religious persuasion aside, good and evil definitely exist, although people sometimes find the two hard to distinguish.
But the basic alchemy is that when you do good things, you feel good, and when you do bad things, you feel bad. But sometimes doing bad things feels good and, well, that's where people run into trouble.
I think Bill S. Preston, Esq. got it the most right: "Be excellent to each other."
Ryan Jackson thought his 20s were pretty alright for the most part, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.