Dear New Adult,
Hello! Allow me to be the first person to welcome you into The Real World. Look at you, diploma in hand, hopes and dreams in your eyes, and job prospects on the horizon -- in rapid retreat, with today’s economy, right?! Haha! Aaah, just kidding, that’s some of the dark humor we like to use around here in The Real World, you’ll get used to it. But no, seriously, get used to waiting tables for a spot. Ha! Ha. Hmm.
You know, I’m probably freaking you out right now, and I’m sorry for that. This is a big step for you, and while it’s just brimming with opportunities -- Target wants to know if you’re interested in a career in greeting! OK, I’ll stop. -- it can be pretty terrifying, too. You’re probably concentrating on the negatives now: rent, credit cards, student loans, groceries... Responsibilities, am I right? Ugh. You’re longing for your days of N64, Froot Loops, and hours of cartoons. Hey, I remember college, too. The days of low responsibility and zero ramifications, when you could act like an idiot and it didn’t matter.
But fear not, New Adult! Getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop being an idiot! In my admittedly brief Real World tenure thus far, I’ve discovered that age doesn’t decrease your capacity for idiocy, it simply makes you better at it. Your reasons and degree of being an idiot may have changed, but friend, if you stop being one, then you’re just not trying hard enough. To show you what I mean, let’s take look back at your sterling record of idiocy so far. Don’t be bashful! It can’t be more embarrassing than mine, trust me.
The idiot’s most natural, default state, those all-too-brief halcyon years at the beginning of your rocket-powered ascent through the levels of stupidity. Infancy. When soiling oneself in public and then ignoring it not only doesn’t get you banned from Hershey Park until 2018, it’s considered cute and adorable. The levels of repercussions would never again be so low, and by golly did you take advantage of it. Grinning while vomiting, screaming when you were hungry, continuing to scream just because you felt like it, you hit all the marks and unlocked every achievement.
There’s not much to say about infant idiocy: we were all there, and we all pretty much did the same thing. Don’t pause here to take too much credit, though, as most of it belongs to the two biggest enablers an idiot could ever hope for: Mom and Dad. Or Dad and Dad, or Mom and Mom, or maybe just Mom or Dad. Hey, idiocy isn’t concerned with genders or sexes, we all love to see a baby smash potatoes into its face.
The point is, your parents, whoever and however many they were, were the ones who woke up at four o’clock in the morning to feed you because damn it, breakfast was two whole hours away! They were the ones who cleaned up after the public soiling, who laughed and took pictures when you realized what hair was. (Look at this! It just comes out of your head!) They adored, memorialized, and encouraged you, and you stand the idiot you are today because of the solid, base-level idiocy they instilled in you. Thank them for it, because without the sense of wonder and the total lack of awareness of social consequences so severe it bordered on willful ignorance, you wouldn’t have been set up for the next stage in your life of blind stupidity.
Ah, childhood. You had made your peace with the weird stuff sticking out of your skull, figured out how those thumbs of yours worked, and even managed a tenuous grasp of human verbal communication. Your obviously superhuman advances in interpersonal interaction, however, were roundly ignored by your parents who, seemingly overnight, suddenly found exposing yourself in public to be grotesquely inappropriate. They forced you to go to school, to enrich your mind, but you weren’t going to have any of that!
What did you do when faced with the prospect of receiving free education about the entire world and how it works? You faked a cold! You might have even been one of the kids who went out and actually got a cold. Damn it, you weren’t going to enriched, you already knew everything you needed to! The toys the television said you were supposed to like were the best, your little sibling was definitely trying to steal your life away from you, and if your parents would just listen to reason, they’d understand that ice cream and Burger King were the only sources of nutrition any human could ever need.
Along with all those gains in cognitive development, you became steadfastly convinced that half of the population was infected with a terrible, invisible disease with no symptoms aside from having different parts than your body did, and that those infected had to be aggressively shunned. When the diseased began to show interest in you, this was only evidence of highly advanced stages of the infection. It was reason to further scorn the carriers, which you did with all due urgency, going so far as to construct weird, inverse-quarantine shelters to protect yourself from them. And thank goodness you did, because those treehouses allowed you to survive long enough to reach...
When you promptly forgot about the plague going around and dove headfirst into a new, beautiful kind of idiocy, the one fueled by hormones, fear, and spite: puberty. Cooties? Ha! You used to be such a funny little kid last month, believing in things like cooties. Your newfound maturity made you realize just how silly it was to believe that half of the entire population was evil when it’s obvious they were all so prettyyyyy...
You see, the real enemy were the parents and prison-like school system they used to keep you and your 14 years of experience and ideas DOWN. Can you believe they made you go to school for six hours every day (that was between Monday and Friday (except teacher preparation days, conferences, or religious or state holidays (if it wasn’t the three-month weekend called Summer)))?! To THINK, that they used to try to get you to open your mind, to explore your inner workings, and to learn about the great thinkers and doers of our history! Hell, they brought you there in busses! Hello, work camps! GOD.
But the taskmasters, strict though they were, still found it within their benevolent graces to allow you to leave the campus by 3 PM every night. You’d run out from your cell, hop in the car that your parents bought you that wasn’t even the car you really wanted, and took off with your friends to demoralize the security guard at your local mall. Hey, that pig deserved it. If you want to do running dives into the food court fountain then you should be allowed to do running dives into the food court fountain because this is America and 100 years ago someone your age would be considered an ADULT so why shouldn’t you?!
Finally, the tyrants deemed you worthy enough to graduate and leave those refugee camp living conditions and move on up to that most regal of idiocies in your young life...
Whoo, boy. The King Poop of the Universe of Idiots. The big stupid cherry on top of the moron sundae. College! COLLEGE! When you were stupid and you knew it, and you did not care. In fact, it was the primary reason behind most of the choices you made. It didn’t matter! This was the time for you to discover yourself, to see what made you tick. To make mistakes! To see how many fast food restaurants you could steal food from before they all closed for the night, or to drive to Philadelphia at 4:30 AM three hours before a final for cheesesteaks, or to do a power hour with your friends at 10:30 in the morning. These were all great ideas, because who could tell you no?
Besides, you were quickly realizing how little of the world you understood as a teenager, and as a child before that...but now, now you had it all worked out. You had your life goals set at “marijuana cultivation expert and part-time jazz-blues-reggae fusion bassist in Costa Rica” six weeks into your freshman year because that just, like, fit you. Your parents didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with you on that one, saying something about it not being what they were paying for, but that’s because they were brainwashed, man! You’d have debated with them more about it if you didn’t have to leave Thanksgiving dinner early to make it down to the Ultimate Frisbee tournament in South Carolina in time for the early-morning bonfire kickoff.
But even with all your spectacular accomplishments in college idiocy -- climbing to the top of your school’s clock tower, leaving an empty beer can on top of every sign on campus, stealing the mascot’s uniform, turning your friend’s jeep into a rhinoceros, destroying an abandoned shed because it was there -- you still managed to get it all together and leave even those hallowed halls of learning with a diploma in hand, and here you are. Finally.
ADULTHOOD and THE REAL WORLD
You’re scared, I know. You hit the Real World and everyone suddenly has a hand out: “Hey, you have to pay me monthly if you want to keep living in this building I own!” “Hey, you have to pay off that money you borrowed from our lending institution!” “Hey, buddy, can you spare a quarter, a dime, anything?” RIDICULOUS, right? (OK, maybe help that last guy out.) Where’s the beautiful people you were promised, or the rich, fulfilling career your degree was supposed to come with? And where does the wonderfully stupid idiocy fit in anymore? Stop panicking, New Adult, you’ll make it. And the idiocy doesn’t have to stop. In fact, now you’ll find it’s even easier, for a couple of reasons.
I know I was giving you a hard time about jobs before, but don’t worry, you’ll find some kind of money-making opportunity. It might take you a while longer than you’d like, but hey, even I was able to land a job writing on the internet. It’s tough finding a place that’ll exchange my pageviews for cash, but I’ve worked it out and found a happy balance. And with that money-making opportunity comes the one thing that sets this stage of idiocy in your life apart from all the others: MONEY. Your own personal, privately-owned supply of cash to fuel your further derangements!
I highly recommend finding a reasonably-priced apartment, figuring out how to eat and pay your bills on a budget and saving and all those other fine things, but while working all that out, don’t forget that this is a world where “responsible adults” can find amazing opportunities to act like absolute buffoons. Buy a dog and call it Dr. Turbo, and give it a cape! Paint racing stripes on your car! Sell your car and buy a hot air balloon! Take sky diving lessons! Stay up for as long as you possibly can/want to and call into work sick the next day! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT so long as you don’t murder or hurt other people. Unless they’re into that. That’s right! There are some idiots out there that want to pay people to hurt them! If you’re lucky enough to be the kind of idiot who likes to hurt people, then this is clearly a reality you’re meant to live in. Drive to Philly for cheesesteaks! Buy a Santa suit and run around Manhattan with 20,000 other people dressed in Santa suits! Fly out to Nevada and dance with thousands of hippies for a week!
There is no shortage of idiotic fun to be had in this Real World, New Adults. You may be scared, you may be desperately grasping to what you thought the world was just a few short years ago, but just like you did from high school into college, and childhood into teenager-dom, allow your conceptions about the world to change and grow. It’s frightening at first, but I can tell you this, from three years down the line: it’s amazing out here, and you’ll soon realize you know nothing, and that’s the best part.
Take it from me, I’ve got it all worked out.
Image courtesy of the editor's own stupid college experience