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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

183

What the Hell Should You Do With Your Life?


So you just graduated. Congratulations. Hopefully you spent the weekend patting yourself on the back. It took me eight years to graduate from college. And that was in the '90s, when the internet wasn’t even any good yet. But you got it done. And you deserve to feel the accomplishment of it. But you may be feeling something today, in this moment, that you haven’t ever felt before. Concern for your future. What will you be in five years, five months, five minutes? You temporarily experienced concern for your future when you applied for colleges. But there are always safety schools. Life has no safety schools, except maybe the internet.

Every graduating kid in the country is subjected to the worldly opinions of some famous person at every graduation ceremony in the country, telling them to do this or that to also become famous and someday lecture kids at a college campus dressed in regalia. I certainly haven’t earned the right to tell you what to do. I am broke and not very famous at all. But perhaps you can learn from my mistakes/life, too? I think what I may have to share with you might be more worthwhile than the kind of empty sloganeering famous graduation speakers get to do. When it comes to other people’s lives, my advice tends to be very practical. My advice for myself is always a little wacky, like, “Eat a bunch of chili dogs and frogs legs and ride the Cyclone, Jimmy! Unless you’re some kind of wuss!” I’d never give others, even strangers, that kind of questionable advice. I have such high hopes for you. I disappointed myself so long ago. But you have a chance now to make everything right.

We’re all trying to live practically in an impractical time. Even though “the economy” is “improving” everyone still seems kind of broke and the future has never seemed more uncertain. Will we all just be shale oil miners and frackers in the future? There’s no way I will ever buy a house or own a car like my parents did, raising three boys in the suburbs of Boston. Not that I would recommend any of those things to anyone. New England is nice sometimes but very expensive. It seems like quite a struggle as opposed to Wyoming. Would my life have been terrifically different if I was raised in Wyoming? Or Ohio? Probably not, I still probably could have been a fan of Boston sports. Or rodeo. Or Cleveland sports! Sports is sports. Well, anyway, here’s the sum of my life’s knowledge on the subject of how to live as single natural being: the dogmatic nature of experience as Charles Olson once wrote. Feel free to completely disregard everything that follows. It’s your life and you will be the only one who will ever truly know how to live it.

Don’t Take People’s Advice
Other people, what exactly are they? And what do they want? I worry about this quite a bit. Quite a bit more than I ever should. I am a pleaser. I like making people laugh, bringing people to orgasm, letting people beat me at chess. Because I like people, even though I don’t understand them, and would rather be alone most of the time. But you can only truly be alone sometimes when other people are around. Like at the mall or in a large audience watching a Hangover movie. I haven’t the faintest idea what goes through other people’s minds. It’s safe to assume that I am like most people. I want the same things as most people, probably. Tacos, for example.

But I don’t expect anyone outside of my therapist to ever truly understand me. And she gets paid to care about me. And yet we’re always subjected to, we people who do not seem to have our life in order, we who do not have a plan, we who have no clue what is going on, we who seem adrift inside a bowl of perpetual Lucky Charms, to the advice-giving of others. Generally well-seeming people. Who have practically no idea about us or our lives. But probably are very much like us and like tacos and all.

Why do people give other people advice? I have no idea, other than to take a little time off the clock. My guidance counselor, in my one visit in the toney New England all-boy’s high school I attended, suggested I consider going to Andover Tractor Trailer School. This was a person who was being paid to guide me. Obviously this person had no idea that I didn’t even have a driver’s license at the time, and would grow to be a truly awful driver. I mean, a real drag-racing jackass on the road. Big rigs would never be my thing and I would never have adapted to that kind of life-style. After about an hour on any major highway I begin to think to myself, “None of this is real!” as I drift across all these little painted lines in every direction. Driving certainly can be relaxing for myself, but I don’t imagine that you’d feel very relaxed having me on the same road as you, in some kind of Optimus Prime, questioning the reality of the universe while you drove your kid to soccer practice or Home Depot. I twice drove from Boston to Central Michigan University (Go Chips!!) in a Subaru and I remember being asleep through Canada both times. I mean like droolingly asleep, I was having this weird dream of driving a car someplace where all the money was different and colorful and covered with loons.

I suspect that this guidance counselor, who I only ever saw that one time, was trying to spur me into action in some way. Like I would say, wait a minute, I ought to really start applying myself in this toney prep school or else my future will be bleak and horrible. But no one thinks about their future all that much at all-boys prep schools. They think about girls. Or cute boys. And making out with them. And the future is this abstract concept for practically everyone who isn’t one of those people who knows exactly what they want to do in life. I really admire those people. The overwhelming drive, ambition and focus to do anything, smoke pot, become a terrorist, go to Comic Cons, I salute it. I have never felt an overwhelming desire to do anything except eat tacos. Everything else is kind of like, oh I guess I ought to go to work now. Maybe I should join Netflix again to watch those new Arrested Developments. I have notions, I experiment and try things, and then end up feeling disappointed in those things and then I go eat tacos.

I have never felt an overwhelming desire to do anything except eat tacos. Everything else is kind of like, oh I guess I ought to go to work now.

This is all a way of saying that other people’s advice is pretty much meaningless. They are taking some image from inside themselves of the life they think you ought to have that is based on their own experiences and projecting it on top of you, as if you were a movie screen and it was a Hangover movie. No one know what goes on inside you except those paramecium that live inside your large intestine. And although we’re all pretty much the same we have completely different notions about the ways people ought to live. So all the little graduation speakers in the world, with all their good intentions and success and snappy stories, will never understand you. My graduation speaker was Dennis Kucinich. I think of him now exactly what I thought of him then, seated amid the glittering graduates of Suffolk University: “Who is this guy?”

My father gave me career advice once. He thought I should have gone into the family business, which was working for the government. In his case, the IRS for 40-plus years. Would I have been a good G-Man? I don’t think so. And this is advice from someone who had to hang out with me all the time. Advice is not for us. It’s not for you and it’s not for me. Do not borrow or lend it, as Polonious might say right before he gets stabbed. I think secretly we all kind of know exactly who we wanted to be. In my case it was the 5-foot-7 210-pound bald starting point guard for the Boston Celtics. Like Rebecca Lobo, I never got to live that dream. Instead, I worked at bookstores mostly. My mom was a librarian. But they have no tables piled high with books in libraries, sadly. Librarians have to love all books equally. They can’t say, don’t read this, read John Gardner’s Grendel instead. They don’t even have a card catalog anymore! So sad.

A guy I knew and liked once gave me the advice to stop drinking. And I took it, for many, many years. It was a fine experiment, I learned some things about myself. Would I do it all again? Maybe for a year or two, if I had to. But this is my life and I get to screw it up, too.

Don’t Get Married and Have Kids
I mean, you know, not yet. Or don’t feel like you have to. Don’t feel like it’s the most important thing that is ever going to happen to you. That you should be trying to meet some person that is gonna totally fill every part of your life. I mean, maybe they will, but probably not and definitely not forever. And there are, you know, plenty of kids in the world. There’s no rush for you to go out there and make some more. I have never been close to getting married. Just maybe one time, but that was more like the kind of “let’s get married on a dare” thing that some unmarried people do after a while. An Iranian woman wanted to possibly marry me to stay in the country when I was in college. And I would have gone along with that, but I was number two on the list and she married number one. I didn’t want her to have to go back to Iran if she didn’t want to. That seemed like a rather noble use of the institution. I think about marrying Ben, my roommate and platonic (if sometimes groped) life pal, but it’s still illegal here in New Jersey. And then if I met a lady at a party and made out with them I’d be like some sort of Don Draper Cheater Man. That sounded like a drag.

I have, however, been through lots of hysterical pregnancies. And they are terrifying! Oh my God! Can you imagine me being a dad to some actual human being outside of some video game. I cannot even help Pacman escape those chasing ghosts, never mind teach an actual kid to tie their shoes in such a way that they would know how to tie them forever. Or like, how to poo? It’s brutal, the idea of it. The kid would be better off with wolf parents. I mean, I imagine those moms would have been, and probably are, great moms where ever they are. But instead of one Jim Dad they had two wolf dads who could show them where all the tasty berries are and how to start a fire using two leaves and a wolf nuzzle. That seems like the kind of parenting a young Behrle might need.

I just feel like people think that getting married and having kids is the end of their story, when the end of your story ought to involve building a rocket engine for your Prius and being the first family on Mars, or something.

I just feel like people think that getting married and having kids is the end of their story, when the end of your story ought to involve building a rocket engine for your Prius and being the first family on Mars, or something. Kids get married as a way of instantly growing up. Or because of love. Which is one of the worst reasons to do just about anything. If you really do love someone you won’t need to possess them. I mean, it’s the 21st Century, just live in sin. It is OK now! They won’t burn you at the stake or nothing. With divorce so prevalent, I really feel like people should only commit to each other for a few years at a time. Like baseball contracts. Arbitration hearings!

“He never takes out the trash, arbitrator, as you can see from this pie chart!”

Why must it be all or nothing, marriagers? Get married or break up? When did getting married or having a kid ever make a relationship better? Possibly never. Maybe I should have gotten married just out of college, I was still so young and so beautiful and could have possibly married a stripper. And all those little babies me and those moms thought hysterically we were having, they are probably better off in whatever wombs they got sent to instead by the stork, how does that work? My grand contribution to the world probably won’t be children or a happy wife. I would have gotten divorced a million times by now. And aren’t we all better off having that be the case?

Save marriage and kids for your 30s. By then my plan to construct Parenttowns across the country will be complete. Incredible facilities with only soft edges and padded everything so that nothing bad will ever happen to you or your kids. So the rest of us can go back to smoking and eating peanuts and cutting our faces open on the coffee table and sleeping inside sliced-open Tauntauns as the ice falls all around us.

No One Really Has Any Idea What the Future Holds
This should be clear to anyone who has seen those Google glasses that no one has any idea what they’re doing and the future is a mystery. Even to Google—which knows everything about me, because, unlike me, they read all my email—knows nothing about the future. I mean, the glasses are stupid, look stupid, do stupid things, and will be lots of fun to punch off people’s faces when the chosen time is upon us. Like Siri on the iPhone. Her jokes are not funny at all! There’s no way Zooey Deschannel is her real friend, outside of commercials. Anyone who can tell you what will happen in six months to a year is lying. Unless they are predicting a third disappointing season of HBO’s The Newsroom, in which they really get to the heart of the Benghazi story in a smart way like no one else is practically doing.

Most people are completely full of shit, but sound like they know what they’re talking about. I can change my voice to an even lower register, look people right in the eye and bullshit away like the best of them. And everybody tries to project what they think will happen into the future, but then shouldn’t we all be pushing shopping carts through the Cormac McCarthy Road World? Who could have ever predicted that a third Hangover movie would be a bad idea? No one, that’s who.

I got a degree in English with a minor in History because I hated money. And because Suffolk University didn’t offer American Studies majors, which used to be a thing in the '90s. Like grunge. And AOL. If I had my druthers would I have studied anything else? To save myself from a life of working in bookstores? Not really. I’ve always liked working in bookstores because I like judging other people and feeling smarter than them. Maybe I would have read those Game of Thrones books earlier instead of wasting my time reading Central European Fiction. Without a world split apart by totalitarianism most of those books are just about affairs. And affairs are boring. I mean, I can sleep with anyone I want. Big deal. The flesh cries out, but who cares what for?

I’ve completely based my slacker lifestyle on the premise that I will probably live until I am 150 (110 more years! Preferably not all like this year!) Baldness will probably be cured around 2016. Everyone will climb into hot new robot bodies in 2017. And MTV will go back to showing awesome music videos in 2018. So everything is going to be totally fine. If, for some weird reason, none of this falls into place, I am most likely very screwed.

But those people who speak with such confidence about what the future holds and how you ought to grab this or that particular piece of pie are just one New York Times trend story away from being wrong. You only need two other friends to do exactly what you’re doing and you can totally be a trend story, too. Wear an actual beehive on your head, become a gang of tough mimes, whatever. Which shimmies nicely into the next segment of the non-Advice I am bestowing...

Money Isn’t Really That Important and Doesn’t Make Anyone All That Happier
Said the guy who was recently priced out of Brooklyn. But I have yet to meet a person who money solved all of their problems. Possibly the Howells on Gilligan’s Island. But they were still stuck on that island with a bunch of idiots. They didn’t seem to mind all that much, though. I remember telling my dad that “you had to lose money to make money” in regards to paying Kinko’s to release my poetry ‘zine from the '90s. Sure, I spent $300 I didn’t have, but now copies of Meanie magazine can be found at Salvation Armies around the Boston area selling for almost the $1 cover price. Who’s laughing now, Daddy?

But don’t base your life on collecting money. I mean, some people are simply called through divine vocation to a life of being a hedge fund manager or the bookie in a bar who sits next to the jar of pickles. But don’t go out of your way to take a job you don’t like just to get paid so that you’ll have more money to do what you really love, which is play Playstation or smoke pot. Those things are callings all on their own. And yes, most habits are expensive to maintain. But you will find there are many things you can do without to offset any expensive costs in your life. You can rebuild your credit every few years, fake your own death a few times, move from state to state like the hucksters of old. There are options, people. And you have them.

I was fortunate enough to find relative solitude and considerable good times in the selling books business at an early age. Sure, I worked retail, got paid nothing and the entire industry will soon be replaced by an algorithm, but we had some good times, didn’t we? I’ll be able to tell my imaginary grandkids (or more likely your very real grandkids) about taking threatening phone calls about carrying The Satanic Verses or about how I got Gawker that early copy of Harry Potter 7. I’ve always had friends in low places, and for that I feel very fortunate. It’s a charmed life I lead, one that keeps me away from the soul-crushing effects of sitting at a desk and reading the internet all day. Which for me was never really all that productive or interesting. But some of you guys do a helluva job at it, I tip my Knish cap to you. But I never would have had a wacky life in books had I gone with my first love, missing free throws. I gave up my dream of playing professional basketball because I was short, untalented and I wanted to focus more attention on my not-sweating activities. (I also wanted to change my name to Matthias when I was a teenager. Kids make bad decisions. Except those kids who create big, famous apps. Then their entire life becomes about pleasing stockholders. Which seems about as fun as non-stop whippits.)

I mean, that guy allegedly created the Chicken McNugget in a loose dumb conversation on an elevator. But still, he probably smelled like fries his whole life.

I once read the title of a book called Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. Seemed like perfectly good free advice from the front of a book. Well, I have done what I love which is make bad jokes on Twitter and no money has really followed all that much. Does that mean my life hasn’t been worth living? Probably. But I always get sad when I read rich people obituaries in the Wall Street Journal. Because no one wants to grow up to be number two at McDonald’s. I mean, that guy allegedly created the Chicken McNugget in a loose dumb conversation on an elevator. But still, he probably smelled like fries his whole life. I could have been happy working the Whopper Board at the Burger King on Route 128 headed to Gloucester my whole life, but I had bigger dreams. I wrote a paper in eighth grade about how I wanted to be a Travel Agent when I grew up. Because maybe you get free trips and got to wear Hawaiian shirts to work. Sometimes we must be saved from ourselves and our own terrible dreams for our lives.

If your dreams are to someday be a social media director for some cool new start-up, give that dream up. Just because.

Take Whatever Your Parents Will Give You
There’s allegedly some backlash against the kids because they all have to move back in with their parents after graduation. Well, create some jobs, job-creators. I was watching that documentary Girls on the HBO and I was unaware that people’s parents helped pay for rent and abortions and stuff. I am going to go back and retroactively ask my parents for a bunch of abortion money and rent backpay.

But you should take those people for everything you can and never move out if you don’t have to. Any time you find yourself in a situation where someone else makes your bed, that’s pure gold. Hold that moment close to you like a racoon who found an Oreo. Savor it. They supposedly love you unconditionally. Find out what that means on a monetary level. There is no shame in it. Money is money. And taking money from your parents isn’t selling out. Sell out if you can, of course. But money from your parents is an expression of love, and who can say no to love? It’s actually preferable to love. It can buy you love. Just take their money. You can always pay it back by visiting them in nursing homes or graveyards down the road.

The Limits of YOLO
I am not entirely sold on the idea that I only live once. And neither should you be. It’s so limiting. And I bet you could come back from death even stronger and better than before like a sexy Frankenstein if you just put your dead mind into it. And you’ll have a long time to do that.

Just don’t let fear of death be the main force of motivation in your life. Death is no doubt scary. Not existing, I mean. Or, more likely, living forever in hell for like never going to church. The pope recently said it was OK for people to be atheists as long as they were good people. But he probably won’t be pope for very long. The people who think about death the most are the very young and the very old. The very young shouldn’t think about death unless they’re sick or soldiers or something. Old people yearn for death because they’re sick of everything. You should probably find yourself in the middle somewhere. When death comes for me I want it to be a surprise so I won’t have to worry too much. Worrying is probably worse than death. But carpe diem is crap, too. You shouldn’t always have to seize the day. Let the day seize you once in a while.

Everything is a Lie and Everyone is Completely Full of Shit
We give shock away all the time now. We really ought to save it up for something actually shocking, down the road, which might require our outrage. Who knows if we will have enough when the time comes. And will the internet still be there to help us communicate it?

You can trust and believe in whatever you want. And that stuff will let you down. And then you’ll be left only with sarcasm. Which is fun for a while but uggh.

So what the hell should you do with your life? I haven’t the faintest idea. But I do believe in you and I bet you’ll figure it out somehow. Perhaps on your deathbed. It doesn’t really matter what we do for a living or who we marry or if our kids are psychos or not. The meaning of life, truly, is whether we’re amusing at parties or not. That’s all that matters. Can you parry witfully? Do you have an opinion about the latest episode of Game of Thrones? Isn’t Ygritte great? Do you know if that new Thai place is any good or not? These are the things that will define us as people, and, given time, into legend. Whatever you do in life, add dragons to it. That was my goofy graduationspeak catchphrase. Whatever you do in life, go eat a taco. Something like that. I can’t believe you read this whole thing.

Photo via imelda/flickr.

Jim Behrle tweets @behrle.



183 Comments / Post A Comment

cosmia

Oh god I just read the title of this post and nearly had an anxiety attack. I have to read it later, when I get home to my parents' house, from my second unpaid internship. *puts head between knees*

Dirty Hands

@cosmia You'll be okay, you're learning, you have plenty of time. Just think about today, and the next step or two! You'll be great.

angermonkey

@cosmia I have had too long and exhausting a day to read anything, so I'm just going to assume, based on the images, that the answer to "What the hell should you do with your life?" is "Eat tacos."

I AM ALREADY A SUCCESS STORY.

Sarah C.@twitter

@cosmia Just the SECOND unpaid internship? What is this, amateur hour?

(Srsly, that does not make you a loser and neither does living with your parents; you're SO okay.)

Pygmalion

@cosmia Starting my sixth internship in a few days (and it's only the second paid one) sooooo yeah, don't feel bad.

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leonstj

God dammit that was a thing I am very glad to have ignored my job for 10 minutes to read, Behrle. Thanks.

itiresias

i am not a graduate but am deep in this bullshiz lately. mostly worrying my life (which is totally good) is being wasted because there MIGHT be better stuff out there SOMEWHERE, you know, MAYBE. and a lot of things i read stress me out but this was a good thing to read.

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Lumpy Space Princess

I really needed this right now, having graduated 1.5 weeks ago. It took me 12 years to get my bachelor's! But anyway, now I'm in this awful emotional/mourning phase, and I feel stupidly sad and cranky about everything, and I got this interesting internship and I DON'T WANNA DO IT right now because I want to fucking slack off for just like, a few weeks (or months), ok? And just work at my dumb grocery store job where I know everything by heart, ok? But I don't know, I might stay because it's a good opportunity I guess (blah).
Also, I am drinking a bloody mary right now; why the hell not.

angermonkey

@Lumpy Space Princess Thanks to your (amazing) screen name, my brain auto-read this comment in LSP's voice and it was A MILLION TIMES amazing. Especially the last line.

Mae
Mae

@Lumpy Space Princess As long as you have a can of beans, you're gonna be OK.

Michaela D@twitter

@Lumpy Space Princess Pbbbthhh are you me?

Lumpy Space Princess

@angermonkey I aim to please!

Lumpy Space Princess

@Michaela D@twitter Maybe? Did you just graduate from art school? That's like one of the dumbest places to graduate from. Art school!

smartastic

@Lumpy Space Princess I graduated 10 years ago (undergrad) and 1 year ago (grad) and still feel most days like 'nooooo just give me some time ok JUST A LITTLE TIME TO CHILL OUT'. ugh, life.

Tuna Surprise

Go to law school!

Tuna Surprise

@Tuna Surprise
Wait! That should say "Don't go to law school!"

                      O

@Tuna Surprise Ugh this is the fifth anniversary of my graduating college (and first anniversary of graduating law school), and all I can think is that I wish I had NEVER gone to law school, and presumably might have found a job at some point over the last half decade with my cute little BA, whereas now I have the two and nothing to show for it.

PomoFrannyGlass

@Tuna Surprise Ugh yeah NO ONE go to law school. I mean, right now. Probably some day we'll need more lawyers again. But speaking as someone who edits higher education admissions information...no one who graduated from college this year should go to law school.

sophia_h

@Tuna Surprise I hate how much having gone to law school five years ago screws with my ability to rationally think about life, because every time I see stuff about "money isn't important!" I just think "...unless you have professional school debts." I mean, I would like to be a person who evaluates things other than from the financial angle, but with my six figures of debt (plus CC debt from stuff like emergency dental work while in school, and also fuck you Barbri), I just cannot get to the philosophical state about it. I need a certain amount of money which is more than the average person needs just to live/be happy, and the rest of my life has to be shaped around that.

In conclusion: o god no one go to law school.

yeah-elle

I kept reading this scared that it would end. But even when it did, eventually, I felt okay about it! This was so good.

hallelujah

Seriously, though: don't get married in your 20s. A wise, wise person once said it's like leaving a party at 10pm, and it so, so is.

TheBourneApproximation

@hallelujah But...what if we like to leave the party at 10 pm in real life too?

honey cowl

@hallelujah I always leave the party at or before 10 pm & I love it that way.

This is my new username

@hallelujah What about your late 20's? I'm asking for a friend. ;)

This is my new username

@This is my new username Nevermind, at the rate we are planning this wedding, we will be well into our 30s by the time we actually get married

PomoFrannyGlass

@This is my new username UGH NO NO ONE GET MARRIED IN THEIR 20s. Not because it's like leaving the party at 10pm (though I suspect that's true) but also because...it's kind of like if you had to commit to your career at 16? You don't know who you are yet, or who the other person is, or what either of you really needs. I know you are very, very sure that you DO know those things and that they will never change when one of you is 27 and the other is 30, but trust me, you don't. (and sure, I'm talking to you, Hairpin commenters, not screaming into the past in a futile attempt to keep myself from going into that particular basement)

But if you want to get married, you better do it before 35, because after that everyone is too damaged from past relationships to ever get attached or trust anyone. HAHAHAHAsob

Seriously though, I liked this piece, it made me feel better about the past decade and the fact that most of my decisions that seemed smart turned out crappy, and vice versa. Listen to Behrle, kiddoes.

par_parenthese

Or get married whenever the hell you want because it's your life, and maybe you'd rather party with this person for the rest of it than not? Yeah, I go for that. Signed, A Person With Lots of Friends Who Do Not Regret Getting Married Young.

honey cowl

@par_parenthese Co-signed. Getting married is not the end of your life. Marrying Youngish is not a death sentence.

Bittersweet

@par_parenthese THANK YOU. It's been fun living the adventure and eating tacos with my husband, whom I met at 17 and married at 25...17 years ago.

hallelujah

I got married in my 20s, just to clarify. We're doing just fine, but I still wouldn't recommend it to someone with my similar lifestyle and values (someone who like to stay out really late, for instance, and with no married friends to speak of yet). But I know nothing, basically, so don't think I'm judging any of you happily married young folks!

Plant Fire

@PomoFrannyGlass I mean, while getting married anytime soon would so not be for me I really don't see why it's that bad? I mean, it's not like you're chopping your arm off or doing anything life ruining.

It's probably not the best choice for a lot of people but if you feel like it's a good decision for you, and you live somewhere where divorce is legal, and you get a good pre-nup I don't really see what's so bad.

Marrying young shouldn't prevent you from staying out late, or trying new things, or traveling alone, or drinking to much, or making too many good/bad decisions, or changing careers, or changing friends, or figuring shit out (with our without your husband/wife). I'm not married but I am in a fairly serious relationship and I still manage to do all of those things. I don't see why a piece of paper and a ring should change that.

PomoFrannyGlass

@Sea Ermine Okay, so...anonymous comments on a website are a place where I vent my angst and shiz, in order to maintain sanity and balance in my actual life. Like, I get to be a nasty bitter divorcee here, so I am not one in person. It's not really intended as actual direct life advice to anyone specifically, and based on my understanding of anonymous internet comments, I'd be really surprised if anyone took my crap seriously and elected not to marry their partner in their 20s because a stranger on the internet said it didn't work out for her (especially in as ridiculous and vitriolic terms as I tend to use on this subject).

That said, allow me to clarify my perspective: Marriage is not the end of anyone's life, and you can absolutely do all that stuff with your person, and I certainly didn't mean to imply otherwise. For anyone who got married in their 20s and is now out of their 20s and happy and it's working, that's great.

I do think that plenty of people grow up in social contexts where marriage is presented as a major life goal, or accomplishment, or simply an assumed event, and that this can create a certain kind of momentum that can override any other concerns or instincts or life visions (I'm trying to describe something much more subtle than someone's mom asking when she's going to become a grandma or whatever your example of direct pressure might be, but no less difficult to ignore). On top of this, I think we're at a cultural point where marriage is all about love, which is lovely and romantic, but means that some (not all) people early in adulthood might not be aware of the practical considerations of marriage or the qualities they need in a partner beyond love and kindness. Those are wonderful things! But in my personal experience, additional qualities are necessary to build any kind of life that might include a home, career, or family, which are expectations that often are vague in one's 20s and become more concrete following marriage. I think understanding that, and what those qualities might be, is something that tends to happen closer to 30.

This is all based anecdotal observation and personal experience, not empirical evidence, and there are plenty of exceptions. I assume that everyone will get married or not get married whenever they feel like it, regardless of what I write on the internet about it.

Plant Fire

@PomoFrannyGlass So I probably worded myself poorly in my original comment but Id just like to say that I agree 100% with everything you said after the word "perspective". My comment was not intended as an attack on you, I just noticed a lot of comments expressing the idea that getting married in your 20s was a terrible idea (comments I assumed were supposed to be a little jokey) and I though I'd share my opposing opinion, just to add to the conversation. I, like you, assume people will do what they want regardless of what I write online so I assumed it would be viewed as just a casual opinion, much like yours. Sometimes I don't express myself well in writing (especially on the internet!) and I'm sorry if what I said came off harshly.

PomoFrannyGlass

@Sea Ermine Thanks, and I'm sorry, that wasn't just a response to your comment (which was worded just fine)--there were some similar comments upthread with stronger tones and I realized that my kneejerk nonsense might have triggered opposing kneejerk reactions and I felt like I should come back around and explain myself. It always makes me a little sad when Hairpin comment threads get negative or defensive, even when I'm not participating in them, and I felt bad about contributing to that.

mrfeenyscar

this may come off as gloating...but damn if that didnt make me feel like a boring, contented old man (in a good way...and at 28 years old).

but any other commentary i make is just going to sound like a cranky persons critique of an episode of "Girls"...so I will bow out before that.

E
E

@mrfeenyscar Amen. I read this and was like, "gosh do I have a lot of advice to offer someone in counter to this advice! And then I held my tongue.

mmmcheese

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Dirty Hands

"some famous person at every graduation ceremony in the country, telling them to do this or that to also become famous and someday lecture kids at a college campus dressed in regalia"

That is EXACTLY why I find motivational speakers irritating.

fondue with cheddar

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angermonkey

Can we talk about this part?
"Money Isn’t Really That Important and Doesn’t Make Anyone All That Happier"
Because I can tell you that LOTS of money doesn't necessarily make you happy, but enough money SURE fucking helps and it is ACTUALLY important. It's nice when you reach a point where having to make a $1000 car repair doesn't send you spiraling into a financial crisis. Like, where are these joyous assholes who don't mind getting evicted?

fondue with cheddar

@angermonkey THIS. Money doesn't automatically make you happy, but lack of money will sure as fuck make you miserable.

I don't want to be rich, I just want to be comfortable. I want to have my basic needs met plus a little more for fun. That's not much to ask, is it?

harebell

@fondue with cheddar @anger monkey

I think this is what he meant, though, isn't it? even if he didn't spell it out.

Mae
Mae

@angermonkey Totally. I actually think that young people are often told that money doesn't matter, and that you should do what you love, regardless of whether it makes you $$$. But actually living in poverty is non-stop stress and worry, especially (I imagine) as you get older. I am way less stressed now, making middle class wages, than I was making poverty wages a year and a half ago.

angermonkey

@harebell I don't know, though, "Money isn't really that important" is a sentiment I see bandied about an awful lot by people who haven't had trouble making rent. Or buying food.

ETA: which is not to say that's the case in THIS case, but it's a phrase that seems to track with a certain level of privilege. I'm saying this badly. I'm the worst.

fondue with cheddar

@harebell It may or may not have been what he meant, but I feel the distinction needs to be made. Money doesn't guarantee happiness, but not having enough money guarantees unhappiness.

It is non-stop stress and worry, as @Mae said. Sob story time (just to make a point).

The reason I have fallen back into depression is because my boyfriend and I are struggling to get by and have been for many months. There are divorce-related expenses that are costing a fortune, and it's dragging on and on and seems a neverending and costly fight. He's self-employed so income is sporadic, and we have no cushion, making it very difficult to budget and plan for the future. The house we're renting is going into foreclosure, and we are put into a position where we have to be homeless (because we haven't been able to save up a security deposit) or buy the house we're renting, which is not something we want to do. And then there's the added stress of worrying about whether we'll be able to keep up on the mortgage. I could get a second job if I weren't so depressed, but I can barely handle the one. I should go back to seeing a therapist regularly and get on medication, but even with insurance the copay is just too high to make it affordable. And he really needs to do the same, only he is uninsured so it's even less affordable for him. So we live paycheck-to-paycheck, considering things like new underwear to be luxuries, beating ourselves up for the little money we do spend on anything fun, feeling completely out of control of our lives, hoping things will somehow get better and fearing that they never will.

And there are a lot of people in America who are much poorer than we are.

My point is that making more money would definitely solve a great deal of our problems, which would give us the free time and mental energy to work on solving the rest. So yes, money is an important contributor to happiness.

Edited to add: @harebell, that wasn't all directed at you, I just got on a roll there.

Mae
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@fondue with cheddar I'm really sorry things are so rough for you guys right now. :(

fondue with cheddar

@Mae Aww, thanks. We're a mess! But seriously...if it's this hard for us I honestly don't know how people who make minimum wage can survive. I don't know how they should be expected to survive on that. It's a fucked-up system.

whizz_dumb

You likely just read this a minute ago but it is my favorite part: "I was watching that documentary Girls on the HBO and I was unaware that people’s parents helped pay for rent and abortions and stuff. I am going to go back and retroactively ask my parents for a bunch of abortion money and rent backpay."

Llllauren

I had to stop reading after the whole "Don't get married in your 20s" thing because it made me feel small and sad because I'm getting married in a couple of years... Some of the other comments aren't helping.

whizz_dumb

@Llllauren I think a lot of this is not picking on people who did it differently from what he's suggesting, rather, it's some encouragement to people who are having a rough go of it. Like, taking what people are typically getting down on themselves about and flipping it--saying fuck what is conventionally "succeeding"--you're actually doing it right...kind-of as a joke. So you shouldn't feel sad that you're getting married in a few years, if that makes you happy, you're doing it right.

par_parenthese

@Llllauren Yeah, slightly annoyed with ageist comments as well. "Nobody in her twenties knows who she really is, nor is she competent to make important life decisions! Because of reasons!"

You just do you.

Mae
Mae

@par_parenthese When I read comments like that, I also think of all the young people in the world (and in the US, even) who have hugely adult responsibilities, like, uh, having children, supporting family members financially, and being in wars. That's not to denigrate the idea of seeing one's 20s as an extended adolescence, but this is all so highly individual and culturally constructed. We should all stop worrying about whether we confirm to someone else's narrative about adulthood. (If only it were that easy!)

OhMarie

@Llllauren The median age of first marriage in the US is 29 for men and 27 for women, and it works out a lot of the time. I got married when my husband and I were both 22, and I would never ever recommend it to anyone else but it is working fucking great for us.

BosomBuddy

@Llllauren Don't worry! I don't believe that was the intent of this piece and some of the comments, despite their imperative nature. Everyone is drawing off their own experiences and attitudes and it's completely natural to make these kinds of generalized observations. In general, it does not seem like a good idea to get married in your twenties (especially young twenties), because, by the time you reach your thirties, most of these people end up getting divorced. That doesn't mean, however, that it is not right for you. No one knows what they're doing, really, and all you can do is try things out and see how they work out for you. I got hitched around 30, but had been with my partner for 4-5 years at that point. Did I know exactly what I was getting into? No, but who, precisely, is going to tell me not to experience marriage when I feel like it's the right decision? Get married, don't get married, get married and stick with it, get married and get divorced. All of these are fine options. The best result to come from these discussions is for people to realize that they have options. And I think they tend to skew on the "don't get married or have kids" side, because, for most of us, that is a narrative that has been forced upon us for years, and it's a way of escaping that. Life doesn't need to be THIS way or THAT way. Most decisions aren't fucked up permanently, and Jim is quite right when he says that you have to find out what works for you. It's just that finding what works for you is difficult and constantly changing. And I don't believe that this magically ends in your thirties. The only thing you can do is find a (hopefully) graceful way of accepting and dealing with the shit life throws at you.

hallelujah

@Llllauren Please don't feel sad! I got (am) married in my 20s, so what I said was totally self deprecating.

sophia_h

@par_parenthese I know I went into this on another thread a few months back (probably you were in it too!) but the biggest flaw to me in that argument is that maybe it's ok to do your growing with another person, instead of feeling like you have to bake alone and then when you're done go find someone. Because a) when the hell are you "done," no one is ever "done," and b) I feel very happy with my situation, in which I've grown up with the same person since I was 18 and now almost 14 years later we have been shaped into good partners for each other. This is not to say that there aren't lots of people who get into a serious relationship too young and let that prevent them from following up on growth/change opportunities, or that I haven't passed up opportunities myself, but since all of life is a compromise it's possible for this to be one that works out OK.

par_parenthese

@sophia_h Just WORD to all of this.

WayDownSouth

@Llllauren my perspective is slightly different. The writer seems desperately unhappy. I suspect that if he was more positive, he would be more positive regarding decisions which other people make (such as people getting married at an age they feel is appropriate).

Miss Maszkerádi

@par_parenthese First it's as you say "Nobody in her twenties knows who she really is, nor is she competent to make important life decisions! Because of reasons!"
Then all of a sudden it's YOU'RE THIRTY AND NOT MARRIED? NOT SETTLED DOWN? YOU DON'T OWN A HOUSE AND MAKE SIX FIGURES?!??!! GOD YOU HORRIBLE MILLENIALS ARE RUINING THE WORLD!!!

Well, thanks, it might be partly because I spent my twenties crippled by the certainty that I had no idea who I was or what I wanted, and second-guessing myself because everyone told me I was too young to have valid desires and plans.....

In other words fuck Society's Opinions Of Young People, and ignore them.

fondue with cheddar

Good one, Jim Behrle. I'm almost 40 myself and still don't know what the hell I'm doing. I've learned some things, mostly what not to do, and mostly the hard way, mostly when it's too late to really correct. Life, man. We all fuck it up, but we try to convince everyone else that we're doing just fine. Sometimes we fool people, but only until they get to know us. This is only scary if they manage to continue fooling us. It's taking so long to type this on my iPhone that I've forgotten my point, if I even had one.

whizz_dumb

@fondue with cheddar I don't think I try to fool people, maybe accidentally, but I definitely go through dramatic highs "having my shit together" and lows "being a total mess".

fondue with cheddar

@whizz_dumb You must be doing pretty great then, because I don't know that I've ever felt like I had my shit together. ;)

Amanda@twitter

I'm 25 and I just got married. It did improve my relationship in the sense that being allowed to live and work in the same country improves a relationship. I also had slutty college years to see what that was about and get it out of my system, but it definitely wasn't the kind of thing that was going to stay fun for me much longer. Also as I am about to celebrate my two week anniversary I don't think I am some sort of expert but I'm pretty sure looking at it as "the end of your story" is the wrong way to do it and if I felt that way about it I probably never would have gone through with it. It's setting yourself up for failure.

par_parenthese

@Amanda@twitter "I'm pretty sure looking at it as "the end of your story" is the wrong way to do it and if I felt that way about it I probably never would have gone through with it." YES! SHIT! Who thinks about marriage like this? People who want to give lots of money to marriage counselors/divorce attorneys?

blueberry mary

Possibly the best thing I've ever read on The Hairpin. Next to Texts from Jane Eyre.

andrew

A couple months after graduating, while seeking structure and normalcy in my depressing, underemployed life, I turned Tuesday night into "Taco Tuesday." Now two years post-graduation, I still make tacos every Tuesday night. Although no less hopelessly optimistic, nor any less underemployed, I always have something to look forward to, and usually leftovers that keep on giving a couple days later. Look for my vanity press self help/memoir ebook, "Success with a Side of Salsa," when I get around to it someday, maybe Fall 2014.

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@andrew this sounds like such an awesome plan I might have to take it. I want structure, but structure *I* impart. Hence: taco choices! Thanks man.

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I really liked this, Jim! Some of my favourite (non) advice from strangers on the internet.

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If I find any copies of Meanie on any Goodwill shelves in the greater Boston area, I will totally buy them, Jim Behrle.

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Sorry I am angry and bitter, but here is my sad life story....I am a female that has been throught a lot. Separated at 28 and divorced at 30 and in a relationship with the same guy for 9 years. Luckily no kids!
All of my 20s are gone. No going back. I am living on my own in an apartment close to work. I hate both so much! money sucks. I am over my head in bills. On top of that this office job sucks. Still single. Don't see how things are getting better. Everything in my life is a let down. :(

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