[I read this and decided that I wanted to figure out what being young means]
To be young is to mess up. A lot. It’s an unavoidable part of your existence, and it only gets more pronounced as you grow older. If you’re smart, you’ll learn things from the failed relationships, the hangovers, the unemployment, the debt, and the confusion. You’ll learn about yourself, the way you react to change, and you’ll learn to pick yourself up off of the ground, dust yourself off, and jump out towards new opportunities and new mistakes. You’ll never be perfect, but you will be better.
To be young is to feel unmoored. You’re on your own, floating in your twenties, hunting for a purpose or a mate or a job. You will feel alone. There’s no guidebook on how to get through it. If you can’t throw an anchor down, at least tether yourself to other boats. Find communities of supportive people that make you want to be better. Stick with your friends; they will help you weather the storm (spoiler alert: they feel the same way you do). You’re without a schedule for the first time in your life. Appreciate it, and use the time to figure out who you want to be in 2 days, in 2 months, and in 2 years. Start doing things that get you closer to being the person you want to be.
To be young is to regret. You’ll wish you had taken the other fork in the road, or handled a situation differently, or said something instead of staying silent. Regret is going to be part of your life. Take a deep breath and realize that there’s only one direction from here, and it ain’t backwards. Learn something from your regrets and move on.
To be young is to be selfish, and unkind, and just plain mean to each other sometimes. We’re hard-wired to compete and to survive. That brings out the animal in us, and we’ll lash out at others as a defense mechanism. We’ll all say things we wish we hadn’t, and then we’ll have to apologize and hope that we haven’t caused irreparable damage to a relationship, be it personal or professional or both. You have to learn to let the tiger out of the cage only at the right time.
To be young is to take everything and nothing for granted. It’s easy to move through life quickly, to never stop to smell the roses or appreciate a sunset from a cabin up north. It’s easy to push off a phone call with your parents, or a chance to catch up with an old friend over a beer, because we think there’s time for that later. We’re young, and we have all the time in the world. But growing up these days we are out on our own for the first time, often without a fulfilling job, mounds of debt, and no safety net or schedule to save us. We learn to appreciate happy hour 2-for-1s our group of friends that much more because of it.
To be young is to do stupid things. How many of us have stayed up too late watching Netflix because you just need to know what happens on the next episode of Breaking Bad? How many of us go out drinking or to bar trivia or to a comedy club on a Monday or Thursday, even though work tomorrow is going to suck because of it? How many of us have spent too much money on shit you don’t need, at a bar or at Target or online? I’m guilty of all of that, and I assume you are too. Your twenties are good for that kind of stupid, forgiving exploration. Once you anchor yourself down with a wife or a mortgage or a few youngsters, everything is less forgiving. Use this time wisely, for it is a gift that dwindles away as you become less young.
To be young is to endure confusion, pleasure, invulnerability, vulnerability, fear, excitement, love, and regret all together. It’s feeling wise but knowing you are dumb, feeling old but knowing you’re young, and feeling like a failure yet learning to win. It’s a moving contradiction and a truth we all subconsciously know: “We are scared and tired and often bored, but we’ll get through it, and you can’t wait to see what we can do.”
To be young is wonderful and awful at the same time. Enjoy it while you can.
There are rules you should break, and there are rules you should respect. Which rule belongs in which category is completely up to you. You will ultimately be defined by the rules you break. The world is built and enhanced by those who break the right rules and respect the others.
You will be rejected, by girls and jobs and friends and enemies. You will feel left out. You will feel alone. If you’re strong and smart and brave and confident enough, you won’t let that darkness cover you and define you.
The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we’re special, that we’re alone in feeling the way we do. The truth is, we all feel the same basic things. When you do feel rejected and alone, just remember that everybody else does too. Friends will dampen the bad times and enhance the good times.
You will have good friends and bad friends and friends you only keep around to compete with. Some will journey with you, others will fall behind. Find the ones you can spend lazy time with, time spent going to brunch or sitting at the park. If you can sit around with a group of people, watch crappy TV, and still enjoy yourself, you’ve found your best friends.
You will collide with strangers who will leave scars (good and bad) that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. Deep, ephemeral connections with strangers during an impromptu adventure are some of the most memorable moments you’ll have. Some of these collisions will last for a long time, some of them will be fleeting. Enjoy the moments.
If you’re not exercising now, start. We’re at the lazy peak of our physical existence, so it’s easy to forget to take care of our bodies. Right now, everything heals, and what we do often has little lasting power. Watch what you eat. Watch how much you drink. Soon your metabolism is going to shut down and the negligence will bite you in the ass.
Find something you’re passionate about and throw yourself into it. There is nothing more boring or useless than hating everything. Sarcasm, satire and cynicism are okay, but feeling electric about something is much better.
There are people who love to dichotomize the world, to assign people to teams, to categorize chaos. Remember that while some things are good and some things are evil, the majority of things lie in between those two poles. Don’t let anyone put you on a team you don’t belong on. Think for yourself and be a free agent instead.
Silence is your best friend and your worst enemy. Figure out how to find peace in silence and in nature. Nature has been here much longer than you, and it’ll be around long after you’re gone. Your job is to hunt for the beauty that exists in the world, and try as hard as you can to ignore the ugly.
As long as we’re young, we still have time. Take advice from your elders, take advice from the younger generation, and take advice from your generation. Most of all, take advice from yourself. Nobody sees the world like you.
Do things today and learn from the past. And never, ever forget to move forward.
(Inspired by/stealing from this)
Well, hey 2011.
It’s not just the start of a new year for me. It’s the start of an entirely new life. 2010 was the year I graduated college. It was the year I moved back in with my parents after leaving one of my favorite cities in the world. I got a “real person job” and moved back to that city. Quite a year.
So, let’s get this year started off right. Things to remember:
-Get distracted by shiny things. Kids go through their lives being curious, being open to new experiences, and being amazed by all the tiny intricacies of the world. Never let that childlike wonder die out.
-Stop talking, start doing. I’m not really the type of person that makes it a goal to change everything around on January 1st, because I know that there’s a difference between saying I’m going to lose weight, drink less, and exercise more and actually putting in the effort and doing it. This is true for almost everything. People love talking about doing stuff but never actually follow through with it, and ideas get lost that way. It’s easy to talk about change; it’s harder to actually change things.
-Do scary things. Starting a new job was scary. It was a completely new experience and my head was crammed full of new information. I had to meet a ton of new people. I get nervous about so much “new” happening at once. I also have to give quite a few presentations as a part of this job, which is something that still freaks me out. But I’m learning and just by doing more of it, I’m getting a little more comfortable with the spotlight on me. I’m glad that I’m doing these scary things. Try to do as many scary things as you can; it makes life more interesting, and it keeps you on your toes.
-Get a girlfriend. I’m pretty good at making friends. I like to think that I’m a genuinely interesting person to be around, and I’m pretty loyal. Good things to have, right? So I never worry that much about making those kinds of connections. Making a romantic connection is a little more foreign to me, and I’ve always been a bit closed off in the emotions department. I should probably change that this yearI’m learning to be more open about how I feel, though (writing helps immensely). It would make my mother quite happy if I found myself a ladyfriend.
-Stay in touch. I’m worried about staying in touch will all of the awesome friends I made during school. Of course, Facebook does make that process a little easier, but I know myself well, and I know that if I don’t put in some effort I’ll drift away from those awesome friends. I don’t want that to happen. I want long-lasting friendships with the people that helped shape who I am.
-Document. For Christmas, I got my Dad a VHS-to-Digital conversion kit so he could transfer all of the embarrassing VHS tapes of my childhood to DVD’s. Memories are important. All of these seemingly-insignificant moments in life are actually the most important things in the world. Time to take more pictures, write things down, and finally make friends with nostalgia. Like Borges said, “don’t lose the now“.
-Embrace silence. It’s one of the hardest things to do in an age of constant noise. Being comfortable with silence is really tough, but it’s important to unplug from society every now and then and jump into a book. Take long, meandering walks with nothing in mind. Hang out in the woods around a campfire. Or, zen-out and sit in silence. Whatever it takes.
-Just try. Just care. Just because you can coast through life doesn’t mean you should. It’s time to wake up.
-And smile more, you magnificent bastard. Life is just too damn interesting to be cynical and bitter all the time. Just smile more. It’ll change your life.
And just like that Counting Crows song says, maybe this year will be better than the last. I have some faith. Here’s to a brand new year and a brand new chapter in the Book of Tom.
Have any resolutions you want to write down? Do it in the comments.
Hunter S. Thompson was a comet. The Good Doctor was the type of person that you only come across every few decades, the type who burns the earth with originality, passion, and talent. Someone who listens to his heart and does only what he wants. A true one-of-a-kind, a perpetual black sheep. We should all try to be comets.
Anywho, I enjoy Hunter S. Thompson’s particular brand of in-your-face writing. I like seeing people break the rules and succeed. It was a delight to come across a cover letter he wrote to the Vancouver Sun in 1958 and see that he even wrote his job applications in this manner. I think we can learn a lot about careers, the job hunt, and life in general from Hunter S. Thompson.
Forget everything you know about writing cover letters
I’ll never understand why we’re taught to fit in when we’re in school. In college, I was required to take a class devoted to “professional writing,” and we were taught how to create a cookie-cutter cover letter. It’s like they were setting us up to fail. The whole point of a cover letter is to STAND OUT from the mess of equally-qualified people. Hunter S. Thompson understood that. As you can see from his cover letter, he hit all the necessary spots: Who he was, what he expected from the job, what they could expect from him, and that he would like to work for them. That’s it. The rest is up to you. Forget what they taught you and start trying to stand out….it’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere in this world.
Pioneer new career frontiers
If the world isn’t giving you a viable career option, make one up. Gonzo journalism, a subjective, first-person-narrative form of journalism, didn’t exist before Thompson. He immersed himself in the world of his subjects and walked a mile in their shoes (or rode, as was the case in Hell’s Angels) and ended up creating his career. It is a form of journalism rooted in the idea that the story is more important than getting all the facts right, that true objectivity is a myth. Many bloggers write in that style today, and it’s more entertaining, informative, and trustworthy than most of the so-called “objective news” out there.
The point is this:You don’t have to try to fit into an existing career path. If you have a vision of what you want to do, but it’s different from any career you’ve heard of, make it up. Have enough confidence in yourself to create your own career. Hunter S. Thompson was filled with millennial spirit; our generation has created a lot of jobs where none had previously existed. Mark Zuckerberg created his own frontier with Facebook, and there are many other examples of successful Gen Y entrepreneurs on and off the internet.
If there’s any lasting message I can take from Hunter S. Thompson’s life, it’s this: Listen to your inner voice and screw the rules. I can’t stress that enough. It’s true that you can follow the herd and survive, but to really live you have to figure out how to trust your own ideas. Like he said in his novel “The Rum Diary,”
“Like most of the others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that my instincts were right.”
It’s not an easy road to take, and you’ll certainly have your enemies because of it, but it’s the only way to live.
Obviously, Hunter S. isn’t the best role model. He did a ton of drugs and was by all accounts an asshole, and in the end he took his own life. You could live for a hundred lifetimes and still not be as much of a badass as this guy was. But you can learn a lot from people who truly listen to their inner voice and have reckless disregard for social norms. Trust your instincts, follow your own path, and forget the rules. Be a comet like Hunter S. Thompson.
What do you think: Was Hunter S. Thompson a raving lunatic, visionary, or both?
Father’s Day. One day a year. As a teenager, I always wondered why dads got a day, and moms got a day, but kids didn’t. Seemed unfair. The answer I got back was always, “every other day is kid’s day,” and I believe it now. Every other day of the year is devoted to children. So we have father’s day, one day a year, to honor everything our dads have done for us. Since the average cost of raising a kid these days is somewhere in the ballpark of $220,000 (if THAT isn’t effective birth control, I don’t know what is), we owe quite a bit. However, this debt goes so far beyond the physical things our fathers have provided for us. Everything I know, everything I’m currently learning, and everything I will learn has somehow been shaped by the lessons I was (and continue to be) taught by my mom and dad. I wish I had thought about doing something like this on Mother’s Day in May, because there are so many lessons from Mom too, but this post is about what I learned from my Dad.
A few months ago, I had an interview for a company in Madison. I had to give a 10-minute presentation on anything I wanted. I chose to do a presentation on The Simpsons, but in a way that connected it to the ethos of the 90′s, and how the show was an important critique of modern culture. After I started preparing for the presentation, it dawned on me how similar this show and what is generally considered the best TV show ever, The Wire, are. The Wire was a show on HBO that centered on the drug trade in Baltimore, but it was also a show about how the institutions that drive the world are corrupt and let us down. The local government, police force, public school system, and media are institutions that are supposed to aid the people, yet because of funding, red tape, and sensationalism they let us down. In its own way, The Simpsons does exactly that. What follows is a rough outline of what I said during the presentation. I may not have gotten the job, but it did allow me to think deeper about two of my favorite TV shows.