Monday, April 20, 2020

Poem: Adulthood Manual

Whenever I buy a new appliance,
even for a blender, there is always
an instruction manual.  But when I turned
twenty-one, no one gave me a manual
for adulthood, and I would have liked one.
It could have saved me a blunder or two.

So I would like to propose not a toast,
but a book, even a pamphlet, some guide,
passed out with the first legal purchase of
alcohol, which says, “Congratulations
on turning twenty-one!  Here is how to
be an adult beyond beer, wine, liquor:
Take responsibility.
Do not cause messes.
If you do, clean them up.
Drive courteously, and be polite in other matters as well.
Use a turn signal.
Do not talk on the cell phone while steering.
Vote, but do not stop there.
Participate in politics.
Think.
Then think again.
Ask why a lot, particularly when money is involved, and especially for taxes.
When you hear the phrase "national security," guard your wallet.
Pay your bills, but do not run up too many in the first place.
Only go into debt when you have to, such as for a car, a house, an education, something that will ultimately make you money.
Learn to do the math for your own personal economy; a three dollar coffee every morning five times a week for fifty-two weeks equals the vacation that year that you could have had if you had not frittered it away by not connecting the dots and not crunching the numbers.
Keep childhood alive, especially in your children, if you have any.
Continue to play, dream, and ask questions.
Wonder what your teenage self would think of you now.
Adjust accordingly, if you think you have grown in the wrong direction.
Be nice to animals, and you will find that they usually return the favor.
You are probably going to fall in love, so be careful whom you fall in love with.
Be even more careful whom you marry.
Be really, really careful whom you take the chance of having children with.
Your body will fail you.
Your parents will fail you.
Do not fail them; take care of your loved ones; they are impossible to replace.
So are you, so unless the technology that enables us to download our souls into new cloned bodies comes around really quickly, you are going to die.
Go back to the earth naturally.
God or whatever deity you believe in, or do not believe in, will take care of the rest.
Do not spend too much on weddings or funerals.
Drink responsibly, even at weddings and funerals.
Work hard and take care of what you have.
When you tire of a thing, find it a good home, or get it recycled at least.
Do not waste energy, especially your own.
Follow the money when trying to understand the behavior of others.
Do not take a job unless you can figure out how they make money off you.
Remember you might make money at work, but your boss usually makes more money from you.
If you are ever unemployed, work forty hours a week getting a job or starting a business and you will soon not be unemployed.
Do not work more than forty hours a week.  It is seldom worth it, and you could die at any time.  Tell the boss you need help, even if you are the boss, and go have some fun.
Take care of your health.
Take care in general.
If you want to be smart:  read, read, read, think, think, think, write write, write.
Want to be smart.
Better yet, be wise.
Seek wisdom, peace, and love in all you do
Everyone is in pain.
Do not be a jerk and share yours around.
If your lover leaves you, let her or him go
If you get fired, move on; it is usually for the best in the long run.
If you fail, get back up.
Question authority, and don't accept the first answer given automatically.
Know that you cannot do everything, but you can probably do just about anything you want to if you set your mind to it.
Try to leave the world in better shape than you received it.
Treat others as you would like to be treated, unless you are a masochist, in which case treat them much, much better than you like to be treated.
Your right to extend your arm ends where my nose begins.
Let others be free; do not try to control them if they are not harming anyone else.
Even if they are harming themselves and you want to step in, make sure you do not make things worse; sometimes you have to let things, and people, go.
If you want peace, fight for justice, but fight nicely as violence usually creates more problems.
Do not be afraid to get sued, get fired, or get laughed at; always do the right thing, but make sure you know what that is.
And no matter how tough life gets, it is usually more interesting than just being part of a uniform endless pool of energy, which is probably the chief alternative to this.
Do not take things so seriously; it is only life.
If you cannot laugh once in a while, then you will make a lousy meal for the worms at the end.
Do try to be tasty.”

Okay, life is probably too complex
for an instruction manual, but I still
think this is a much better idea
than doing twenty-one shots, and though you
might want more troubleshooting tips, you are
on your own.  Figure it out.  Make it up.
That is adulthood.  Welcome to the club.

More cleaning out the closet here.  This poem is adapted from a speech I had to give at a turning 21 dinner at a college I worked at.  It dates from 2007 or so.  For more recent writing by me, albeit much less preachy, click here.

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