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August 19, 2013 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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Life Advice From High Atop Mount Olympus

Rhetorical question: do you ever look back at where you were a year ago and think, “my God, what an imbecile”? Every year without fail, I realise how stupid I was before and how much I’ve changed for the better since then, but I’m now aware that’s it going to be a cycle. Truman Capote noted that the sex drive, though it waxes and wanes, never dissipates; what do you do if the same thing can be said of self-awareness?

 

Sometimes, I like to think of myself as a ‘grown-up’, whatever that means/entails. I live in a flat, do domestic chores after studying on my own impetus, only occasionally panhandle my parents for money. I drink Coke at parties on occasion. I’ve inveigled my way into Honours and I’m not doing terribly at it. Shit, I have an automatic payment set up to pay my rent (even though that decision backfired, it’s the thought that counts, right?) I’ve started listening to classical music; I’ve read Dostoyevsky and Woolf and I might even have learned things from them (confirmation: pending).

But, of course, I’m not a grown-up at all. I still fuck up. I commit faux pas (plural) on a daily basis. I forget to return library books; I say and do stupid, agonising-in-retrospect stuff without thinking about the consequences, usually on the ‘hurtful’ end of the spectrum. I try to enforce jocularity in situations where seriousness is needed (God forbid you ever give people straight answers, Philip). So: why take my advice? Well you tenacious little shits, life imparted lessons to me that are too good to be wasted on me alone. Heed these words and get the hell off my lawn.

***

– If you thought that growing up is all about learning how to talk more eloquently and often, then prepare to be disillusioned. Being mature is knowing when to shut the fuck up and listen, knowing when to cede the floor and hand over the conch, but most of all knowing that errant intellectualisation has jack-shit on life experience.

– Start reading Proust—specifically, finish Swann’s Way—before deciding that actually, you should probably wait until you’re more mature to tackle the rest. (Ironically, this is a v. mature thing to do. Bridget Jones would be proud.)

– If you want to masturbate, then masturbate. Seriously. If you thought being appointed the Arts Editor of Salient was validating, it was nothing compared to finding out that jackin’ it (see also: ‘shaking hands with the governor of love’) reduces the chances of developing prostate cancer significantly. SWEET VINDICATION. For the ladies in the place with style and grace (self-correction: people with femme-parts), masturbation prevents cervical infections and does wonders for UTIs (especially when used in conjunction with cranberry juice, or so my advertising deal tells me). Also: it feels good, it’s a wonderful tool in learning about your body and coming to terms with it, and, as a form of procrastination, it is second to none. Of course, if you don’t want to for whatever reason, there’s zero pressure (ayo!) Promise.

– The relationship between you and your parents will always, to an extent, retain the same dynamics it had in your youth. No matter how much you insist to yourself that you understand them so much more now that you’re older, no matter how many times you pep-talk yourself with inspirational lines à la “This time, I’m going to be an adult,” “This time, I’m not going to get defensive when they ask their thousand interminable questions,” or, “This time, they’re not going to have recourse to use the ‘this house is not a hotel’ line that fills me with familial shame;” all of the above are going to occur. This does not mean it has to be a combative relationship; the upshot is that they will always be your parents, and they will always be there to offer comfort and solace and food and love. Appreciate them.

– Contra feel-good relativist bullshit: some things are just better than others. A Love Supreme will always have more value than ‘We Can’t Stop’; people who say that “there is no such thing as objectively good x” are invariably people with poor taste (or trolls). Paradoxically, there is no shame in playing Selena Gomez’s brilliant ‘Birthday’ on repeat. Like what you like and be damned, of course, but be aware at all times that some things have insurmountable cultural and aesthetic value; be aware, too, of your own gaps in knowledge that may render certain ruminations invalid.

– A wonderful offshoot of the university experience is realising that you are not the smartest person wandering its hallowed halls; actually, surrounded as you are by other smart people, you’re statistically mediocre. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Try to let this be a positive experience. Let it drive you onward. Humility, too, is one hell of a virtue. Aim to be the best at it.

As Anna DeWitt tells us, life is made up of constants and variables. The twist is, we don’t always know which is which—in fact, we’re lucky if we can ever even guess. For now, just soak up as many experiences as you can, because sooner or later you’re bound to strike gold. Don’t mistake youthful vigour for foolishness, and don’t confuse aged consideration for apathy. Really, you’ll never truly know another human being’s mind, so I’ll leave you with this: there are no good kissers, only compatible ones. Good luck out there.

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