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I am here in defense of sincerity and that kind of clumsy elbows-and-knees social ineptness that comes with innocence, with the assumption that wherever you are, you are welcomed, applauded.

I want everyone to have the luxury of being bad at people I want eighteen-to-twenty-one year old almost-men and practically-women to have the luxury of floundering around for a while, not understanding why no one listens to their stories and no one throws them a parade for thoughts had a hundred years ago.

I want to give everyone the right to be a little bit dumbass, a stupid kid who means well, I want that for you, and it won’t stop you from being wrong because it hasn’t stopped me but it’ll give you space to be goofy and well-meaning and insulting, to come on too strong and at some point you’ll fumble toward something human, something worth keeping past twenty-three and this is the best gift I know how to give, which is the space to keep your petty squabbles and intensely immature battlefields, all tucked away in a few short years because sometimes you need that, permission to be less than perfect, that’s important in figuring out how to be someone worth being, someone worthwhile.

Here are some life skills I think, at whatever age, you’ll need to know:

1. Throwing a Punch

There’s going to come a time where you’ll need to hit someone. Sad, but true. I’m not a necessarily violent person, but statistically as a female college student, I might have to punch someone who needs to get off me like now. I’m not advocating for violence, nor am I telling you to go pick a fight with the nearest dudebro but knowing how to throw a punch that means business is a good skill to have under your survival belt. Please make no mistake: please try to not fight. Get away; run from fighting if you can. We’re not talking fighting for the sake of fighting. We’re talking a good punch to stop some fighting, or to get yourself the hell away from someone who does not realize physical space.

  • Use the hand you write with.
  •  Make a fist with your thumb outside, not tucked inside. If it’s tucked inside your fist, when you punch someone, you might break your thumb. The thumb goes across your fingers, between the two knuckles, not on the side.
  • Don’t be like in the movies—don’t aim for the face. Face and nose punches don’t usually stop people, and you can miss when they duck their head or break your hand on their jaw. If you want to get away quickly, or end a fight, aim for the chest, or the ribs. If you really want to do some damage, e.g., you’re being attacked, aim for the throat, which will make it hard for your attacker to breathe for a hot minute.
  •  When you punch, you want to aim and hit with your first two knuckles. Not the flats of your fingers, and not your ring or pinky knuckles, which can break more easily. You can use your weight, if you’re on your feet, to add wallop, and spring into a punch with your feet and torso.
  • When the person is momentarily distracted by either pain, or being winded—run away. Which leads us to…

2. Running

For example, being able to run a mile. Cardio is extremely important, if nothing else because there will come a time where you are running from something, someone, or both. It isn’t the exact distance that’s important—what’s important is being able to run for several minutes without having to stop and pant for breath. Speaking as someone who broke their knee (left) and ankle (right), it might seem a little ironic but working slowly at becoming strong isn’t difficult or impossible. It’s all about practice, be it chasing after the bus that left 5 minutes before it was suppose to, sprinting from your handsy drunk roommate, or trying to catch your cat after he slips out of the front door. Seriously, run, now.

3. Tipping Properly

It’s easy, the service people will adore, and tipping ensures you’ll get great service next time. Not to mention, you get some good karma in return. As someone who works in the food industry, who survives off minimum wage, tips are especially helpful. If you don’t know, most waitresses, bartenders, coffee-shop workers, etc make minimum wage and all but live off their tips. People remember good tippers. And it’s classy as hell.

So: Whom do you tip? The people who are personally servicing you. (That being said, you don’t need to tip your gynecologist. Really.) The people you tip are: Waitresses. Baristas. Hairstylists. Piercers. Manicurists, taxi drivers, valet drivers, hotel concierges, and anyone who touches your luggage, ever, whether it’s a shuttle driver or the guy at the airport who loads your bags outside so you don’t have to wait in line.

How much do you tip? Waitresses: 15-20% of the total bill. An easy way to do it is this: If the bill is $30.05, take 10%, which is $3 (move the decimal point one number to the left), and double that. Ta-da! The (generous and unexpected-from-a-young-person) tip is $6. If you can’t afford to tip the standard going rate, you shouldn’t go out. Or you should go somewhere you don’t have to tip. Period.

Coffee-shop baristas: $1 per espresso drink. These people remember who tips and who doesn’t, I promise you.

If someone has done something extraordinarily nice, like let you sit at your table for super long after you’re done eating without giving you attitude, or picked you and your wet dog up in their taxi, or broken a sweat in any way, give them more than 20%: 25% is good.

Everyone else gets 10-15%.

4. Cooking

Subjectively, you don’t have to know how to cook. Whatsoever, it’s easier nowadays to be able to purchase something–healthy or unhealthy, cheap or not. We live in a society where, objectively speaking, you might not even have to leave your house ever; you could get food delivered to you, work from home, pay your bills online. However, being able to make one adult meal is a critical life skill. How so? How many times can you reinvent your Domino’s pizza but you swear it off forever. Provided for you here, a super simple and basic fried rice recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 2 green onions, as desired
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying, or as needed
  • 4 cups cold cooked rice
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons light soy sauce or oyster sauce, as desired

Preparation:

Wash and finely chop the green onion. Lightly beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.

Heat a wok or frying pan and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggs. Cook, stirring, until they are lightly scrambled but not too dry. Remove the eggs and clean out the pan.

Add 2 tablespoons oil. Add the rice. Stir-fry for a few minutes, using chopsticks or a wooden spoon to break it apart. Stir in the soy sauce or oyster sauce as desired.

When the rice is heated through, add the scrambled egg back into the pan. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the green onion. Serve hot.

5. Really Apologizing

One universal rule is that, whether intentional or not, you’ll hurt someone. The whys, wheres, etc are not remotely important. What is is the way that you apologize. The person on the receiving end of the apology doesn’t have to accept it–that’s their right. However, the way you go about this is critical and could even possibly make the situation worse by using a single word: If.

Take this scenario. You’re adapting to a new environment, be it high school or college, and you’re making a new group of friends. This group particularly enjoys partying, while your “older” friend group may be necessarily be interested in the scene. You’re suppose to hang out with this older friend group when you get invited to a party by your newer friends, and blow off the aforementioned friend group.

Bad apology: “I’m sorry if you feel that I abandoned you guys, or lied to you about the party.”

Look at you! You’re not remotely sorry! Look at that if! You’re basically blaming them for feeling the way they feel. “I’m sorry if you…” is a shit apology. Are you sorry? Then be sorry! Half-hearted apologies are just that, half-hearted. If you don’t believe you did anything wrong, then stand behind it. Don’t blame the other person or use sneaky words like if to shift things around to sound like you’re not really to blame. Apologies involving the if word tend to turn into major fights, because one person believes they are trying to make amends, and the other person doesn’t hear any actual regret or sorry-ness.

Good apology (note: always in person): “I’m sorry that I blew you guys off for that party. That was pretty shady and a shitty thing to do. I won’t do that to you again. I understand if you’re still mad at me.”

Look at all those words. You did the bad thing, you take the blame. Nice!

6. How To Be Happy

Maybe happiness is this: not feeling like you should be elsewhere, doing something else, being someone else. You have every right to existence, you have every right to take up space, and there isn’t a single fucking person on this planet who can negate that. The highest form of abuse is, often times, at the hands of ourselves. Learn, little by little, to love the person you are. If you don’t like that person, change yourself to be someone that you love. Learn to be your own friend, learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Also drink water, lots of water. 2-3 liters of water daily.

7. Being Jay-Z about Life



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“When I was younger, I was told that there is too much inside of me. That I have feelings where others have bone. At the age of seven, a doctor tapped inside my head and asked, “Do you choke on memories from time to time? Do you cry for no good reason at all? Do words take a hammer to your head and crack your skull?” Yes, yes, yes, I nodded. “Then you’ve definitely got them,” he said, as he checked off a box on his list. “Too many feelings. What a shame. Try not to keep them inside or you’ll drown.”

For awhile, I tried to follow his advice by pouring my feelings into boys’ mouthes until I was numb to the memory of ever being over-filled. I let myself go weak in their arms and became a hickey-covered exhale. But no matter how many times I offered my mouth like a flower to be plucked, the feelings spurted from my chest and soaked whoever came close in words.

I tried to expel my feelings by punching them out of my throat and using ink to exorcise them from my chest, but still, they covered me in tear-stained scars and left me to whither alone in the back of bars. Still, they had me running towards strangers’ cars, asking them if they knew how I could rid myself of my weak heart.

Finally, having had enough, I took a train outside my hometown to shed everything I cared about. On a grey beach, I dumped all of the feelings which threatened to keep me from living normally. Then came the moment when I had to decide if I would rather be liked or be who I am-too sensitive, too quiet, too honest, too burdened. And still undecided, I have not opened my mouth since.”

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“They dropped acid and saw the same full purple waves peeling back like the petals of a fresh flower. They took mushrooms in the mountains, washing them down with milk, and thought their brains had melted together, burned under the white mushroom moon. The has made them giddy–he performed for her, doing an uncanny Edith Piaf that made her scream; then they ate chocolate and kissed for hours. They hated speed, which made their nerves ache.

– Francesca Lia Block

It’s 5am and there’s white noise everywhere, silence that doesn’t quite tiptoe around empty. It’s difficult to slow down like this, to let time elapse long enough to piece together a coherent thought, to realize where and who I am. There is no particular train of thought, only jumbled indescribable thoughts and fears, feelings I’m incapable of properly articulating. Impossible for me to animate, to incarnate with tongue and teeth. It’s always only been thought. I think of how I’m an infinitesimal being, drunk with the great starry void. How I have galaxies hidden between my bones and only now have I become aware of them, I’ve woken up with the knowledge that the years have gone and there’s a comfort in that. I don’t recognize the person I’ve become, but I know I love her. I have questions that no one can answer, but my happiness has consisted lately of the acknowledging that this all feels like some great, strange dream.

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I’m a writer. Or, I think I am–maybe it’s better to say that I used to be. I didn’t have the voice yet to explain why I was the way I was, why I felt what I did. I wrote everything, I thought more, and I crawled inside ink and lost myself in the spine of books, immersed myself in the stories of books and curled around the plot of films, envisioned that one day everything would (stop) and I’d suddenly feel wonderful, fall in love, struggle, hate, love, lust. It’s so strange seeing where I am now. It’s not a bad thing, necessarily, only that my perception of things have broadened and I have so much  intangible hope about life, and the people in it, and the people who I’ve met and will be meeting. This is a late night/early morning ramble, but I’ve spent the day opening my head and wandering through the cartilage between the vertebrae that make up my spinal column, craving this uncertain achievable density in emotions and swapping memories and what we viewed our childhoods like with my older brother.* (Excerpts from Mira Gonzalez, Heartbroken People With Extreme Personality Flaws”)

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