40 things I've learned the hard way
Life lessons from an idiot
I feel like sharing some wisdom today.
We’re in the throes of graduation season, and a fresh batch of newly-minted adults are being unleashed on the world, full of ambition, enthusiasm and promise. It’s a time for contemplative and sage commencement speeches full of stories that end with morals, folksy pearls of wisdom and dewy-eyed speculation on all the places you’ll go.
Now, I don’t have the credentials to be a commencement speaker.
But I turned 40 this weekend, and this milestone birthday has me in a reflective mood, thinking about all the knowledge I’ve accrued that I might share with the world.
There’s only one problem: I’m an idiot.
Just a complete dolt.
Always have been.
Yes, I might be book-smart, but I haven’t got a lick of common sense, and it shows. Every bit of wisdom I have to share, every piece of advice I can dispense, every little thing that I’ve learned, I’ve learned the hard way.
Still, there’s some useful lessons to be taken from my failures.
So, for the graduating class of 2022 and everyone else, here are 40 things that I’ve learned the hard way:
If you try to open a recalcitrant Slim Jim wrapper with a pair of scissors, point them away from your hand.
If you are under 21 and go into a college campus bar that you heard doesn’t check IDs, and the only other patrons there when you arrive are a group of men in their 30s and 40s, they are plainclothes cops who heard the same rumors you did.
Do not drive on the highway in a severe thunderstorm because “you can handle it”. Even if you can, that doesn’t mean the other drivers can, and some of their cars are a lot bigger than yours.
A 1993 Pontiac Grand Prix that has not had its oil changed in more than 7,000 miles will not make it to 8,000 miles, but will make a lovely paperweight.
“Who can spin fastest in this desk chair” sounds like a fun game after eight beers, but you should not partake in it.
If you must partake in it, do not do it near a plate-glass balcony door.
If you put a frozen pizza in the oven after you get home from a night out, set an alarm that you’re going to hear, or at least make sure there are fresh batteries in the smoke alarm.
Your head might look good shaven, but it probably doesn’t, and finding that out happens quickly but growing it back takes a solid year.
Never carry a flask. You don’t need more booze than they have there, wherever that is.
Back up your photos multiple places.
A cab is cheaper than the alternative at this hour, even if the alternative is mass transit. It’s no fun waking up at the end of the line after the train stops running.
If you say something mean about someone in an email, be ready for the possibility that that email will be forwarded to them.
Just because the convenience store is willing to sell you a full case of energy drink right out of the storeroom doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you to do it.
Wear sunscreen. That one’s evergreen.
Don’t be too cool to tell someone how you feel about them. It might go wrong but it’s worth it when it goes right.
A power adapter is not the same thing as a power converter.
You can leave a play at intermission, stop a book halfway through, quit a job without giving notice and walk away from a relationship at any time.
Chateau Diana is a “wine product”, not wine, and the difference will become evident very quickly.
You can ask for help.
If the money they’re offering sounds good enough to overcome the red flags in the interview, that’s because the red flags are bigger than you think and the money is most certainly not going to be good enough to overcome them.
Have a friend you can DM that tweet to first.
If a container of food has been in the back of the fridge so long that you cannot identify it without opening it, do not open it. Walk it directly to the outdoor trash can and replace the container later.
Ask more questions of your elder relatives while they’re still around.
Everyone thinks they’re a fraud, except for the people who should.
If you think you’ll always have another chance to see that band live, think again. Go to the show.
You should drink more water. No, more than that.
Don’t expect to be paid what you’re worth without asking for it, and then asking again until you are.
Don’t try to make your own hot sauce indoors without opening all the windows first.
There is no way to actually be ready to be a parent but I promise that you can still do it.
Never turn your back while the baby’s on the changing table.
If the baby is crying that means they’re okay.
You might think that the best place to hang those crepe-paper Disney princess birthday decorations is on the light fixture directly above the stove—and you might even be right about that—but do not try to cook on the stove while they’re there.
The children’s movies of your youth are scarier than you remember.
Never enter your email address to get an insurance quote online.
Don’t mix alcohols after 35.
When a rescue organization describes a dog as “high-energy”, “could use a big fenced backyard”, “needs a lot of exercise”, or “spirited”, they are selling you a tornado that poops.
It might sound like a clever recipe, but making a waffle out of chicken is never going to work.
You should try taking a daily probiotic sooner than you think.
Some things that you think are forever are just for now, and some things that you think are just for now are forever. Be ready for both.
Just go to bed early. It’ll be better than whatever you do if you stay up.
That’s my list. Now, some of you are older than me and some of you are younger.
Either way, I want to know: what have you learned the hard way over the years?
—Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)