Remember that awkward trip to the grocery store, in which you asked your mom, for the first time ever, about the birds and the bees? And she gave you this really weird, garbled, high-pitched answer too vague for even the most practiced politician at a public address trying not to leak national secrets, because she was both horrified and amused at the same time, but you had no idea she didn’t want to give you details and was also laughing at how cutely ignorant you were, because you didn’t know even the most basic information? That’s what some parts of school felt like. Too many, in fact. And I’m not talking about Sex Ed—I’m talking about all the other Eds. And while I have no doubt my schools had only the best intentions, they were not equipped with some of the tools necessary to set me up for success in certain aspects of life, and thusly I now do not have these necessary tools in my Adulting toolbox, either. The following comprise a handful of my biggest educational regrets, and simultaneously, hope for your future. No, really. (Also, if anyone would like to explain some things to me, I’m still a little shaky on some of them. Nothing too big, just a few minor items, like where do babies come from. Ok. Just throwing that out there. Please email me. Thanks.)
1. How to eat.
Yes. This is sadly true. It’s Thursday and you’re in Whole Foods strictly for the young hot singles for the third time this week, suddenly faced with important options such as salmon, or mac n cheese? Salad or mac n cheese? Mac n’ cheese or mac n’ cheese? Where is the Kraft in this store, do they not carry Kraft? Why, what’s wrong with Kraft? Is Kraft carcinogenic?! I thought that color yellow was natural? Wait, I can’t even FIND the mac n’ cheese aisle! Somebody young and hot and single please help me! Oh, it’s not in the frozen food section? Oh. Ok. Great. What about Tinder, is it on there? How about you, are you on there? Oh, you have a girlfriend? Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t even SEE the ring. I’m going to go check out now slash never come here again at six o’clock on a weekday. Ok. Thanks. Bye bye now.We as a nation don’t even have the most basic understanding regarding nutrition culturally…we have no idea that food is meant for practicality, for energy, and not simply for pleasure and for the God-given right of eating powerful antioxidants such as bacon on a daily basis. People are under the tragic assumption that healthy food tastes nasty and must as a rule be boring and undesirable, which is totally, completely, one thousand percent wrong. Fake food is what is nasty. Nothing screams I’m not quite mature slash don’t know how to take care of myself like not understanding how to fuel your day with enough energy. Many of us are slowly poisoning ourselves over time and wasting the health we are blessed with. Cut it out and educate yourself. Do it for you. Do it for the kids. Do it soon.
2. How to not be terrified of your vehicle.
There is nothing I was taught about this except to just get AAA. And while I don’t necessarily disagree with that approach and having AAA sure is nice, it sure would be even nicer not to have to panic whenever one of the males in my life insists the air in my tire is low, or to imagine every possible, horrific, hypothetical outcome should my tire ever go flat on the highway. Hell, I barely even know how to pop my hood. I’m not convinced my car even has a hood. No one has been able to prove it to me yet.
3. How to not suck at pet ownership.
I think trying our best to respect animals and understand them would be a great thing to teach. And just some basics about animals in general, like how to own animals that you can use for farming and sustainability (goats, cows, how to milk an animal, chickens and eggs, etc.), or just some pet training basics so people don’t hate coming over to your house and hearing you talk in that weird voice as you tell your dog to not jump on people and it does absolutely nothing because for some reason your pet doesn’t seem to speak English. And to be a bit more educated on the fact that it’s actually hard work rearing your poor little doggie, who actually has emotions, and what is that weird nail in the back of her paw that accidentally ripped off, and who should you take her to in order to get it fixed? Dog parenting is hard. Single dog parenting is even harder. It would help societally if we could all have fair warning that owning a dog is a great glimpse into the kind of parent you might be…are you respectful to your animal? Are you patient? Do you view your pet as strictly a nuisance or as something to take care of and be kind to? How strict and informed are you? Really it says a lot about you if you can be responsible for something weaker than you and it doesn’t die but also is happy and wags its tail at you every night when you come home, and you feed it first because you feel badly and know you’re home later than you should be. Work-pet balance is a real thing and we should be better at it.
Is it ever ok to snapchat at your desk? Should I post pictures of my boobs on Facebook the day before a big job interview and constantly post about how my boyfriend broke up with me…again? (Answer: no. No you should not.) Oh, and don’t forget real life manners. Manners galore, manners of every kind: smiling, greeting people, eye contact, handshakes, please and thank you. And if you STILL don’t understand that your table/eating habits will make or break your success in dating, friendships, and networking events, you can just kiss your bright future goodbye now on the forehead, push it out on a boat splashing into the water while a line of grim-looking, hooded archers aim a rain of fire-lit arrows out onto that same boat so it lights up in flames against the night sky as it heads swiftly to Valhalla. That’s how important it is.
5. Career Searching.
You went to school, big whoop. So did everyone else. Unless you’ve been pre-enrolled in Harvard since kindergarten, nobody cares. You can’t do math. Your little precocious niece has a higher literacy level than you do and had to explain that word to you and she’s only in fifth grade. Sometimes, you might accomplish all that and even manage to go to college, and not read the assignments and barely pass rocks for jocks and miraculously only have to take the easiest math class ever where they provide the answers because that’s how remedial it is, and you might not even know what that word means, but now you’re at that age where you’re expected to get a job. And not just any job, but a real job. A career. Some kind of profession an Adult and not a pre-teen would have. So why are you struggling with your career search? And why are you not a magical unicorn frolicking in the silver Forest of Dreams? Because unrealistic expectations, that’s why. Not cool, man. Not. Cool.
All that to say, great news—it’s not too late! Now is the time! You are in the right place! You’ve found who you can go to for guidance (hint: us!), and you’re giving yourself permission to start! That’s all you need: an ounce of courage. A drop of hope. A computer and a sign-up sheet. That’s it.
See you on the other side.
Nikki Galietta lives in the Portland area and has an adult job filled with adult responsibilities (no, really!). She has tutored at many different levels, taught adult ed classes on various writing styles, led community lit/film Shakespeare groups, and has edited and contributed to several academic publications. She may have even won a poetry contest once. She bakes and plans events on the side (like…the side of the side) and wants you to know that if she can adult, anyone can!