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I turned 25 on February 10th, despite the rumors (I don't know).

I live in Los Angeles now, in a one bedroom apartment with a view of the I-10. There are currently 1.84 million COVID cases in the county, and a cup of coffee costs $2.65.

The 20s are not how I thought they'd be. Humans are very bad at predicting the future, but it hardly keeps us from trying. I assumed my growth would be linear, easily tracked like plot points in a coming-of-age movie. I thought I'd be sitting on a lumpy couch in a Harvard sweatshirt eating old Chinese food with a fork because that's what Young Struggle looks like until, one day, I meet a chiseled jagoff named Jack who awakens my dormant fighting spirit and BAM -- I'm the youngest partner Impressive Chicago Law Firm has ever hired.

I was wrong. I was very wrong, even about the Chinese food. Too salty.

Exponential growth and frustration have thus far dominated the decade. Growth because falling in love requires higher levels of self-awareness, of care, caution, foresight, humility, and well-worded apologies. Frustration because I'm not always able to provide. Growth because no one else is going to rid the apartment of mice; frustration because despite a decent work ethic and the passion of a thousand suns, money is hard to come by. Growth because sheets and drinks and lip balm are more expensive than I think they ought to be, but living without them means not getting laid. Frustration because I'm not Venus de Milo, but a human being just looking for a little bit of compassion.

I don't have a New Year's resolution, but if I did, it'd be to fully accept the fact that I'm a corny goofy sad little geezer with obsessive idiosyncracies, and I love Joni Mitchell. She wrote "Both Sides Now" in 1966 when she was 23 years old. She was reading a book on a plane and the author started describing the clouds over Africa. She looked out, saw her own clouds, and wrote the song. She re-recorded it with Bob Dylan many years later.

I'm not Joni Mitchell, but here's my song about clouds, love and life thus far.

1) Wash your laundry in cold water.

It's better for the environment and it keeps the colors from running. Also: Either line dry or use the lowest heat setting possible, otherwise your favorite clothes will shrink, fade, and fall apart way before you're ready to bury them. Learn from my losses, please.

2) Read whatever book you want.

It actually doesn't make you smarter to read Dostoyevsky instead of Stephen King. That's a lie English teachers spread to get you through their bad TBR lists. Russian novels are depressing recounts of desolate landscapes and a corrupt social hierarchy and I'd rather read about a band of wild children living amongst goats.

3) If you need a vaccine, get it outdoors whenever possible.

It's hard to feel nervous when bumble bees are basking in the spray of the Argue Plaza Fountain and a cohort of undergraduates are arguing over whether or not somebody's boyfriend acted like an ass the other night at Kappa Sigma Raven's bi-annual toga party.

4) I firmly believe that whoever we are at five years old is the truest, most honest version of ourselves.

Five-year-olds don't care much for compromise or rules or social constructs; they are deeply curious, forthright and fearless. If you think five-year-old you would be disappointed, or bored, or confused by who you are now, it might be worth asking yourself why that is.

5) Don't lie about being able to speak French.

When I was a kid, I wanted to prove to everyone just how smart I was, so I tried learning French. I very quickly figured out that it would take years of study to become truly fluent, and I was an impatient little shit, so I figured I'd just tell everyone I could speak French and then make it up if they asked me to prove it. This worked on my fellow fourth graders brilliantly. That same summer, I visited my best friend, and I told her mom that I could speak French. She said, "Oh! Bonjour, où sont tes devoirs?" Turns out, she took four years of French in high-school and actually knew how to speak it. Cover blown. That, to this day, is one of those embarrassing moments that wakes me up when I'm on the brink of sleep. Save yourself. Just admit when you're a monolingual moron.

6) You can acquire new paper by a) taking a pound of recyclable cardboard and clipping it into bite-sized pieces, soaking it in a large tub for 24 hours, pulverizing it in a blender never to be used for culinary purposes again, placing the resulting pulp into another cleaner tub with fresh water, straining it through a $25 mold and deckle, flipping it onto a piece of cloth and hanging it to dry for another 24 hours, or b) buying a ream at Office Depot $7.99.

7) When you travel, take pictures of you and your friends, not of trees.

You can currently Google any picture of any tree by any award-winning photographer, ever. You cannot, however, Google a picture of your middle-school boyfriend dressed as Rum Tum Tugger during a scarcely attended matinee of Cats.

8) Do something -- better yet, several things -- that isn't for the sake of money or career-advancement.

Or else you will be a terribly boring person, and your life will lack shape, color, and purpose. Worse yet: You'll be that guy who can only talk about that *one* thing.

10) Put a cold rag on your face.

We only do this when you're sick and that's silly. It feels so good!

Hungover? Cold rag.

Getting ready for bed?

Cold rag.

In the middle of a rewriting process that you find abhorrently tedious, thankless and soul-sucking?

Cold. Rag.

Get a group together and do it as friends! Bond over the shared relief! Participate in a collective sigh.

11) Confrontation is a beautiful thing and don't let any Southern aphorism tell you differently.

If you have a problem with someone, say exactly what that problem is, tell 'em how it makes you feel, and only then will you be able to move on with your short goddamn life. A lot of people in this world get stuck in a moment of despair, and it's because they never fully process or even acknowledge their problems. Over time those problems multiply, and they get all backed up, and soon the weight of all of that unspoken tension is so unbearable that it either collapses and the carrier dies of an early-onset stroke or they snap and murder a jogger for lookin' at 'em funny. Don't be a serial killer. Just tell your partner how you really feel about that weird comment they made about your hairline.

12) Hamsters are a biological accident and must be destroyed.

They are literally the junior varsity version of mice. They serve no environmental purpose, they can't communicate, they're not intelligent or sweet or helpful to anyone, they don't want to cuddle, we can't ride them or milk them, really what's the fucking point here?

13) Get into boxing. Or archery. Or watermelon slicing. Something aggressive that gives you a sense of conquest.

It feels good. Something about accessing the alpha predator within just feels...ahhh.

14) Without assuming any air of spiritualism, terrestrial leadership, or heaven-bestowed guardianship, it is important to acknowledge that what you put in, you will get out.

It works in reverse, too. If it's true that sad movies and a lack of sunlight bring on depressive feelings, it can also be assumed that acts of hatred, promises of ill-will, and unwarranted acts of unkindness bring about our own misery. Wrangle your thoughts together and filter out the ones that are attracting pain like a big stupid magnet. If you believe good things are coming, you're right.

15) Don't drink a bottle and a half of red wine at your Irish friend's going away party.

You cannot outdrink her, and all your feeble attempt with accomplish is low-grade nausea every time you smell homemade pasta sauce.

16) It's not embarrassing to tell someone how much you like them.

Even if they don't feel the same way, being told that we are cared for is lifeblood. It's a lovely sentiment and should never rot in the dark.

17) Put stout in your chocolate cake batter.

Unless you are throwing a surprise birthday party for a recovering alcoholic. Then use sour cream instead.

18) Movement is life and change is inevitable.

The human body is 60% water. Standing water attracts mosquitos, bacteria and is poisonous to drink. We were never meant to be in one fixed position for very long. Don't poison yourself trying.

19) If you're a writer and you find yourself musing on the moon, it's probably because you spend too much time looking at the sky for inspiration and not enough time looking at your laptop.

Focus on the work. Get the thing done. The moon doesn't care.

20) Some things you just can't cheap out on, man.

Rent. Shoes. Insulin. Everything else you can get on clearance.

21) Just kiss him.

What's the worst case scenario, he leans away and says, "Oh, I don't think of you that way?" Who cares? One day you'll be dead and so will he; who's gonna remember and laud it over you? Jesus? Kiss him if the moment presents itself and if it feels right. The fudging and mudging around just makes things wEiRd and kissing should be fun!

22) Be the friend who reaches out and makes plans.

Your friends want to hang out with you, but they feel weird saying so (for some ungodly reason). Bite the bullet and invite them over for a Stepdad Themed Party. Again: One day you'll be dead, and then who will dress up in shin-high socks and khakis with you? Jesus? He's not that kind of guy!

23) Coffee with soy milk reigns supreme.

Some things are just true and right and justified and good and delicious and sweet and cozy and right.

24) Say yes to more things, and no to more things.

Say yes because it challenges your anxious brain to a duel it can never win. Say no because being selfish sometimes means taking care of yourself.


25) Call your mom.

Every day if you're able. Who else is going to catch a last minute red-eye to Los Angeles when your life hits the fan and you're ten minutes out from seeing the face of God?

Twenty-five, man. At some point, time turns into a herd of wild horses and it becomes impossible to distinguish between one memory and another, one life lesson acquired, another lost. It's all just hooves and air and kicked-up dust.

Not necessarily in a bad way.

-- dottie

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