June 1, 2015 by Devin
“I’d like to read it, but I can’t be a part of it.”
That was my response to my brother’s pitch. He had called me on his way to Taco Bell. I was eating my own lunch in my school’s common ground after getting off of work. A weight in my chest that had been building up since last December seemed to finally start coming out into my mouth, and I felt wrong talking to him.
The idea itself was solid: a how-to website for 20-somethings called, appropriately enough, “How to 20-Something,” focused on all the stuff people kind of expect you to know by the time you’re a 20-something but never take time out to explicitly tell you.
Growing up, I remember my dad and brother pitching a lot of ideas for projects that never really materialized, probably because we were still teenagers and had better things to do like waste our time playing video games or hanging out with friends, but Jordan seemed serious this time and he was making steps to make it actually happen.
I did not want to be a part of it at all.
This past year, I have been a lot of things, but “confident enough in my life choices to give advice about how to life” has not been one of them. During the past year, I have gone through a lot of changes and big life decisions. I got into grad school, prepared for grad school, left my job, moved out of a small town, moved into a big city, started grad school, got a new job, and even joined a guild in an online MMO.
At no point during any of those processes did I feel like I was doing them right. I still oscillate between thinking every thing is going to be okay and that my life is essentially the Titanic and every major life decision I make is another spin on the, “Too big to sink” fallacy. So the idea of me writing for a how to website focused on the very thing I seem to be failing at on a near-constant basis sounded ridiculous.
And yet, I am.
What changed? Did I suddenly realize all my decisions were actually mad strokes of genius and I had a responsibility to share my savant-level knowledge of living with the world? No, not really.
But as we talked, Jordan kept detailing the idea, and I realized how much I hated traditional how to websites. I think we have all been in a situation where we are going through a difficult time, google how to do something, and then get frustrated when it seems so easy on the website but we still can’t get it to work just right.
And that just adds insult to injury. I thought I was an idiot before trying to setup this dryer, but now that I have looked at video detailing exactly how to in step-by-step fashion and I still do not know if plugging in this cord will dry my clothes or set my house on fire, I feel completely incompetent at life.
Brian Regan has a great bit complaining about TV cooks, saying how anyone can cook when all the ingredients come in pre-measured increments, and that is how I feel most advice is on the internet. All the people writing those columns have all the tools they need. They all planned out well in advance what they were doing. They never make mistakes.
And while those are useful, they also fail to point out where people fail, and that can often be just as enlightening. People learn from failures, possibly more than successes, and knowing that other people have made mistakes gives us the freedom to make mistakes of our own.
Honestly, I do not know how to 20-something. In fact, I would say that out of all the 20-somethings out there, I am definitely in the bottom half when it comes to knowing what I am doing.
But hey, the internet needs more stories of people being honest about their failings. What I have realized about being a 20-something is that no one really knows how to be one. Our parents know how to be a 20-something for their generation, but times are changing so quickly these days that they may not know more than we do about trying to survive in this environment. Heck, I am fairly positive that everything I know about being a 20-something will be irrelevant in fifteen years.
In other words, there are no pre-measured increments.
So maybe we need to stop acting like there are, stop trying to appear like experts in a world without them.
That is why I chose to be a writer for this project. I am never going to claim to be an expert on anything I write for this website, but maybe my stories of failing at dating or moving will be enjoyable and helpful to people who are also failing at dating or moving. And maybe that is worth something.
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Also, make sure to check out Jordan’s inaugural post, How to Stop Dreaming and Build Stuff.