How to Grow Up
Step One: Be an asshole as a little kid. Do horrible things to other people for fun. When you're eight and the dorky neighbor kid comes to your birthday party with a handmade card because he can't afford more, tear it up in front of him to get your friends to laugh. When you're twelve, play follow the leader on your bike with your friends and another kid who wanted to be friends but was beneath you on the social scale. Then lure the unsuspecting kid into a trap where he rides his bike into a hole he didn't see (you and your friends knew it was there) and watch as his front tire sticks in it and he ruptures a testicle. Think it's hilarious.
Step Two: Don't change much as a teenager. Take the baseball team manager and lock him in the locker room for three hours while you and the team go to practice. Make him beg to let him out afterward. And when he cries, make him beg more. Take a picture of the nerdy German kid in his underwear during PE. Make copies of the picture and put them around the school. Think this is just awesome. When you get in trouble by the principal who actually really liked you, tell him it was totally worth it. Have him look at you like he doesn't recognize you.
Step Three: Treat girls like trash. In high school, date as many girls as you can and tell your friends every detail about your experiences. If a girl dumps you, immediately try to date her best friend. Do some nice things for the girls you date but only enough to trick them into thinking you're really into them.
Step Four: Go to college and take a little break from being so terrible. Enjoy your classes. Make better friends who aren't so entertained by your shenanigans. Still pull off an occasional jerk move with some people. Enjoy it.
Step Five: When you are almost done with college, have your 42 year old mother get diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Deny it is real. Then remember the terrible things you've said to her. Remember the times when she would forget things or ask you the same question three times you would tell her to quit drinking so damn much. Remember that time when she couldn't remember how to turn on the cable tv how you called her an idiot. Remember how much she embarrassed you the past couple years and how you'd tell her that you couldn't ever have people over because she was crazy. Feel bad. Feel really, really bad.
Step Six: Three days after her diagnosis, go to lunch with a friend at the McDonald's on Andresen and have an incredibly debilitating anxiety attack. Hide in the bathroom stall for 30 minutes sobbing with your heart pounding out of your chest. Think you are seriously dying because you don't even know what an anxiety attack is. Sweat profusely. Answer, "I'm fine. Just go home," when your friend comes in and asks you if you're ok. Try to breathe. Fail.
Step Seven: Go to the doctor. Somehow leave McDonald's and drive to your doctor which is only three miles away. Still think you are dying. Go past the receptionist and go right on back. Find an empty room and sit down until a nurse finds you. Cry more and tell her you are probably dying. Still have no idea what the hell is happening to you or why or anything beyond your mortality. Have the nurse give you a hug which is the absolute greatest thing anyone has ever done for you. Cry more. Be scared. Have the doctor come in and listen to your heart, ask you a few questions, and tell you that you are not dying. Have him tell you that you have major depression and are having an anxiety attack. Don't believe him because you know that you are actually dying. Eventually give in and accept that he may know more about this stuff. Fill a prescription for some anti-anxiety medication and make an appointment with a counselor for the next day.
Step Eight: Spiral. Talk to the counselor and realize that you are truly a horrible person. Realize that you have done terrible things and the universe is just balancing things out by killing your mother and making you lose your mind. Listen to the counselor explain that the universe doesn't hate you but rather you have some brain chemistry issues and probably some guilt with your mom. Still feel like your skin is crawling with bugs and want to be anywhere else but inside of it. Want to leave. Want to run and hide. Want to be anywhere but here. Be afraid. Be sad. Be bitter. Be sure that you are not worth anything.
Step Nine: Hide. Stay in your parents' basement for three weeks and shower minimally. Watch a lot of game shows. Play video games. Do anything possible to distract yourself from yourself. Have more anxiety attacks, probably one every twenty minutes for the three weeks. Don't sleep. Be positive that you will be locked in a mental hospital forever. Have a bad reaction to Prozac and want to kill yourself (Note: How can a bad side effect of an anti-depression drug be suicidal thoughts??? That is just so wrong.) but don't do it because you can't hurt your parents and you don't really want to die. You just want to feel better. Finally during the last two days of your three week basement stay, start to write down things that you don't like about yourself. Then write down a list of rotten things you've done. Almost run out of ink. Feel terrible. Want to change. Make a plan. Take a walk outside. Shower.
Step Ten: Face the pain. Go talk to your mom who is semi-coherent and apologize for being so awful. Have her hug you which becomes the new best hug you've ever received. Cry more but don't think you are dying. Go to weekly counseling for six months. Begin to feel joy again. Tell yourself that things are better. Realize that you are going through this so you can cleanse yourself from the terrible things you have done and the awful person you were. Move forward.
Step Eleven: Get a teaching job. Realize that you are supposed to work with kids. Try to guide them to become the best version of themselves they can possibly be. Be really bad at it the first couple years but hang in there. Feel good about the lives you're impacting. Know that you aren't making up for the lives you hurt before but know that is in the past and what matters now is what you do today. Decide that you want to be a good person and do whatever you can to become one.
Step Twelve: Grow. Spend the next twenty years distancing yourself from the old you. Embrace the kinder one you have become. Treat people better. Try to be a role model. Forgive yourself for being an asshole when you were younger. When your mom dies, don't freak out. Miss her often. When you get diagnosed with cancer ten years ago, battle it. When you date someone, be nice to them. Be a good friend. Teach your butt off at school. Try to connect with your students and be positive around them. Be an ear for them. Help them through things. When they are sad, relate. Get married to someone who doesn't know the old you but appreciates the new one. Have a daughter four and a half years ago and cry more. But this time they are joyous tears. Be amazed by her every single day. Spend the last twenty years becoming the person you want to be. Be nice. Be tender. Lead with the heart. Like yourself. Grow up.