How many of you have friends who logged more hours on Black Ops 2 last week than they did at their job? Or maybe they constantly complain that they’re never going to find someone, but the last person they asked out was over a conversation about how they heard that the new Star Wars films were going to be all about Darth Vader and how it was going to be the best thing in the history of cinema? They just sit around in a funk, and it takes every ounce of willpower to stop yourself from grabbing them by the ankles and screaming at their crotch until balls appear.
It’s those goddamn excuses. Every time you try to help, they have a retort that makes so much sense to them — but to anyone who has lived through even five minutes of adulthood, it’s just bullshit. And believe me, I know these quite well. I was a master at saying and believing things like …
#5. “The System Is Unfair! I Refuse to Participate!”
Back in the early ’90s, fresh out of high school, I tried to get a job at a local candy factory, because hell yes. At the time, I had virtually no work history. No experience with job interviews, no experience with applications, and barely anything to put on them, outside of my name and address. I didn’t get the job, which was not unexpected, because even if you factor out my extensive arrest record for “genital terrorism,” many of the “any dumbass can do this” jobs required heavy, repetitive lifting, and at the time I was built like a losing game of Hangman.
My mom’s boyfriend worked there and told me later that the interviewer didn’t hire me because of my hair (the left half was shaved, while the right half was down around the middle of my back). Now, hindsight tells me that he explained it because that interview marked the beginning of a very long string of job rejections that I couldn’t figure out. But at the time, I got offended and exclaimed, “That’s discrimination!” Then I asked him, “If I press the issue, would you be willing to say in court that they discriminated against me based on my hair?” And he looked at me the way you’re looking at your monitor right now: a cringe, laced with “You are the dumbest twat alive.” But instead of fixing the hair problem that was preventing me from gaining employment, I instead dyed it green out of protest, thinking, “If I have to change who I am in order to work, that’s not a job I want in the first place!” In my mind, I was standing up against a horrible injustice.
The problem with this excuse isn’t about the job. It’s about our juvenile sense of entitlement — our naive belief that we can do whatever we want without repercussions. If you want to see what I mean in action, pull up any video of a cop using a Taser and read through the comments. I can save you the trouble if you value your sanity enough to decline that experiment. If the cop was in the wrong, it will be post after post from people frothing with rage, declaring that it’s time we stood up and took back our country from “corrupt fucking pigs.” They’ll compare police officers to gang members and say they’re on a power trip. You’ll see the phrase “Nazi Germany” more than when the Nazis were actually in power in Germany. It’s “abuse of power” and “They need to be fired and put in jail!” A third of the people will claim that they’d kill the cop if they were there, because the Internet is a perfectly logical place with people who aren’t completely fucking stupid at all.
And the cops who were totally in the right? Same exact response.
From the moment we were crotched into this world, we’ve been taught that nobody has the right to speak to us with a certain tone of voice. But we have a right to speak our minds no matter what, and that other person has to listen and give weight to what we say. So when we’re in a situation where there is simply no fucking discussion in the matter (traffic stop, meeting with the boss, redneck wedding trying to fist fight the police), our gut reaction is “NO! You will listen to what I have to say, because I have a right to express my feelings and opinions!”
We think that because the boss is being an asshole about our work performance or the police officer is yelling, “Get your ass on the fucking ground” (instead of “I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience, but could you please do me a favor and lie face down for just a few seconds?”), it excuses us from having to listen to them or follow their instructions. Instead of complying, we rebel out of this weird sense of justice. “I can’t let them get away with that. I’m not doing what they say because I don’t have to – OH MY GOD, THIS HURTS SO BAD, MY BODY IS BURNING WITH ELECTRICITY!”
When we’re kids, that’s a great lesson, because it’s teaching us important morals about communication and expression. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t stand up for your rights or should let injustice go unchecked. I’m saying that when you become an adult, you learn where that shit is appropriate and where it will earn you a free face-kneeing. People who never get past that original childish viewpoint find themselves on the pavement with a Taser shoved trigger-deep in their asshole while they scream “WHAT’D I DO?!” Adults know that battling authority on their grounds only makes it worse — you fight that shit in court.
#4. “I’m Just Not Ready to Settle Down Yet!”
You’ll hear this from bachelors who don’t want to get married or party lovers who aren’t ready to give up the “drink until three, sleep until two” lifestyle. Other variations include “There will be time to slow down when I’m older” and “I’m living life to its fullest.” Followed by intense puking noises.
It sounds pretty straightforward, I’ll admit, even from an adult perspective. Hell, I know adults who still live by that motto. Here’s the problem, though: Most adults understand that the idea of basing the quality of your life on the amount of liquor you drink or the strangers you fuck is an illusion created by the unweathered mind. That’s not an insult — it’s a product of biology. The body is still getting high off of a fresh supply of hormones and impulse, and it’s not quite ready to step outside of the “If it feels good, do it” mentality. We all go through it — there’s nothing wrong with it at the time.
Eventually, though, you start to mature and realize that every second you spend living like that is a second you haven’t spent building your career or securing your retirement or building a legacy. And the longer you put it off, the more of a head start you give your competition for the perfect job or the perfect spouse. You start realizing that all of your friends bought their first house at age 30, while you’re counting wrinkled wads of singles from the strip club the night before to pay your rent.
Does that mean you have to give up everything that’s fun and grind through endless identical days of work with a scowl and a puckered asshole? Hell no. Just like all of these points, it boils down to “there’s a time and a place.” Settling down does not mean “giving up.” It means “It’s time to stop talking about what I want to be in life, and actually become that thing.”
When you’re younger, that perspective is hard to see. You see compromise as a negative thing that means “Stop having fun” instead of a means to the most dramatic personal growth you’ll ever experience. In this respect, the difference between juvenile and adult is “more” versus “better.” When you’re young, your mind will hammer you for more orgasms, more buzz, more parties … When you’re an adult, you work your ass off, and as a side effect of that, you can afford better wine. You focus on building a solid relationship where the sex is better and actually means something.
The unfortunate problem with this point is that until you actually live it, it sounds like bullshit. But believe me, any adults who tell you that they’d rather relive their teenage years than their current life aren’t doing it right.
#3. “I Can’t Make It on My Own!”
Once upon a time, I lived my life in a perpetual state of partying and sleeping on whatever couch was available to me. Two of my closest friends at the time had their own apartment, but their mothers paid all the rent and bills for them, so I found myself hanging out with them a lot. None of us worked, and we didn’t make much of an effort to alleviate that problem. Mostly because we didn’t see it as a problem. Some of our other friends had part-time jobs but didn’t make enough to pay basic bills, so they lived at home with mom, trying and failing to save up. Again, never making the effort to find a better job or tack on a second one to fill the financial gaps.
This isn’t even close to uncommon. Thirty percent of young adults live with their parents, 53 percent if you look at just the 18-to-24 age group. If you’re not in this situation, that’s awesome — no sarcasm, I’m sincerely proud of you. If you are in the situation I described above, though, I need you to do something that’s kind of painful, even in the realm of imagination. I need you to imagine that the person helping you out becomes one of the 10,000 people a year who die in a DUI-related accident.
Just driving home from work, completely sober — never even knew what hit them. Bam. Gone.
What happens now? Fuck the funeral costs — what are you going to do in four days when the fridge is empty? In two weeks when the rent, electric, gas, car payment, phone bill, and trash pickup all become due? Do you know how to wash your own clothes? Can you cook more than a couple of meals that don’t come out of a box? When a future job asks for your Social Security card or a copy of your birth certificate, do you have one? Do you know how to get one if you lose them? You should know every last bit of that shit right this second. And you should most definitely have enough of an income locked down that if God forbid something does happen, you can survive.
I know that many of you are in these situations because you graduated from college and can’t find a job in your field, but you need to hear something that may piss you off: Fuck your dreams. Fuck them right exactly in their dream asses. Not off to the side — not a grazing ass poke. Right in it. Right now, you’re working for survival.
Got a degree in music? Fine, you can look for a job in that field while you’re collecting an actual real paycheck from whatever job is willing to hand you money — and sometimes that means working two or three of them to ensure that you have a place to live, while using your lunch break to hand out resumes for your dream. Every famous person in entertainment who wasn’t handed a gift-wrapped career has a string of “shitty job” stories that he or she had to endure while working on becoming something better. Very few of them say, “I got my degree and then hunted around for a few years before I found a job in acting.”
Unless you’re flat-out rich, the economy will not allow you the luxury of cherry picking your employment. You cannot use the economy as an excuse — you have to use it as motivation.
#2. “It’s Not Just Me Getting Screwed, It’s Everyone I Know!”
In general, the members of any particular group of friends tend to share each other’s traits to a certain degree. Rich people tend to hang out with other rich people. Sports fans hang out with other sports fans. All of my closest friends are in comedy or have freakishly large penises. The same was true about the group of unmotivated, jobless friends I mentioned earlier. And let me tell you, there is no reassurance on earth as powerful as what a support group provides.
“Hey, it’s not your fault, man. Look at me — I haven’t had a job in six months. There just isn’t jack shit in this town.” But if you had asked any of us when our last application was filled out, the honest answer would have been “weeks.” It’s not all about laziness, although that was certainly a factor for myself and many of my friends at the time. It’s that the more you hang around with other people who are justifying their failures with excuses, the more realistic those excuses sound. And getting on someone else’s ass who has the same problem as you … well, that’s exactly the same as admitting that you’re just as fucked. So in that situation, reassuring your friends that nothing is their fault and everything will be just fine is, in essence, saying it to yourself. Eventually, you just talk yourselves out of any hope of ever progressing in life.
Hanging around that group is a safe, warm, comfortable place to be because nobody is putting pressure on you to get up and fight — there is only reassurance. “What can you do? It’s the economy. Might as well enjoy what we do have: friends and beer!” Again, I don’t mean to just harp on jobs — it works for anything in life. “We’re better off alone than dating any of the people in this town. They’re all rednecks and dumbasses.” “Give up cocaine? Why? There’s nothing to do here except get fucked up.” “Being a fan of Nickelback and Limp Bizkit is nothing to be ashamed of. We are all good people with great taste in music.”
There comes a time when you have to grit your teeth and separate yourself from the things that are holding you back, and the unfortunate thing about this one is that there’s a good chance you’re going to lose some friends in the process. Because the sheer act of you fixing your life changes your perspective and philosophy, and that is going to set you apart from the group. Not to mention that in making the effort to grow in your job or relationship, that commitment is going to take up an immense amount of time. And while they have hours and hours to kill, sitting around and talking about how much the world has fucked them, you’re going to be out there doing the things they say they can’t do themselves.
They will resent you for it because you’re proving them wrong, and because you’re not spending as much time with them as they’d like. “What, that slut is more important to you than your friends? You think you’re better than us because you got a nice job?”
Does that group always collapse when one of the members makes it out? No, but then again, you don’t get herpes every time you fuck someone who has it. In my experience, it happens far more often than not. But that’s what sets you apart as an adult. Adults prepare for it and accept the consequences. Children stay in the same situation, because upsetting their friends and leaving that comfort zone is too much to endure. And God knows you don’t want to lose the respect of people who only hand it out during pity party circle jerks.
#1. “I Just Haven’t Been Given a Chance Yet!”
There are plenty of things that I’d love to go back in time and kick my own ass for, but that one is pretty high on the list. That was my go-to excuse for not progressing in life, and I used it motherfucking everywhere. “I can’t believe they gave her the assistant manager spot! I know more about this gas station than anyone — this is bullshit!” Or “I can’t believe she’s dating that dickhead. What does he have that I don’t? This is also bullshit!”
In both cases, if I had just been given a shot, I know I could have been the best they’d ever seen. In both cases, I never let them know I was interested — not even in passing. In both cases, the person who got the spot went after it full force. That … kind of sounds bad, but you know what I mean.
In my own life, I’d sit back and wait for things to come to me, partially because I never had anyone teach me how to go out and get those things. Partially because it’s what we’ve been taught in pretty much every movie ever made. Win the big race, and the girl finally realizes she loves you. Do something even slightly worthy of praise, and the owner of the company pops out and says, “I like your style. Come talk to me on Monday morning and we’ll get you set up with a big office and your own secretary to urinate on.” (I’m guessing that’s how it goes — I don’t actually watch many movies.) There has always been a very clear message of “Just live your life to the best of your ability, and life will shoot rewards out at you like one of those T-shirt bazookas.”
That’s even reinforced in your everyday life throughout childhood. Do a great drawing in art class, and the teacher holds it up in front of everyone and gives you praise. Good writing is read as an example to other students. Exceptional report cards might earn a few bucks or a night out with dad at the local brothel. But in the adult world, rarely does great work ever get past the “Good job — now get back to fucking work” stage.
Though it does happen from time to time, rarely do promotions come to you without you ever making it known that you’re interested in moving up the ladder. Rarely does that girl or guy suddenly look across a crowded party and say, “Oh my God, it was you I’ve been looking for all along! I can’t believe I’ve been so blind! Touch my hunch monkey!” Not without some genuine effort on your part.
But that’s the thing … using this “I’ve never been given a chance” excuse is the most effective defense mechanism in the ego’s entire arsenal. Saying it puts the blame for your failures on the shoulders of the other person. It’s certainly not your fault — hell, you’re the one with all the untapped talent and passion to be the best they’ve ever seen. How could it possibly be your fault? It also keeps the world from knowing exactly how good you really are, outside of all the talk. If you did make the effort and you did get that position or relationship, and it turned out that you were just average, everyone can see it. Relying on the excuse allows you to talk about how good you would be if only other people were wise enough to notice.
In other words, in your mind, you get to be the best without ever having to prove it. And there aren’t many things more comfortable in life than being the best at something without ever having to experience the stress of actually being the best at something.
Again, everyone goes through this stuff. If you’re one of the people I’m describing here, I’m not saying it to make fun of you or imply that you’re somehow beneath the rest of us. I learned this shit 15 years later than I should have — I’m a worse offender than almost all of you. I wish I could go back and follow my old self around so I could catch me in the act and say, “There. You’re doing it right there, fucko. ELBOW DROP!” But since I can’t, maybe I can save a few people some future embarrassment by letting you know that it exists. Because it exists. And you will eventually be embarrassed by it.