Change your look, change your job, change your apartment, change your art, change your socks (really, it’s gross). Change your lover; your lipstick, your coat, your curtains, your entire belief system. Cling hard, hasty and briefly to everything. Don’t commit. Remain an amateur at life. Don’t do anything long enough to get good at it or known for it; this could overextend your young, vain ego and send you hurtling into full-blown narcissism. Toeing the line between vanity and narcissism is worth the effort.
Be a jack of all trades. It’s the new renaissance, after all. It’s never been easier to call yourself anything and have the website, business card, shoes and haircut to back it up. Be an artist, writer, life coach, musician, healer, blogger. Be indie, punk, preppy, grungy, mod, hipster. Throw yourself into each of these identities and waste a year or so cultivating the image. Then, just when it feels comfortable and people have started to identify you this way, change. Re-brand. Constantly. Funnel all of your time and money into the accoutrements of each image and then ditch them once you move on. You can always sell your camera, rock tumbler, sewing machine, Tarot cards, ukulele, blow torch anyway. But you wont.
Cling to your good looks while they last. Youth is the only time you’ll get away with vanity, pride and ego so wield these weapons carelessly and make no effort to disguise them. Seek out your image in every reflective surface and become entranced with this elusive, beautiful stranger.
Take the free drinks, backstage passes, bus stop passes, street worker leers and music store discounts while they’re around. If one thing is certain it’s that one day you’ll be old and ugly and no one will want to look at you unless you have a “personality” or “power” or something… So cash in on the cute, dumb stares and firm buttocks while you can because there’s nothing cute about some old ass trying to flirt their way into free shit.
You’ve got it. Flaunt it. Before you know it, you’ll be shaking your head and cursing quotes you used to herald like, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” as you stare at your bloated living corpse in the shower, having smashed all the mirrors on your 30th birthday. Living like you could die tomorrow only sucks if you don’t.
This may seem counter intuitive, but having children is pretty much the only sure way to squash enjoying your youth as a meaningless void marked only by shame and regrets.
Nothing stunts childish behavior like an actual child. Children make you wake up, eat, and clean; life’s top three productivity staples. Let’s face it, you can always adopt. But you can’t always wake up under a pool table in Chinatown drunk and high at noon on a Tuesday, consequence and fancy free, if you’re a parent. Unless you want to deal with the guilt and/or the law. And you don’t.
So smash your biological clock and get a pet – a fish or a plant – something you won’t ever have to bury or explain life to, and that you can’t go to jail for killing. Go ahead and waste your precious and fleeting youth the way you want and the way man intends — single, sexually active and barren.
Being aloof is essential for encouraging missed opportunities, both personal and professional. Don’t underestimate the power of connections, and be sure to avoid them. Don’t look directly at anyone. Look up or down or out the window or at a book, your phone, your hands, anywhere but into the face of another human soul. Master the art of appearing distracted; hurried, frazzled. Give clear signals that you’re deep in your own head, busy with your own very important thoughts. Try talking to yourself (or just moving your lips) and furrowing your brow or nodding your head rapidly as if confirming some phantom voice. Show up late, disheveled and shivering, like you’re always cold; pulling your hood on, your collar up, or your sweater tighter in around yourself.
Cultivate a rich inner life and shut most everything else out. Try repeating negative and self deprecating phrases like, “She already has enough friends”, “He’s probably a pedophile,” or “My hair is stupid,” whenever you find your private extrovert trying to get out. Maybe indulge a superiority complex instead, by silently judging everyone around you with mantras like, “You pathetic simps,” or “They’re all sheep.” (Something heavy-handed and nihilistic is preferable).
Don’t volunteer. Don’t introduce yourself. Build a mystique that some may take for eccentricity, snobbery, drug addiction, or vapidity. Pay no mind to these potential murmurs. Remember, what people say about you behind your back is really none of your business. Now go get yourself a wide brim hat and some dark glasses and get ready to reap solipsism’s cool rewards.
Not a big band. I’m talking about living for some small scene that no one’s heard of…Yet. Become consumed with a local band with any bit of a following that boasts attractive yet accessible band members who are featured routinely in the local free paper. Romanticize their talent and convince yourself that by going to all of their shows and partying/sleeping with them that you’re part of something big, on the ground level. Spend your time between shows shopping for ironic outfits and procuring illicit drugs to cement your allure.
Just know that somehow the whole scene will blow up and they’ll take you on tour with them to remote Eastern European locations (not to mention the on-stage shout outs and the liner note thanks). Plan on how you will someday slip into casual conversations, “Oh, I used to hang out with Pony Mountain way back when in Baltimore…” winning the respect and admiration of all those around you. It’ll be easy to convince yourself of their impending stardom as you’ll never hear the band sober or during the daytime. Plus, you have absolutely nothing else going on.
Move around a lot. Every couple years or so, to keep a sense of chaos and upheaval. It takes less than that to get sick of your tiny room and the nagging existence of your roommates anyway, so it’ll be easy. Just find the best deal and live there for as long as you can stand it. Then repeat. If you get sick of one city, move to another, or to another country. Ironically, travelling is a good way to stay in exactly the same place in your life.
Move around a lot, and be certain to have nothing to show for it. Maybe even lose a journal, some film, or artwork in one of the moves.
Continue to tell people you are an artist as you shuffle your meager belongings from one shoddy living situation to the next. Just keep working your increasingly excruciating day job and managing (at least a little) between sobs and hiccups to get a few words down, drawings sketched, tunes hummed. Nothing substantial. You are a gypsy, a bohemian, an artist, a pioneer. Cling to these euphemisms and forge on into working class mediocrity, combing your greasy bangs in front of your downward gaze with your nail bitten fingertips.
And never with the right person (that is, anyone attainable or age/hygiene appropriate). Be a hobophile (see Dinapedia). Meet your next lover in a skate park or at a punk show. Fall in and out of love as much as possible. Date old people. Date high school students. Date ex-convicts, bar tenders, drug dealers, club owners, and musicians. Date everyone. Move in with them. If your parents and friends question your decision-making, know you are definitely on the right track. Find someone who doesn’t really want you around and then make being with them your first and only priority. Why simply live your life, when you could squander your prime in earnest yet futile attempts at forcing yourself into someone else’s life?
Longing for love is just as useful a sponge for the years as a string of serious relationships. Fall in love with beautiful strangers to lament how they are probably too good for you. Replace sex with wallowing and/or drinking/writing poetry. Fall in love with people who don’t even exist. Fall in love with tv/film/book characters. Construct a composite of the perfect mate, and then seek out this idealized fantasy, refusing to accept anything less. Spend a lot of time inventing them, and then spend even more time looking for them. Look in the worst places like bars, parties, and church.
If you happen to find a respectable lover who wants to commit, run like hell. Do you really want to be with someone who could love a neurotic bottom feeder like you? Plus, you may risk possibly feeling good enough about yourself to actualize your potential too soon. Stay away from the “right one”. Just alternate between fickle and bitter and watch the years soar by, taking your beauty and youthful vigor with them! (Don’t worry, money and power will ultimately console your ugly and tired old ass.)
Spend your money as soon as you get it, on anything you want. Buy stuff! Now! Don’t save any money. Put off everything but spending money. Shop. Shop a lot. Go to the thrift store. Get on ebay – don’t bid, overbid! Scour Craig’s List. Make cash deals with strangers. Buy a lot of things that cost a little. All the time. Also, drink beer – it’s cheap and plentiful enough to crush a chunk of your budget without you even realizing it. Drink a lot of beer. Buy your friends beer. Then go shopping.
And (if someone gives you one) have a car (you will never save enough money to buy a car). This will ensure a constant squeeze on your finances. For added debt, never pay attention to where you park and watch the tickets pile up. Then just borrow money from your friends and/or family to pay for consequent boots and tows. Owing people money is another good way to keep humble, as it supports the requisite feeling of vague shame and the fundamental paralyzing sense of overwhelming dread.
Poverty is imperative for wasting your youth (for fun and profit!). It keeps you hungry (both literally and figuratively), crazed, and vapid – three keys to ultimate creative and financial success.
Watch a lot of TV. A lot. Don’t just watch one episode, watch all the episodes. Watch from the very first to the very last. Watch the whole series. At once. Twice. But don’t just watch the series. Become the series. Don’t just come to know the characters, come to know yourself through the characters. And then do it over and over again with another series and then another. Once you start understanding your life as a narrative, it will make a lot more sense.