Everything I need to know I learned too late.

I’ve heard people say that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten.

It’s a lie.

Sure, you learned lessons like “say please and thank you“, “share your toys”, “take a nap when you’re tired”, and “stink bugs don’t taste nearly as good as they smell”. But if only life were that simple. If these were the only lessons we really needed to know, to get by in this big bad complicated world of modern living, what a simple thing life would be.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

I’m an old guy now, you see. I’m going to be… well, I’ve got better than 15,000 days, my friend. With any luck, I got 5 days a year for a vacation on my couch, and if I was luckier, I caught a cold or the flu or dysentery, and scored a few more days horizontal. That still leaves better than 14,000 days of applying those little lessons I learned in kindergarten, those few simple things I really needed to know. Four decades doing all the things I was told you had to do. Saying ‘please’, and ‘thank you’, and avoiding stink bugs.

You know what? It turns out there was other crap I needed to know. There’s other rules to this game that no one told us about. Those of you out there who think when you grow up, you’ll know all the answers? It’s like freakin’ hockey, man. They’re makin’ up rules as they go along! There’s all kinds of stuff I don’t know, that I never learned in kindergarten.

Like how do you tell if somebody is laughing at you or laughing with you?

And don’t ask them. They’ll tell you they’re laughing with you. Every time. You’ll never know.

You can’t tell ‘em. “You can’t be laughing with me. I’m not laughing.” You know what they say?

“You’re laughing on the inside.”

I’m not. I’m not laughing on the inside. On the inside, I’m a black sticky pit of despair. All the good stuff’s on the outside! If I’m not laughing on the outside, I’m not laughing!

I waited way too long to discover that drama is over-rated. It took me far too long to realize that being right is not as important as being patient, and that you can’t make a Federal case out of everything.

I still don’t really know when it’s appropriate to settle. Or the difference between settling, and knowing your limitations. Or how playing to your strengths is different from taking the easy way out. So I have no clue when I’m maturely choosing my battles, or simply being a girly-man.

I don’t get which side of a sheet is supposed to go up. You’d think that would be simple.

And nobody told me I was going to start channeling my father.

Except my father.

And half the crap he told me is still wrong, but I can’t stop saying it. I don’t even believe half of what I tell my kids, but suddenly I go stiff, and my jaw hangs open, and my father’s disembodied voice comes out and says “You’ve got to study your algebra, it’s an important skill for your future.” But inside I’m thinking “screw that, as soon as they invented the calculator I quit counting on my toes, and I’ve never had to figure out which train gets to Chicago first ‘cuz I’ve never gone to Chicago, ‘cuz I was too busy punching a time clock and telling my kids they need to wear clean underwear!”

I wish I’d learned how to plan for the future without waiting for the future.

You know what they don’t tell you? They don’t tell you growing up sucks, and that you could choose not to do it. Look around! I see people all the time acting like children, and I open my mouth, and my father’s disembodied voice says “Oh grow up!”

But he’s wrong.

You know that thing you wanted to do when you were a kid? You should have done it. You should still be doing it. Go do it now.

Some people say it’s great to know what you want to be when you grow up.

They’re wrong.

If you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, you’re not disappointed when you end up being that guy who scrapes the crap off that thing in that place. You start out with no plan, now you know what you’re doing every day. That’s better than a lateral move.

But if you know what you want to be when you grow up, really know with all your soul, then you know the disappointment of being the guy who scrapes the crap off that thing in that place. It’s like always buying the same six numbers on the lottery ticket every week. Stupid move. Plain stupid. You pick a random quick pick, you skip a week, you’ve got no idea if you would’ve won or not. No problem.

But you pick the same numbers every week, then miss a week? You know about the loss. You know the pain of having the numbers, and being too stupid and lazy to stop an extra five lousy minutes at the liquor store ‘cuz you wanted to get home in time to see the latest episode of “Jackass”.

It would have been very good to know how much you can tell your landlord is “normal wear and tear”. Nobody told me that having friends over to get stoned and draw sex murals on the wall with a magic marker isn’t “normal wear and tear”.

I don’t understand airports. I still don’t know which line to get in, and I always end up waiting for twenty minutes to find out my boarding pass is at the freakin’ gate.

I would love to know the difference between having a dream and being a dreamer.

Most people don’t know how to have a conversation. Having a conversation requires two very simple steps.

“Listen carefully. Respond appropriately.” You just trade off. When one guy is responding appropriately, you should be listening carefully. When you’re through listening carefully, you should respond appropriately. What’s the other guy doing? Listening carefully.

But most people “wait impatiently, and spew cathartically”. This is no way to have a conversation. This is one of the rules everyone needs to know. “Listen carefully, respond appropriately.” How hard is that? It’s not complicated. It’s not rocket surgery, it’s not brain science.

Women freak me out. There is no manual for women.

I don’t know if women really mean it when they say it happens to all guys once in a while.

I don’t have a clue how to tell if a woman is interested in me, I don’t know the difference between love and a crush, and I don’t know the difference between making the first move and entertaining a sexual harassment suit.

And I still haven’t learned how not to fall in love with the wrong woman.

Or how not to fall in love with the right woman, but at the wrong time.

So here’s the deal.

Just saying “please” doesn’t mean you get what you want. It won’t get your ass out of work early, it won’t get you to the head of the line at the Blockbuster, and it won’t get you the girl of your dreams. Sharing your toys only means that after the play date, half your toys go home with your play buddy, and you get to visit them on alternate weekends and half of Christmas vacation. And taking a nap when you’re tired just means you wake up with post-it notes and paper clips stuck to the side of your face, your password to the intranet changed, and an escort out to the parking lot with all your worldly possessions stuffed in a copy paper box.

Rules? Always changing.

Lessons? Always too late.

Love? Sucks.

Nobody is right all the time, you will never satisfy everyone, and being finished is never gonna happen. Life is a process, my friend, not an event. We are like sharks. If we stop moving, we die.

Choose your battles. Play to your strengths. Cut your losses.

That’s it. That’s all I got.

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