Recently, I’ve been complaining that I never received my “Adult Memo.” You know what I’m talking about. That magical publication that was supposed to arrive sometime in our mid-20s and describe in glorious detail how, exactly, to function as an adult. Finally and definitively. Clearly. Laid out like a Vegas buffet, just waiting for me to dive in and gorge myself on responsibility, reliability, and cocktail shrimp. I’m 32. I’ve been waiting a good decade for that thing to arrive. I was complaining about this to my mother this past weekend, and she just said, “Hey, management is dealing with some serious backlog right now. You’ve gotta figure it out for yourself.”

Touche, mommy.

So, without further delay, and in absence of the real thing, here is my version of the Adult Memo: Your Definitive Guide to Adulting.

1. Wash all of your sheets, your pillow cases, your towels, and even your bathmats at least once a week. Dust is something like 95% sloughed off human skin. Your body is covered in billions of microscopic bugs (most of them good, so don’t freak out). Your lose an average of 200 hairs a day. Your skin maintains its elasticity and coloring by producing buckets of oil and grease a year. You are a gross, disgusting animal (if you doubt me, just take a look at your pillow underneath the pillow case). Wash it all. Regularly.

2. Clean out your hairbrush. Once, I was in a friend’s bathroom, and noticed that her hairbrush was packed full of hair. “Don’t you ever clean this out??” She shrugged, “Why? I’m the only one who sees it, and I don’t care. It still works.” Well, here’s why: Because you should care. Because you are worth a clean hairbrush. Because self care isn’t just about getting out the tangles. It’s also about making sure that while you’re making yourself beautiful you’re not leaving any ugly behind. Because there’s something satisfying about cleaning up after yourself. Finally, clean your hairbrush because just ewww, man.


"That's disgusting."

3. Finish what you start. Especially if it’s hard.

4. Know when to quit. Especially if it’s toxic.

5. Don’t put fabric softener in a load of laundry that includes towels. It reduces their absorption properties.

6. This is how you fold a fitted sheet. You’re welcome. (And special thanks to Brandon, who taught the entire wing of the Honor’s Dorm at Ohio Northern University how to fold one during our first week of college.)

7. Remember to rinse off your chicken after you take it out of the package. Pat it dry with paper towels before slicing, seasoning, and cooking it. And don’t thaw it on the counter. I know, I know, it’s faster, but salmonella in your kitchen doesn’t exactly bring all the boys to the yard. Addendum: It came to my attention that rinsing your chicken actually serves to spread more bacteria, which, coincidentally, will definitely not be bringing all the boys to the sink. Instead, just remember to cook it thoroughly and to the proper temperature, and deal with slimy feeling chicken beforehand.

8. Try to find a good news source and let it keep you regulalry informed. I don’t care which one you choose. But think about it. Try all of them. Really. Try them. And don’t be afraid to think carefully about why you like the one you picked. It’s okay to like Fox News because you feel as though you agree with them more often than not. Recognizing our personal preferences and our personal biases (and how those preferences and biases shape our decisions) will let all of us realize the individuality of choice, the idea that what is meaningful to me is not necessarily meaningful to you. And that’s okay. Just make sure that you do listen to the news, that you do know a little bit of what’s going on.

9. Let it go. All of it. Learn from it. But let it go.


I get chills every time she pulls her hair down. Every. Time.

10. Learn how to drive a stick. And how to change your own oil. Just once, get grease packed so deeply underneath your fingernails that you can’t wash it out.

11. Your office/home/place of employ can and will survive without you. So stop acting as though the entire operation will shut down without you there. Being valuable. Making things better. Increasing efficiency. That’s just called “being a good employee.” It means that you are in a vocation that is suitable for you. It does not mean that you are a precious lynchpin of awesome, made of diamond-encrusted unobtainium. You are a cog made of number 6 plastic. Without you, the machine won’t work as well, it’s true. It’ll need a few adjustments. Maybe a rebuild. But, ultimately, the engines will all fire accordingly, and the whole thing will puff on. Feel useful. Feel important. But every now and then, realize that you ARE, in fact, a cog. It’s not a terrible thing. Cogs get to take vacations.

12. Take a class. Piano. Drawing. Defensive driving. Hungarian folk dancing. Take a class.

13. Remember that 99.99% of people are good. Or, at least, that 99.99% of people are trying to be good, as they have defined those terms. Don’t be afraid to trust people.

14. Quit worrying about your image and just buy a minivan already. They’re fucking amazing.

15. My engineer of a husband once told me a valuable lesson about limits. He said that many mathematical equations (things that most people consider finite, clear, unimpeachable, and definitive) are not “pure” equations. Rather, they only work within certain limitations. You go too far on either extreme, and the math just stops working. It’s the same with life. “Normal” is a surprisingly large range. Nobody feels “normal” because we all have a tendency to think it’s much narrower than it really is. We’re all weird. We’re all outsiders. We’re all non-conformists. We all fit within the equation, more or less. So, go ahead, play with your limits. Figure out where you feel the best, where all the numbers add up. But, remember, at some point even math stops working. Just be aware of that. Be weird. Weird is fantastic. But if you go too far, the very equations of society stop working. That’s why we have laws. That’s why we have cohesion. Community. To keep the math working.

Sometimes, limits aren’t a bad thing.

And with that, the most adult sentence anyone has ever written in the history of ever, I conclude my Adult Memo. Now all I have to do is figure out how to follow the damn thing…

What would you add to your own Adult Memo?

Addendum #2: One more point.

16. Call your mother. She is your inspiration after all, even if you don’t realize it. Love you, ma.