Life is full of lists of things to do. Things to do get done on the weekend, things to shop for at the supermarket, things to do before you’re 30, things to do before you die. Weeded the patio? Bought milk? Swam with dolphins? Have you done it yet? Have you done it yet? HAVE YOU DONE IT YET!?
There isn’t much time! Soon you’ll be brittle, saggy and bitter at the things you never got to do. Magazines are full of them. Pretentiously aspirational lists of vineyards to visit, plays to watch, and independent films to scratch your chin to; but what about the real experiences in life? We’re not all going to go backpacking around Asia, broadening our minds by eating horse eyes and shouting very loudly in fractured English at everyone. What about the experiences that truly carve you into the distinguished and learned human being you are today? The shit stuff. Here’s a proper list of things you should have done before you die:
1. Get abjectly humiliated at school
I’m a bit of a veteran in this area. I’ve fallen face first in mud in front of a waiting science class, forgotten to do up my flies on numerous occasions, had my mum turn up to class with my forgotten lunch and been kicked in the face with a football so hard, it broke my glasses and left a glasses-shaped bruise around my face. All of these were valuable learning experiences and taught me, more than anything, that no matter how bad life gets, at least I’m not in school anymore.
2. Make terrible life choices
Knowing what you want to do with your life is great and gives you the confidence to aim for your ultimate goal. But it’s a bit dull knowing exactly where you’ll end up, isn’t it? Quit your well paid job, live under a bridge! Regret living under a bridge and get another job, quit that job as well! Marry a prostitute called Brandy and have two lovely children who also become prostitutes! Catch the clap!
3. Crash into something
I of course wouldn’t promote intentionally causing accidents in order to have a life changing epiphany. But I wouldn’t discourage it either. Having a near death experience is a life affirming way of realising things could have been a lot worse. Anyone who calls themselves an experienced driver for example will attest to smashing their car at least once into something (preferably not another person). It doesn’t have to be a car either; flying headlong over your bicycle handlebars and into a thorny thicket is a good way to make yourself thankful you’re still alive to go into work on Monday.
4. Cry at a party
Did you stumble across the guy/girl you fancy playing tonsil tennis with another guy/girl? Did your friends leave you and disappear somewhere cooler? Or has the DJ started playing the song that’s all about you? There’s no shame in slinking off for a bit of a sulk. After all, you’re young, hormonal and raw to these new feelings and your face is probably covered in spots. What’s not to cry about? It may not be your party, but you can cry if you want to.
5. Waste a whole weekend binge-boxsetting
Binge-boxsetting usually can’t be planned. It starts off with wanting to watch one episode of your favourite TV show box set and ends up as a 48 hour, bleary eyed marathon with the curtains drawn and the telephone off the hook. You feel guilty, nothing’s been achieved, but at least you’ve caught up with all the episodes of Gray’s Anatomy. Actually, is that really a good thing?
6. Stand in something unpleasant
This truly is a metaphor for life; watch where you’re stepping or you’ll end up in the shit. Nothing ruins your day or embarrasses more than having to find somewhere to scrape the mess off your nice clean shoes. One moment you’re a striding, confident go-getter with your aim in sight, the next you’re a paranoid shell, too ashamed to look passers-by in the eye for fear of giving away your dark, smelly shame. You do the best you can wiping your feet on a strip of turf, but you know it’s still there as you saunter back home to begin the unceremonious task of scrubbing off some canine’s pongy leavings.
7. Live off a measly budget
They say you never understand how important things are until they’re not there anymore. We all know we enjoy things more when we’ve earned them, even if all we’ve earned is enough to buy us a few cans of value baked beans and hot water for a night. Nothing gives you the confidence and the determination to better your life then when you’re failing to start your 20 year-old Ford Fiesta on a frosty January morning. You can tell yourself that one day it won’t be like this, and if you’re lucky and have overcome the previous 6 steps, maybe it won’t be.
8. Be the cause of a disastrous error at work
It’s been a tough old week. You’re probably a bit new to the job, everyone’s left you alone to get on with it and in that time, you’ve inadvertently deleted every customer’s account off your network drive, or forgot to pass on a really important message, or broken something quite expensive and then put it back like you never touched it. You don’t know how you did it, but you’re pretty sure someone will find out quite soon. The fear swells up in your throat and you can feel yourself going red. Your colleagues try to talk to you about what you did on the weekend, but your minds is so wracked with guilt and fears of losing your job that all you can do is smile and try and work out a plan of action/excuse before someone inevitably calls your name in a severe tone. Do you come clean? Have you left it too late to come clean? Do you blame it all on poor old Harold the caretaker? Or do you just run away and never come back?
Whatever you do, your actions from hereon in will define who you are and how long you’re likely to keep your job for.
9. Win a thumb war
Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But its little victories like this that can take us from feeling like a zero to strutting around like a hero. Equally, swallowing your pride and losing like a man can often mean you can outshine the gloating winner with your impressively mature attitude. Shake their hand, congratulate them on their minor win and if it’s still bothering you that much (you weirdo), go and sob quietly in a toilet cubicle for a bit. Just tell them you went for a number two.
10. Wake up from a really awful, realistic dream and realise it’s not that bad
We already know that a near-death experience can have us breathing a sigh of relief for still having our limbs and life intact, but short of legging it across a live rail line or leaping out of a burning building, you’ve probably made the sensible choice and lived long enough not to stare into the cold eyes of death. Vivid nightmares however, are a lot harder to avoid and when they happen, you’re never more grateful than when you wake up and realise that you’re not actually eating a maggot sandwich or being ruled over by a gargantuan flock of menacing blue tits, which are also quite partial to human eyes. You can wipe your brow with relief and be glad you have you’re able to see off yet another monotonous day at work.
You can tell your boss that nothing’s going to get you down today, because giant, despotic birds aren’t eating your eyes. You’ll probably then be asked to take a drugs test.