Monday, September 9, 2013

Life's Instruction Manual

Congratulations. You are now eighteen years old and possess this text, Life's Instruction Manual. Some of this information will be review, but some you have never heard before. The table of contents is below. You have until 12:00 AM to have the book memorized. 

Table of Contents
(In No Order of Importance, Since You are Required to Remember Everything by Tomorrow Anyway)

Chapter 1: Paying the Bills
  1. Viable Employment Options: Money Laundering, Drug Trafficking, Stripping, and Porn are Not Included. 
  2. Job Searching.
    1. How to Not Act Like a Jerk at a Job Interview.
    2. Fast Food: You Often Get an Employee Meal.
    3. The Temp Agency: Friend or Foe?
    4. Putting Out a Shingle: Sorry, Business Skills Are Not Included In This Guide.
  3. Where to Store the Cash.
    1. The Advantages and Disadvantages of The Bank of Your Mattress.
    2. A Real Bank vs. a Credit Union.
    3. Cash, Check, Charge, or Debit.
      1. Don't Overdraw. Just Don't. 
  4. Pay Your Bills On Time. 
  5. Taxes.
    1. Saving Money on Filing. 
  6. Cars: Drains Bank Accounts, Usually Necessary in America.
Chapter 2: Minimizing Disease
  1. Exercise: You Can Do It In Your Apartment. 
    1. Yoga, Weight Lifting, and Ironmans: Only Good if You Know What You're Doing.
  2. Diet: Ramen Noodles Will Not Sustain You for Long Periods of Time.
  3. The Doctor:
    1. Free Clinics, University Laboratories, Your First Aid Kit, and the ER: The Providers for Medicaid Recipients and the Uninsured.
    2. Ice Packs and Heating Pads: Literally the Most Useful Tools in Pain Management.
    3. Making the Most of Your Five Minute Physical.
    4. Mental Health: Yes, Brains Hurt, Too.
    5. Alternative/Complimentary Medicine: Eh, Whatever Works.
I could keep going with a table of contents for a how-to on basic living, but that would take too long and would probably bore everyone who will view this blog entry. But you see where I'm going.

I still remember the first few days after my daughter's birth. Newborns don't know much of anything, but the most striking thing was that she didn't even know how to eat. Of course she had the instinct of, "Hey, this smells like something I should put in my mouth", but she didn't know the most effective way of eating or how her crying resulted in food. Someone who is a few minutes old doesn't know that crying is supposed to get a response - the cry is out of confusion or pain. Babies learn to use crying to communicate as time goes on.

People don't come out knowing anything, but they learn over the years by instruction from adults and imitation of what they see. There is a set of rules that kids are taught, often through mowing lawns or babysitting in return of money, setting aside time for homework, and being prompted to say please and thank you. Discipline, work ethic, and etiquette are the result. The basics.

Here's the problem: some babies aren't fed when they cry. There might not be money to give to a kid for an allowance or in return for chores. A school system might ostracize a kid because they aren't the right race or don't learn the right way or simply the teachers are underpaid and burned out and they don't have the means to be the educators they hoped to be. Not all kids learns "the basics." No one is handed a book called Life's Instruction Manual. We get what we get growing up, and then it's trial and error in adulthood.

We all have the responsibility to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally. But what happens when all of our knowledge of the world is rooted in abuse, poverty, and prejudice? We would need a modified frame of reference. Unfortunately, society isn't exactly set up to help with that.

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