Grow up, stupid: Being poor

Words by Jack Vening

Published on October 21, 2013

Important hints and tips on how to be an adult.

First of all, before anything, make sure to grow up not fully understanding the value of hard work. Don’t be hard on yourself about it — let your parents float your teenage years through to young adulthood while you try to learn as little as possible. Not knowing very much will be important later.

Years later when you’re beginning to wake up, watch in vain as your laziness almost destroys several wonderful job prospects and creative opportunities as you’re powerless to stop it. Try not to feel too horrible about wasting several years of your life as you watch someone clearly younger and more fancily dressed than you walking into a condominium where, for some reason, they are legally allowed to live, their arms full of shopping bags genuinely made of brown paper, filled with magical food blessed by the living King of Europe. You’re not poor yet, of course, because while this is happening you’re not a proper grown-up. You’ll have savings and only half a HECS debt. You will be comfortable, lucky beyond reason.

Then, graduated, at a time where life is moving slow and not much money is coming in, take some advice to follow your dreams. Interpret this to mean spending all your savings on a trip, an ocean voyage that you’re sure will open new paths, develop new horizons, etc. Think about how it will make you work and probably draw blood into parts of your body reserved for cave-men hunting mammoth. Do not plan for the voyage accordingly, or make sure you have enough left in your account to cover your rent. Do not make the decision to go until around two weeks before. Bless your employers for not throwing you out on the street by the seat of your pants; let heaven protect them always.

It will be wonderful, but don’t be disappointed when you leave this exercise without a tremendous new lease on life. Some things will float through your dumb head: you will spend the first few days staring into the sea and knowing that from now on you are going to be more honest, though the focus of this honesty will be undecided, and you will forget about it soon enough. You will have vindication from life-long sailors that your choice of degree is not a good choice for a degree, but that you can always do something else. When you tell an air-force lecturer, for example, that you studied creative writing, he will laugh and laugh in that alarming way that nearly makes him sick. He will be pink as a baby. You will bring him water.

Return. It is now time to live from pay-cheque to pay-cheque, which is something you’ve somehow avoided the entire time you’ve been alive. People have been doing this for a long time, and the transition will be quick. Laugh at the audacity of Coles asking four dollars for a bag bread rolls. Pull your hair. Think about how smart it probably was for all your high-school friends to become drug-dealers, who maybe all now live in condominiums and buy food in brown paper-bags. You will get good at never leaving your house. You will learn to love instant coffee.

Never steal, but be liberal in how much you accept from people, and try to exercise moderation in your stinginess. When your parents invite you to Sydney to take you to what you’re told is one the best restaurants in the country, don’t cuss-out the taxi driver for adding a few beans onto your charge. You are going to one of the best restaurants in the country, you dick. Your last three dinners were cereal and now you are going to be drinking from a $500 wine course. You will be eating better than the popes in heaven. You will consume fish you never thought existed, and the bathroom will be stocked with cotton hand towels for which there are no guards to see you take.

Afterwards, you will lie in your hotel bed and feel panicky at the thought of someone walking into that bathroom and catching you drinking from the bathroom tap like a dog (the expensive wine will make you thirsty), with your pockets stuffed with expensive hand towels. You weren’t caught, but you could have been. What then? Would you be banned from working in schools? Would your parents have to slave in the basements of fancy restaurants until their hearts gave out?

Don’t do this. Lay and be full and grateful and understanding of your station. Be thankful for everything gifted. Never question the wine offered to you, and sleep.

Jack Vening is a regular columnist for Stilts.