“Adulthood for Beginners” author: I wanted to write it in a way that wouldn’t turn me off if I read it when I was a 23-year-old jerk.
This is a startling admission: I was once, many years ago, an idiot.
It was right after college. I was educated. But I was an idiot.
I knew the general rules of being a human being and living on my own, and I knew lots of stuff that came from books, but in the common sense and pragmatic life skills departments, I was sorely lacking.
Most people at that age are idiots. They’ll never admit it, of course. They have to go ahead and make a slew of idiotic mistakes and grow up a bit before they come around and acknowledge their past dumbness.
I’ve often wondered about smoothing out that transitional phase of life, clearing away at least a few of the rakes you’re bound to step on along the path between college and the workplace.
And now I’ve found at least a partial solution. Its name is Andy.
All those times I’ve looked back and considered my own numerous missteps, I never realized that what I needed during my days of idiocy was a dude named Andy who would occasionally lean in and say, “Hey, man, if you do that thing you’re about to do, people are going to think you’re a real (expletive).”
Not just any Andy will do, of course. The one I’m describing is Andy Boyle, and he’s the 31-year-old author of a hilarious and staggeringly sensible new book called “Adulthood for Beginners.”
Full disclosure: Andy used to work at the Chicago Tribune. I knew him when he was here, but not well. He’s a funny, likable guy, but he’s not a personal friend.
When he emailed me a copy of his book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. So I started reading. And I laughed because it’s funny. Then I laughed some more because it’s consistently funny. And then I thought, “Holy cow, this is a really good idea.”
The book is, truly, a guide to being an adult in the modern age. It covers everything from dating and making friends to keeping a schedule and setting goals. It talks about health and resume writing and social media. It spends a large amount of time on work, both finding a job and being a good person once you get there.
One of my favorite lines is: “Err on the side of not being an (expletive).”
You could pay good money for a life coach or a career adviser, but at the end of the day, that kind of advice makes a lot more sense.
It’s worth noting that the book contains a lot of profanity, but that’s part of what makes it authentic. This isn’t a scholarly work, and Andy doesn’t pretend he’s any kind of learned expert. He’s just a dude who has lived and made mistakes and learned a lot and now wants to share that information, with a heavy dose of humor.
“My goal was, I want to give all the advice I wish I had right when I was starting adulthood,” Andy told me. “I wanted to write it in a way that wouldn’t turn me off if I read it when I was a 23-year-old jerk. It was less about saying, ‘You must do it this way,’ and more about saying, ‘Here are the logical reasons why it worked for me and it might work for you as well.’”
When he talks about how to dress for interviews, he doesn’t lecture the reader; he just shoots from the hip: “Are you following standard ‘office’ norms? If so, you’re making the case you’re not an (expletive) weirdo.”
In a section called “Don’t Ruin Your Life on Social Media,” he writes: “Whenever I stop to think about whether or not I should be putting something up on one of my feeds, that’s usually a great indicator it’s a bad idea. Why else would my brain be going, ‘Whoa, dude, let’s think this one through!’ unless there’s an issue? Nine times out of ten, my instincts are right, so I don’t post whatever caused me to pause.”
This is basic stuff, of course. We know it all now (at least most of us do), but I don’t think we knew it back then, and that’s where the book has value.
Your sons or daughters, as young adults fresh out of college, are likely to tune you out if you start lecturing them about how to comport themselves at work. They’ll think they know better.
But they might listen to Andy. Because he’s delivering the information they need — even if they don’t know they need it yet — in a way that’s funny, easily digestible and altogether human.
What would be great is if people in that complicated phase of early adulthood read this book and humbly acknowledged they’re not as smart as they would like to believe. That would help them avoid myriad mistakes.
And they’d never have to look back later in life, as I did at the beginning of this column, and admit they were once, sadly and embarrassingly, idiots.
Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. Send him questions by email at email@example.com.