* Reprinted with the permission of “The Pineapple Report,” my daughter and her friends’ seventh-grade homeschool newspaper; I occasionally contribute as a “Guest Reporter-at-Large” (although the editorial board still refuses to run my “Hunger Games” fan fiction—lame).
Somehow I find myself in the year 2021, a grown man with two children. One is a 13-year-old daughter. (Note: I also have a 10-year-old son, but he didn’t invite me to write a guest column for his homeschool newspaper, so… that’s enough about him).
Naturally, I think a lot about myself at her age… like, why all the acid wash? How long did it take to grow a mullet that long? And what happened to that old Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” Trapper Keeper?
Oh, there are so many things I wish I could tell could the 13-year-old me. In the interest of time, in no particular order, here are 13:
■ Make your own breaks. Life won’t just hand you opportunities… unless you’re incredibly attractive or obscenely wealthy. You’re neither.
■ No matter how embarrassing, no matter how much you fear your parents’ response, grown-up problems require grown-up solutions—maybe even a lawyer. Remember this in eight years when a routine traffic stop in rural Indiana leads to a full K-9 unit search of your car and you spend the night sharing a jail cell with two neo-Nazi skinheads instead of calling mom and dad.
■ Learn to type. Your fingers are hopelessly too uncoordinated for the 21st century.
■ Pay attention to where you are, at least as much as to where you’re going. Because once you pass it, it’s gone… and suddenly you find yourself 20 years down the road, belting out “Baby’s Got Back” whenever it plays on the classic hits station.
■ There’s a whole wide world outside your hometown. Don’t wait until your 30s to venture and explore beyond it, because your kids will suck all your time and energy. I mean, these days you can barely manage belting out “Baby’s Got Back” whenever it plays on the classic hits station.
■ Enjoy your hair while you still can!
■ Save all your original Star Wars action figures, not to mention your Masters of the Universe Castle Greyskull Playset. You can retire on that stuff.
■ Don’t be such a smart-ass to your mom. You and your sister really let her have it… and that’s why your own kids are such smart-asses to you, thank you very much, karma.
■ If you want to be good at something, practice… even if you’re naturally talented. Actually, especially if you’re naturally talented. That just makes practice more effective.
■ Good things come to those who wait. Except filing your taxes. Don’t camp on that.
Work on self-control—in all aspects of your life, but particularly with respect to peanut butter. You cannot keep that stuff in your house.
■ You get what you pay for… except for your MFA in Creative Writing. That turns out to be a real waste of a fairly sizable student loan. Learn how to operate an excavator instead.
■ Thirty-two years from now, when your daughter and her friend invite you to write a guest column for their seventh-grade newspaper, say “yes.” The year 2020 winds up going sideways, and then 2021 begins with even further wackiness—I won’t tell you how; I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise. Anyway, composing a completely fresh little piece of writing, purely for the joy of it, proves the perfect diversion from… well, everything.
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears twice monthly in Neighbors.