If you happen to find yourself with the ability to learn many of life’s lessons with a relative degree of ease, then consider yourself incredibly lucky!
Whether it’s my clumsy, absent-minded nature, or a tendency towards momentary lapses in judgement, there are a few things that I’ve come to learn as a result of doing things the hard way, making my own mistakes, or literally just forgetting how to human. I hope you enjoy, and I want you to know that you have my sincere condolences if you relate.
1. The order that you put together an email should be: add attachments, write email body, add email addresses, send.
Let’s not have any repeats of the time I sent nothing except the word, ‘Hello,’ to my college professor, somehow missing the gmail window to unsend, before also forgetting to attach my research paper in the apologetic email and amendment to follow.
Believe me when I say, ‘please find attached’ just hits differently when there’s absolutely nothing attached to be found.
2. Don’t take your family canoeing in a flood.
This should really be a two-parter that starts with ‘don’t ever let anyone under the influence purchase a canoe.’
It was early afternoon on Christmas Eve, 2016, and my parents were probably on their third concoction of vegan eggnog and cinnamon whiskey. It had been raining for four days straight, and the river had burst it’s banks flooding our backyard, the woods behind our house, and the tennis courts across the street.
Bear in mind, we’re talking a proper flood, here, too: around 6–8ft deep in some areas, but it’s Alabama and the water is warm. Anyway, a few hours go by and my family and I are beginning to feel a little stir crazy locked up in the house together — and also maybe just drunk, in my parents case.
They make the executive decision that we should all go for a family canoeing trip, as mother nature was practically so kind as to drop the adventure off at our door-step, so off to the sports good store to purchase a boat, they went.
I’ll spare you the details of what five people being stranded in the trees for 6 hours, in the dark, above raging flood water, on Christmas Eve, looks like. We made all the local newspapers, radio casters called us dumbasses on the air, and as for my family, we collectively agreed that maybe canoeing wasn’t going to be our next holiday tradition.
3. Don’t try to go up a down escalator.
I’m a little sad I really had to learn this one — also, falling down an escalator really, really hurts.
The embarrassment of trying to explain why me — a grown ass adult — thought it would be a good idea to quickly try and ‘hop off’ the down escalator as I became struck with the fear of having gotten on when I wasn’t supposed to, will forever haunt me.
Bruised and bloody knees are not worth the extra 30 seconds you might save. Ride that baby down to the ground and go back up the other side like a normal human being.
4. You don’t have to ask for permission to throw-up.
I’ll give myself some credit here — it was 9th grade and I wasn’t the type of kid who liked to break the rules.
We used to have those hallway passes that would have to be signed by a teacher in order for you to leave the room or go to the bathroom (a load of bullshit by the way). So, when I raised my hand knowing full and well that I was not feeling great, only to be asked to bring my pass to her desk, it didn’t even occur to me not to oblige.
If you’re reading this Mrs. White, and fellow students of my 2013 English class: I’d just like to apologize for the fact that you had to witness that.
5. Don’t confuse drowsy and non-drowsy cough medicine.
That, or you risk scaring the life out of your mother, and almost having the police called as she walks into your room, and finds you sat up in bed, math homework in your lap and completely unresponsive, in one of the deepest, most dead-to-the-world sleeps of your life.
Safe to say I wasn’t allowed to self-administer my own cough medicine for a while — that stuff will knock you out cold and maybe even convince your family that you’ve died, no-less.
6. Autopilot is not a safe mode for everything
You know those times you’ve been driving for a fifteen whole minutes and can’t even consciously remember pulling out of the neighborhood? That’s not particularly safe, I would assume, but, as I have regrettably come to find out, neither is doing any of these other things on autopilot, either:
making morning coffee at the same time as stirring the bowl of breakfast for your dog
throwing what you think to be your phone onto your bed while you supposedly keep hold of the cup of water in your hand
taking off your makeup when the bottles of face cleanser and nail-polish remover are dangerous close to one another
licking what your brain has subconsciously rationalized to be ‘icing’ off of your hand after you just finished applying deodorant
7. Don’t fall asleep on the beach.
I’m the kind of person that needs to shop in the kids sunscreen section just to find an spf that goes high enough to protect me. I am extremely freckly and fair, and my cheeks are as red as apples, even in the middle of winter.
Someone explain to me, then, why I thought it would be a good idea to take a quick nap on the beach without wearing a drop of protection from the sun, one vacation? A two. hour. nap.
Heed my painfully lobster-faced warning, and don’t mistake an overcast sky for one that’s void of the sun’s rays. Definitely don’t head to the beach before first putting on sunscreen, and certainly don’t fall asleep without a setting an alarm.
8. Pack the items you need the most first when travelling
Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to arrive at your destination in the middle of no-where Tennessee, only to find that you forgot to pack any underwear and that all the not-so-local shops are closed for the three day holiday weekend.
Going commando isn’t all that bad, but when the luxury of making that decision for yourself is both physically, and mentally, stripped from you, it becomes a lot less badass and a lot more sadass.
9. There is a time and place to read, trying to do so while walking is not it.
I am naturally a very fast walker. Despite being only 5ft3, there is a power in my stride that challenges any fellow walker to keep up, and I have been known to get where I’m going with an unnecessary amount of determination and speed.
This is why it almost pains me to share, that there is a scar on my right hand that serves as a permanent reminder of the time I tried to walk across the university courtyard with my head in a book.
The time I practically launched myself into the tree I never saw coming, and the time that approximately 20 whole people gathered around my bleeding body as it lay there at the base of this oak.
I walked so fast into a tree that I hit the ground and almost bounced — and that’s why this story will never be spoken aloud by me, ever again.
10. Don’t send photos of your laptop screen without checking every inch of the screen
You know that feeling when you send a text to the wrong person? Or even worse, the text in question happens to be talking about said person behind their back? Well imagine sending a photo of your laptop screen to your crush and failing to notice that their Facebook profile is listed as one of the ‘frequently visited’ suggestions by google.
I think safari needs to update it’s algorithms because I visited that page twice, max. I’m not a stalker, but I did manage to avert the crisis by boldly adding him as a friend on Facebook shortly after, so as to establish some degree of purposefulness and sanity (that even I was beginning to doubt at this point).
11. Do ensure that you know how to pronounce the words/concepts/substances you’re giving a presentation on.
For higher level biology, I was tasked with designing an experiment, writing a research paper on the findings, and presenting them to my classmates and not one, — not two, — but three head professors within the science department.
The bulk of work all took place over the summer — it was an analysis of the antibacterial properties of echinacea extract, a wild herb used in traditional medicine — and somehow I made it the full duration of the experiment without ever hearing the name pronounced, or ever pronouncing it myself.
How do I know this?
Because when presentation day came along, I spent a PAINFUL twenty-five minutes calling this flower ‘ee-china-seeya’ when it’s actually pronounced ‘ehkin-ay-sha.’
Oh my god and why… oh why… am I like this?
Alexandra Walker-Jones — November 2020