They do not tell you the actually useful things.
There are no rules in adulthood. On the surface, this sounds exciting.
You can eat ice cream for breakfast. You can eat ice cream for breakfast!
For instance, college, right there, was the last time you will be given free food three times a day. And it goes further than that.
There is nobody checking up on you.
This is great. You can sneak out late at night and smoke, creepily, behind the middle school! Whatever the thing was that you always wanted to do when you were growing up, but couldn’t, because there were people checking up on you, you are free to do now! Go wild! Get ill-advised tattoos everywhere on your body!
This is also terrible, for all the reasons listed above.
At a certain point, nobody asks how you are doing any more. I mean, everyone asks, but nobody does. “How are you?” is a greeting, and the appropriate response to the greeting is “Great.” If you actually start saying how you are, (“Well, today, I tried to wake up, and I just didn’t, and then I stood in the shower around 3 p.m. for thirty minutes muttering about futility to myself, so, I guess, better than last Thursday?”) people stare at you oddly, because you are breaking one of the unstated rules of conversation. If they actually wanted to know how you were, they would find some other way to ask.
You can eat ice cream for breakfast. But it’s because there is nothing else in the refrigerator, and instead of feeling elated — “Hey! Yeah! Ice cream for breakfast!” — you feel this overwhelming dejection at the fact that no one is there to stop you.
Also, for the first time ever you feel actually dejected that there are no beans.
It turns out that all the things you used to find unpleasant to eat as a child are delicacies, and all the things you most enjoyed are cheap, easy to prepare and bad for you. You pass other people your age in the microwave aisle and pull despondent faces at each other.
You can wear ill-fitting slacks and weird hats and argyle socks that do not match and nobody will stop you. You can go to work looking like Ugly Betty on a bad day, or Bertie Wooster left to his own devices during one of Jeeves’ shrimping vacations, and no one will bat an eye.
You can, if you like, stay up until 4 a.m. because you feel an overwhelming compulsion to learn everything there is to learn about Liberace. I don’t recommend it, but you can. Nobody stops you. Your neighbors might pound on the wall if you start to laugh hollowly at the 5 a.m. mark, but then again they may not.
You don’t have to go to the gym. You don’t have to go to the gym EVER. No one obliges you to. If you don’t, there are no tangible and present consequences.
In real life, there is no bed-time.
I would say that the universe is vast, cold, bleak and indifferent, but this is not true. Sometimes the universe sends you an e-mail to let you know that you have exceeded your monthly data limit.
It’s not that life is terrible, exactly. It’s not. There are happy hours. And hours at bars where drinks are offered at a discount! At first, you go raring out into the world shouting, “I’m going to be a real adult! I’m going to be like all those people in the commercials!” You are going to find a Real Apartment! You are going to buy cleaning supplies! You are going to grout all the tile, yourself, and do laundry every week, and color-code things and can your own preserves and inflict them on your unsuspecting friends! And at first you do, and it’s kind of fun. But then you realize that these are not Fun Things You Can Stop Doing at Any Time. They are actually the basic requirements of adult life, and if you stop doing them, your apartment starts to smell weird and attract rodents, and your social circle diminishes quickly. As Ally Brosh memorably expressed, you go from “Clean All The Things!” to “Clean ALL the things?” mode pretty quickly.
But so does everybody else.
In short, adult life is a bunch of cats running into walls. None of us has any idea what we are doing.