1. Strip yourself bare. Even the smallest addictions will weigh you down. Lock the liquor cabinet, smash the flatscreen, whatever your euphoria: burn it. Leave nothing but a scrap of paper and a pen.
2. Make a list of all your high school classmates who are more successful than you, then climb it. Use their names as footholds. They will tell you that this spite will turn you into a misanthrope or a Sith Lord, but it’s ok to be spiteful, as long as it can power a steam engine. It’s ok to be sad, salt water is an excellent conductor.
3. Fall in love. Convince them that you are the person you wish you were and you will work so hard to trick them into believing you that you might actually become it.
4. You are not magnificent. Burn your letter jacket, your ACT scores, everything that makes you feel advantageous. Then watch as the best minds of your generation choke on weed smoke, clutching IQ tests like a life raft. Talent spoils.
5. Go now. Consider this a sign that you’re never going to find that sign you’re looking for. The closest thing you’ll ever have to a near-death experience is actually dying. So go. Don’t wait until New Years or the semester’s over. There have been nine major apocalypse predictions over the last two years, eventually one will be accompanied by the apocalypse.
6. Until then: your bones will break against the current, your body will crumple under the waves tossed aside like a rough draft. You will curse your aspirations as unrealistic, but know this: out of every shipwreck sprouts a lighthouse, let your bones grow back straighter, but do not be afraid to break them again, know that although it feels like your body has sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic —that hungry grave— your body was made to float, to sail, to hope. Know that one day you will make it to shore."