The Unauthorized Guide to the Universe: Volume 2

Welcome to the Unauthorized Guide to the Universe, an advice column written by yours truly, The Universe. Listen in to others’ questions about life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness or submit your own by DM-ing @prhs_bear_truth on Instagram or leaving a comment below. All questions are anonymous.

Sincerely, The Universe.

How do I balance school, dance, and social life without feeling so overwhelmed?” -Balancing Beatrix

Dear Beatrix,

Have you ever been to the circus? Or maybe a magic show? Seen a busker on the street? Anyways, regardless, the circus is full of balancing acts: plate spinning, juggling random flammable objects, people on top of each other for some reason, elephants on top of other things (don’t tell PETA), walking or biking on a very thin rope, and walking on seriously unstable stilts, to just name a few. Essentially, the circus is full of people doing stupidly dangerous things for barely above minimum wage.

In many ways, if you really think about it, you could draw parallels between the circus and life. Balancing things? Multi-tasking? Risking your life for $11.10 an hour? People wearing top hats and fancy red jackets? The sky being replaced by a red-and-white-striped blanket? The list goes on.

You also might be questioning where I am going with this strangely specific circus analogy. Hold on for just a second longer. Let’s focus on one act- juggling. You can juggle pretty much anything if you practice long enough: plastic balls, oranges, bowling pins, swords, flaming miscellany. Let us say, for our analogy here, that we have a juggler juggling ceramic plates and flaming torches while balancing a glass of water on his head. Imagine this precarious predicament for a moment. Easier said than done, as the saying goes. How does the juggler perform this feat without spilling the water, burning himself, or breaking the plates? He gives each object a specific amount of devoted attention, without forgetting the rest of the items. While he is passing the plate from one hand to the other, he doesn’t forget the flaming torch flying above his head, but his priority in that specific moment is to pass the plate without dropping it. The same goes for the torch. And the glass of water? He keeps an eye on that too, readjusting his head or stance every once in a while to make sure it doesn’t spill.

Now pretend you’re the juggler, and the ceramic plate is school, the flaming torch is dance, and the glass of water is your social life. It honestly doesn’t matter which is which, but let’s go with these parallels for now. When you’re doing one thing, let’s say schoolwork, focus only on schoolwork for the specific amount of time you need to complete it. Give it your undivided attention. Next, when you’re practicing dance, think of nothing except dance. Don’t let yourself get distracted by the schoolwork you need to do before Wednesday. If you let yourself get distracted by the ceramic plate, the flaming torch is going to sail down on your head. Figuratively. In between focusing on dance and school, remember the glass of water / social life balancing on your head. Set specific times to focus on your friends as well, and don’t let yourself become preoccupied with Algebra 2 or your next audition while you’re with them.

A typical week for this juggling lifestyle may look like this, and you can even write a schedule down on paper if that helps: during school each day, focus on each task you are doing, whether it is listening to a lecture or writing an essay, for the seven-odd hours you’re there. Next, attend dance class and give it your all for however long the class is. When you’re grand jete-ing, don’t think about that essay in English. Think about grand jete-ing. After dance class, if you have homework, allot a specific time to finish that homework. And your social life? Text your friends when you’re driving between school and dance (that is, if someone else is at the wheel. I do not condone texting and driving), or schedule a time and place to meet up on Saturday. Set time to the side to eat dinner with your whole family and talk about everyone’s days.

To balance everything going on in your life, you must focus on each individual object while it is in your center view, without forgetting about everything in your periphery.

“How many gnomes is it socially acceptable to own?”Pointy-Hatted Perry

Dear Perry,

My mother (née Nature) is most likely even more infatuated with gnomes than you are. That isn’t a quantifiable amount, I’ll admit, but it’s true nonetheless. Though I love gnomes a good bit, alongside mushrooms and frogs, I am not nearly as much of an expert on this subject as she is, so I thought it would be far more helpful if she answered your question. Here is her response, verbatim:

“You know, no two gnomes are alike. Therefore, you can never have enough… Asking how many gnomes is socially acceptable is like asking which of your children is your favorite. Those questions cannot be answered. People who feel that there should be a limit placed on the number of gnomes one should own obviously don’t get it [it being the undeniable allure of red-hatted, slightly chubby garden figures]. Therefore, they can be ignored.”

There is no limit. If anyone tells you there is, you can stab them with a tiny pitchfork borrowed from your most recently adopted gnome.

“What’s the best way to ask someone to prom?” -Corsaged Calvin

Dear Calvin,

Ah, yes, the quintessential high school experience that is Prom. A social ritual circulating a cloud of social anxiety and pressure, at its very core is the essence of really bad music. As The Universe themself, I never had the chance to go to Prom, as I was far too busy plotting the creation of all the things you hold dear. That being said, I would say I know a good bit about the concept, and I also know a good bit about human nature, so I think I can help you out.

If you’re nervous, there’s a good chance that the subject of your attention is as well. That is, if they indeed know of your existence. (If they don’t, that’s a whole other rabbit hole.) For the sake of simplicity, let us focus on two outside characters: Ira and Quinn. Ira and Quinn are fairly good friends, though not close enough for this to not be awkward. Ira fancies Quinn a fair bit and thinks that the upcoming Prom is a fairly good opportunity to confess their feelings to Quinn. Quinn loves Shakespeare, which Ira is aware of. What would the best way to ask Quinn to Prom be? Recite a Shakespearean monologue, of course. I’d suggest Romeo and Juliet– no matter what people say, it can never be a cliché. What Ira doesn’t know is that Quinn just so happens to fancy Ira right back. Quinn is just as nervous about Prom as Ira is because Quinn has a suspicion that Ira may just pop the question any day now. What Ira should do is acknowledge the mutual anxiety and approach the topic with genuineness and sincerity. Ira should keep it lighthearted (ah yes, a lighthearted recitation of the “What light through yonder window breaks?” soliloquy) and always keep an eye on whether Quinn is looking for an escape route or not. (If they are, gracefully allow them to escape.) Chances are, Quinn will most certainly say YES to Ira, and feel touched that Ira remembered their love for the old Shaky Pierre.

Now to apply this back to your own life: analyze your subject of affection (no, not stalking) and try to funnel your proposition through one of their interests. Are they fascinated with gardening? Write your question on the back of a seed packet. If you’re particularly ambitious, you can plant seeds in the shape of the letters of said question, but that would take a few months’ advance planning.

A few more quick pointers: if you’re feeling awkward, chances are the apple of your eye is feeling awkward too. Laugh over your mutual awkwardness. If said apple says YES, feel free to have a dance party when you get home. If they say NO, that’s probably going to suck, I won’t water it down. Alas, you should stand back up and dust yourself off, and please, for the love of Mother Nature, do not hold it against the subject of your affection and subsequent rejection. If they are doing it out of a mean spirit, you probably don’t want to be with them anyways. If they simply do not return the exact same feelings that you hold for them, it’s no one’s fault. You’ll find the right apple eventually. After all, it’s only high school. It’s not the end of the world. Lastly, holding up giant posters in the middle of lunch for all to see is probably a bad idea, but writing “PROM?” in contrails using a jet is always a good one.

“What is love?”Existential Esmerelda

Dear Esmerelda,

Why must you be so inquisitive? Though I am the Universe, Creator of Everything and Overlord of the Human Race, I do not know everything.

If I were to try to answer your question, I’d say that love has no definition. It means different things to different people and you simply must figure out what that definition is yourself. Sorry-not-sorry that I couldn’t be of more help.