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Check out Ilene Cooper's An Angel in My Pocket: or if you prefer easy readers, Lucy on the Loose! Or if you prefer picture books, The Golden Rule!

They're all great, and I'm not just saying that because Ilene Cooper made my whole life possible.

In which John talks about the crushing monotony and paralyzing terror of one's first years entering the post-school world of grown-ups, and how getting a mentor, like the one John found in the author Ilene Cooper, can get you through.


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A Bunny
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((') (')
Good morning, Hank; it's Wednesday August 31st. Apparently it's "Talk to People Other Than Your Brother" week. My shirt matches the boxes behind me — I'm gonna change. [Wearing a different shirt] Yeah, I think that's better. Although I wonder if we could take it down a button... No.

So, Hank, I want to address the people who have recently ended or will soon end their formal education and enter what is known as the "real world."

Okay, the first thing that you'll notice upon entering the real world is that it is neither more or less real than any of the previous worlds you have encountered. But you'll likely notice that the real world does have this interesting mix of, like, crushing monotony and paralyzing terror. (It's not a real world, it's more of a CMAPT world.)

Like there's the crushing monotony of waking up at the same time, sitting in the same traffic, going to the same job, and then coming home to pay the same bills with your only distractions being, like, television and video games and YouTube. But there's also the constant paralyzing terror of knowing that if you somehow screw up sitting in traffic or working at your job or paying your rent, you will be, like, homeless and hungry and alone. This is not to worry you or anything — I'm just telling you how it feels for a lot of people. I will say that adulthood gets much, much better.

Speaking of which: Last night my son puked on my face. Like, not on my shirt or on my shoulder or something, but on my actual, like, sensory organs. Babies do this all the time! They're like little puke factories. But to put this in context: even though a baby threw up on my face last night and I slept for like two hours, I would still rank last night as better than almost every night of the first two years after I graduated from college.

So it does get better; I promise. I know the crushing monotony and paralyzing terror can be a little bit overwhelming. Plus there's like a twenty percent chance that you're unemployed, and, like, a one hundred percent chance that you're underemployed. Like unless you're in a successful Time Lord rock band, you're probably not doing what you want to do everyday. How are you going to solve these problems? Two ways. Number one: Time. These things take time. Number two: You're going to get an Ilene.

So for a few months after I graduated from college I worked as a student chaplain at a children's hospital, then I bumped around a little until I got a job at Booklist magazine, where ninety percent of my job was typing ten-digit codes into a database. Kind of crushing monotony, to be honest with you. But I was surrounded by books and I had these amazing co-workers, most of whom were much older than I was. And they helped me to do all kinds of grown-up things, like opening a checking account and not crying so much when I would get dumped (which was frequently). But one of these colleagues at Booklist was a woman named Ilene Cooper, who's a writer. Ilene has published more than twenty books for children: from a picture book about the golden rule to a biography of JFK to a new novel called Angel In My Pocket that's just absolutely delicious.

One day I went into her office and I said, "I would like to take you out to lunch because I am also a writer and there is this book that I would like to write and it's going to be real good." She said okay and we went to the Cheesecake Factory, and I was like, "I have an idea for a book! It's set at a boarding school and in the middle this thing happens and then at the end... there's an ending." And Ilene said, "That sounds great."

Finally, early in 2002, I brought Ilene forty single-spaced pages. And for the next two years she worked with me to turn those forty single-spaced pages into a novel that would eventually become Looking for Alaska. The only reason Looking for Alaska exists; the only reason I have a job writing books; the only reason there's a Brotherhood 2.0 or Nerdfighteria, is Ilene.

Whoever you are, to get through the period of crushing monotony and paralyzing terror, you need an Ilene. And it can't be me, because for one thing I'm already trying to be an Ilene for a bunch of people. Like Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I was kind of a little bit of an Ilene for him. Not as much as an Ilene as Ilene is, but a little.

So that's my advice for navigating the treacherous waters of life after school: find someone doing something you want to do better than you can do it, and listen to them.

And you should really check out Ilene's book Angel In My Pocket for the middle-grade reader in your life — there is a link in the doobly-doo. It's great. Not the link, the book. The link is just a regular link.

I've signed forty two thousand copies of your books! And I am going to continue, but first I have to go to the doctor because my hand isn't working right and I've got to get occupational therapy. I wish I were making that up.

Hank, I will see you on Friday.