Possible Scenarios for Hell...With Toddlers

So, you did it. You died. You roll up to the pearly white gates high on premarital orgasms and liquor consumed before noon, your hands stuffed full of Chick-Fil-A sandwiches procured illegally on a Sunday (you know a guy), and whoever guards the gates - John? Paul? Ringo? - is there waiting for you like a bouncer at a night club. In this particular scenario, it is ladies night at Club Heaven, and you're the dude in a track suit who violates the dress code and can't come in.

Ringo points to the elevator across the street, and you walk over to investigate. The elevator has plain silver doors, no dents, no visible burn marks. Somehow you thought the entrance to hell would be more dramatic. Where's all that fire and brimstone? To the right of the doors is a panel with a single button shaped like an arrow pointing down and another one to go up that can only be accessed with a key. (Really, God? Keys?) You press the "down" button and the doors part with a barely audible "whooosh."

You step inside.

As the doors close and the elevator begins its descent, you're surrounded by the sounds of "Rude" by Magic! Notice how Magic! went ahead and added an exclamation point to the end of their name because they know they're so fucking terrible they must force you to feign excitement about their crap existence. Anyway, they're Magic! And they're accompanying your descent into hell. This is the first sign that maybe you should've been more careful about eating shellfish and wearing mixed fibers.

The doors open and you exit the elevator into an empty room with nothing but a small podium and an iPad opened to a video. It has a Post-It note taped to the front that says, "Play me." You press play and it's - why, it's Ann Coulter!

"Hello, [Your Name Here]. Welcome to Hell. I'm your host, Ann Coulter, also known as Satan. Ann is my human form. Sorry I couldn't be there to greet you in person, but I'm out robbing food banks on Christmas Eve and creating all the content for Fox News. When this video ends, a door across the room will open, and you'll be presented with your eternal reward. Something tells me you're going to have regrets about that tattoo now, Sinner. Enjoy!"

The door across the room opens, and you walk inside to find another empty room. Behind you, the door slams and then disappears. There is no in or out now. This is your personal hellscape. A toddler appears. He explains that he's the fallen angel assigned to your case. He's not actually a child; they all take the form of toddlers. They had a staff meeting and discussed the advantages of various hellacious creatures, but they kept coming back to toddlers as the best, most intense form of punishment. The rest of eternity, he explains, will be spent acting out various toddler-led scenarios. There will be no sleep, only bed-wetting and night terrors, lost blankets, and requests for new socks because these ones feel funny. There will be no wine, no nap time, no internet, and no one is ever coming to relieve you because it is NOT 5 o'clock somewhere. Here is a sample of how you will spend the rest of your days:

1. You're on a staircase with arms full of groceries. The toddler is in front of you. It's 97 degrees and one of your bags is about to break. The toddler wants to go up the stairs on all fours, and also, oh my God, is that a lady bug? I'm scared of lady bugs, Mommy. I'm going to stand very still on this step for 25 minutes, and - Look! Dirt! A French fry someone dropped. I'm going to eat it and your arms are too full to stop me. Let's scream! La-la-la-la-la-la-la. Okay, I'll take another step. Oops. My shoe fell off. I need to go get - Ooh! A rock!

2. You're on the toilet and there is no toilet paper. No one else is home, so you must wait for the toddler to bring you some from the other bathroom. It's been 35 minutes. They've come back to ask you what you're doing 3 times. You hear splashing coming from a room in the house that doesn't have a sink, and you're pretty sure something is on fire.

3. Dinner time. It doesn't matter what you've prepared because it's unacceptable. Make something else, please. What's that? Peanut butter and jelly? Sorry, too spicy. Also, I only like bread every other Thursday.

4. What show do you hate? Put it on. Again, please.

5. Bed time. FOREVER.

6. In the car: What's that? What's that? What's that? Why? Why? What's that? Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mom! What's that? Look! Look! What's that?

7. I'm hungry. It doesn't matter what we're doing. I'm hungry.

8. Are you busy? Is this a bad time? There's no bathroom here, huh? I have to pee right now. Right now. RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOOO - too late. Oh, look! Pee AND poop. This is all so unexpected. I took my extra clothes out of the diaper bag and hid them in the trash can before we left.

9. Five minutes to get out the door. Toddler needs shoes on. They want to do it themselves. Oops, shoes are on the wrong feet. Toddler takes them off, puts them back on, and oops! Wrong feet again. No, no, don't help. Oops! How does this keep happening? Oops! This is insane. How can someone make the same mistake so many times? Oops! I said back off, bitch! I don't need help. Oops!

10. Pediatrician's office. They leave you waiting in the exam room for 25 minutes. Your toddler asks to wash his hands 17 times and licks all the tongue depressors. The doctor finally comes in, and the toddler informs her that McDonald's chicken nuggets are his favorite food, then he says "fuck" and asks to watch Netflix.

Make friends with what you are

Know your fight is not with them;
Yours is with your time here.
Dream your dreams, but don’t pretend.
Make friends with what you are.
— John Mayer, Age of Worry

In fourth grade, my teacher gave me an empty book and asked me to tell her who I wanted to be. It was our big end of year project - our autobiographies - except instead of stopping at fourth grade, we had to go all the way to the end of our lives, which was somewhere around 3,000 for most of us, since 9-year-olds are pretty uncool with the concept of death.

Our autobiographies had to include photos, so we were each instructed to cut people out of magazines to represent ourselves, our families, our future spouses, and our friends. I chose Cindy Crawford to represent me, and I was, of course, married to one Leonardo Dicaprio because Titanic. Hello.

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[image credit]

Our children were either nonexistent or some Photoshopped babies I found in a Gerber ad or something. Who cares about them? Oh, also I was a pop star. Basically, this was less fantasy autobiography and more textbook because that's how full of real, credible information it was.

I'd argue that my fourth grade ambitions were pretty standard for a 9-year-old, but I've always harbored unrealistic expectations for my life. I clung to the pop star dream all through high school, and honestly, I sort of clung to the idea that one day I'd wake up as gorgeous as Cindy Crawford too. I started college as an idealistic journalism major, thinking I'd not only write for Rolling Stone one day, but I'd actually end up taking over the magazine. Then I switched my major to English and started imagining my eventual 6-figure book deals and lecturing at Stanford. I've always been a little bit, um, nuts, I guess.

It certainly wasn't ambition. I never actually worked all that hard to achieve any of these insane dreams. I think it was more growing up poor, insecure, and invisible, and all I wanted for myself was just to be seen, to be heard. So, I held tightly to fantasies in which it was impossible NOT to see me, in which I stood out from the crowd in ways that could only ever exist in my dreams. My adulthood has been a slow, steady descent from the clouds, a decades-long reality check with which I'm just now coming to terms. And, funnily enough, smacking into the pavement gave me the tools to create real dreams, real goals, real achievements.

So, welcome to my website. I am Ashley Austrew, and I am a writer. I have zero book deals, and I only give lectures to my toddler when she's dipping toilet paper in the sink and sticking it to the walls. I get paid sometimes to edit things, and sometimes I even get paid to write them. I'm simultaneously drafting a novel and working on a children's book. They both might be terrible. They both might great. The point is, they exist. I'm working towards something. And, this website is a tangible piece of that.