1. Someone who really understands us and gets not the person we want others to think we are, but the person we really are. We need someone who sees that person and truly cherishes them, just the way they are.
2. Something to lie next to at night, whether that’s a pillow that you hug, the teddy bear you still have from your childhood, your best non-human friend or the love of your life.
3. To know that it’s okay when we screw up and that we are both forgiven and loved for not being perfect. We need to know that it’s okay to mess up, so we can work on getting better.
4. People to push us to be better people, who love us too much to let us stay scared and broken. We need people who lift us up and help us be more whole.
5. To feel like we are doing something in the world. It doesn’t have to be a big something—like earning a Nobel Peace prize or being the Meryl Streep of your generation. It can be something like starting a website with your friends or helping your hoarder grandparents clean up their life. But we need to feel like we are of service and use to other people and that we are a force for good in the world.
6. A day off or a break every once in a while. In a society that’s always pushing us to be bigger, stronger and more productive, sometimes we just need down time with our friends, hanging out and watching Arrested Development in our pajamas.
7. To feel sexy and attractive to other people, even when we aren’t trying. We need someone to tell us that we are beautiful without makeup and that they love waking up next to us, before we’ve had that moment to sneak out of bed, brush our teeth and pretend we woke up just smelling like that. We need someone to tell us our stinky breath is hot, even though it absolutely is not.
8. The agency to make our own decisions about our bodies. We get to decide how curvy it is, what goes in it, who touches it and what we do with it.
9. To be held every so often and have that hug that lingers too long, when you know someone is crushing you with affection, or that cuddling session that lasts for hours, when you’re just wrapped up in someone else entirely.
10. To be honest with ourselves and other people about our goals and aspirations — in order to push ourselves to achieve them. We need to not be scared to want too much or too little and have the courage to ask for it.
11. An unexpected compliment or affirmation from someone we respect or admire. We need to know that the people we look up to think well of us and that our heroes believe in us, too.
12. A connection with the world around us. We need to feel like we are a part of something: a family, a community, a bowling league, a book club or a world that’s changing for the better, one where our privileges can be shared with others. It is not enough to hope. We must also feel like we are a part of that hope.
13. To struggle. We need to feel things that aren’t easy and tackle things that are bigger than us, things that no person should have to deal with at our age. We need uncertainty—to know what it is to hurt and to be lonely, or we’ll never know how lucky we are when we make it through to the other side.
14. The ability to surprise ourselves every once in a while and do something we didn’t know we could. We need to feel pride in our accomplishments and a sense of astonishment at the person we are becoming.
15. Magic in our lives, even the everyday kind. We need those moments where you catch the train on time, and you feel like you control the transit system — that it bends to your mighty powers. Or that magic moment where you find your remote control or the charger that you presumed was lost, just to discover it was right in front of you all along.
16. To witness a public spectacle with the people we love around us. Whether it’s the NOT OVERRATED Beyonce taking the Super Bowl’s power away with her fierceness or going to see The Avengers with everyone we know, we need that moment where we are all tuned into the same thing, where we are all part of the same discourse, where we are all united in having something to talk about. And we definitely need Beyonce.
17. Moments where we kick back and let ourselves slide, whether that’s eating chocolate when we’re training for a marathon (#whatever) or procrastinating on our thesis with Downton Abbey. We need to remember mix our work and our play.
18. To stop caring so much about whether other people “like” us and focus on liking ourselves. We need to stop living for other peoples’ approval—obsessed about how many hits our article gets or whether our status gets a million likes on Facebook. Start dancing like nobody’s watching you.
19. That unexpected moment of progress, going that extra mile when you feel like you can’t run another step or finally getting through that Jeffrey Eugenides novel you’ve been putting off. We need to know that we can achieve what we set out to accomplish and we have the ability to make it better.
20. To catch up with old friends and have those moments of connection with our past. Sometimes we’re so focused on where we’re going that we forget to think about where we came from and the people who made us who are now. We need to be mindful and respectful of the fact that we are a process and we are still in development.
21. To stay home on a Friday or Saturday night. As important as it is to have food and a roof over our heads, it’s equally important to just exist in that shelter and cherish the simple privilege of existing in your own space. We need to allow ourselves to close our eyes and just be. Enjoy the silence.