1. Read the books your teachers assign
Years down the line, when you finally have an apartment with bookcases and you fill these first bookcases with old books you never threw out from college, you will feel like an asshole when you realize that half of the books might as well be blank since you have no idea what they’re about. (And years down the line, it will be as important as ever to make time to read books.)
2. The Daily Show is not the news
Just like a multi-vitamin is not the same as a salad. They both help, but seriously, you really need that roughage for more than just the shits and slash or giggles.
3. It’s okay if you have to get a job instead of an internship while in college
Yes, internships look snazzy on resumes, and people pay attention to the practical experience you gain when you perform thankless bottom-rung jobs for a mere pittance between classes. Internships are supposed to offer knowledge, connections, and possibly a job offer at their end. A job in college may only offer, well, a paycheck. But if you’re savvy, you can parlay that job into connections, and you will learn how to be dedicated and good at what you do no matter which road you take. Will you necessarily work in your dream field while still in college? No. But at the very least, you’ll learn to interact with other adults at 4 p.m. on a Friday when you all want to be waist deep in beeritas (or anywhere else that isn’t office related) and that counts for a lot on its own.
4. Do not work seven days a week if you can help it
Don’t even go to school five days a week and work two days, or go to school four days a week and work two and a half. Take a day for yourself, not only because you deserve it, but because it’s vital to getting through life without snapping at least ten times a month.
5. If your parents help you pay for your apartment, you are extraordinarily lucky
It doesn’t matter if your rent will be coming out of student loans, or if they called it a “Christmas present” or if you slept on a yoga mat for two weeks. Even if they only signed on as your guarantors, you are still better off than a huge chunk of the population.
6. In fact, chances are, if you are getting your education, you are luckier than most people could ever dream
Because chances are, thanks to your education, you will never actually know what living below the poverty line feels like.
7. Being broke is not equal to being poor
There is a significant difference.
8. The world is not out to get you
The grocery store didn’t sell out of your favorite green juice minutes before you arrived just to spite you, the subway conductor did not close the car doors two seconds before you got to the platform to make you feel minuscule, your bad hair day is noticeable to 0.0001% of the people with whom you interact on a daily basis, and your professor didn’t give you a B and that one girl an A because her dad’s on the board of college directors.
9. If you don’t like who you are when you drink, you don’t have to drink
In any situation. Ever.
10. You are not fat
11. If you do feel a little down about your body, start by moving it more
You’ll feel better instantly, I promise. Endorphins are magical things. And if you want to feel even better, maybe reevaluate those 4 a.m sweet potato fries.
12. That said, your diet is not something you can lord over everyone else’s heads
When you choose to become a [vegetarian/vegan/carnivore/gluten-free/yogurtaholic/gummy-bear-intolerant], it has no bearing on the morals and eating habits of other people. Seriously, your 20s are rife for opportunities to be an asshole. Don’t be this asshole.
13. Learn how to eat at a restaurant by yourself and be okay with it
It will happen frequently in your adulthood. Might as well learn now.
14. Travel as much as you can
Your whole 20s will probably be a big mental limbo anyway and you’ll frequently feel really, really stuck. Even if you get to go home every summer, wherever home is, that’s more movement than you’ll probably experience otherwise. And we’ve already decided that movement is good.
15. Do not waste your time on people and things you don’t absolutely care about
If you’re recycle dating someone because you’re bored and want attention, that says more about you than it does about them. Learn what your standards are and uphold them. Never bend for anything less just because it’s convenient. The world is so full of meaningless crap, and things that actually mean something to us are so precious and rare. It’d be a shame to even waste a second on anything less.
16. The good ones–the ones you should spend your time on–are more attracted to confidence and personality than they are to looks
If anyone has these priorities skewed, it’s an easy way to help you weed out the fact that they are, actually, bad seeds and not worth your time. Don’t waste your time trying to convince anyone otherwise, or make yourself into their image of what they want, or base your own criteria for liking a person on anything less.
17. Really–if they don’t like you just as you are they.are.not.worth.it.
18. You will get your heart broken.
It will hurt. A lot. You will piece it back together and it will get shattered again. And again. And again. And it will hurt every time. Your heart will break over things that have nothing to do with significant others. You will have your heart broken when you don’t get the job you really wanted. You will have your heart broken when your parents get sick and you can’t fly home to see them. You will have your heart broken when your best friend moves away. But every time you do, that feeling is a reminder that you cared about something and you took a risk and you put yourself on the line and, most importantly, that you’re alive.
19. When you really love somebody, you will overlook a whole multitude of their sins
Up to and including your cat’s bizarre fixation with the water dripping from the faucet in the kitchen sink.
20. You don’t know everything, and that is okay
Because you’re only 20, and you have years to learn. But the most important lesson of all is to begin to feel okay with yourself, habits and quirks and awkward moments and all, because you’re gloriously young. You’re a baby. And you might as well like yourself, because chances are you’ll be stuck with yourself for years.