1. Cook a quick crap-I-slept-in-and-can’t-be-late-for-work breakfast, a lazy weekend brunch, dinner when it’s just you, dinner for guests, and a cake from scratch because nobody should suffer store-bought on their birthday.
2. Ask for a raise tactfully, or negotiate a salary at the the onset of a new job. You’re worth what you ask for. Know what you deserve for the work you do.
3. Craft a thank you note, a solid resume, and even an out-of-the-blue email to someone whose career you admire or whose company you’d love to work for because sometimes not having the guts to hit “send” is the only thing keeping you from your dreams.
4. Laundry, up to and including a rough approximation of folding a fitted sheet.
5. Live within a budget — one that includes putting a little away every month in a savings account.
6. Exert control over your patience and temper when you have to interact with people you’d rather not deal with. Hell, as Sartre said, is other people. You will have to deal with other people. You might as well learn how to do it while coming out looking like the better, more patient person for it.
7. Ask for help when you need it. Whether that’s seeking therapy, asking a friend to help you move, or anything in between.
8. Stand up, not only for yourself when someone hurts your feelings, but also for your friends when you notice they’re upset. Life is too short to accept a raw deal simply because you didn’t speak up. You need to tell people how you feel when you feel it.
9. Follow the assembly directions for a basic piece of furniture from IKEA — and knowing when you need to bribe a friend with pizza or throw in the towel entirely and call the good people of the delivery & assembly service for help.
10. Claim responsibility not only for the mistakes you made, but for the accidents you had no way of knowing might occur. It takes a big person to admit that their oversight or carelessness caused something, and the first step of righting an accidental wrong is simply being aware of it and doing what you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
11. Disconnect entirely — from social media, from your phone, from technology, from people. Whatever you need to distance yourself from, however long you need to distance yourself from it. Grab a book, hide away in your favorite park or coffee shop, and just be alone with yourself. Sift through the thoughts you distract yourself from on a daily basis.
12. Make a doctor’s appointment, understand what your health insurance and benefits entail, change a tire, balance a checkbook, and work through a rudimentary knowledge of 401(k)s and all of those other things that are “adult-y.”
13. Bow out of a stressful situation gracefully — whether it’s a job, a family function, a toxic relationship, or an awkward night at the bar where your friend got too drunk and is now a liability for everyone. You don’t need to burn bridges while still doing what’s in your best interest.
14. Recognize when it’s time to stop complaining about something you don’t like, and when you need to start doing something about it.
15. Take care of a pet, or a child, or something that is wholly dependent on you for its care and survival. Even for an afternoon. Even for a day. Whether or not you’re a pet person or if you even want kids, being able to step outside of the selfish cores of ourselves and help other creatures teaches you more about yourself than you’d ever know. (And yes, keeping a plant alive counts.)
16. Have fun without the use of alcohol as a lubricant — or at the very least, recognize when yeah, that 7th shot is probably not the greatest idea of your life.
17. Put together an appropriate outfit, wield an iron, and sew on a button at the last minute if you have an interview, important meeting, or event that day and need to look like your best self.
18. Say no when you really want to say no. Whatever the occasion: doing a favor to a friend or family member, turning down a task at work, going to a party you’d rather not go to, or when you don’t want to have sex with someone. (Especially that last one.)
19. Live alone. Even if you can’t afford it (and there’s nothing wrong in that) being able to go home to an empty apartment if your roommate or significant other is out of town and being okay with that solitude and silence. Doing the dishes not because someone else lives with you, but because you deserve to live in a clean place. Eating well not because someone will judge you for eating like crap, but because you deserve good food. You deserve to live well, whatever your surroundings, and the best test of this is what happens when no one else is around.
20. Tell someone you love them, when you know that you do. It’s scary, but often, the best things in life are. Take the leap. Say it. If they don’t return the feeling, at least you know.