From consuming obscene amounts of Gushers in kindergarten (don’t even try to convince me that there is a snack better than Gushers. You won’t win.) to late night ramen binges in college, it’s high time I tasted true “adulthood”.
I’m very nearly at the coveted age at which we’re finally allowed to lose everything playing bingo and then legally drown our sorrows in delicious alcohol. However, before accepting such great responsibilities, I can’t help but reflect upon my previous experiences throughout the last twenty years, and how they have shaped the very person writing this piece. So without further adieu and in no particular order, I give you my 21 things you should do before you turn 21.
1. Find a hobby
Whether it’s collecting bronze sculptures of Napoleon or playing BMX quidditch, find that one hobby that you just can’t live without. Even if you rarely get a chance to you enjoy it, the happiness derived from your hobby of choice can last much longer then the hobby itself. (Trust me, destroying lives in ping pong never fails to improve my mood.)
2. Start to develop your personal style.
Everyone just seems to wear Vans and white t-shirts these days, so you should try to liven it up a bit with a something like a buttery leather jacket or a slick new pair of sunglasses. Developing your personal style takes years of trial and error, so don’t be afraid to start early and experiment. Figure out what works for you and build your wardrobe out from there. You’ll thank me later when you have a closet full of baller clothes.
3. Admit to falling in love.
Know what it feels like to have a stomach full of butterflies but then power through it to tell that special someone how you truly feel. No matter the response, you’ll feel immensely relieved to have finally gotten those inner most thoughts out in the open. And who knows, maybe they’ll want you back.
4. Get your heart broken.
Well this one totally sucks, but I think it’s pretty necessary. This experience will break you and crush every expectation you ever had about relationships, but overall it will stand as an invaluable teaching tool. You’ll learn that trust is key and to never compromise yourself for anyone.
5. Read a good-ass book.
Books assigned in class don’t count. Find that one good book where after racing though the last few pages you just think to yourself “Damn.” Start from the classics and if none of those seem to satisfy your literary appetite then move on to more contemporary offerings. (Pro tip: If you decide to read any of Tolstoy’s novels, then you’ll be done in one book.)
6. Be a dork.
I think everyone is dork to some degree. Wear your Admiral Ackbar shirt on a first date (maybe not?), or laugh at that hilarious video about cats playing the piano. Life is too short not to embrace your inner dweeb from time to time.
7. Get in shape.
I use the term “in shape” rather loosely here. What I mean to say is be able to adequately participate in physical activities. I’m not advocating that you become the next Schwarzenegger, but just do some simple exercises every now and again so you don’t get too out of shape. No one wants to be that guy at the pick up basketball game who can’t jump or the dude at the soccer field huffing it back on defense. Just take care of yourself from time to time and you should be cleared to play. Which segways into my next point..
8. Learn to embrace the competition.
Try to beat all of your friends in everything all the time. They might hate you for constantly winning, but you know that deep down they all think you’re awesome. Oh and maybe get solid grades in school too.
9. Discover something new without any help.
Beginning in first grade, I almost exclusively listened to classic rock music due to it being my parents’ favorite genre. However, that all changed during my freshman year of high school. I was flipping through the cable channels one night when all of a sudden I found a Lil Wayne performance. I only heard him rap one admittedly mediocre song, but from that moment on I was forever intrigued and excited by hip-hop. It was exhilarating to make that discovery alone, and I think that sense of wonder is part of the reason why I still enjoy rap to this day. If you’re anything like me, personal discoveries are will be much more dear to you than anything someone else has shown to you.
10. Explore food.
No joke, I still have friends who do the whole “no vegetables” routine whenever we go out anywhere to eat. Just think about all the great food they’re missing out on! If you ever have the opportunity to try something new or unusual, then you should always take it. Extremely picky eaters may come off as a bit childish as well, and no 21 year old wants to be seen as a child. At least one would hope that’s the case.
11. Meet someone who has your back.
This is someone who you can wholehearted trust until the end of days. This individual is the key to your sanity, so make them count.
12. Find your jam.
Newsflash: 99% of everyone is terrible at singing. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying your most favorite song in history. Memorize every line and high note until to your heart’s content. Be sure to share your song with your best pals as much as possible until their ears bleed.
13. Acknowledge world history.
Seriously question why the world is the way it is. Whether you like it or not, you have to appreciate and/or learn from the events behind it. Understanding history is the only way to put our current society into a relatable context, so make sure you’re aware of the past before you try to influence the present. Acting without acknowledging the past can lead to grave mistakes.
14. Acknowledge your history.
Consider the key events in your own life that have molded you into the person you see in the mirror. Are you proud of the person staring back at you? Utilize your past to shape your future.
15. Be employed.
You could crunch numbers at a swanky internship or be a cashier at a birdfeed store, but you should try to hold at least one job by the time you’re 21 in order to get used to being a functioning member of society. Even if you have the lamest job this side of the Mississippi, the work experience will be priceless. Or so they say.
16. Go to a party.
You can go to a party without drinking or smoking or anything like that. You can go as sober as Tyra Banks (I just read that she’s sober so there you go) and still have a great time. But you should go to at least one party just to test the waters. If it’s not for you than it’s not for you. The main thing to remember about partying is that you should never let it take precedence over anything important. It’s all right to do it every once in a while but you have to make sure you have your priorities straight before you go get hammered.
17. Write the paper to end all papers.
You know the one. Multiple all nighters spent compiling research and plunging your way through a thesaurus until finally, you’ve reached the promised land of flawless writing. For me, is was a fifteen page research paper about homelessness, and around page ten or so, I knew it was the one. There isn’t much else to say about this point except that you’ll know it when you see it.
18. Go somewhere unfamiliar.
Ideally this should be accomplished by going abroad, but if you can’t manage to do so, a road trip will suffice. Have a day in the trip where you have no plans at all and just see set off exploring. You might find something pleasantly unexpected.
19. Have a habit or two.
Although the word “habit” tends to have a negative connotation these days, my definition is actually quite innocent. To me it means having some kind of odd personal quirk. Do you always have to flip water bottles before drinking from them? Or maybe you have to put your left shoe on first? Embrace your quirks. They are a part of what makes you “you”.
20. Realize it’s okay to be sad.
It’s okay to be sad and it’s okay if other people know that you’re sad. Personally, I would rather be honest with myself in sadness than fake happiness.
21. Identify as a human.
As far as I know, we’re the only intelligent species to ever exist in the entire universe. Embrace your fellow Homo sapiens and marvel at the fact that we’ve come so far in such little time. We are all so incredibly unique yet fundamentally identical, so remember that the next time you think about judging your fellow man.