1. Find your hangover cure.
Dear God, find it and make sure it’s always in your pantry. When you’re younger, hangovers are all “Oh, I just need a mimosa and some Advil and my enormous designer sunglasses and a fried breakfast sandwich as big as my head.” Not anymore, honey. Now it feels like those fuzzy boots you used to wear to brunch are bludgeoning you over the head in a storm of dignity-crushing pain and nausea. Now your hangovers consist of questions like “It’s been nine hours, why am I still barfing?” Enter the hangover cure. My personal concoction consists of Gatorade, one Emergen-C packet, and a packet of Alka Seltzer. So disgusting, so awesome. I don’t care what yours is — just find it, and avert post-cocktail incapacitation.
2. Figure out how to stay in touch — and do it.
You probably made some pretty great friends in college. I know I did. (See “find your soul mate” below). Growing up, it would seem, is all about follow-through. Find the best way to keep in touch with your friends — Skype, text, phone, email, bi-weekly coffee, or just Pinteresting the crap out of each other — and DO IT. Keeping in touch is hard, but losing touch altogether can be irreversible.
3. School/more school.
Do it, don’t do it — it makes no difference to me what you choose personally. But realize these are the years to try it out. The more ingrained you get in a career and the more life responsibilities you have, the less likely you’ll be to get back into that weird academic grind. Going to school younger is just easier: you blend in with the other students, your capacity for learning is enormous, and your ability to run on absolutely no sleep and still look attractive will never be better than it is right now. Yes, it’s getting worse every minute, so get on it.
4. Don’t “erase” your sex life.
There are about five years and [insert your idea of a shameful number here] men that I’d love to forget. Instead, I occasionally give myself a good memory-shaming — it keeps me on track for a [hopefully] less shameful future. Keep note of those mornings you rolled over and wanted to chew your arm off, the ex you should have never had a “friendly” dinner with, or the loser who was not-so-secretly in a relationship with your coworker. You’ve probably done some things you’d rather not remember, but for the sake of your later years, don’t forget them.
5. This applies to your love life, too.
Oh yeah, I’ve gotten stomped on a few times. We all have. (Oh, you haven’t? You’re either 18 or have no soul). It always sucks as much as it did the first time. And people give you those platitudes about “learning things” and “growing as a person” that you just want to ignore. Imagine my utter dismay when it turned out to be kind of true. Once the stomping wears off a bit, I really did learn something from each dreadful ex… even if it was just learning to stick up for myself. It’s always painful (read: irritating, gut-wrenching, etc.) to think about the past, but boy, does it help you get a handle on what you want in the future.
6. Ask. Your. Parents.
Shocking. As it turns out, your parents are pretty cool. Okay, maybe they’re not objectively cool, but their lameness is much easier to deal with now that you’re past the Age of Embarrassment. And, guess what? Your parents were probably eating cheap soup and making nothing at their first jobs and wondering what the hell path their lives were supposed to take when they were your age — ask them about it! Recipes, finances, relationships, whatever. And 401Ks. Especially 401Ks. That shit is confusing.
7. Find your soul mate.
And that doesn’t have to mean mean the love of your life in the conventional, romantic sense. Your soul mate is your 150-pound St. Bernard, Tank. It’s your marmalade cat that watches Criminal Minds with you every week (and doesn’t judge when you hide under the covers). It’s your friend who doesn’t mind that you prefer to do your Sunday football-watching in your undies. Soul mates are important and crazy-difficult to come by, so keep yours close.
8. Grandparents/relatives are more important than ever.
If you’ve ever been close to older relatives and they’re still around, keep in touch. Seriously. It’s harder than it seems, when you’re working a billion hours a week and all you want to do is go home and eat dinner and cuddle up to your significant other. The last thing you want to hear at those moments is grandma’s crazy voice on the other end of the phone, asking you probing questions. But seriously, call them. There are few things worse than the regret that you spent the last few years forgetting to remind them that you gave a damn.
9. Stay young. In body and heart.
So cheesy, but you’re pretty much only as old as you let yourself feel. If drinking homemade Jolly Rancher vodka and playing on the corporate kickball league while wearing your favorite “fighting muskrats” high school tee makes you feel young, then dammit, keep doing it! [Insert awkward politician fist pump here]. I guarantee you’re a hell of a lot better off than the person fussing over their grown-up wardrobe, getting a desk-job belly, and wondering where their capacity for fun went.