1. Carry mace around with your finger on the trigger.
Crazies are everywhere. Invest in some pepper spray and when you’re walking alone, even just a few blocks, have it out and ready. In a pinch, an umbrella is excellent for fending off attackers (I know this from experience).
2. Wear your retainer.
I didn’t go through eight years of tooth extractions, spacers, palette expanders and braces to have my teeth shift in adulthood, but I’ve met plenty of people who “forgot” to wear their retainers and now have crooked teeth again. So if you want that thousand-dollar smile to stay in place, just stick the contraption in every now and then.
3. Stand up for yourself.
I’m don’t like confrontation. When I have to confront someone, my skin gets blotchy, I sweat profusely, my voices cracks and the whole situation feels like an out-of-body experience. But if I can’t stand up for yourself, who else is going to do it? No one. Plus, I feel like a total #boss when I drop some knowledge and make my confrontee recognize who they messed with.
4. Bullies exist at every age.
I will never understand people who get some sort of sick pleasure out of tearing others down and causing physical/mental/emotional pain. When I was little, my mom would say bullies are jealous. While this is sometimes the case, unfortunately, some people are just mean.
5. You actually might use algebra some day.
One time I helped my dad build a patio using the Pythagorean Theorem. Sure, that’s the only time, but at least all those years weren’t totally wasted, right?
6. Don’t change yourself for the people around you.
You won’t make them happy, you won’t make yourself happy, you won’t make anyone happy. If you need to change to please someone, they’re just going to pick something else to criticize. It’s not worth your time.
7. Learn basic life skills.
I’m no mechanic, but I can fill a car’s engine oil like a champ. I learned how to change a tire real quick when I drove over a nail on the way to work. I have a delicious-but-nutritious go-to dinner recipe burned in my memory, I can do a breast self-exam (and I found a benign lump once, so those things are legit) and I’m trying to get a thorough grasp on how taxes work. Know the basics and you can fake the rest.
8. Hold onto your student ID.
If your college ID doesn’t have an expiration date, keep that baby close. If you don’t mind fibbing a bit, you can continue to get discounts on museums, clothes, movie tickets, food and more until you don’t look like your picture anymore. Ethical? Maybe not. Wallet-friendly when you’re living that overworked and underpaid millennial life? Yes.
9. Enjoy your own company.
I always go to the movies by myself. I take myself to lunch on the reg and recently spent a good chunk of a paycheck to see Billy Joel alone (10th row, babyyy). It might be weird at first, but you’ll feel more confident and learn that you don’t always need others around to have fun. Heck, I love hanging out with myself so much that I went on a solo trip to Paris and London last year.
10. The bigger you dream, the more you’ll achieve.
You know that cliché phrase on motivational posters in middle school halls everywhere, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”? It’s actually true. Work toward your loftiest dreams and if you don’t get there, you’ll usually at least be a lot closer than if you had settled.
The best way to learn about other cultures, meet people from different worlds and eat some of the most delicious food ever (my main motivation tbh) is traveling. Hostels, AirBnB, transportation options like Megabus and Eurail and budget airlines make travel easy and more affordable than you might think. Plus, travel doesn’t have to mean going overseas! Grab friends – or don’t (see #9) – and go on a day trip to a nearby city.
12. YouTube is amazing.
You can learn pretty much anything on YouTube: how to play the guitar, how to moonwalk, how to make macaroni and cheese waffles, how to clean a toilet with Coca-Cola. The possibilities are endless.
13. ‘It’ll be a good chapter in my memoir.’
If you’re in a situation and you know it’s temporary but it’s still rough, just say this sentence to yourself. Do I actually plan to write a memoir? Probably not. But when I had to sleep on the floor of my office every weeknight for six months (related to the scenario briefly alluded to in #1), it made everything a little more bearable.
14. Some things will always suck.
Gynecologist appointments, bikini waxes, treadmills and sequels that replace the main actor. #ThingsThatWillNeverBeEnjoyable
15. Learn to listen.
I used to love to hear myself talk. I still do, but I now realize that it’s inconsiderate to hog the conversation. Everyone wants to share their stories and often those stories are just as, if not more, interesting than my own. Open up your ears and really listen when someone is talking to you. Ask questions, engage and don’t just wait to tell your own story that sort-of-relates-but-not-really-at-all. You’ll make the storyteller feel good and you might even learn something.
16. Story-toppers are the worst.
Similar to #15, don’t try and top every story. There is a difference between sharing a similar experience and just exaggerating your own tale so that the attention is now on you. Rude.
17. Girl crushes can make you a better person.
My first boss was this super-cool chick who takes no nonsense and gets the job done while also being kind and looking like a rockstar. J.K. Rowling is a brilliantly creative woman who made an indelible mark on the world with her imagination. Veronica Mars is the ultimate badass and uses her intelligence and sarcastic wit to solve murders and just get through everyday life as a teenager. Okay, that last example is fictional, but all of these ladies have traits that I deeply admire and try to emulate to make myself the person I want to be.
18. Crappy apartments aren’t fun, but neither is paying student loans until you’re 70.
Sort your finances out as best you can now so you have more freedom later. Pay more than the minimum on your monthly loans if you can. 401Ks are cool and you can apparently save a heck of a lot more money if you start investing young.
19. Prevent the preventable.
Wear a helmet. Don’t lie out in the sun without proper SPF protection. Wear your seat belt– even in a cab. And don’t text and drive!! Literally nothing on your phone could possibly be more important than the lives of you and your passengers.
20. Leave everyone alone.
A wise woman named Kacey Musgraves once told us, “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.” Don’t tell someone how to plan their wedding or spend their money or take care of their children. Don’t get so worked up over things that do not affect your life. Don’t ask vegetarians how they get their protein. You didn’t care about my protein intake three seconds ago, why is it suddenly the most urgent matter in the world?
21. Channel your inner weird, over-confident child.
I was a bizarre kid. I wore a feather boa around the house while singing Bette Midler’s seminal classic “Perfect Isn’t Easy” from Oliver & Company on a daily basis. I also liked to read – a lot – and would test out big fancy words I learned (like “comical” instead of “funny”) in conversations with other 9-year-olds. If we all acted more like our strange tiny selves who did not care even a little bit what other people thought of us, imagine what we could be capable of.
22. Pronounce things correctly.
How cute is it when you hear grown humans order “pasketti” at a restaurant or say they need to get a book out of the “liberry”? Oh, right. Not cute at all. While we’re at it, learn the difference between “you’re” and “your” because you’re not impressing anyone with your poor grammar. (See what I did there?)
23. Life is not a movie, but sometimes it’s better.
No, I can’t get into law school wearing a sparkly bikini in a video submission. Hugh Grant will not spill orange juice on me and clean me up behind the most charming blue door ever. Morgan Freeman does not narrate my life. But what about that night my sisters and I watched fireworks on the beach with virgin piña coladas? Or the time that cute English stranger asked if he could kiss me on a landmark bridge? Or that day my best friend and I tried to sneak into a Jason Derulo concert and got kicked out and ate falafel instead? Those memories are even more magical than all of my favorite films combined.
24. The Reasonable Man.
My dad has this theory called The Reasonable Man, which first came into practice when my sisters and I wanted to pool-hop nine years ago but were nervous about breaking the rules. It is simple, logical and, quite frankly, brilliant. The Reasonable Man states: 1.) If it’s not harming anyone, it’s probably okay. 2.) If it’s not inconveniencing anyone, it’s probably okay. 3.) It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. The Reasonable Man is my moral compass.
25. Always give credit where credit is due.
There are few things worse than sharing an idea, a story, a project or even a joke and later hearing or seeing someone else tell/use/claim it as their own. Theft of creativity and originality is one of the worst crimes of theft and I’ve learned too many times that others do not share the same integrity when it comes to giving props.
Shoutout to my mom and dad and all the people who have taught me how to be a decent, kind, semi-functioning human. Armed with these lessons, I think I’m ready to take on 25…though I still have a few days to join a girl band and star in a completely wholesome reality show, right?