11 Life Lessons to Learn Before You're 21

I visited my doctor this weekend and as he was flipping through my chart I heard him mumble, “Heart rate good, blood pressure good, twenty-one years old…” What?! I was so shocked by hearing my age that I almost fell off my chair.  Twenty-one year olds are legal drinking, full functioning adults.  Since when did I become one of them? But after a little self-reflection, I realized that maybe I have learned a thing or two in my twenty-one years.

Exploring Paris at 20

1. Travel—don’t put it off until you’re “older” or “have more money.” It’s never going to be more fun than when you’re young, excited and totally scared.
2. Go to college—I’ve dropped out, threatened to quit and taken quite a few “gaps” in my education.  But I ultimately decided that the learning, experiences and opportunities that can be gained from college are for me.  Whether you decide it’s not your thing or your lifelong passion, take at least a few classes before counting it out entirely.

My mom (and sister!) are the most amazing people I know

3.  Become friends with your parents—in high school you couldn’t wait to get away from them, but chances are that you’ve recently discovered that they’re kind of awesome. Don’t wait until you’re thirty to let them know you’ve discovered this.

4. Get a part-time job—The lessons learned from waiting tables, tearing movie tickets, and making cold calls will always be with me.  Not only do you does part-time work help you appreciate your money more, it also gives you unique insights into your fellow humans.

Friends forever--even in dresses and sneakers!

      5. Don’t lose your life long friends—life is crazy and chances are that some of your favorite people are going to end up across the country (or even the world). Figure out which ones are worth keeping and then put the effort in to make it happen.

6. Learn to cook—eating out gets old real fast (not to mention expensive). Learn to cook a few personal staples. Mine are: breakfast burritos, curry and countless delicious pasta sauces.

7. Realize that you’re not going to live forever—when you’re a kid, life seems endless; by the time you hit twenty, it feels infinitely shorter.  Don’t take your moments of happiness for granted. Cherish them.

8. Read—Try every kind of book you can find: fantasy, spiritual, science fiction, and nonfiction.  Books teach you about the world, but also yourself.

9. Drink lots of water—No, really. Nothing can boost your immune system, overall health and skin more than H20.

10. Clubs aren’t the nirvana you thought they were—sure, they’re fun on occasion. But $10 drinks add up fast and dimly lit rooms kind of all look the same.

11. Don’t sweat the future—Yeah, a full-time job seems scary, being poor sucks, and you can’t really envision life past next week. Guess what? That’s okay.

Turns out that 16 old me still had a lot to learn

What have you learned before 21?

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