Wow, time flies. Most of my best friends and I are turning or will soon be turning 21 this year. We will be graduating college and moving on to “real life” soon. How crazy is that? Reality is just around the corner. What is a collegiette to do? Don’t panic. I’ve come up with the ultimate bucket list of 21 things that everyone should do or learn, in my humble opinion, before turning 21…or soon after.
It’s definitely time to start living it up, because before we know it, we’ll all be completely consumed in the “real world.” College years fly by…don’t let the best years of this once-in-a-lifetime stage pass you by without a great plan in motion!
1. Travel to a foreign country; live there for an entire semester if at all possible. If not, book a European vacation over the summer. Backpack through Europe, or take an exotic trip to the Italian islands with friends! Maybe The Pink Palace’s booze cruise in Corfu, Greece fits your fancy? I mean, after spending a fortune on a college education, what’s a few more dollars to complete a well rounded “you?”
2. Find a career you love and go after it. It may not be easy, but it’s well worth the energy and effort you put into it. It’s time to think long and hard about the future; it is quickly approaching, whether we like it or not. Face reality, and accept it. You don’t want to live the rest of your life dreading waking up every morning. So work towards a career you look forward to waking up to.
3. Plan time in your weekly calendar for strictly “you time.” Whether it’s treating yourself to a pampering mani and pedi, or attending that spin class you love, you have to dedicate some time out of your hectic schedule for yourself. Relax, sip your Starbucks, and let everything else fade out for a bit. If funds are limited, then give yourself a mani and go for a run! This may be the only period of time in which you can truly do pampering things for yourself.
4. Learn to not sweat the small stuff. Focus on the things in life you can control, and don’t dwell on anything (or anyone) that you can’t change…they aren’t worth the time or energy.
5. Don’t be afraid to experience a really bad/disloyal friendship or roommate; you will come out of it much stronger and learn a lot about people. Everything you go through now will only prepare you the future. Every experience in life (good or bad) teaches you something. Learn from it, and move forward.
6. Eliminate baggage in your life…on all counts. Cut off toxic relationships, negative people, and excess “stuff.” Honestly, what are nasty “friends” good for anyway, besides bringing down the mood? Don’t let anyone rain on your parade; the parade is too short to fill with crap…focus on making it spectacular.
7. Surround yourself with positive people and things you really enjoy; dedicate your precious, limited time to the genuine relationships and fulfilling activities that deserve it.
8. If you are lucky enough to have really great friends and roommates (as I do), learn that you will treasure them forever. The best friendships we make now will most likely make up our wedding parties down the road!
9. Know what your drinking limits are. Get to the point where you know how much drinking = fun, and how much drinking = a night on the toilet. You’re a big girl now, so start acting like one.
10. Learn how to eat healthy and take care of your body. You take care of it, it will take care of you. Invest time in some sort of exercise routine.
11. Drive in a convertible with your friends. Wear great sunglasses, don’t worry about your hair, and just go for it!
12. Date and crush on a jerk. Or two. Or three. Every girl has probably already done this by now, and it’s a really difficult thing to go through. But if you don’t date the idiots first, you won’t appreciate and may pass by the gem when you meet him!
13. Plan for the impractical car that you want, and be prepared to go for it as soon as you can after landing your first full-time job. No better time in my opinion than making a plan for it now. It’s a great incentive to pick up the pace and work hard towards that graduation finish line!
14. Let loose and live it up with your friends. Go out for a karaoke night with the girls. How about skinny-dipping in Nice, France? Learning how to surf, or going skydiving? Hopping on the back of a motorcycle or a vespa (with a helmet, of course)? Definitely hit up as many concerts as you can and tailgate. No time like the present to enjoy a few dumb (and just plain fun) things that you will smile about down the road!
15. See The Vagina Monologues.
16. Learn confidence and be comfortable being you. It’s really okay to go to a party or concert and not get totally drunk or wasted. The important thing is that you enjoy what you’re doing because it’s what you want to be doing, and with the people who you want to be with. Finally learn and practice what you’ve always been taught…that you should never try to be someone else, you are great just being you.
17. Experiment with your look; don’t be afraid to change up your overall image – whether it’s a hot hairstyle, new makeup, a tattoo, or a new clothing style, embrace it and have fun with it! Now is the time to make mistakes and to test things out. Find “you” and identify your own style – one that you feel really comfortable and happy with.
18. Do something great for others, and focus on paying it forward. Participate in walkathons, or volunteer for service projects. Try to do something nice for someone each and every day, even if it’s holding a door or letting someone go ahead of you. It will really make you feel great…and others too. Karma truly does exist in all shapes and sizes.
19. Learn to be accepting of friends and know their limitations. Not every friend is perfect in every way. Embrace their strengths and understand their weaknesses. Remember what it is that attracted you to them in the first place; share and enjoy that with them. One friend may be the fun one to go clubbing with; another may be a great weekend traveler. And another friend may be the one you can always count on for the best advice. Each friend has his or her own niche that is special to you, so appreciate them for that!
20. Live in or near a city, and definitely away from home…if even just for a little while. You never know where your life may take you after you graduate. City living is an experience you will never forget, and it will make you feel so much more comfortable and confident getting around almost anywhere. Living away from home makes you really appreciate every single thing your family has ever done for you so much more than you ever did before.
21. Love and cherish your times in college. Live life with absolutely no regrets. Get involved with anything and everything available at school that interests you. Learn to live with and take responsibility for your actions, and start every day with the intent of making better ones. Don’t look back or dwell on the past, because it’s long gone. Accept opportunity with open arms, and don’t be afraid to accept change and take chances after carefully weighing all of the possible outcomes. Perfection and success is rarely ever achieved without making a few mistakes, falling a bit, or taking risks!
If you can pull off most of the above by your 21st birthday (or at least by the time you graduate), consider yourself as prepared as you can be at this stage for the transition into “real life!” But for now, the most important thing is to have an epic and awesome 21st birthday celebration, surrounded by your closest friends and loves. Las Vegas, anyone?