Tuesday, January 7, 2014

23 (Important) Things to Do Before You're 23

There has been a lot of talk (on both sides) about a recent blog post "23 Things to do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You're 23." (You can read the original post here). When my soon-to-be Sister-in-Law, who is 8 years younger than me, shared this article I was concerned. While I think that marriage should be taken seriously and not rushed into (at any age) and that a young woman's life shouldn't be put on hold "waiting for prince charming", I was alarmed at a lot of the suggestions on this list. Seriously? Kissing a random stranger and date two people at once? These are not the ways young ladies should be "finding themselves." So, as someone older (the wiser part is up for debate) I'd like to suggest my own list of 23 things that I hope my future sister-in-law, and all young ladies (whether married, engaged, or single) will do before they're 23.

1. Learn to change a tire by yourself (and learn to cope with a variety of "emergency" situations for that matter.)

2. Learn to be alone. Go to a coffee shop or a movie by yourself, and learn how to "be ok" without always having a ton of friends (or a boyfriend/husband) around.

3. Get some culture. Go to a museum, a symphony, a musical, or an opera. If you don't like one, try another. If you don't like any of them, that's ok too. You'll be surprised how it'll come up in conversation, and you'll be able to respond like an adult.

3. Learn to make conversation with strangers. Even introverts will eventually find themselves at some sort of work function or dinner party where they know hardly a soul. Have a handful of "neutral" ice breaker topics (like "How do you know the host?") and know how to use them to make friends instead of being a wallflower.

4. Throw an adult dinner party. No pizza and red solo cups here. You don't have to buy fine china and serve filet minion, but have a few friends over for a nice sit down meal on real plates, with adult conversations.

5. Go somewhere. Travel. If funds allow, go somewhere international. If you can't afford that, road trip over to the next major town or tourist attraction. Visit someplace new and experience the sights and sounds of someplace other than home.

6. Learn to cook. Have at least one "signature dish" that you know how to make from scratch. It doesn't matter if you eat take-out every night of the week, learn to make at least one thing that you can serve your parents when they come to visit.

7. Learn how to pay bills and have at least a general idea of how to do taxes. Even if you go straight from your parents' house to your husband's, you should know how to do this in case (God forbid) anything should ever happen.

8. Read something other than Harry Potter and Twilight.

9. Get a hobby. Take lessons if you have to. Learn to dance, paint, or sing. Get crafty. Discover something artsy about yourself.

10. Learn the art of the handwritten note. In a world full of emails and text messages there will always be a place for handwritten Thank You notes, Sympathy cards, and the random "I miss you" note.

11. Have a thoughtful discussion with someone you disagree with. Have coffee with someone who holds an opposite view than you, and be able to discuss it calmly and rationally. (Hint: it helps if they're a little older than you.)

12. Try a new food. If you've never had Indian or Moroccan or vegetarian or sushi. Try it.

13. Be able to answer thoughtful questions about yourself, like: "What am I passionate about?" "What are my best qualities?" "What are my worst qualities?" "What do I want to contribute to the people around me?"

14. Give Blood.

15. Get a job and work hard at it. Even if you plan on being a stay at home mom, learn to be responsible enough to show up at work on time and do what is asked of you.

16. Get educated. Please at least get your High School Diploma. Strongly consider going to college. At least have some sort of career plan (again in case the worst happens.)

17. Volunteer. Feed the homeless or build houses in Mexico or whatever. Do something for someone you don't know.

18. Be responsible for yourself. Be in charge of making sure you go to the dentist, the doctor, get your oil changed, etc.

19. Be responsible for someone (or something) else. Getting a pet is one of the fastest ways to "grow up", but it's not for everyone. Get a plant. Babysit your niece or nephew. Be responsible for another living thing.

20. Be involved in buying a car, renting an apartment, etc. Even if your Dad/Mom/Husband helps you with this, be involved, ask questions, know what you're signing on the lease. It's valuable information.

21. Learn about something you've always been interested in. Cake decorating? The Civil War? Holistic Nutrition? Ice Sculpting? Whatever it is, go check some books out from the library, take a class, watch a documentary.

22. Do something nice for your parents.

23. Be "unplugged" for at least 24 hours. Learn to be without a phone/computer/tv for at least 24 hours.