So I’m turning twenty in exactly a month from today. Twenty might be a big deal for most people, but I’ve always been the youngest in my friend group (and in my grade. Summer birthday kids tend to be either freakishly old or freakishly young compared to their classmates). Most of my friends have been 20 or 21 for a while now, and I’ve felt like I’m right along with them. So my birthday will really be more of a “It’s about darn time” than an “OMG she’s 20!!!” When I thought about it, though, I got a little nostalgic. I never identified with your typical teenage stereotypes (tech-savvy, trendy, in-the-know, snotty), but turning twenty is kind of the end of an era for me. An era in which I mostly felt misunderstood and alienated from others my age. Wow, that sounds bleak—I promise it got much better after I went to college! It’s just high school and middle school that were socially meh.
Anyway, I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t anything huge I missed out on before I enter into a new decade of life. So, I googled “things to do before you’re 20,” and stumbled upon “Teenage Bucket List: 20 Things To Do Before You’re 20!” written by Huffington Post’s Hannah Orenstein. It pains me to have capitalized the “To” and “Do” in that title—Chicago Style dictates that helping verbs are not to be capitalized UNLESS they are:
- Four or more letters
- At the beginning of a the title
- The very last word of the title
As a disclaimer, I did not change a single thing in the Huffington Post content used in this post. You’ll be shocked to find that they violate the rules of capitalization—and make several other spelling and grammar mistakes—time and time again. It was hard for me to resist the temptation to change these mistake, and I apologize that you’re about to see them, because they’re very displeasing to the eye.
Without further ado, here’s what Huffington says we should all do before we turn the big two-oh, and below each item is what I think of their suggestions.
- Have An Epic Kiss
Whether’s it’s in the rain like Allie and Noah, upside-down like Spiderman and Mary Jane, or on prom night, go in for a Hollywood-perfect kiss with someone who deserves it!
A few things on this one. First, I would like to point out the grammar mistake in the very first sentence of the first item in this whole article. It signifies two things: not only does it make a negative first impression (at least for grammar nerds, or “snoots” as David Foster Wallace prefers to call us), but it also was the first thing looked at by whoever edited this article. THE VERY FIRST THING. Their eyes shouldn’t have been tired at all yet! I hope the takeaway here is that the world has a greater demand for good editors than most people realize.
Next thing: the content itself. The message is that, if you haven’t had a Hollywood-worthy kiss by the time you’re twenty, you’re doing it wrong. Sorry, Huffington Post, but I just don’t think that this is a universal truth. Nor do I think it should be the number one item on a list of things that you have to do before you’re twenty. I believe that things like this should come when they are meant to come for each individual person, whether that’s before or after twenty.
- Take A Road Trip
Pile into a car with your best friends and hit the road! Whether you pick a destination beforehand or go where the road takes you, you’ll have a blast.
Things are looking up with number two! I definitely agree with this one; some of the best memories of your teenage years will come from road trips with friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, etc. They provide a certain freedom, an escape from the mundane of everyday life. But they also come with a certain amount of responsibility: you’re on your own if the car breaks down, finding a place to stay, providing your own meals, etc. This may not sound like a big deal to those of us who have taken several road trips without our families, but it’s a lot to take on your first time.
If you live in the Midwest, I’d recommend taking a road trip to Wisconsin Dells. Seven friends and I did this over spring break (with a groupon, of course, we’re college students), and it was one of the best road trips of my life. Plus, in Wisconsin, cheese stops crop up about every thirty miles on the highway, so be sure to bring some pocket change for some homegrown dairy products!
- Try A Food You Can’t Pronounce
You never know — it might end up being your new favorite!
Eh…I don’t think this is a necessity in your teenage years. If this was a list of “Twenty Things to do Before you Die,” I’d fully support it, because it’d be an adventure to try something completely unrecognizable in name and appearance at least once. I have yet to do this, and if I don’t get to it within the next month, I won’t be heartbroken in the least.
- Record A Cover Of Your Favorite Song And Post It On YouTube
It might lead to fame and fortune (à la Justin Bieber), or it could lead to a silly afternoon in front of your computer and a couple comments on YouTube. The only way to find out is to try it yourself and see!
Two words for this one: no way. Maybe this is a good idea for some people, but not for others. Think of all the people in your high school graduating class. Would it be a good idea for 100% of them to do this? Really try to remember everyone, especially the people you didn’t talk to. Can you see them wanting to do this? For me, the answer is no for about 65% of people, myself included. Not everyone has the nerve or the talent to put themselves out there. This is definitely not something that all teenagers need to do.
- Go Skinny Dipping
Go skinny dipping on a warm summer night with your friends. Just remember — leave your phones at home. This is one album you don’twant on Facebook.
Once again, I have not tampered with any of these items. They are true to their appearance on Huffington Post. Did everyone catch the grammar mistake? Please tell me you did. It’s staring me in the face right now, begging to be fixed, and I’m trying my utmost to resist the temptation. In terms of content, this is another that you probably don’t need to do. I certainly don’t feel the urge.
- Participate In A Flash Mob
Totally crazy? Sure. But should you do it? Of course!
Totally crazy? Not really! They’re kind of a big thing that a lot of people do, if it appeals to them. Should everyone do it? Probably not, if they don’t want to!
- Fall In Love — And Get Your Heart Broken
Going through a major breakup or getting your heart broken is always a painful experience, but it makes you realize that you’ll come out the other side okay — and maybe even better than before.
Okay, while I agree that this would be a good learning experience, it doesn’t belong on a list of “20 Things To Do Before You’re 20!” The very title implies that what follows is a list of things you should set out to do intentionally. No one can make themselves fall in love, and who would want to get their heart broken? I could vent about number seven a lot more, but I’ll draw the line here.
- Sleep Under The Stars For One Night
Nothing is more beautiful than a night under the stars. Head into the woods for a weekend of camping and savor the sights!
This one sounds lovely. I haven’t done it yet, and I’m in no hurry. A starry night will be just as beautiful when I’m twenty as it is while I’m nineteen.
- Pull A (Fun) All-Nighter
You’ll probably have to pull an all-nighter (or two) by the time you turn 20 to finish studying for a test or writing an essay. So it’s only fair to spend a second all-nighter — after a nap, of course! — full of fun with friends until dawn to reward yourself for a job well-done.
This one is okay. What I would add is that I wouldn’t try to force staying up all night under the pressure of this list and your impending birthday. Only do it if you’re doing something that makes it worthwhile, like having a really good conversation with friends, waiting to pick up someone special from the airport, or having a Harry Potter marathon that you swore you wouldn’t abandon for sleep. Trying to stay awake for the sake of staying awake is just plain painful, so only do it if you have a good reason. And make sure you’ll have time for a nap the next day.
- Go Electronics-Free For 24 Hours
If the thought of 24 hours without your cell phone, laptop and iPad makes you break into a cold sweat, cutting out electronics for a day could be a beneficial technology detox for you. Attempt to enjoy the break! You might find it surprisingly refreshing.
I just find this one insulting. Don’t they know that people turning twenty these days were born in the ‘90s, and had a good eight to seventeen years before the iPhone was introduced? Do they think we don’t remember a time before our everyday lives were filled with all of the i- things? We have all certainly done this before we’ll turn twenty—if not in recent years, as children. But beside the offense taken, I love the idea of going tech-free. Not just for teens, either, for everyone! I have a dream of a world in which the technological advancement ceased at pay phones and electric typewriters. Few people share this vision with me, and that’s okay. There’s no way to reverse time anyway.
One thing that I do want to do, while we’re on the subject of being technology-free, is take a road trip across the U.S. without any sort of technology. This trip would involve paper maps, sleeping in tents, and hunting and gathering. My friends hate the idea for two reasons:
- If we are going to go on a road trip, we have to take pictures! I like to capture moments, too, but, especially in today’s day in age, posing for the camera often takes precedence over the actual experience that is taking place behind the lens. Let’s stop worrying about capturing every second of every adventure, and go out and have them, 100%, shall we?
- Safety. We could get lost! What if we need to call someone? Yes, there are RISKS in life, especially when taking adventures! But people lived long, full, happy lives before the invention of the telephone and GPS.
One other sidenote: I used to be a part of DECA, and at the ICDC conference every year my chapter (from good old North Dakota) would convince Californians and New Yorkers alike that we rode our horses to school and were forced to observe the weekly “No Tech Tuesday” to conserve energy. A line that a group member of mine always pulled was, “I saw a bicycle once!” What’s scary is how easily people believed us. Maybe they were still grappling with the news that, no, North dakota is not a territory, and yes, people have settled there.
This one’s a biggie. After you turn 18, flex your political power by voting in local, state-wide and national elections. You might be surprised how good it feels to voice your views.
Yes, vote for the sake of political efficacy and democracy! The voter turnout in this country is pitiful, but the next generation can change that. However, if you do choose to vote, I implore you to do your homework. Know the candidates and their platforms. What’s better than being a voter is being an educated voter.
- Have A Meaningful Conversation With A Stranger
You never know what you might have in common with the woman sitting next to you on the bus, the guy waiting in line behind you at the grocery store, or the couple sitting on a bench near you at the park.
I agree with this one, but I don’t think that meaningful conversations should be forced. Don’t set out to have one just to check this item off your list. I often make small talk with strangers who sit next to me in class, on the bus, a bench, etc. just to be friendly, but most of the time it ends there—and that is okay. But it is good to be open to the possibility of the conversation taking a turn for the deep. Meaningful conversations with strangers are beautiful because they are miracles. Think about it: God put a certain person in a certain place at a certain time so that you could talk to them, learn from them. And what’s also cool? He put you in their life for a certain reason, too.
One more thing: these conversations can happen well past your teens.
- Get A Passport, And Take It Somewhere!
Even if you don’t have the budget for a big post-graduation Eurotrip, everyone should still have a passport. It doesn’t take too much time, effort or money to get one made, and you’ll have it for all your future travels for the next 10 years. In the meantime, whip it out as your form of identification on your next train or bus ride.
Fun, but not necessary. If you’re lucky enough to get the chance to travel outside of the country before you’re twenty, congratulations. I am not like you. However, I am okay with leaving the travel abroad experiences for later in life, after I’ve completed my college education and am able to fully appreciate the culture and history of wherever it is I will go. But if you have the means and the opportunity, then absolutely travel abroad! If not, a driver’s license will suffice as ID on trains and buses alike.
- Learn To Play A Song On An Instrument
Always wanted to learn to play “Blackbird” on the guitar or “The Scientist” on your brother’s keyboard? Make it happen. With a few weeks of lessons, a teach-yourself manual or even just YouTube tutorials, you can experience a different side of one of your favorite songs.
Sure! There are so many songs and instruments out there that almost anyone can get something out of this one. I’m not musically inclined myself, but some movies have scores that strike a chord with my very soul. Which is why I taught myself how to play The Godfather theme on the piano when I was in middle school. I guess I can check this one off my list!
- Get A Job. Any Job.
Even if you can’t stand your summer job at the mall, the experience of having responsibility to an employer and making your own money is an essential part of the passage to adulthood. For better or for worse, your first job is something you’ll never forget — so don’t wait until you’re out of college to get one!
I second everything said here. Having a job teaches so many life lessons that you can’t get anywhere else, and it is best to learn those lessons from a job before you graduate college and need to search for an actual career. Even if you’re scooping ice cream all summer and want to become a lawyer, two jobs that seemingly have nothing in common, you can easily spin past work experiences at interviews during and after college. And you will stand out from other applicants who haven’t had jobs because any work experience tells employers a few things about you: you can be trusted, you’ve had real life responsibility, you’ve been held accountable for your actions by someone other than your parents, and you chose to work rather than bum around (you’re not lazy). Extra bonus to Huffington Post here because they had a photo of a lifeguard (my job throughout high school) next to this item! You wouldn’t believe how much I have used experiences from this job in interviews—from customer service to keeping cool under pressure during emergency situations, I owe this summer job big time for all the growth it gave me as a person and an employee.
- Write A Love Letter To Yourself. Open 10 Years Later.
Profess your undying love — to yourself. Purely for the purpose of celebrating you, write a letter filled with all the things you love and appreciate and about yourself. It’s a nice self-esteem boosting activity, and when you’re older, you’ll love the reminder of what made you so awesome as a teen.
I love the idea of a letter to your future self, but does it need to be so conceited? I was a little appalled when I first read this one— “you’ll love the reminder of what made you so awesome”?! It’s great to acknowledge your own achievements, virtues, and the little things that make you you, but let’s humble ourselves a bit, shall we? There are other things more worthwhile to write to ourselves than how awesome we are. I have a few ideas:
- Write about goals that you want to accomplish by the time you reach middle age. Are you hoping to start a family? Get involved at a church you love? Volunteer at a place that is near and dear to your heart? Save a certain amount of money to donate to a charity, scholarship, or endangered animals? A letter reminding you of what you’ve always wanted to accomplish will help you stay on track to achieve those goals!
- Write about what’s important in your life right now, and what you think your life will look like in ten years. It will be fun to see how much you’ve changed/remained the same, and how close your prediction was!
- Offer yourself some encouragement. This might be tricky, as you don’t know what your life will look like ten years from now, but we all can use a little encouragement from time to time. And sometimes what’s better than hearing that others believe in you, is knowing that you believe in yourself, and always have.
- Learn To Have A Basic Conversation In A Foreign Language
Ever wanted to don a beret and have a conversation en français, like a real Parisian? make it happen! Get an audio guide or Rosetta Stone and learn to have a basic conversation in the language you’ve been dying to learn, whether it’s Swedish or Swahili. You never know when you might use it!
If you are dying to learn a language, as Huffington Post believes you are, then go for it! This would be especially handy if you are looking to complete lucky number thirteen. Also, I got a bit freaked at this point in the article…they first had a picture of a lifeguard, and here they had one of an English-French Dictionary. It’s like they know me! (I took French in high school and college)
- Dance In The Rain
There’s something about the act of dancing freely — and being caught in a major downpour — that makes you feel alive like almost nothing else does. So instead of running for cover the next time it starts coming down, start your own impromptu dance party and feel the rush!
If this is your thing, go for it. I wish it was mine. But honestly, there is nothing about being caught in a downpour that I find enjoyable. The movies make it look so magical, but reality disappoints. At least for me.
- Go To A Movie Or Dinner By Yourself
It might feel intimidating to go to a movie or out to dinner by yourself at first, but it builds tons of confidence.
I haven’t done this, so I can’t tell you if it builds confidence or not. I think that instead of going to a movie or out to eat by yourself, you’d reap just as many benefits by taking a nice long walk. In a world that bolsters connectivity at all times, solitude is too often misconstrued as a bad thing by young people. But solitude is one of the best things—in moderation.
Fun story that is semi-on topic: I almost went to a movie by myself on February 3, 2012. This was just before I started dating my boyfriend, whom I’ve now been with for over three years. We had carried on a flirtation of sorts for quite a while, and I was dying to hear him confirm that he had feelings for me (if he actually did—I was still wildly uncertain at this point because of my extreme lack of confidence). So, I devised a plan: I’d been wanting to see The Woman in Black for over a year. I had even bought and read the book in the summer of 2011. My best friends at the time were anti-scary movies, which meant that if I wanted to go opening night like I’d been dreaming of, I’d have to go by myself….OR, try to get Garret to go with me. I texted him early in the week (the movie came out on Friday) that my friends were too chicken to see it with me, which meant I would have to go alone I guess! Instead of replying with “I’ll go with you!” (as I was hoping), he texted back almost immediately “You can’t go to a movie alone, that’s social suicide!” Amazingly, it worked out that we went together, and here we are some three years later. If any of you are passive aggressive like me and wanting to go to a movie
- Learn To Cook Your Favorite Meal
Before long, you’ll be living away from home and craving your favorite home-cooked meal. Spend some quality time with Mom or Dad in the kitchen — they’ll be happy to teach you to cook for yourself!
Alright, well for starters, most people are out of the house by the time they’re twenty (nice going, Huffington Post), but I suppose that this is still a good one to have on here. Learning to cook at least a few meals is definitely a necessity before you turn twenty. I hope that if you’re like me, you were able to fix yourself at least a sandwich or something for lunch by the time you were a teenager. So I’d maybe take this a step further and suggest learning how to bake/cook recipes that you’ve been dying to try (I’ve got quite a few pins on Pinterest waiting to become a reality), or you could really be an overachiever and prepare a meal for your whole family before you move away for college. I know my suggestions may not be for everyone, but I just wanted to provide examples to illustrate how this last item is moldable to fit your interests and goals. Maybe you’ll be satisfied with this one if you ever got your Sim to achieve Level Seven in their culinary skills.
I think the main takeaway here is that there are a lot of things that could have been on this list. While some ideas may be universally agreed upon, this list would vary greatly depending on who writes it. Some items on my list would include having a scary movie night, roasting marshmallows over a bonfire, make a snowman/fort and then have hot chocolate in front of the fireplace, volunteering with a project that you’re passionate about, and keeping a journal. We all value and enjoy different activities, and our lists should reflect that.
What would your list look like? Feel free to comment!
Under-twenties, we only have one more month to spend together. Over-twenties, I look forward to joining you soon.