I turn twenty in one month, and because I won’t be in the country for that miraculous day, my family and friends are celebrating with me this month instead. Twenty. It’s kind of insane. I swear just yesterday I got my ears pierced for my tenth birthday, and now here I am preparing to leave my teenage years behind and enter the realm of twenty-something. It’s crazy. Not the age itself– just the realization I’ve had of the passage of time, thanks to the signpost reading TWENTY. I’ve been talking to my family and friends a lot about this lately, and something I’ve come to realize is that my complete ignorance of time passing steadily for the last twenty years is the sign of a well-lived and beautiful twenty years. I never noticed time before because I was too busy in the moment, which I am pretty pleased with. It makes you feel good to realize you’ve just rocked twenty years.
While I have spent a lot of time looking back, turning twenty has me looking forward in a lot of ways, as it should. I have found myself looking forward, and looking around at everyone else more and more these last few months, and I’ve come to some interesting conclusions about being in your early twenties. There have been a lot of articles recently quarreling back and forth about what your early twenties should look like– consider these couple, the likes of which sparred on my Facebook news feed for days.
I see both in real life, too. Several people in my graduating class have recently gotten engaged, and some are having children. Others in my class just spent their entire break traveling, single as can be. Some are in school, some are working instead. Some have joined the military in various branches, while others still just aren’t sure what they want to be doing. There are so many things you can be doing with your twenties, so many that there definitely is no one ‘List of Things’ to accomplish, one set of rules to follow, or even one set of rules to break. Why the hell would we ever want to categorize or try to contain all of those things– in your twenties or in any of your years?
We’re only given so much time here on this floating hunk of carbon here in space. And whether that time has been given to us by God, Allah, The Big Bang, Zeus, or The Flying Spaghetti monster doesn’t make a difference. It’s yours, so do with it what you will, starting from twenty when things become a little more real than before… or sooner! We all must share space, but our time is our own, and you are the only one who decides what to do with it, and while you can have a different opinion, you aren’t allowed to bash what other people do with their time- it’s their own.
Today I slept until ten, got really excited about new socks, and sat in my car for an extra fifteen minutes so I could listen to three really good songs in a row. Who gives a rip?
My point is, instead of trying to shout our opinions at each other using ‘Things to do in your twenties’ lists, why don’t we each use our own time and come up with our own lists of what we personally want to do in our twenties? (or thirties, forties, fifties…)
(Damn, self, that’s a good idea!)
So here goes. Here’s my list of ‘Twenty things to do in my twenties’. In no particular order, mind. I don’t want any sass about ‘oh this was higher on the list nyah nyah nyah.’
TWENTY THINGS TO DO IN MY TWENTIES.
1. Have faith. In God, in people, in the inherent goodness of the world, in the fact Tuesday always comes after Monday.
2. Show my parents they are the absolute best. Make choices that they would be proud of, or at the very least support because you made them for the right reasons.
3. Be a role model to my sisters. And a confidant, friend, mentor, whatever. Take Elli to Chinese and Take Kati to the movies whenever you can. Talk to them all the time, tell them you love them, and show them how much you care. Be proud of them more than ever.
4. Finish your Bachelor’s degree and power on to your Master’s and PhD. You want this more than anything, so work hard, work with passion, and learn until your brain explodes. If you’re going to change the world (or at least one person’s) you have to have the tools first, and these years will provide you with those tools. Keep loving school as much as you did that very first day back in 1999.
5. Get married. But first keep telling Keegan how incredible he is, keep getting to know each other, and loving each other. When you know, you know, and when you know, you have plenty of time to make things legal. Enjoy your time together. Go to the 10:25 movie and then battle for the champion in Oscar’s night betting. Read a book and pass it on to him. Let him make you a cup of coffee and you make him some tea. Make fun of his hairy feet and let him tease you when you actually say something stupid. Hang out with each other’s families, friends, and everyone in between. Then, when you feel like it’s time, tie that knot and tie it tight. Because that guy is pure gold.
6. Love your friends. Pull the close ones closer and remind them that they are everything to you, and don’t be afraid to make a few new ones. Remember as you usually do that all personal relationships are precious, from your closest friendships to a fun professor to a stranger you share a plane ride with. Be the best you can be to those around you.
7. Teach people. Teach them skills, teach them a way of seeing things, teach them how to play rummy, or teach them everything you know. Share your knowledge in the classroom, the real world, or in written word.
8. Learn. From everyone. Listen to the stories people tell you, to professors, to friends, to anyone. Listen and learn all that you can.
9. Shape up. You’ve been saying it for a long time. Your twenties is it, lady. Get in the best physical shape you’ve ever been in and celebrate yourself. You already know how beautiful and how damn awesome you are. Your confidence is stellar, and you know it isn’t the most important thing about a person, but you want it, and you know you do, so do it. Do it for you, not for anyone else.
10. Travel. You’re already on your way by spending your semester abroad, but travel when you can. Even in your own beautiful country. Wander down a gravel road you haven’t before. Go somewhere new just to feel that wandering feeling. Be like The Wanderer: “Yet still I will wonder and wander far on.”
11. Master your third and fourth instruments, then hell, go for a fifth. Keep playing the piano and the drums too, but really work on that guitar and violin. You should finish what you started– you can do it. Then, when you can start your own one woman band, maybe go for the harmonica or accordion or something. That would be pretty damn sweet.
12. Always keep reading. Just remember your first love was books. Read anything and everything, from novels to biographies to newspapers. Readers rule the world.
13. Keep moving toward that published dream. You may not do it in these ten years, but you will someday. Keep writing and working. Be accepting of feedback and be passionate about each word. You can do it.
14. Lead through service. Keep using your leadership skills, but always remember the true role of a leader is to serve others. Facilitate, discuss, empower, inspire, and listen. Lead.
15. Buy a house. Depending on your educational and financial situation, you might not actually buy this until your early thirties, but work to get to that point. Get your own place and make it yours.
16. Be financially responsible. Start keeping better track of your money, and learn to budget. You need to do this one, no option.
17. Quit biting your damn fingernails.
18. Make and see lots and lots of art. Write, paint, sing, whatever. See a concert, a play, go to a museum. Make good art.
19. Think about starting a family, and if the time is right, start it. You already know you want to be Dr. Cassabaum before you are Momma Cassabaum, so just keep that in mind. You have plenty of time in your thirties to have kids, so no rush. And obviously work on completing a lot of these other numbers before this one… number five, for instance. Wait until you’re both ready.
20. Enjoy every little thing in between these big things. Make a snow angel in -15 degree weather. Take an extra long shower. Enjoy strawberries right out of the garden without washing them. Go barefoot all summer until your feet are black and rough like sandpaper. Enjoy the smile on Elli’s face when you tell her how awesome she is, or the the story Kati tells that doesn’t quite make sense but is brilliant anyways. Cherish a baseball game with Dad or a night laying in bed next to Mom. Every Katie snort and coffee date, every MASH episode with Britany, every deep talk with Eric, every boy story from Steph. Wrestling with Cooper, sister time with Sarah, and hide and seek games with Bridget. Talks with adults over nothing, nights in the pub listening to Chris and Eileen’s stories. Showing Grandma Cass how to use technology, and hearing Grandma Kay tell stories. Throw a stick for Charlie, cuddle with Luna. A cup of coffee, a hug, a beautiful day, and the times between. The feeling of falling asleep next to someone you love, even if he snores like a bear almost instantly after his head hits the pillow. (: Enjoy every moment so that when you come to the next sign in the road, you will be baffled by the time that has passed because you were too busy living. Live, and live good.