I turn 25 in March. Twenty-five. Holy shit, that sounds old. Given that 17 was always the age that sounded the 'coolest' to me when I was younger and that I felt over-the-hill when my 22nd birthday swung around, I dread to think where this leaves me now. If I followed in my mum's footsteps, I'd be getting married in two years and hoofing out baby number one shortly afterwards. Slightly terrifying prospect, this growing up business.
Marriage aside, and babies VERY firmly aside, here are 25 things to do before reaching the quarter of a century milestone. This list is a combination of personal experiences, achievements and aspirations - I definitely haven't ticked off everything! Have you?
1. Know how to cook a three course meal. Sad but true: chicken nuggets and potato Smiles followed up with a microwaveable Heinz pudding in a tin won't cut it forever. Knowing how to whip up even just one wholesome masterpiece of a meal is enough to impress friends, family & dates and is something everyone should have in their ammunition of life skills.
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2. Travel. You all knew it was coming so I may as well place it near the top of the list (where it belongs). Travelling doesn't have to take place over a six month stint or longer; if you can bear it, taking all of your annual leave in one block and jetting to South America or Asia for a few weeks is enough to get a taste of the way of life in far-flung corners of the globe. Whether you 'rough it' in backpacker hostels or hop from one luxury hotel to another, you will come back having pushed yourself out of your comfort zone, tried new things and become a more confident, learned and cultured individual. If nothing else, you'll improve your geographical knowledge in time for the next pub quiz.
3. Fall in love. Because being in love is the best feeling in the world and everyone should experience it! Being with someone you feel entirely comfortable around, have loads of fun with, can't wait to see AND get to sleep with - what's not to...well, love?
4. Have your heart broken. Whether you're the dumper or the dumpee, breaking up with someone sucks. BUT once you're done wallowing and are ready to move on, you'll see the silver lining. Break-ups are part of the plan: they're a good way to take a step back, get some perspective and assess what you really want in a partner. Playing the dating game has its fair share of ups and downs, but how else will you know who's The One when you meet them?
5. Find your perfect pastime. Because it's probably time to extend your interests past drinking and Netflix. Hobbies transform you into an engaging, intriguing & more rounded individual, and there's no time like the present to indulge any whimsical curiosities in yoga, photography, blogging, baking, whatever - and find out which ones you want to pursue. They also make excellent ice breakers on dates or in the interview room: never again will you live in fear of the dreaded "So, what do you do in your spare time?".
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6. Find a career you actually like. If you're already in your dream job, good. If not, why not? You're the only person who has the power to ensure you spend your valuable time doing what you want to be doing; doing something that gives you purpose and satisfaction. If you hate your job, quit and find one you like; life's too short to waste feeling unhappy every single day of the week. If you ever dreamed of working for yourself, now is the time to try while you're still young (ish); you may not succeed but you can damn well give it your best shot.
7. Do something you never thought you would. Or could. Surprise yourself; show yourself you are capable of more than you thought. For me it was camping in East Africa slap-bang in the middle of various game reserves: pitching tents, fending off impossibly large insects, showering in the dark, using squat toilets and generally roughing it is not something I ever saw myself doing, but I came out the other side alive, relatively unscathed and with awesome memories.
8. Volunteer. Giving your time to a worthy cause on a voluntary basis not only means you give back to the community but is also a nice way to meet new people, expand your interests and feel good about yourself.
9. Accept your body shape. Stop letting those few extra kilograms haunt you. Honestly? They're not a big deal. It's time to bring a chapter of self-criticism to a close and learn to love yourself just as you are - you'll be ten times happier for it. Realise once and for all that most celebrity bodies are sculpted by expensive personal trainers, personal chefs and incredibly restrictive diets (yawn) and are largely unachievable for someone with an average income, an appreciation of good food (one of life's great pleasures) and a life!
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10. Get to know your body. Understand what's normal, what's not, when you need to get something checked out and when you need to rest. Know which foods your body doesn't tolerate well and take action to eliminate them from your diet. Find your alcohol limit (passing out on the night bus home with vomit in your hair is getting steadily less acceptable). Knowing your body inside out is the key to staying healthy.
11. Appreciate your family. It's only as I've got older than I've truly understood the value of family. You don't appreciate your parents when you're young; it's not 'cool' to hang out with them and you resent all the restrictions they enforce. Stumbling into grown-up territory where it rains responsibilities every single day is a bit of a wake-up call - it suddenly dawns on you just how much money, time and effort your parents put into moulding you into a passable specimen of the human race. No matter what happens, you can always count on the unwavering support and friendship of your family, and know that they have your best interests at heart.
12. Learn to let go. If you've been holding a grudge against someone for the past few months or even years, consider how it's affecting YOU. Forgiving and forgetting isn't easy but neither is carrying the weight of bitterness on your shoulders. Wave 'friends' out of your life who make you more miserable than they do happy, or who make spending time with them a chore. It took until my third year of uni to finally ditch a group of assholes masquerading as friends - I only wish I'd done it earlier! Life is full of goodbyes; learning to let go and knowing you will come through stronger/better/happier on the other side is useful to know.
13. Run a half marathon. Fairly ironic that this is appearing on any list of mine when I can just about stagger a 5k without vomiting at the end BUT the point is, you'll never be this fit again so make the most of it! Running a half marathon or any kind of race, especially if it's for charity, is an achievement to be proud of.
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14. Find a sport you actually enjoy. Exercise doesn't have to be a chore; if you find an activity you like (or don't hate, in my case), working out can actually be something you look forward to. Ease yourself into the idea with team sports i.e. something that generally involves more socialising than exercising. Beer pong, Breaking Bad marathons and grooving on a grimy dance floor probably don't count at this stage. Soz.
15. Know how to change a lightbulb. And how to change a tyre, sew on a button, iron a shirt and carry out basic household repairs. I once* went for two weeks without light in my bedroom because I was waiting for mum to get back from holiday to change the bulb.
* 'Once' = four months ago. For shame.
16. Stop giving a shit what other people think. The day you stop caring how others perceive you is the day you step into a more confident version of yourself, a trait that can carry you far in life both personally and professionally. If confidence doesn't come naturally to you, fake it until it becomes second nature.
17. Be yourself. Completely and wholeheartedly. Embrace the weird that dwells within. People like eccentric, it's way cooler than being normal and totally fucking boring. Your quirks are what make you stand out; what people remember about you. Say what's on your mind and do what you feel like doing without worrying how people might react. What's the worst that can happen? Someone gives you an odd look then forgets about it? OH NO.
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18. Enjoy your own company. Being happy and comfortable in your own company is a good life lesson to master. Shared experiences are great but alone time is important too, so get out there and do things with YOU - travel, dine out, go to the cinema (since when did sitting in a dark room where you're not meant to talk become a social activity anyway?). I've done all these things and more on my own, and while requesting a table for one takes some getting used to, it's really no big deal. Strangers won't stare at you, people won't think you're a loser with no friends...they're far too wrapped up in their own lives to give you more than a mildly curious glance.
19. Find causes you care about. For example, I chose not to ride an elephant in Asia because a) it hurts their backs and b) animals used for tourism are often treated badly and live in unacceptable conditions. I also refused to visit Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai because of shady allegations relating to drug use on the animals. I'm also all for banning violent video games such as GTA - could not agree more with this recent development: http://www.buzzfeed.com/rossalynwarren/target-australia-bans-grand-theft-auto-v-for-its-violence-ag. Care enough about these causes to be able to articulate your opinion and fight your corner.
20. Give blood. Blood really is one of the best gifts you can give, and when better to do it than when you're young, fit and healthy? When I was on the fence about giving blood a couple of years ago, my brother surprised me by saying it was selfish not to - and he was right, what's stopping you when you could save someone's life? It could even lead to bigger things: Tom gave stem cells a few months ago which was a bit of an ordeal but you can't put a price on potentially saving a life, and as he pointed out, you get more free biscuits than when you give blood!
21. Start facing your fears. Giving blood is just one of the things you can't do if you're scared of needles - but it doesn't stop there. What about blood tests, drips, booster jabs and travel vaccinations? Injections are a part of life and the sooner you tackle the fear the better. If you're scared of spiders, catch the next one you see in the house. If you hate telling people how you feel, do it anyway - it'll probably make things better in the short or long run. Fear can be a useful protective mechanism but it can also lay down obstacles on the road to independence, happiness and achievement; the trick is to identify which of your fears you should at least try to overcome.
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22. Move out of the family home. Living at home is an excellent tactical approach in terms of nourishing meals, clean clothes and financial assistance here and there. It's also a good way to save money, especially if you want to travel or buy a house in the near future. However, the downside is you're never going to achieve 'proper' grown-up status if you're still living with the rents. That and there are certain things you just can't do comfortably when you're living at home - bring a boyfriend/girlfriend/Tinder date back, drink milk out of the carton, stay in PJs all day without having an eyebrow raised in your direction, etc. Time to fly the nest, little bird.
23. Entirely change where your life is taking you. This may or may not spark a quarter life crisis depending on how dramatic the change is. If, in your newfound wisdom and philosophical outlook on life, you feel like you took the wrong qualifications or went down the wrong career path, now is the time to take charge. You may be a quarter of a century old living in a time where 17 year old celebrities rule the world, but really your life is just beginning (who the fuck is Kendall Jenner, anyway?). Ensure you're standing in the right direction before embarking on the journey.
24. Experiment with how you look. Dye your hair, get a new piercing, try out a new lipstick shade, rock a pair of shoes you wouldn't normally wear, or go one further and get a tattoo. Experimentation is fun and might even unveil a more confident you. Make sure you get snaps of friends' failed experiments - they'll thank you at their wedding/next big birthday...naaaat.
25. Plan an epic 25th! Get out of the country, go someplace new, do something CRAZY...just make sure it's awesome to celebrate this quarter of a century milestone!
It might be my list but I certainly haven't done everything on it. Running a half marathon? Laughable. Changing a lightbulb? Fail. I haven't found a career I'm passionate about yet and I was taken off the giving blood register because apparently fainting all over the floor is more of a hindrance than help.
I want to tick off a few more things while I'm in Australia: find a sport I enjoy (including trying out new ones - surfing!), volunteer with wildlife and find a job I love - I'd like to give hostel work a go and get an idea of what it takes to run your own.
Do you agree/disagree with any of the points on the list? Is a 25th birthday even that big of a deal?