Turning 20 may not be as big a deal here in the U.S. as it is in other countries (21 kinda outshines every other birthday), but it's still a birthday to take note of. You're entering your second decade. No matter how you spin it, you're not really a kid anymore. So there are certain things you should do before then, both for fun and to prepare you for, you know, the rest of your life.
1. Cook a meal for yourself
And I mean really cook. Macaroni and cheese or anything else out of a box doesn't count. Follow a recipe and learn how to make at least one thing that you could serve to adults and not be ashamed of.
2. Try an adventurous food
Mine was frog legs, and I had them when I was about 9. My brother's was rattlesnake. Yours can be whatever strikes your fancy (or is available at the weird restaurant you happen to end up at). And it can be specific for you. If you're a picky eater, then sure, quinoa counts as adventurous.
3. Do something you know you're not supposed to
Explore that abandoned subway tunnel that's technically "off-limits" to the public. Sneak out of your cabin with your friends during your school camping trip to go look at stars on the beach. Lie to your parents about hanging out at your boyfriend's house without supervision. Just try not to do anything illegal or that would put you in actual danger.
4. Get a job
Nothing grows you up faster than spending a summer working 9-5. And I mean that in the best possible way.
5. Write your resume
By the time you're 20, you should have enough experience to create a convincing resume. And yes, by convincing I mean something you would actually give to an employer whom you really REALLY wanted to work for.
6. Kiss someone
Please, please do this before you're 20. Even if it's just a friend it's something you should at least have an idea of how to do correctly before you start thinking about seriously dating anyone.
7. Tell someone how you feel
And yes, I mean tell someone you "like like" them. The first time I tried to do this I was 18 years old and I literally could not get the words out for fear of rejection. When I actually managed to do it more than a year later I was ultimately turned down. But I'm glad I did it, because now I know how to. The whole "having a friend tell someone you like them" thing is old as soon as you're out of high school.
8. Apologize for hurting someone
And mean it. Knowing how to own up to a big mistake is something you should know how to do before your second decade. (Pro tip: if the word "you" is anywhere in your apology, it doesn't count. Being sorry "you felt that way" or "you took it that way" isn't being sorry for something YOU did).
9. Say yes
Say yes to something that scares you. A crazy adventure. A big opportunity. A relationship you might not be sure about at first. More often than not it's going to work out better than you ever could have imagined. And if it doesn't? Well then you learned something.
10. Say no
To something you know will be a mistake. To a task you know is too big for you to take on. To sex, if you're not ready. As great as saying yes is, and as much as it's usually what the other person wants to hear, you should never feel bad for saying no when it's the right thing for you.
11. Perfect your 5-minute morning routine
This is especially important for girls. Doing yourself up every day for high-school is fun and all, but I promise you, the semester you take 6 classes so you can graduate early, or the summer you hold down 3 jobs so you can buy a car, the 5-minute routine will be the only routine you use. And don't ever let anyone tell you that you can only feel pretty and confident with a full face of make-up.
12. Perfect your routine for when you really want to impress
This one is just as important to have down, regardless of gender. Know what to do to your hair to make it look really good. Figure out what cologne or perfume smells good on you. Decide what color lipstick you rock the best, or the shirt and tie combination that you feel most confident in. These are the tricks you'll rely on for honor society inductions, graduations, and award ceremonies, and any time you have to bring your a-game.
13. Make an extreme change to your hair
I had basically always had long hair, but right after I turned 19 I cut it all off and tried a pixie cut. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. But even if it hadn't been, hair grows back. The great thing about hair is that changing it can be a pretty extreme body mod, enough to really shake things up. But if you don't like it, it isn't permanent.
14. Pull an all-nighter for fun
One of the best memories I have of first semester Sophomore year is staying up telling ghost stories with a few friends until we were so scared we literally could not sleep. Yes it was a school night, and yes the next day was exhausting. But it was worth it.
15. Learn to drive
You don't necessarily have to get your license because hey, insurance is expensive and if there's no chance in heck of you getting a car anytime soon you might decide it's not worth it. But you should be a good enough driver by the time you're 20 to pass your road test when the time comes.
16. Take a risk
You're about as immortal as you're ever going to be, so hey, live it up.
17. Take a road trip with only your friends
You can't drink at 20, but you can book a hotel room in the next state over and check out the museums, food, and culture there. And the best part? You don't have to ask your parents' permission. (Though I do recommend letting them know where you're going).
18. Break up with a friend
Unless you're extremely lucky, by the time you're 20 you will encounter someone who you think of as a friend, but who really just drags you down. The best thing I've learned so far in college is that a toxic relationship isn't always one in which the other person is actively mean to you or constantly undermining you. Sometimes it's one in which you feel a sense of loss that you just can't explain whenever you're with the person. You should only surround yourself with people who make you feel whole, happy, loved, and worthy when you're with them. If someone isn't doing that for you, learn how to distance yourself. Sometimes it will involve fighting and harsh words. Other times you won't have to be mean. Sometimes you won't even have to stop hanging out with them completely, and you can rekindle the friendship later. But not always. Honestly, breaking up with a good friend will hurt more and haunt you longer than breaking up with a significant other ever will. But sometimes it really is the best thing to do, for both of you.
19. Go cliff diving
If you cannot find access to a cliff before you turn 20, jumping off a bridge into water is an acceptable substitute.
20. Learn how to drink wine
Finally, you should know how to drink this adult beverage before your second decade. No, you may not be able to legally order it at restaurants yet, but even my grandparents are chill with me having a couple of glasses of wine at holiday family dinners. And wine is something you'll be expected to drink in a professional setting someday. It's not the best tasting alcohol, but it's the one that's most important for you to learn how to embrace.
Here's how to have a great few years leading up to the big two zero. And once you finally reach 20? Well, have a good year then too.