With my 21st birthday rapidly approaching, I thought perhaps I would be remiss if I did not share some of the life lessons I've learned over the course of my time here on earth so far. (December 25th, for anyone interested. Gifts of money, food, coffee, and extra sleep all quite graciously accepted.) These may not be the most profound thoughts in the world, but they are some little tidbits of knowledge that those dearest to me have helped me come to learn, and I believe the world deserves to hear these things as well.

21. There is no substitute for hard work.

When life gives you lemons, make the best darndest lemonade you can while you figure out how the heck life got those lemons in the first place.

20. Floss more.

Just do it. No one does it enough for the dentist to be satisfied, especially when your aunt is the dental hygienist examining you.

19. The "E" on your gas tank stands for "Extra Ten Miles", not "Empty".

Where there's a will....

18. Dad is always right.

When in doubt, refer back to rule #18.

17. Cake, ice cream, leftover pie, and/or brownies are acceptable meals at any time of day.

Especially once in a while when you are sad or stressed. Or during finals.

16. Shiny side up.

Your car should always be shiny side up, greasy side down. If not, you have a serious problem.

15. Don't get dead.

Look both ways crossing the street, drive safely, pace yourself.

14. Start at 80-proof, and work your way up.

Perhaps not the ideal nugget of wisdom for everyday life, but rather your 21st birthday or when you've run out of cold medicine.

13. Choosing to take the high road is not admitting defeat.

Rather, it's the mature and diplomatic way of handling a sticky situation. The importance of forgiveness and understanding can never be overstated.

12. Give any really big decision at least 24 hours before acting upon it.

Often times, the circumstances surrounding the situation will have changed or resolved themselves, and emotions may be a bit more calm. Acting impetuously may have worse consequences than taking the time to consider all angles.

11. Marry for love, not money.

"You can't build love."

(Although, to be completely fair, my dad often enjoys switching the saying around and joking that it's easier to build love rather than acquire an immense fortune.)

10. Don't be chicken.

Meaning, don't be stupid. Don't be cowardly. Don't throw away your best chances at living your best life. And, at one time, when I was younger, it meant a very delicious meal of chicken and some other tasty goodies my uncle would whip up at his retro Vermont diner.

9. Keep Comin' Back.

Again, another one of my uncle's sayings, and a favorite slogan of some of my closest friends, both meaning Don't Forget Where You Came From and to keep going even when the going gets tough.

8. Give it all you've got, and when you've given all you've got, give it a little bit more.

Just when you feel like giving up, usually that's when the tide will turn in your favor.

7. You break it, you buy it.

And if you do end up having to buy that broken thing, you better learn to love it.

6. If it's free, it's for me.

This applies to practically everything, with a special emphasis on coffee, gasoline, and vacations.

5. Buckle up for safety!

"Always. Or you're walking, kid."

4. The clearance section is always where you look first.

Have you really gone shopping if you haven't raided the bargain aisles? More bang for your buck at all times. Especially in antique stores and Target.

3. Family will always have your back.

Whether it's sending you congratulations on a job well done, picking you up from the airport at 4am, or slipping you $50 behind your dad's back before you leave for college, winking and telling you "Don't forget to have some fun", these people will always be your home base, your rock, and your best friends.

2. Family will also always have the most dirt on you.

They know exactly how to get your goat, make your ribs ache from laughter, and make you red in the face from their jokes and teasing. They've got the embarrassing baby photos and the horror stories from middle school hairdo's and pictures.

1. Home will always be where the heart is.

And a fully stocked fridge. And a free washing machine. And the warmest hugs and family meals you can find.