It's beginning to dawn on my friends and I that we will all be 20 by the end of next year. Some of us are already hitting that mark. As my teen years quickly slip through my fingertips and I am transcended into the boundaries of adulthood, I thought I'd share some tips on how to capture the true teen essence while simultaneously preparing for our twenties.
Even if you are not a political person, your local government shapes your present and future. Whatever side you choose to stand on, leave your mark with a vote, and if you aren't registered to vote, what are you waiting for?
2. Go on a blind date.
Pursuing a romantic relationship in this era seems completelty impossible and is sometimes just too complicated to deal with. But trusting your close friends to set you up with someone they think is "perfect" for you can be fun. And who knows, that blind date could either turn out to be the love of your life or a great story to laugh over for years to come.
3. Get a job.
Whether you've had the same job since you were 16, you bounce from job to job every two weeks, or you've only ever worked one day in your life, that's OK!
You can learn a lot about yourself and other people from being employed. You may learn that you don't like working under someone and may want to invest in a future as an entrepreneur. Or, if you're like me, working as a server has taught me that I don't like pretending to care for people, so I should steer clear of a career that is centered around customer satisfaction. Building a work ethic now will help prepare you for your professional career.
4. Party on.
Believe it or not, but the movie "Project X" is not an accurate representation of parties for teens, even though a lot of us would love to attend one just like it. Even if you seem like someone who prefers to stay in and read a book or watch Netflix on a Saturday night, I encourage everyone to attend a party. It's a great place to meet new people and create some great memories. There are different types of parties that suit your personality that doesn't have to involve the stereotypical risque behaviors. I personally only attend parties that are guaranteed to have food.
5. Volunteer in your community.
Find something that you really care about and involve yourself in that. Do you love animals? Then volunteer at a pet shelter. Like kids? Try the Boys and Girls Club. A bit of a gym rat? The YMCA takes volunteers as well. Beach clean-ups can be a really cool experience, too! When I was a young bookworm, I volunteered at my local library, and now that I'm at UCF, I volunteer at one of the Planned Parenthood's located in the Orlando area.
6. Go a whole day without your phone.
We as a generation have become so addicted to smartphones that we actually miss out on the things that are happening right in front of our eyes. Take a break for 24 hours. Go to the park, take a nap, write a book, dye your hair, spend time with your family, anything! Just log off for a little bit.
7. See the sunrise with your friends.
After an epic all-nighter with your friends, there is nothing more peaceful, beautiful, and surreal than sitting on the top floor of a parking garage huddled together still in last night's clothing awaiting daybreak.
My favorite sunrise spot is atop the Libra garage that overlooks the woods and all of the UCF campus.
8. Sneak out of the house.
True story: The first time I snuck out of the house was to return overdue library books. As boring as my experience may seem, it was still thrilling for me. Sneaking out is like a right of passage that solidifies your teen years. Do it, be safe, and don't get caught.
9. Get your driver's license.
You don't have to get your license as soon as you turn 16, but it sure is convenient. Even if you don't drive or have a car, it's still good to have one. It's less hassle and easier to walk around with than your passport or birth certificate.
10. Open a savings account.
Saving money is hard when there's a lot of cool things you want to spend your money on. That's why I suggest opening a savings account. Take 10% of each paycheck and place it in that account and do not touch it. If your fingers are sticky and it's really hard for you to stay out of that account, throw out the card and forget the pin number. This way, you can only deposit money into the account and can't easily take money out.
11. Go on a road trip.
Long trips with good music, great company, and good conversations can be a lot of fun. Spontaneous road trips to the beach or on the way to a concert are great times to get closer to the people around you.
12. See your favorite artist live.
The 1975, my favorite band ever.
It's a once in a lifetime experience, truly. Enough said.
13. Go to Disney World.
This is where dreams come true, seriously! Bring out your inner child and relish in it before you have to dive into adulthood. There's a kid in all of us, and there is nothing as pure as seeing your favorite Disney characters face-to-face. It warms my heart every time I meet Princess Tiana and Mulan.
14. Reconnect with an old friend.
Looking back on my high school experience, there were a handful of people that I believed that we had the potential to become close friends, but the timing was never perfect, so we stayed acquaintances. Now that we are all in better places and the timing is finally right, don't be afraid to reach out to that person first, because they might be feeling the exact same way but don't know how to go about it. A quick Insta DM never hurt anybody.
15. Start a hobby that is unique to you.
Having a healthy and creative hobby that is unique to you is very important when starting an adult life. Because I am constantly on the go with work, school, and friends, I sometimes spend a night crocheting. My best friend even picked up knitting.
16. Start a travel piggybank.
The saving account that you opened is to invest in your future. Your travel piggybank is or the fun adventures you want to experience around the world. I suggest buying a large world map to open up across your bedroom wall, and whenever you have a few loose dollar bills, pin it to the various places on the map that you would like to visit in the future. It is important to be consistent in saving and try your hardest to not touch the money.
17. Learn to cook.
You don't have to have a culinary degree or be a top chef, but living on your own is a little harder if you can't properly feed yourself. Don't fall for the ramen noodle stereotype and learn a few simple meals. My favorite easy go-to meal is pasta and ground turkey.
18. Donate to charity.
Give back to local non-profit charities. Whether you donate $1 or $100, you are making an impact.
19. Revamp your wardrobe.
Still holding on to your clothes from 8th grade? Throw them away! Your style is sometimes the world's first impression of you, and you don't need a heavy wallet to create your dream looks. One of my favorite things to do is go around malls and online sites and take pictures of the outfits that I like that best represent me. Then I visit cheaper clothing stores like TJ Maxx, Plato's Closet, Fashion Nova, Forever 21, and local thrift shops to recreate those looks. It works every time! It's a great way to get my dream outfits on a really low budget.
20. Learn to love yourself.
There is nothing more important than loving yourself. And it's not going to happen instantly. So, learning about yourself early and learning to love yourself early is important in shaping the adult you. It's going to be a long journey to love, but start now. As RuPaul always says, "If you don't love yourself, how in the hell can you love anybody else?"
Everyone's teen experience is unique to them, but it's important to live it up, because as the years add on, the last thing you want to say to yourself is, "I could've done more."