Worrying about life is a lot like coleslaw: It sucks, it’s an ugly mound of crap that somehow shows up on all of our plates, people who swear by it still know deep down that it sucks, and most of us give into tasting it at some point despite the putrid smell wafting over from zombies nearby.
I’m 23. I worry about life — decisions, happiness, legacy, etc. — a lot more than I used to. And you know what? I’m tired of it. I know there are many people who are almost 23/are 23/were 23 who are tired of it too. It’s time we had much, much more fun.
So I’m sitting here, writing this list to myself … of great stuff to pile on my plate to drown out the coleslaw. Of things to get done before I’m doughy, “Daddy,” and dead. And I’m having the time of my life.
Consider the below an aggressive bucket list for your average “young-ass old person.” It’s a salute to enjoying and exploring your most formative adult years — it is wide-ranging, experimental, and chaotic, yet thoughtful, passionate, and precautionary, as these upcoming years will hopefully be. Enjoy, in somewhat random order, 20-something things to do while you’re 20-something:
1. Be very alone for at least 3 months.
New place, new environment, new situation, no close friends. Live alone, hang out alone often. Have regular contact with friends, but go somewhere so that your day-to-day is spent mostly away from those that you grew up with, went to school with, etc. You are around close friends most of your life through your 20s … What are you like outside of that, left to your own devices?
2. Do something sexually taboo.
Not because I condone any specific taboo sex acts in particular, and not because I follow any kinky sex movements. I’m just saying, if you don’t think your future spouse or partner would be down, probably best to do it now. Your spouse will probably accept "... but I was in my 20s!" a lot easier than any following decades. (If that's not the case, you'll have a REALLY fun retirement.)
3. Swim with great whites.
Sharks, not Bieber or Gosling or whoever. You can be in the cage. But look deep into the eyes of a nonhuman who wants to rip you apart and kill and eat you. Good perspective to have. It'll also help you if you want to go into politics.
4. Try your dream job.
Or as close as you can get to it. Do that job that you'd do if you were a Mega Millionaire. Do it on the side, do it once per week, but do it. If it doesn’t affect your happiness, it probably isn’t your dream.
5. Take a standalone interest class.
Learn a language, a technical skill, a creative outlet, a new type of exercise ... find one that's affordable, take it on winter Mondays, whatever. Great way to give you non-monetary goals to achieve, and a new reason to get up in the A.M. when the mundane is starting to drive you insane.
6. Understand Kanye West.
You don't have to love him, or know all his lyrics ... just have a basic sense of where he's coming from. Those of us who do this are safe ... once he gets rich enough, those of us who don't will one day spontaneously combust. He can already do the Freddie Krueger dream thing ... bad guy to have against you.
7. Jump out of a plane or jump off a bridge
If not literally, figuratively. Face your worst fears. Tell 1 person you've always had a crush on (and who you know is out of your league) that they oughta give you a crack at ‘em. Demand a raise. Something like that.
8. Plan at least the outline of your retirement.
Or at least, plan to plan it. I'm all for having fun right now, but one month of partying could one day be a minivan — 100% electric — for your grandkids to pee in and your robot to vacuum up.
9. Re-read books from your high school reading list.
We probably couldn’t grasp their profundity back then, and we probably wish we had time to read them now. Lots of them are about life discoveries and phenomena we’re currently experiencing. I just re-read Brave New World, and some James Baldwin books … and yeah, I missed a lot last time.
10. Be a mentor.
To younger people. In whatever capacity you can, educate on what you already know this early in life. You may think you know nothing, but to a younger person, whether or not they want to hear it, it’s probably gold.
11. Get some mentors.
Ones that you aspire to be like in the future. Who you want to be. Then, get some who you don’t want to be. Figure out what they did right, or what they messed up. Take them to dinner. Then, go to the bathroom right when the bill is coming.
12. Date somebody 10+ years older than you.
Maybe your mentor. Won’t get boring.
13. Get in crazy crazy nasty shape.
Older you get, harder to do. Hard to do when you travel for work, hard to do with a kid, hard to do when your high school graduation photos look like someone else. So why not see what potential you have now? Eat some plants, lift some stuff, run somewhere, get on a machine to nowhere, whatever. Define "crazy crazy nasty," an ambitious goal that's attainable for you. It’s a goal you can see and feel, and lessons from it often translate well to career or other goals. Oh, and try boxing.
14. Make a product and sell it from scratch.
Take an idea and turn it into a product. Make little dolls in your free time, like Lester Freamon from The Wire. He seemed happy and fulfilled (though in that wise, peaceful, defeatist kind of way), right? But anyway, the product can be tangible or intangible, professional or sloppy ... just know that you made it, and try to sell it.
15. Own a motorcycle.
Not gonna tell you to ride one.
16. Go to most continents (kangaroos and igloos optional).
Figure out how to get to some, and get there. And get out of the 1st world safety net. Yes, long enough to have people write on your wall confirming that they “miss youuuuuu!” and long enough to add it to your resume ... but then spend some more time. Time actually learning and adapting. Measure in months, minimum.
17. Fall in love > 0 times.
Not necessarily productive in every case, but YOLO. I hate roller coasters with a passion ... and I go on roller coasters every time I'm near one. Know what I mean?
18. Put out a song.
Make a song, album, or music video, alone or with your friends. Music holds within it a legitimacy and creative right that other mediums don’t have to the same extent. People can present themselves in nonsensical ways in music pieces, and they can be as abstract or as classic as they’d like. Seeing how you’d present yourself as a musician can be telling.
19. Visit one of the world’s tallest mountain ranges.
Any view from that high up, when it’s that quiet and peaceful, is at once surreal and serene.
20. Live minimally.
20-something: Work at a Startup, and at a Stopdown.
Young success and young failure both teach us youngins a ton. It’s great to try to hit it big, but since we’re living in a revolutionary startup boom, many are bound to fail. Don’t be afraid of that; pick one whose mission aligns with your passions, and check it out for awhile.
20-something: Go to a world-famous party attraction.
Carnaval, Ibiza, Mardi Gras, Oktoberfest, the place from Piranha 3D ... one of those. Do it now and you'll get that crazy college feeling. Do it in your 30s / 40s and you'll get that crazy "can't believe I thought I'd have fun coming back to college ... I feel so weird" feeling.
20-something: Get a custom suit or dress, somehow.
They make you feel good about yourself. Once you can really afford the good ones, it’s already too late. While you're still at the junior levels, find a way to get one from abroad or something. You’ll likely feel a new level of confidence that’s hard to have right off the bat in the real world.
20-something: Grow some plants.
Learn how to take care of stuff before you have kids. Nurture them, watch them grow up to be beautiful, and protect them from pests — like young hooligans with no manners covered in tattoos — woops, I meant weeds and fawns and bugs and what not.
20-something: Go to Coachella / SXSW.
Never been personally, but I get strong FOMO whenever they're going on. I've been to some lesser festivals that changed my perspective on life and the mindset of youth (actual youth), so hey, I bet those are nuts. Prob some of the few events that are worth the web-hype.
20-something: Pick a long weekend, doodle pictures of Jeremy Lin tirelessly, and don't stop until you are a much better person.
20-something: Learn to cook.
I couldn’t cook until 2011. My uncle always said a woman thinks it’s sexy when a man can cook. 2011 got real sexy.
20-something: Create an offensively named YouTube alter-ego and post outrageous comments that you always wanted to say.
Bad advice, looks fun. Never did it, I swear :)
20-something: Write a letter to yourself in X years.
My 6th grade teacher had us write letters to our future selves, to be opened after we graduated high school. She mailed them to us 6 years later. I was so shocked at what I was pondering about at 12, and at how much more depth I had than I could remember, that I stared at the short letter and re-read it for several minutes. If you don’t think it’d be the most fascinating thing ever to write yourself a letter (by hand, not on Gmail, because you’ll be too tempted to look) to be opened in 10 years, than you suck as bad as coleslaw.