21 Things everyone should know by 21

Because adult-ing is more than just taking selfies at HomeGoods

After turning the big 2-1 this past year (and after the hangover from turning 21 faded), something sort of silly dawned on me: this was the true beginning of adulthood. Bills were coming in my name. The doctor never expected to hear from my parents when I needed to come in. And my number one response to trying to solve a problem was not supposed to be "Keep Calm and Call Mom," no matter what the mug on my desk said.

So because that wasn't an option, a list of things I (as well as all of my fellow twentysomethings) should be able to accomplish on our own started to come to fruition. Don't feel bad if you're not sure about some of these things — admittedly, I'm not either. But the only place things can go from here is up!


​1: Changing a tire

Whether you drive or not, the odds of you ending up in a car with someone who does by this point in your life are pretty high. You should be able to help out a little should you get stuck on the wrong side of the road.

2: Making a doctor’s appointment

If your mom is still the person calling your pediatrician to make sure you're seeing the doctor every year, then there's probably a problem. They won't bite, especially not through the phone.

3: Cooking something — anything!

You should be able to cook something, and cereal doesn't count. A sandwich is also a pretty lame excuse. Figure out how to boil pasta, grill some chicken, and to impress your friends. You can reward yourself with wine afterward.

4: Writing a check

Yes, people still do this. Yes, it is often times necessary. Remember those cool relatives who used to send you a check on your birthday? Well, hopefully you're going to be one of them someday, so here's getting some practice in!

5: Curating an online presence

We are the generation that grew up with computers, cell phones, and the Internet. That therefore means we should be able to determine what is out there about us the best. Don't let your next employer gloss over your great design project but check out your party pics.

6: Sewing on a button

Young people like to shop at vintage stores, and sometimes your thrift store duds are going to need a little tender love and care. Equip yourself with a sewing kit in your desk and prepare to fix everything.

7: Unclogging a toilet

Remember that roommate who brought the plunger to the apartment and you laughed? Well, if you're not that roommate you should figure out how to be. This will happen eventually, so you should be able to fix the problem (the sooner the better).

8: Making a PowerPoint presentation

I recently had a friend tell me they judge people based on bad PowerPoints, and after laughing, I realized that is a thing that is pretty prevalent in the world. Get your act together and do NOT choose the most neon themes (because everyone will, inevitably) hate you.

9: Backing up a computer

If you haven't had your computer randomly crap out on you yet, then you're likely next. Grab you tech-savvy friend and hit up Best Buy for a hard drive and start backing up all of your saved cat memes, just in case.

10: Managing a schedule

The older you get, the more people you'll have in your life and the more things you'll need to work around in order to have time with everything. A calendar is the only way to schedule this stuff, so get to it. Start putting people in hours of the day (and also make time for yourself).

11: Making small talk

This is a very American thing, but alas, it's still a thing. You're going to find yourself in situations with people where you don't have too much in common. This means nailing some small talk topics. The weather, the local sports team, and some funny TV show are good starters.

12: Having a stress-relieving hobby

As stated before, you time is super important. What better way to spend this than to find a way to relax and do something that rewards yourself in some way? Knit, dance, yoga, or whatever you like. Find something to unwind during the week.

13: Painting a room

Almost every starter apartment you'll find will have white walls, and you're going to get sick of them. A decent skill to learn is how to paint the walls in your place. You'll probably end up helping your friends with it, too.

14: Shoveling a driveway/mowing a lawn

The concept of having a yard that you have to work on was always a little lost on me, but it's still a part of life. Depending on your climate (or if you're from New York state like me, all the weather patterns), figure out which skills you'll need to learn for a lawn.

15: Keeping a budget

The more of your own money you have, the more precious you're going to be with it. But you'll need to figure out when you can spend money on those new shoes you'll been coveting and when it's going to have to go to keeping the lights on.

16: Learning your family history

It might have seemed kind of boring to you up until this point to hear about your uncle who drove an airplane, but if you don't talk to the members who know now, you might miss your chance. Take the time to learn about it, and to write it down, too.

17: Being good at being alone

Adulthood is going to offer a lot of times where you don't have anybody but yourself to entertain you. Learn about what makes these moments special. Figure out how to cherish them just as much as you value the nights out on the town.

18: (Trying to) get enough sleep

One million studies have all shown that the key to successful days is good nights. As much as you love binge watching Master of None all night, it's usually the better option to try and get to bed at a decent time to have a dreamy day.

19: Reading the news

Reading the news may feel like the guy in the tie when all you want to do is be the kid in the background, but it's important to be informed about what's happening in the world. Get the updates on your phone. That way you'll always be in the know.

20: Maintaining a plant

I feel like being able to keep up a plant is good practice for a pet, which we all know is practice for a kid. If you can keep it in the sun, with water, and happy, it'll also make you feel happy and accomplished. And if you can't, well at least you tried.

21: Being kind to yourself

The most important thing about learning to be an adult is learning that you're not always going to have a great day, and that's okay. The important thing is that you can acknowledge that you're trying your best, and sometimes that's all you can do.