22 Things For Your 22nd Year

shane questions

Hi there AfterCollege Blog readers! This is Melissa Suzuno (Content Marketing Manager here at AfterCollege). I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to someone very special. Shane Zackery is the 2014 Editorial & Social Media Intern here at AfterCollege. 

Shane graduated earlier this summer from Scripps College, where she majored in Media Economics, and she’s been writing and social media-ing up a storm ever since she started at AfterCollege in June. Today’s post is Shane’s first one to be published on the AfterCollege Blog. Please join me in giving Shane a warm welcome to the AfterCollege family!


Once you wake up from the blackout that is the night of your 21st birthday, people tell you that it’ll be a while before you have another birthday worth celebrating. Do people honestly think that nothing good comes after 21 until you’re 25? Are better rates on car insurance seriously what we’re all holding out for?

I have to admit, I had a fantastic 21st birthday. I was abroad in Florence, Italy at the time. Since I was the only person in my apartment who had a birthday during our program, my roommates went all out for me.

The last thing that I remember is someone screaming “WHEN I SAY SAKE, YOU SAY BOMBS!”

Then it was morning.

Yes, 21 was cool. but 22? 22 is awesome. I intend to make my 22nd year of life one of enlightenment and learning. It’s only been three months and I already feel like I’ve achieved so much since turning the big two-two. For example:

I got my black belt in Shotokan Karate.

I found people willing to pay me for blogging and writing (with real money!).

I graduated from college.

I moved to Berkeley.

I upgraded to a full-size bed.

I admitted to myself that I’m lactose intolerant.

I didn’t have any of those things going for me last year!

All of that aside, I also picked up some pretty snazzy little nuggets of wisdom. About 22 of them, oddly enough. What a coincidence!

22 Things For Your 22nd Year

1. Get more done before noon than you do now.

On the mornings that I convince myself to get into the office at 7am, I always thank myself later. I have a full five hours to really focus on my assignments for the day before I even think about lunch.

Also, bonus: The earlier I come in, the earlier I get to leave! I enjoy my job, but that early morning means that my afternoons are free for other things that make me happy, such as going to karate, having dinner with my roommates, and making it to the post office before it closes. Having a life outside of work is well worth the early wake-up call.

2. Keep it simple.

For my 22nd birthday, I went glow-in-the-dark mini-golfing with my girlfriend and my best friend. After that, I ate at Hooters for the first time. Then we took a nap. Simple as that.

When I think about all of the birthdays I’ve ever had, I smile the biggest thinking about this one. It wasn’t about how many people showed up to my party or how many presents I got. The best gift was being surrounded by people who wanted to celebrate my life.

When I moved to The Bay, everything that I owned fit into five bags (except my guitar). I don’t own a lot of stuff and I never want to again. Knowing that I can pick up and go whenever what comes next arrives keeps life exciting.

3. Be easy on your body.

Eating the spiciest spicy curry from the Thai place at 2am may no longer be in your best interest. But if you’re being honest with yourself, was it ever?

Now that I’m not hustling and bustling my way to class every morning, I have more time to listen to my body. When I’m sitting at my desk, I’m incredibly aware of when I’m hungry, how my stomach reacted to that second donut, and when it’s time for tea instead of coffee. Gone are the days of eating mozzarella sticks at the campus cafe at 1am or having one greasy fried meal a day. I only have one body and I’m all about taking care of it.

4. Vegetables are delicious. 

Seriously. Asparagus, brussels sprouts, beets, zucchini, all of it. So wonderful. Learn how to prepare a simple meal including these guys and your taste buds will never be the same. Your packed lunch game will be so much more on point when the wonderful smells of roasted veggies waft from your Tupperware instead of leftover pizza. Again.

5. Grudges are stupid.

There was more drama between my friends during my final year of college than I care to remember. While finishing my thesis, training for the test for my black belt, and looking for a job, I quickly realized that holding on to meaningless hostility is unnecessarily exhausting.

When I turned 22, my friend group was pretty fragmented. There were people who refused to look at one another, let alone be in the same room. As soon as we graduated, none of that stuff mattered anymore. We all realized that there were better things to put our energies toward, like performing at our new jobs.

I sit way too close to my new coworkers to give them the stink eye without them noticing. Grudges aren’t really going to work here. I’m going to use this newfound “forgive and move on” strategy to my advantage.

6. Befriend public transportation.

Owning a car seemed so easy when I was in high school. Back then, my grandparents were paying for everything. Now that I foot all of my bills, I can’t imagine paying a car note, insurance, gas, and maintenance fees on top of all of my other living expenses.

I never really learned how to take the city bus when I was younger. That quickly changed once I got to The Bay. Up here, BART and Muni are everything. Learning to navigate my surroundings on the cheap is probably one of the best lessons that I learned this year. I feel like a total badass when I can help someone figure out how to get where they’re going.

Getting to work is really easy in a city like San Francisco where everything is connected by the transit lines. I’m happy that I learned how to take advantage of public transportation as opposed to buying that car that I had my eye on.

7. Be broke for the right reasons.

Be broke because you paid all of your bills on time and have a fridge full of fresh food. Sport that empty wallet with pride knowing that you didn’t blow it all at the bar or at the movies (seriously, so expensive these days).

After I spent most of my savings on the security deposit, rent, furniture, and food for my new apartment, my grandparents were really sweet about spotting me money for a bed or a weekend out with my friends before I got my first paycheck. They took mercy on me because I was broke for being responsible with my money. What a grown-up feeling!

I know that everyone says this to recent grads, but budget, budget, budget. You will always forget something when calculating your monthly costs in your head. Write it down. Know your paycheck schedule. Rule the world.

8. Let go of your ego.

I’m not talking about the ego that makes people brag about what they have or how cool they are. Another part of ego is the one that gets embarrassed when you make a mistake. It’s the part that makes you beat yourself up when your boss catches errors in your work that you should have noticed.

It’s okay to make mistakes. No matter what that Super Man logo on your favorite T-shirt says, you are but a human. If you want to be a productive member of your team, don’t waste too much time being frustrated with yourself. Take note of where you messed up and work hard to fix it.

This goes for altercations with your roommate, too. Be okay with saying “Yes, it was totally my day to take out the trash and I completely forgot.”

Don’t slack off too much on your household responsibilities, but try not to give each other too hard of a time when the chores don’t get done exactly as they were supposed to, either.

9. Stop calling them guilty pleasures.

Someone in our office is always blasting music and it’s great. I imagine the day that I, a mere noob, get a turn at tickling the ears of my colleagues with my favorite tunes.

Y’all. I’m playing Demi Lovato All. Freaking. Day.

As a self-identified punk for life, I’m not afraid to admit that singing “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen at the Demi Lovato show made me happier than any circle pit or Wall of Death ever did. By 22, you’re too old to be trying to pretend that what makes you happy doesn’t. Cut the guilt trip and cue the music.

10. Learn how to bake.

Nothing wins the hearts of office folk more than cookies. If you’re nervous about making friends or being accepted on your first day, bring in some homemade baked goods for your new colleagues as a little reinforcement. I promise you that they’re already excited that you’re joining the team, but you + cookies?! Whaaaaaat.

11. Connect with your cousins.

Remember your weird cousin Johnny with the pet lizard who always gave you wet willies at Thanksgiving? Hopefully he’s grown out of that by now and is doing cool things wherever he is.

It may seem like the most obvious thing in the world, but if you haven’t yet, consider networking with your own family members. They may be working on exciting projects that you may be interested in. If you’re having trouble finding opportunities to try new things, give Johnny a call. He has more incentive (Grandma’s approval) to hire you than Employer XYZ does.

12. Remove “YOLO” and “swag” from your vocabulary.

Do NOT include these words in your LinkedIn profile.

They’re funny when you’re goofing off with your friends, but they don’t have a place in the professional world. I write for a living; words are very important to me. Choose yours wisely when putting together your personal brand. Strong communication skills are important no matter what your job is.

13. Learn to lose.

I’m an Aries. I’ll compete over anything. I define losing and winning very broadly. Anything from a game of Scrabble to showering faster than my roommates is good enough for me.

I once got into a competition over who could sort carrots faster while volunteering at a food bank. My rivals were four nice old ladies who had no idea that they’d become the enemy.

Whatever, my team won.

It took a lot of practice and self-checking for me to be okay with losing. This can mean not getting the account that you really wanted, not having your project idea chosen by the group, or responding to comments about your work in a productive way. Learn to see criticism as an opportunity to win later.

“Oh, my work was good but could have been better? Challenge accepted.

Game on.

14. Write down all of your great ideas.

I’m that person who thinks they have world-changing ideas in the shower. I have pages and pages of chicken scratch that I call “business plans.” The cool part is that every now and then, I get to test one of them out and see how they fly. I shared some of my ideas with a friend recently and she got really excited about it. We’re now collaborating to bring some of our shared dreams to life in the years to come.

I’m a dreamer for sure. I’ve learned that there’s a fine line between fantasy and innovation. 

Your ideas are worth something, if only to you. Honor your creativity. Put them to paper. Savor them and share them with others. One day, they really could change the world.

15. This is your life.

From the moment I showed an interest in academics, extended family already had me pegged as a surgeon, lawyer, Harvard grad, or whatever else.

Them: “Oh, you like science? Do you want to be a doctor?”

Me: “Nah. I think I wanna start a band.”

There’s nothing wrong with any of the professions mentioned above, but I’ve always felt like there was so much more out there. A few years ago, I got a tattoo of the word “cadence” on my left arm. Every day, I try to remind myself that the only person who I am obligated to keep up with is myself. I try to stay in time with my own thoughts and aspirations above all others. It’s great to have people expect big things of you, but the definition of “big things” is infinite.

Unless you believe in reincarnation, this is your one shot to be as happy as you possibly can be. I am a firm believer in surrounding yourself with people who are important to you, but remember that at the end of the day, it’s all you.

16. You are neither a baller nor a shot-caller.

A lot of people my age are obsessed with finding jobs that pay a gazillion dollars as soon as they graduate. I had quite a few friends who didn’t consider certain offers because they didn’t feel like they paid enough, even when they were offering more than the national average starting salary for a college grad. In this economy. Can you imagine?

A nice big paycheck sounds great and everything, but that’s not really how it usually works. You’ve got to earn your keep, you know? Learn to enjoy the journey to the top. Appreciate the hustle of only eating ramen for a month or never turning the heat on to avoid the bill. Stories like these will make you chuckle later.

Don’t feel like you’ve done something wrong just because you aren’t driving a BMW by the time you’re 25. Many successful people have been in the same boat you’re in—living at home, working odd jobs, feeling lost. With the right mixture of strategy and opportunity, it doesn’t have to last forever. In the meantime, pay your dues. Stop trying to skip over the stuff that matters.

17. Memorize your social security number.

My social security card is really old and fragile. There’s a special place that I keep it and I try not to take it out. If you haven’t already, you should probably work on committing your SSN to memory. You will be including this information on lots of job applications. It’s easier to know it by heart and just plug and chug as opposed to having to get off the couch, access your hiding spot, bring the card back, type it in, get back up, put it away, and then continue with your application.

Only to find that you need it again for your next application.

Save yourself the heartbreak and exasperation.

18. Know your limits.

You’re not a student anymore. Being sloppy drunk in public isn’t really a good look. Now is the time in your life where you’re going to be invited to functions where all of the business happens over drinks.

Weddings, evening meetings with clients, office Christmas parties, your friend’s kid’s recital. Alcohol is everywhere! Don’t play the mad grab game at functions that require you to keep your composure.

A lot of the people that you’re now going to be drinking with are also probably used to stronger stuff than the bottom shelf vodka and PBR that you chugged in college. The good stuff hits you harder than you may expect. Plan to drink less than you usually would when you go out with important people. If you’re a lightweight, be a lightweight. Don’t think that you have to keep up with whoever you’re with.

19. Learn how to amp yourself up.

Remember how you used to skip class because you didn’t feel like going?

Yeah, that doesn’t work with a job. You may have the option to work from home, but you’ve still got to get work done. I’ve had my fair share of days where I woke up grumpy, meh, or bleh. Nothing sucks more than having to motivate yourself to go to work when all you want to do is curl up and watch Love and Hip Hop.

Welcome to the real world! You have bills and people relying on you.

In high school, I got into the habit of crossing off days in my calendar with a big red marker. Every other day I’d have a small event penciled in, such as “pizza for dinner!” or “No homework tonight!” That way, I always had something to look forward to. Something to keep me going. I also put Post-it notes on the wall next to the calendar that had my favorite song lyrics. Reading those words and getting that song stuck in my head made me feel epic.

I may wake up sometimes feeling less than enthused, but I can’t let it last for long. I like to be in the mood to giggle, or tell a stranger that I like his shoes. No one wants to do that on a bad day. Try to have less of them so that you can enjoy the small things.

20. Offer to watch someone’s kid for more than a day.

I love kids and yet still I flip flop between whether I want them or not. When I visit my family in Florida, I usually act as a built-in babysitter for my older sister. For the first few hours, I’m enamored by those cute squishy faces and those bright little eyes. As the days go on, however, I start to remember that kids are always sticky for no reason. They eat all the cookies and don’t appreciate any good television other than cartoons (or in my niece’s case, Telemundo).

Watching over children that I already love reminds me that kids really are something special, but they can wait. I’m cool with that.

21. Just be.

Every so often, I go to a café and just sit. Or, I take a walk to nowhere. Life doesn’t always have to have an agenda. Sometimes, special moments are created out of nothing at all. I almost always measure productivity by how much I get done, but every once in a while, I measure my success by how okay I am with just being instead of doing. I win every time.

22. You’re the coolest.

Want to know what my favorite thing about life is?


I really, really like me. I think I’m great.

I didn’t always know how to relate to people my age. I figured out pretty early on that in order to feel fulfilled, I would have to figure out what was great about me and embrace that.

Some people arrive at their twenties and just begin to figure out who they are. I’d like to think that I’ve been doing that for a long time now. I won’t be done any time soon, but I am very familiar with the pros and cons of being me. I sit with each and every one of the things that make me who I am and gauge how I feel about them. When I change something about myself, it’s self-inspired. I think about what I can do differently to be better to myself. I have the best friends that I ever could have asked for, but I can tell you that true companionship is born within.

Whew! There you have it. If there’s one thing that you take from this list, let it be this: We are all the culmination of millions of little moments, none of them the same. I hope that you are inspired to write twentysomething things from your own life.

P.S. And if you do, feel free to drop a link in the comments section below so we can check it out!


5 Responses to “22 Things For Your 22nd Year”

  1. Shree

    Great points – I haven’t turned 22 yet, but your advice is applicable to any college grad!

  2. Ale

    Loved it ! :)
    I wasnt feeling very well this morning, but after reading this, I feel better now.
    Im about to turn 22 and this post change my perspective of things.
    Thank you!
    I love finding writtings like this one, very accurate for this moment of mine.


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