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To be honest with y’all, I usually don’t like to tell people my age anymore because sometimes folks get a little patronizing when they hear that I’m in my early 20s.

But I love being my age. This is a time of freedom, self-discovery, pursuing my passion and making new friends. This is a time of living on my own terms—especially since I don’t have any kids or a man to tie me down.

I’m trying to live my life to the fullest these days, so here’s my list of things to do before hitting 25. Some of them are things I’ve done, some of them are things I’m still trying to work on. This list has helped me and I’m sure it’ll help you.

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1. Travel For Your Birthday—And Go With A Friend!

I went away to Philly for my 23rd birthday with my best girlfriend from college and I had a blast. I don’t get to travel much because of my crazy  work schedule and because I’m saving my pennies for other things. But going away for a little while for my birthday was the perfect opportunity to break free and make some great memories. Now I’m trying to figure out where I’ll be going for my birthday this year.

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2. Decide If You Want To Invest In Traveling Or Homeownership

Someone told me this advice three years ago and I’ve thought about it everyday since. Traveling is good for anybody, but it’s smart to think about where you want to put your money in your long-term life experiences and goals now. Is owning a home more practical for your lifestyle and career? Research the market, get a solid plan on your finances and start putting the pieces together now to make your life easier later.

3. Figure Out Who Your Real Friends Are

This sounds simple enough, even trivial. But a lot of people seem to mess this one up or take it for granted. Life after college is all about wittling down your social circle to those who you can trust the most, who’s most valuable to you and who is there for the long run. If you can’t see who’s being fake around you or who just doesn’t have your best interest at heart, the future you is going to be in for a world of hurt.

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4. If You Aren’t Already, Become Friends With Your Mother

Like most people, my mother and I had a rocky, ambivalent relationship for the longest. But over time, the walls broke down and we became really good friends. She’s been the one to hold me down when those who I thought were my friends disappointed me or couldn’t be a source of support. I’m so grateful to have her around and she’s shown me time and time again the mothers really do know best. My early 20s have become much less daunting now that we get along so well.

5. Learn To Be Polite To People You Can’t Stand

I know this one’s hard but it’s a big one. Becoming an adult means encountering people that you’re not going to like, and it means encountering people that aren’t going to like you. But regardless of how irritated they make you feel, remember that however you treat them is a reflection of you, not of them. There’s no way to take back your words or your actions in your most heated moments. Karma’s a bitch and she doesn’t discriminate.

6. Splurge Yourself When You Land That First Dream Gig You’ve Been Waiting For

Life is short. Of course, being an adult is largely about learning how to save money for the essentials and for future emergencies. But it doesn’t hurt to celebrate every once in a while when good fortune comes your way! When I first got my current gig at HB, I was so excited I took myself on a shopping spree to upgrade my wardrobe. Maybe for you, splurging is a steak dinner with your boo-thing or best girlfriend. Whatever makes you happy, go for it!

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7. Get A Hobby That Has Nothing To Do With What You Do For A Living

This is another tip that not enough people follow through on when life gets real. I know it’s easy to let your job take up all of your time, but don’t let it do that! You need a way to release, something to give you inspiration. I’m obsessed with writing, whether I’m doing it for HB or just for my own projects. But I make sure to go on bike rides almost every day because it’s a great form of exercise, it gives me the opportunity to enjoy my neighborhood and it makes me feel like a kid again. Everyone deserves to have a break sometimes.

8. Give The New Guy A Shot—Even If He’s Not Your Type

My last boyfriend was highly different from the guys I usually dated and he turned out to be the best partner I’ve ever had. In fact, all of his qualities that I wasn’t used to from past relationships turned out to be the very things that made him special and more trustworthy than the rest. It took me stepping out of my comfort zone to end up in a relationship that I really treasured and enjoyed. It’s easy to be jaded in your early 20s by guys because they can be really fickle and immature. However, if you look hard enough and stop being so picky, you may find that the right guy is a lot closer to you than you think.

9. Create A Nighttime And Morning Ritual That Keeps You Feeling And Looking Good

Again, this is another simple step that too many of us youngins overlook. Bedtime becomes real once you turn 22! Even in my young age, it’s impossible for me to stay up past 12:30 am and still wake up on time feeling fresh and functional for work the next day. #TeamNoSleep is a lie. Let your body rest and allow yourself to enjoy your morning. For me that means waking up a little early to read my latest novel and the latest news stories so I feel ready and informed for my day. If Arianna Huffington could be the mega success that she is by making sure she gets plenty of sleep each night, I’m sure you can do the same, too.

Afro girl dancing with her boyfriend at a sunset beachparty

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10. Learn To Stop Beating Yourself Up

Life is hard. Don’t make it harder by overly criticizing yourself over easy mistakes and dumb ish that doesn’t matter. You’re not perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be. You’re only in your early 20s, right? You’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you to figure out all of this stuff.

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