By Charlsie of CollegeCandy.com
Just last February, I was planning my 21st birthday party. Now, I'm facing 22 (or as I like to call it 21+1) straight on. Even though the last twelve months have gone by, it feels like just yesterday I was indulging in jello shots and margaritas. For my 21st. Because just yesterday I was indulging in jello shots and margaritas.
Looking back though, much has happened in the past year. It seems I've learned a lot while Ke$ha put a dollar sign in her name and started brushing her teeth with a "bottle of Jack," John Mayer proclaimed that he is on the hunt for "the Joshua Tree of vaginas," and the Jersey Shore became a national phenomenon.
So here (in no particular order) is what I know for certain after turning 21. Perhaps you youngsters can take a few things from this:
1. Friendships should make you happy -- not pissed off : Friends should be so much more than people you dance on tables with and dish about the weekend to. They should be there for you, and you should be there for them. They also should not steal your alcohol on your 21st birthday and make out with the fraternity guy, all while puking as your boyfriend helps take care of them.
2. Raincoats are amazing: They are often understated and overwhelmingly overlooked when it comes to fashion. But even if they aren't fashionable (and there are plenty that are!), really, you can't complain when that slicker keeps your from frizzing. Without a rain jacket I wouldn't have made it through the summer in London. And I think it actually kept me going to class this past semester. Why didn't I realize this sooner? It doesn't matter if you have a basic from Lands End or a super sexy trench from Dillards, just get one!
3. Go to the gym: Surprisingly enough, it is worth your time. Who knew? I sure didn't, until I started going religiously with my boyfriend back in September. If you actually go to the gym and do more than hang out on the treadmill and elliptical for thirty minutes, you can see results. Plus, it teaches you patience on so many different levels.
4. Do not drink MD 20/20: Even if the frat-mixed mojitos are watered down and tasting a bit like a dirty dance floor, stay away from the MD.
5. Do experience a Pimms with Lemonade: Although you probably have never heard of this drink before, Pimms with Lemonade is a London pub staple. The Pimms is to Wimbledon, as the mint julep is to the Kentucky Derby. This fresh tasting, fruity cocktail will may be enough to convince you to study abroad for a semester. It's to die for.
6. Puppy Love = True Love: Dogs truly give the most unconditional love. Even though my boyfriend got a dog back in September and it has been a ton of work, I can't help but keep falling in love with the little darling. You can't have a bad day whenever a puppy is around. However, at the same time, the realization that having a puppy is a huge responsibility is constant and serves as amazing birth control for many, many years to come.
7. The VS Miraculous Push Up Bra is a miracle: The Victoria's Secret new Miraculous Push Up bra is the greatest and latest thing to come into the world of retail. With a level 5 design to push up and lift, this push up bra is not playing around - it increases your breast size by two full cups. Unlike a lot of push up bras, this bra actually makes your boob size look believable, all while supplying comfort.
8. Hell No to the Snow: I can never live where it snows on a daily basis during the winter. After what I deemed the Great Snow of '09 in Virginia (in which 24 inches of snow fell in two days), this has re-arranged my life geographically for good. Those applications to Illinois for graduate school? Out the window. My dream of always visiting Maine? Only if it's summer. Multiple inches of snow at a time? No thanks.
9. Reading is magical: Taking the time to read for pleasure in between reading for class is one of the best ways to relax. This past year, I have rediscovered my love for reading, all while falling in love with some great stories. Need something to restart your love of reading? Read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon or Train to Trieste by Domnica Radulescu.
10. "That's So You!" It's important to have your signature piece, be it clothing, music or opinion. This has made my life simpler and more defined.
11. Meeting the Parents: Meeting the parents is scary. However, whether they like you or not is out of your hands. You can be the sweetest girl they have ever met, but if they don't like the idea of their kid being with someone without the qualifications they are looking for (i.e.: money, a professional school degree), it doesn't matter how amazing you are or how much you have going on for yourself. Just accept it and try not to take it to heart ... too much.
12. Post-Grad is intimidating: Graduate, law, and business school applications are a lot more comprehensive than they lead you to believe on first glance. Those statements of intent and optional essays are really unlike anything you have written in the past, unless you are a professional graduate school applicant. Starting early is the only way to preserve your sanity as senior year rolls around. And taking the GRE or LSAT, well those should have occurred a year ago. Oops!
13. "Welcome to the real world, she said to me...:" Although the quarter-life crisis often seems inevitable, I have learned that I definitely do not want to go down the John Mayer permanent-existential-life-crisis road. While his never-ending misery will supply good music for more and more years to come (without a doubt), I choose to not dwell. It's much healthier this way, even if I do enjoy indulging in his misery sometimes.
14. Stop reading beauty magazines: I've stopped buying magazines and I feel much more enlightened. Instead, I have stopped giving my $3.99 to advice on how to make a man moan and enjoy the in-depth features in the feminist friendly Bust magazine, and the musically progressive Paste.
15. Give a Little Bit: Helping others is amazing and it makes you feel better than anything else can.
16. It's Overrated: Being a senior is overrated. I have had more work and more responsibility than ever before and I feel like with every passing day, more and more obligations come my way. While it seems that a lot of seniors are spending their nights partying and hanging out, I am writing 20-page papers and doing graduate school rain dances to promote a surplus of acceptance letters.
17. To Thine Own Self, Be True: To be a writer, you need to have extremely thick skin. Regardless of what your stance is, someone is always going to go against it and you have to be true to yourself and the piece you are writing. The same goes for all facets of life; you gotta be you and that's that.
18. Big birthday parties don't prove anything: Big birthday parties aren't all that they are cracked up to be. After years of over-the-top Disney birthday, the whole high school teenage hang-out-birthday scene, and the exuberantly drunk and pretentiously planned college birthday, I will take the quiet and intimate birthday dinner over anything else. It's better to celebrate with those that actually matter.
19. Lady Gaga is a goddess: She's given us greatness, i.e.: "I'm bluffin' with my muffin," disco-bras, "Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah! Roma-roman-mamaa! Ga-ga-ooh-la-la!," and perhaps the greatest line of them, "I'm a free bitch, baby!" Her stage presence is to die for, and her genuine, authentic, down-to-Earth personality (come on, didn't you see her on Oprah?) is addictive. Plus, I've seen a slew of live performances and I have to say, Gaga outperforms the rest with her Monster Ball.
20. Say No to Parent Drama: If your parents are magnificent - great. If they aren't, it is time to accept it and move on, instead of constantly wishing for your mother to be someone she is not.
21. The Little Things Count: It's important to relish the little things. In college, so much happens at once, it feels like the world can pass you by - especially once you turn 21 and the end of college seems very near. The most important lesson I've learned is to take time doing something you enjoy. It doesn't matter if you want to get crazy drunk on a Friday night or take an extra art class, but do what gives you the most pleasure. Make time for more sex. Make time to cook dinner with your roommates. Just make time! As each year goes by, it is also important to look back to see what you've learned (whether it's good, bad, ugly, or silly).
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more