21 Lessons to Learn by Your 21st Birthday, as told by Leslie Knope

“We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?” -William Golding, the Lord of the Flies.

Another year has come and gone as I rang in my 21st trip around the Sun last week. Along the way, I’ve learned many things and also realized there are many things I have yet to learn. I’ve managed to pick out the most important life lessons everyone should learn to ensure they experience a decade of prosperity and fun. And who better to learn from than the Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation, the mentor and adviser to us all, Leslie Knope?

  1. Your parents were right. For goodness sake, listen to people older and wiser than you. Do try to figure stuff out for yourself, but if your parents offer some advice, its generally a good idea to at least listen with an open mind.


  1. Learn how to change a tire, jump your car, change your oil, and other basic maintenance on your car. I confess I have failed in this area and still have to call my father every time my car acts up. It’s best to learn these things early before you’re broken down alone in the middle of nowhere.
  1. Your first heartbreak is going to hurt something fierce. There’s no getting around this. It’s just something you’re going to have to go through. Yes, there will be a lot of tears but it’ll make you stronger in the end.LeslieCrying
  1. That metabolism isn’t going to last forever. I know you can super-duper size those fries for only a nickel more, but just make sure you plan to jog home afterward.


  1. Learn to budget. Another area I need to work on myself. Personally my money either goes to clothes or food. Save. Save. Save. You’ll thank yourself later.
  1. Keep a current resume and always update your references, skills, and work experience. College will be over soon and it’s a dog-eat-dog world in the job market. Networking is also vital! Now that you’re 21, attend those social mixers, shake hands, and learn names.
  1. Yes. You can legally purchase and consume alcohol now…. as if you’ve never drank before 😉 Have fun, but be responsible. Good things come in moderation. Otherwise you’ll be spending a lot of time bowing to the porcelain gods.


  1. Take part in the Democratic process and vote. All those boring things like tax policies, foreign affairs, ways to tackle the national debt, education reform, etc. all matter now and will effect you in some way, shape, or form. Stay informed, make well considered choices, and cast your ballot.


  1. Don’t be ashamed of who you are or try to change yourself just to be accepted by another person. Genuinely changing because it’s what you want to do is fine, but don’t lose yourself in somebody else. To quote the immortal Lady Gaga, “Baby, you were born this way.”
  1. You’ll eventually get to the point where you realize it’s better to have one or two really close friends than a multitude of acquaintances. Take time and focus on building/strengthening a few really solid friendships.


  1. With that being said, make sure you give just as much effort in return for what you receive. Always express appreciation and reciprocate kind gestures and well wishes. Take an active interest in the lives of those around you and listen.
  1. Never underestimate the value of a hand written note. Sure texting is great for fast connections, but do take the time to sit down every once and while and pen a thoughtful message, even if it’s for a stranger. I found a wonderful website that specializes in sending cards to the elderly. Alternatively check out this website to send a card to a deployed troop.
  1. Things are going to get much harder before they get better. Whether this be with relationships, school, jobs, family, or life in general. Just don’t give up and always strive for the top.


  1. You control your own attitude. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Just take a deep breath and don’t let it get to you.
  1. Never go to bed angry with someone you love. Be the bigger person and talk it out.
  1. It’s perfectly acceptable to step back and take a day to destress and recover. It’s better that you spend a few hours relaxing and come back with a clearer head than working on a huge project while distracted and submit something mediocre.


  1. Travel as much as your schedule and budget allows you. There’s a whole world out there to see. Don’t stay in one place your entire life. Check out this great blogpost by EloisaBunny on how to travel on a budget.


  1. Start investing in a professional wardrobe. Those social mixers, interviews, and work days will hopefully be in full swing soon. Be dressed appropriately for the job you want and dress to kill!
  1. Don’t be ashamed of what you like. We all have a type. Don’t let someone make fun of your turn ons. Don’t settle for anything less than you want, but do be realistic at the same time.
  1. As easy as it is, don’t skip that 8 am lecture your last semester of senior year. It’d be a shame to not graduate and have to stay an extra semester. Push on and get through it. You can do it!


  1. Finally, never stop growing and never stop learning. There’s too much knowledge in the world to ever stop consuming it. Having an education makes you a well rounded person. Go forth and seize the world!



Are there any other lessons you think are necessary to learn? Sound off in the comments below to share your stories.


All gifs are courtesy of NBC’s Parks And Recreation




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