21 Things Before 21

I am officially a 20-year-old, woohoo! Happy (belated) birthday to me. Even though I do not feel any different, I know I am old because almost all of my presents were things that I asked for to use in my apartment (pretty exciting though). So in the spirit of birthdays, I decided to make a list of 21 things I want to do before I turn 21 next May 26th. Here we go, in no particular order.

1. Hike Old Rag mountain in Virginia

Something I have always wanted to do – I love hiking, and this is a tough but very rewarding hike close to my school.

2. Book a photo shoot or sell a framed photograph

So as is going to become apparent, I am really starting to launch my photography, and so I want to be selling it by this time next year.

3. Make an exercise plan and stick to it for at least a month

I am notoriously bad at getting out to exercise. I absolutely despise it, I can’t ever make it fun to me. BUT I always feel better after I exercise, so I am going to try to make it a regular part of my day, even if it is only for 10 minutes.

4. Blog at least once a week

This one is actually more of a summer goal, but I am going to try to keep up with it during the school year. It lets me unwind and process all of my crazy thoughts.

5. Match my photos to unique frames and get them into local coffee shops or galleries

Something I am going to try and do is going to thrift stores more. In my experience, it has never been a waste of time or money. They also have a ton of really cheap picture frames, so I can easily frame my pictures myself and then get them into local shops.

6. Explore my passion to help end human trafficking

God has really put this on my heart recently, and I have no idea to do with it. I think that is how God works a lot, He gives us these little inklings, and then we do His work here on Earth.

7. Volunteer at an ACS event

I need to do more to experience all sides of medicine, including cancer, which I never ever see myself going into. Plus the ACS always needs people to help out, so it definitely won’t be a wasted experience.

8. Make a meal for a needy family at church

In the bulletin at church, there is always a place to sign up to make a meal for a couple different families. Some just suffered a loss, and some are battling disease. No matter what, I know that I can use my passion for cooking to help out a family in need.

9. Along the same vein, make an effort to go to church every Sunday

Again, this is never ever ever a bad use of my time. No more lame excuses.

10. Build deeper relationships with the girls in my small group

This should be something I am already doing, but again, I am terrible about actually branching out and asking someone to coffee or lunch. I love these girls and I want to grow deeper with each one of them.

11. Create a website for my photography

This is two-fold: I want to learn how to create a website and I want to make one for my photography. Hopefully this will help me with number 2 😉

12. Get certified in medical Spanish translation

You know…I took 7 years of Spanish, including a semester in medical Spanish. If I take a test, I can become officially certified and put that on my resumé. Which, ya know, can be important when applying to medical school.

13. Read at least half the books on my “To Read” list

The list just grows and grows and grows, but hardly does anything ever get crossed off. Well, not anymore.

14. Go paddle-boarding and be able to do it without falling

Not entirely sure this one will happen…

15. Visit a state that is not Maryland, Virginia or Delaware

I have so many things I want to see and taste and experience, and the best time to do it is in college while all my friends are in one place.

16. Get published – either writing, photography or research

Hopefully this happens in research, but it would be equally cool to see some of my writings or pictures in some sort of publication.

17. Drive in the middle of the night to watch the sunrise over the Shenandoah mountains

This will probably happen more than once. I love sunrises.

18. Go to a concert or two

I am hopefully going to the Outcry Tour concert in July, but I would love to see Miranda Lambert. Or really anyone. 

19. Pull an all-nighter

I somehow made it through 2 years in college without having to do this. But I think I need to experience this at least once, right? Right.

20. Take a spontaneous weekend trip

Number 20 should really read “Be spontaneous”. I am so so bad at that. 

And finally…21. Slow down and appreciate life

This season of life is precious, and I spend so much time waiting and wishing for some event in the future. Above all, I want to slow down and actually enjoy college, because once I am out, I will have a hard road ahead of me.

The Problem I Have With College

Now, that seems kind of silly. A seventeen year-old girl having an issue with volumes of freedom and independence? Definitely not – that aspect of college life fascinates me. The issue I have, and have had, concerns the two years leading up to college. Us high-schoolers practically sell our souls over college resumes, clubs, grades, and SAT scores. Service organizations become meaningless and self-centered, grades become repetitive, and learning becomes a chore. The National Honors Society was created to HELP PEOPLE, not to get you into college. One bad grade on a quiz will hardly even affect our grades, yet we stay up all night just to make sure we know everything. Honestly, I am not any better than the rest of my peers. I have joined clubs solely on the basis of wanting to beef up my resume, and I have definitely found the answers to my calculus homework on the internet a time or two (sorry Mr. Mathew!). The hyper-competitive nature of applying to college is slowing turning high-schoolers in to egocentric animals that have learned to memorize, not learn.

My biggest issue stems from the self-centered aspect of the whole process. We need to know the most impressive aspects of ourselves, just to keep up with the rest of the group. I went to a college interview, and they interviewer asked the most worthless questions. I prepared for questions like “What do you hope to contribute to society?” or “What do you hope to earn in college?”. Instead, I was asked(in rapid-fire succession) what my GPA was, what AP classes I have taken, what my SAT scores were, and what my SAT Subject Test scores were. Now that I am applied and admitted into college, none of those things even matter! I think this all stems off of the one-size-fits-all mentality that is shoved down our throats during high school. Between standardized tests and the ever-increasing demand to be a 100% success, the need to be unique has never been so high. We are told by our guidance counselors that we must take the most rigorous schedule in order to get into our top schools – and all for what? Just so we can graduate after another four years and move on to graduate school? 

My point is not to rant and complain, but rather to remind everyone – high-schooler or not –  that the real purpose of joining a service organization is to SERVE OTHERS, not yourself. The real reason to go to college is to LEARN, not to fulfill someone else’s dream for you. The reason we get up and go to work every morning is not because we have to, but because we want to make a difference in the world. If we want to change society, we need to start with the children and the school system. School should bring out the unique qualities in a person, while giving them education that they can use for the rest of their lives. I remind you today to help others, and maybe someone will help you. Happy April 9th 🙂