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So…I’m a year older. Wah wahhhh.

Fortunately, I’m not actually that freaked out. I mean, I feel like my life is pretty well in order for a 25-year-old. I’m married. I have a career-type job. We’re pretty stable and don’t rely on anyone to support us financially.

Like, I said, not a bad place to be.

I’ve realized the only thing that I find to be a major bummer about getting older is looking like I’m getting older. Case in point, I’ve started noticing a few (hairs along my part that have a certain silvery sheen to them. Not. Cool. And I’d be lying if I said I just didn’t notice the fine lines that have cropped up around my eyes in the last year or so.

I mean, sure, both of these “signs of aging” are probably things only I would notice after a careful inspection in the mirror, but it’s still a relief to know that I don’t have to go down without a fight. For the hair? Well, we all know I have no problem coloring my hair. (My appointment is on Friday.) And for the baby wrinkles? Well, I’ve taken the advice of skincare experts everywhere and actually started using eye cream in my twenties. ARE YOU HAPPY, SKINCARE EXPERTS?

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25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: The Finale

You guys! I’m 25! WE MADE IT!

And, in case you were tired of this segment, today is the last day. So…yay?

But anyway. Let’s get into our final five Things You Should Know Before 25.

21. You should know how to end a bad relationship.

This tip applies to the romantic and otherwise relationships in your life. The fact is, no matter how much work you put into something, you can’t always make things work. Sometimes, relationships are more of a mental, emotional, and even physical drain than anything, and it’s okay to admit that you would be happier without that person in your life. Break-ups are almost always difficult, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the right thing to do.

22. You should know you can’t fix people.

Sometimes your friends are just going to keep making bad decisions no matter how much good advice you give them. Sometimes people you love are going to be incredibly self-destructive, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s always good to be there when they want to pick up the pieces, but if their poor decisions are affecting your peace and happiness, see the above point.

23. “You should know how to live alone. When I was 22 and 23, I spent several months living alone. At the time, I hated it. But now, looking back, I realize it gave me the kind of independence and insight into myself that I couldn’t have learned any other way. ” – Susan Elgin

{the first picture Susan and I ever took together}

Susan unofficially guest posts on the blog pretty much anytime I’m having a meltdown about the way my life is going. (Don’t worry; I return the favor when she’s feeling that way about her life.) We’ve always joked that our friendship was our version of the New York love story (two strangers meet under unexpected circumstances, instantly click, and form a life-long relationship…adorable, right?), and honestly, I can’t imagine my life without her. Not only is she super insightful, she’s also one of the few people I feel completely comfortable being 100% honest with. That’s tougher to find than you might think.

But anyway, back to her tip. Not surprisingly, I completely agree with this. I know it’s not possible for everyone to live on their own (financial obligations are real, yo), but if you can, I highly recommend it. Besides teaching you big lessons in the way of being an adult, (“Wait, so you mean if I don’t replace the toilet paper, no one will?”), it also shows you what you’re made of. Your real, inner person comes out in unexpected ways, and you learn that you can be self-reliant. Plus, you know, you can walk around in your underwear.

24. “You should know how to cook. That doesn’t mean you have to be able to put together a five-course meal, but you better be able to follow a recipe.” – Erik Holt

Even though we’ve gone to school together since the fifth grade, Erik and I didn’t really become friends until our junior year of college. I mean, we had always been friends, but a trip to D.C. to visit Annie (and a 2-hour Taylor Swift prom special on MTV) in the summer of 2008 solidified that the three of us would be bonded for life. And it has to be said, I am so glad that is the case. Erik is another one of my basically-my-brother friends that I am crazy proud of for what he has accomplished (including having just accepted a sweet new gig in Chicago!) and for the person he is. Really, I am so blessed to have the best friends.

ALL RIGHT WITH THE MUSHY STUFF, YOU GUYS. Back to his tip. I completely agree with this. I think everyone should have that one dish they can whip up in their sleep, whether it’s Coq au Vin or a killer grilled cheese. At this point in our lives, you should be able to keep yourself nourished with something other than another bowl of cereal. Plus, you need something in your back pocket to impress dates, right?

25. “You should know that you don’t have to have everything figured out yet. You’re still young enough where if you want to make a change and try something new — whether that be a new job, new city, relationship, or whatever — you can. But you have to be willing to take that leap of faith because nobody is going to do it for you.” – Erik, again

A couple of people submitted tips similar to this (either a sign that it’s true or that we all just desperately need to believe it. But when I read this, I couldn’t imagine ending the series on anything else. Because 25 isn’t old. It isn’t an ending of anything. As another submitter said, 25 is the age where we can do things we won’t be able to do 10 years from now and that we couldn’t do 10 years ago. I think that sums the whole series up nicely.

Of course, if you’ve turned 25 and haven’t accomplished something on this list, you know you’re not actually a failure at life, right? As quite a few of these tips have attested, 25 is an age where it’s really OK to still not have everything figured out. I’m not sure there is an age where you’re supposed to have everything figured out.

Really, this segment was just about taking stock of what’s going on. Being mature enough to handle your ish, while realistic enough to know that we are way too young to know everything.

Thank you so much to everyone who submitted not only for sharing your wisdom, but also for being a part of my life. I love you all dearly. And I don’t know about you guys, but I have a feeling 25 is going to be my best year yet.

25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: Part 4

Well, the big day is tomorrow. Wacky. Hopefully you’ve been enjoying the series thus far.

And NOW. The penultimate post. Enjoy.

16. You should know that you can still get a sunburn even when it’s cloudy and that there is no magical pill that will make you lose weight and that should never, ever comment on a woman’s weight.

Basically, you should have some common sense and general awareness of how the world works. It sort of baffles me that there are still people who seem completely ignorant of these very basic concepts.

17. “You should know how to ask for help…and how to know there are times you need to realize you’re a grown-up and help yourself.” – Tara Powers

Tara and I haven’t really known each other very long (and we’ve only met once in person), but she’s one of those people you meet and instantly feel like you’ve known each other most of your lives. Besides our shared passion for running (and eating), she’s incredibly nice, completely genuine, and super handy if you need a dozen cookies in a pinch.

What I love about her suggestion is that it incorporates humility and maturity — two qualities I think are sorely lacking in the world in general. Learning to ask for help has been a difficult thing for me to learn, but I like to think that being 25 means having learned your limits.

18. “How to use a plunger (no, really).” – Tara, again.

‘Nuff said.

19. “You should know that nothing you plan will turn out like you imagine it will. It may not be better or worse, but it will always be different.” – Becca Paszkiewicz

It would be impossible to make a list of my favorite people on Earth without including Becca. I mean…she’s obviously adorable. But she’s also brilliant (what UP getting into grad school!), incredibly kind, and hilarious. As you can tell from this photo, affectionately titled “THE GREATEST PHOTO OF MY BFFs EVER” :

Yes, this is from freshmen year of college. Yes, it was taken during a sleepover in my basement when we snuck out of the house because we really wanted cake. And yes, it looks like we’re stealing a birthday cake. (FULL CIRCLE BECAUSE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A BIRTHDAY.)

But anyway. Back to her tip. See what I mean about her being brilliant? I read once that expectation is the thief of happiness (or something like that…I think it was Shakespeare…anyway), and really, how true is that? The fact is, nothing is ever going to turn out exactly the way you think it will. So why bother getting so caught up in the details that you can’t deal if things aren’t how you picture them? At this point, we should all remember to check ourselves with this fact.

20. “You should also know that you will make mistakes and make bad choices, but the real crime is not learning from them. (Unless you murder someone, then it’s actually a crime).” – Becca, again.

See what I mean about her being hilarious? But in all seriousness, don’t waste the mistakes. We should know by now that they will happen, and the best thing that can come from it is that we don’t make them again. (Or at least that we get a great story out of it.)

Eeeeeeeee tomorrow is the last installment, dudes. See you on the flip side.

25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: Part 3

We’re just flying through these, folks. I promise I didn’t break it into a million parts because I couldn’t handle writing them all at once (or as a cheap ploy to get more page views or something). I just started writing them out and it looked like a lot of text to get through in one sitting. Instead of a giant main course, think of these as a bunch of little snacks. Who doesn’t like snacks?

Moving on.

11. “You should know you’re not in college (it’s been three years for most of us, people). Blacking out/constant partying is now not only unattractive (was it ever attractive?) but concerning. You should know how to go out tastefully.” – Celine Purcell

Ok, first things first, I have to get something out of the way. I kind of have a girl crush on Celine. Not only is she brilliant and hilarious, she’s also just insanely cool. For the last few months, she has been traveling the world (she has gone to Zimbabwe AND Madrid), and I just consider her one of the bravest people I know.

Phew. Glad to get that out of my system. Back to her tip. Seriously, folks. As we all know, I have never been a party animal, but I can still appreciate a night out to let off some steam. A line is crossed, however, if your night out still has the potential to end in jail or the hospital. Most of us have legit jobs at this point, or at least friends with jobs who will not be pleased if they only get three hours of sleep Thursday night because they had to bail you out of something. Besides, you have to admit that you just can’t party like you used to anymore. Why put yourself through the pain?

12. You should know how to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the Internet at large (even if you choose not to).

Before anyone can get uppity, I’m not saying you need these things in your life to be an adult. You certainly don’t. In fact, I would venture that it’s probably easier to be an adult without them. But you should certainly be aware of them, and you should have a pretty good idea how they function. This is the world we live in, and no matter what career path you’ve chosen, I guarantee you will encounter these things and they will affect you. At the very least, we should know by now what is NOT okay to post, right? Guys??

13. “You should know how to only worry about things you can control and give up stressing about things you can’t. It’s probably the lesson I value most.” – Mandi Woodruff

I know you’re probably tired of hearing how much I like my friends. But you’ll just have to bear with me.

I met Mandi during my ASME internship in 2008. (Gahhh we’re old.) I liked her immediately for her authenticity and smarts, and as I got to know her better, I learned what a witty, genuinely nice person she is. Now I follow her adventures biking all over New York (including Manhattan…a feat that still gives me the willies) on her blog, but she’s also another person I admire for striking out on her own and booking solo trips around the world and just generally being a brave person. (Seeing a pattern in what I admire in people?)

I really liked this tip of hers, especially because I think it’s something that, while we might have realized it’s something we should be concerned about at 25, it’s probably going to take us the rest of our lives to really believe it. But we’re all at an age where we should have experienced enough success and failure to realize what is in our control and what isn’t. And we should be getting closer to being okay with that.

14. “Also, you should know how to sew a button! Not kidding.” -Mandi, again.

This is just a fact. It’s not hard. If you’re still not sure, I GIVE YOU KNOWLEDGE.

15. “You should know there’s a relationship between your paycheck and expenses…a relationship that doesn’t involve the Bank of Parental Units.” – Celine, again.

I talk fairly candidly about my finances on this blog, and I make no secret about how important it is to be to be financially independent. It always has been, which is why I was such a rabid saver most of my life.

As we get older and, ideally, start receiving better paychecks, I honestly think it gets a little harder to be as responsible as we once were. But if nothing else, we should realize that we’re getting to an age where mounds of credit card debt and an inability to live on a budget is going to start affecting our life in a major way if we can’t get it under control.

Okay, over halfway done! See ya tomorrow.

25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the list! If you missed yesterday’s post, get caught up here quickly. Don’t worry; I’ll wait.

Okay, ready? Let’s get to it.

6. You should know how to travel alone.

I vividly remember the first time I took a plane trip without my family. In a way, it was kind of scary because you’re entirely on your own to get through security, get to your gate on time, find your luggage, etc., but similar to moving, being utterly on your own is incredibly empowering. Now I kind of relish when I can travel by myself, if only for how efficiently I can get from place to place.

7. “You should know your de-stressers and then use them whether — its yoga, Call of Duty, running, Ben and Jerry’s fro yo, or cleaning.” –Annie Schunicht/soon-to-be Breitinger

Annie has been my BFF for most of my life, so it shouldn’t be any surprise I would turn to her when compiling this list. I mean, she has graduated law school, moved to Florida, and she’s marrying the love of her life this September. Plus, she did this with me:

She’s kind of awesome. And one thing we both have in common (besides the ability to take an amazing photo) is that we can turn into crazy people when under a lot of stress. Fortunately, as Annie points out, part of being an adult is learning to deal with that tendency in a healthy way. The point is, we’re getting too old for temper tantrums and utter meltdowns. When things seem to be falling apart, go for a jog, stuff your face, make a list, and then get on with it.

8. You should know how to send a proper thank-you note. (And actually doing it every time you receive a gift or go on an interview.)

I mean, I don’t really need to get into this again, do I? If you’re 25, you’re officially too old to get off the hook for this.

9. “You should own least 3 professional outfits (read: no hooker heels with suits).” -Annie, again.

10. “You should know that what you may have thought of as failing or giving up might just mean making a necessary change. Be prepared for life to fall apart and come back together many times. Even many times in one day!” – Michelle Rose Abraham

Michelle often tells me she wants to be me when she grows up. Which, to me, is so funny because a.) I feel like I’m still figuring so much out and b.) there are so many things I admire about her. She’s super talented, smart, funny, and incredibly nice. She’s truly brave (yet another of my friends who moved across the country from everything she knew to strike out on her own), and I’m so happy to have her in my life.

I also love that she can speak so candidly about realizing something isn’t the right choice for you. That cross-country move I mentioned? It didn’t work out exactly as she had hoped. But rather than simply flailing and giving up, Michelle was able to pick herself back up and start out on a new journey. At this point in our lives, I think it’s crucial to know how to deal when something doesn’t work out — and how to figure out what to do next.

Hooray for Annie and Michelle! We’re almost halfway through the list folks. See you tomorrow!

25 Things to Know Before You’re 25: Part 1

My 25th birthday is five days away.

I don’t celebrate birthdays (so this isn’t me fishing for cards and gifts), but I wanted to talk about this particular milestone because, well, it is a milestone.

When I was a wee little Justine, I used to have this mental plan that went something like this: I’m going to get married at 20 and have kids at 25.

Okay, so…we’ve learned that wee little Justine was kind of a psycho. Or at least vastly overestimating how quickly she would get her life together. I mean, seriously, you’re still very much in college at 20. This is why we don’t take life advice from 6-year-olds.

But the point is, from the start, 25 has always signified something big for me. Twenty-five is the age (in my brain) that I was supposed to be completely and utterly grown up. Settled. Life was supposed to be figured out.

Needless to say, that isn’t exactly what happened.

I mean, to my own credit, I have some things figured out. The marriage thing? I’ve figured the crap out of that one. The job thing? The where we want to live thing? The money thing? Eh…that’s what the second-half of your twenties is for, right?

But for this commemorative post (available for two easy payments of $39.95!!)(I’m the only one that thinks of infomercials when I hear the word “commemorative”? Okay, moving on.), I wanted to focus on the stuff I can check off. More than that, I wanted to get input from some people who I really trust and admire on what they think is important to check off before you hit 25. So I sent out a Facebook message to a few people who fit that description and compiled their thoughts with my own. Some of these are silly things. Some of them a bit weightier. But they’re all 100 percent true.

And just in case you’re already overwhelmed at the thought of reading all 25 in one sitting, I’m splitting this post into five parts. Check back over the next five days for the rest!

So without further ado, here is the first half of our list of the 25 things you should know by the time you turn 25:

1. “You should know how to host a dinner party without completely freaking out.” – Madison Mayberry Hofmeyer

This is probably kind of a weird thing to say about someone who I’ve only met once before, but Madison is kind of one of my favorite people in the world. (Yup, I’m putting it all out there, Madison.) Not only is she insanely nice and smart and funny, she’s also a pretty fabulous cook. (You might recognize her from when she won Rachel Ray’s “Hey, Can You Cook?!” competition in 2008.)

And while you might think, “Sure, a girl like that could easily throw a dinner party,” I think Madison’s thought is incredibly valid. Because a dinner party doesn’t have to be a fancy sit-down event for 20. I think what she means is that you should be able to entertain guests for dinner without losing your mind, and I can completely get behind that.

2. You should know how to use a public restroom.

Okay, this one is from me. And what I mean is, you should know to check if there’s toilet paper before you’ve disrobed and sat down. And you should know to make sure you flush the toilet properly. And you should know to put some paper towels in the stall if you’ve used the last of the toilet paper. And you should know how to wash your hands without leaving soggy paper towels clogging the drain in sink. And for the ladies, it should go without saying, but for the love of all that is holy, you should know not to leave used tampons in the toilet. It’s disturbing to discover.

It never fails to shock me how many grown-ups still have not learned how to do this properly.

3. “You should know how to write a grammatically correct cover letter. That’s inspired by a resume I just read that included, among other hilarious things, ‘An understanding of chivalry’ listed under ‘Honors and Awards’. –Joe Thuente

Joe and I have been friends since the seventh grade when we rode the bus together twice a day every day. I don’t tell him this enough, but he’s someone I’m insanely proud of in terms of what he has accomplished in the time I’ve known him. He has checked off making a major move, getting a graduate degree, and getting his dream job from his life’s to-do list, and I consider it an honor that he’s kept me as a friend this long.

But enough mushy stuff. The dude also knows a thing or two about applying for and getting a job. (Plus, his anecdote is hilarious.) The fact is, it’s never going to be cool to sound uneducated. Learn yourself some basic grammar, folks. And, seriously, have a trusted adult friend read over your cover letter before you turn it in. We don’t need any more of these guys.

4. How to survive away from your family.

5. “You should know how to give a good handshake. And, for God’s sake, if you are male, you should know how to tie a God damn tie by this point.” -Joe T., again.

There’s nothing to really add to that, except I would say that ladies of the world should know how to tie a GD tie at this point too. You never know when you’ll be called on to save a male friend/boyfriend/husband from embarrassment.

Thank you to Madison and Joe from your contributions! See everyone tomorrow for the second installment!

Book Review: The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

My most lasting impression about The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway was, interestingly enough, not anything to do with the crux of the plot.

While I found the descriptions of the rose industry interesting, and I was mildly interested in Gal’s interaction with her niece, her friends, and her love interests, the part the really stayed with me was her experience with kidney failure. I never knew that much about dialysis before, and I think I always had this mental image that it affected your life in that you had to go to the doctor more frequently than other people.

I had never thought about how it would control what you ate and how much water you were allowed to drink. As someone who drinks about a gallon of water every day, it made me thirsty just thinking about Gal’s condition.

But I think there’s something about Gal herself that leaves the reader wanting. She seems so determined to not be dependent and to stamp down any feelings of neediness that she ends up stamping down just about every emotion. I didn’t feel her interest in maintaining any relationships. I barely felt her love for her niece in the writing. And while she even addresses this lack of concern for others (so consumed in her own problems as she is), it seemed like an afterthought. “Oh, yeah, maybe I should ask my friends what’s going on in their lives now and then.”

An afterthought that didn’t have much follow-through.

If you read this book, were your dissatisfied with Gal’s emotions? What was your most lasting impression of the book?

Join us in the BlogHer Book Club for even more discussion topics.