Like many of my peers, I suffer from an affliction called terminal aging. As of this writing, there is no cure. Every day that goes by, we get another day closer to the grave.
While I can’t do anything about my inevitable death from age, I can give you a few ideas of what I did (and wished I did more of) during the first 18 years of my life. At 35, I’m now at the end of my second 18 years, and I still have no regrets.
1. Sign Every Possible Contract
Minors can’t be held to contracts in the U.S. When I was a kid, that meant signing up for Columbia House and BMG Music Club (mail-order CD/DVD companies before the Internet that still shockingly exist, despite using a negative option billing model), along with every credit card I could get my hands on.
So long as you use your real name, SSN, and other personal information, you’re in the clear. If you use someone else’s information, you’re committing identity fraud and may find yourself in trouble.
After you turn 18, contracts become enforceable and become the bane of your existence. Enjoy your freedom from contracts as much as possible before turning 18, because you’ll never have a chance to go back and do it again.
2. Ask Your Crush Out
One of the hardest things to do in life is tell someone how you feel about them. Even adults lust and obsess over people they’ll never have a shot with. It never gets any easier, so learn to move beyond this while you’re young.
Ask out the boy or girl you have a crush on. You have literally nothing to lose. If they say yes, you win, and if they say no, you’re in the same position you’re already in except more experienced. Either way, it’ll become naturally easier to ask out the next person.
3. Break a Leg
When you’re young your body heals faster. Like Louis C.K. once joked about, you’re no longer a priority in your 40’s. Health care gets expensive and complicated, and the recovery time extends (if you’re lucky enough to recover at all).
Don’t just purposely break a bone, but don’t be afraid to put your body in the position to do so. Getting hurt is a part of life, and chicks dig scars. So long as you survive, you’ll be a stronger, wiser, and more confident person.
4. Learn to Drive
Having a car gives you freedom of movement, and knowing how to drive gives you more options throughout your life. I’ve driven over 100 different vehicles at this point in my life, and I can’t imagine where my life would’ve ended up if I couldn’t drive.
5. Break a Rule
Violence is never the answer, but when you’re under 18, you can get away with committing a lot of nonviolent crimes. Part of why you’ll get away with it is since you’re under 18, not much can be traced back to you. If you are caught, you’re still a kid and have a possible “I didn’t know better” defense.
People who go overboard end up in juvenile hall or jail, but for the most part you can get away with a lot before turning 18. Once you turn 18, you’re an adult and will be tried as one.
6. Paint Something
Some communities, groups, and people consider graffiti to be gang-related or illicit. While it is technically a form a vandalism, many actually enjoy the artistic style of murals found on train cars and buildings around the world.
Graffiti has existed since the dawn of humans and is an important part of culture. Art makes the world a more beautiful place – contribute to it.
7. Learn to Play an Instrument
Music is an important part of our society, whether you appreciate it or not. Studies have shown that knowing how to play an instrument provides even more neurological benefits than simply appreciating music, which in itself is beneficial.
Whether it’s a guitar, drum set, or traditional high school band instrument (brass, woodwind, etc.), pick at least one instrument and dedicate yourself to learning how to read music and play it. It’s a skill that will impress people throughout your adult life.
8. Sneak Out of the House
Sneaking out of the house is only possible when you’re a kid. When you become an adult, you own the house, so there’s no reason to sneak. Sneaking out of your house is an experience unique to those under 18.
9. Sneak Someone Else Out of Their House
What I miss the most about being under 18 is driving out late at night to a girl’s house, parking down the street, tapping on her window after her parents went to sleep, and sneaking her out of her house.
That’s something I haven’t done since high school, nor has an opportunity presented itself outside of emergency and dark situations.
10. Leave the Country
Eighteen and 21 are the ages you want to be in the U.S., but in many other countries you can drink, gamble, smoke, and have consensual sex at younger ages.
When I was under 18 and living by the Mexico border, we would cross the border on weekend nights to party in the Mexican border towns. There the drinking age was technically 18, but the enforcement of these laws are a bit different. So long as you had some American money, you could get into a bar or strip club and have a great time.
11. Create an Online Persona
Being anonymous gets more and more difficult the older you get. This is because no matter how safe you are online, you’re bound to be traced through your bills, paycheck, bank accounts, medical records, and other records.
Start creating multiple online personas so you have multiple accounts on any given websites. This makes it more difficult for your actions to be traces online and gives you a safety net. As many websites as I’ve been banned from at this point, I wouldn’t be allowed online if not for having multiple accounts everywhere.
12. Take a Risk
Adults gets more and more averse to risk-taking the older they get. When I was 30 and told people I was moving across the country, many people looked at me like I was insane. People get stuck in their ruts, and if you don’t learn to take risks at a young age, it’ll just get harder.
13. Ditch a Class
You can’t ditch work without eventually being fired. Ditching class is a thrill and it only works in high school. When you’re in college, you’re paying to be there so ditching is a waste of your money.
14. Kiss a Random Person
This is actually fun at any age, but the older you get, the higher the risk of being creepy. Find a random person, get their attention, and just kiss them. It doesn’t even matter where – it’s only harassment if you try to use your tongue.
15. Eat Something Unhealthy
Diet is important, but you can get away with a much unhealthier diet when you’re young. Start eating all those disgusting, greasy, deep-fried, chili-cheese-covered, sugared, buttery treats you won’t be able to digest when you’re older.
Although I still have no idea why so many people complain about not being able to eat things. Gluten intolerance is overly exaggerated and people are too sensitive, but heart attacks and diabetes are a real thing. A balanced diet is important, but you’ll have plenty of time to balance it out later in life.
There’s never a point in your life where volunteering your time to help the less fortunate isn’t fulfilling. When you’re under 18 it looks good on a college application as well.
I’ve had jobs since I was 7 (selling Kool-Aid and delivering fliers), but they were mostly menial. Extensive volunteer experience (not my GPA or other extracurricular activities) is what got my foot in a lot of doors in my 20’s.
17. Go Outside
When you’re a kid, you get to know your neighborhood better than any adult ever will. I still know nooks and crannies of the towns and cities I grew up in that nobody will ever know. If I needed to disappear or ditch a tail, there are certain neighborhoods I know well.
The reason your average 40-year-old doesn’t know the layout of the town is because they drive everywhere instead of walking. There are some adults who walk, jog, run, and ride their bikes around, but they’re more the exception than the rule.
Go outside and learn the layout of the world around you while you still can. It’s experience, knowledge, and wisdom you can can’t google or use technology to help you with.
18. Find a Hero
Find someone to idolize and emulate. Everybody needs somebody sometime. There’s nothing you can do that hasn’t already been done so find someone whose footsteps you can follow.
But don’t choose me – I’m not a role model.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared in High Times, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Lifehack, Main Street, and Hardcore Droid.