This'll be a purely objective list as I recount my experiences a mere few weeks before I hit the two-zero. I've realized that, although some of the things listed here were done out of my obligation to my parents, I see now that these decisions ultimately benefited me in the long run and that I don't think I'll ever forget to thank the people who encouraged me into doing what I needed to do, considering how young and sheltered I (am) was.
1) Getting a driver's license and learning how to drive
Definitely on the top of my list. Driving has taught me so much about myself, it isn't even funny. Being patient, feeling the responsibility and most importantly, the skill. It comes in handy. I first got my student's permit when I was sixteen and my driver's license followed a year after. My mom's surplus was my best friend throughout college, with most of my experiences the past four years happening with her somewhere in the mix.
Even if you don't have a car to use, getting your license and at least learning the basics of driving will teach you more about yourself than you give credit for. And with everything that's likely to happen in a couple of years, you being you will be the most help you'll get any day.
A driver's license will come in handy later when you decide to open a bank account, apply for government IDs or any other situation with formalities as most institutions require you to present at least two. In this case, your school ID and driver's license work nicely.
No pressure here. I know not everyone gets the opportunity but doing so while you're around fifteen or sixteen really helps you during these formative years. It'll help you mature and see the bigger picture, even for just a little bit.
I've been to Hong Kong, China and Singapore being the latest and seeing the infrastructure, the culture, the people and practices while being so young was really one of my stepping stones to maturity. It helped me "get" people more, helped me adjust in different environments and helped me understand that there's more to everything and we're all just part of a bigger, livelier world. And see how the Phils could be so much better, to be honest. It belong entirely to you on how you interpret that impression. For me, being part of the generation that could possibly make our country better is a tempting sentiment.
Plus, having your passport to present to institutions, with the lovely addition of your proof of travels abroad, will give them a better idea of who you are and therefore will trust you more (earning you a better chance of getting that job or whatever you're applying for.)
3) Getting a part-time job and doing freelance
I've done freelance since I was in high school and, shall we say, two part-time jobs with one being better than the other but none the easier. Safe to say that it not only improved my technical skill, as all jobs were related to technology somehow, but it made me see what the real world was like, be it in just a few months.
I learned how to bargain, I made both good and bad mistakes, I talked to clients, had bad bosses, met awesome colleagues, felt the satisfaction of feeling my own hard-earned cash on my skin and that experience definitely helped build up my resume, which is great!
All I'm saying is, if you've got the chance to, work. Especially to all you private school kids out there like me. In a conversation I had with the super cool Mike Martinez, the youth of the Philippines are still sadly too immature, even at ages past their twenties. I'm not saying everyone is but generally, a lot of the kids that graduate still don't have that sense of responsibility. Of having a job, saving money, simply competing in the real world unlike in some foreign countries where moving out and getting a job at eighteen is the norm.
4) Joining as many organizations I was interested in and staying active in them
I cannot stress this enough. Relationships are important. So much more is belonging to a community of like minded people. I wouldn't have gone as far as I have if it weren't for the people and opportunities from the organizations I braved to join. Above is an old group shot of the Web Developers' Guild Christmas Party 2012. The organization that started it all for me.
I met Pip Cimafranca through them and through him, I got introduced to Startup Weekend and through that introduction I got acquainted with Tina Amper and TechTalks.ph and because they sparked my interest so much, I stayed active in all three organizations, didn't get any problems when I had to look for a place to intern at, had tons of fun, learned a heck of a lot and the rest, well, is history. And now I'm here, young, with all the opportunities before me, just because of that life-changing decision. And opportunities, might I add, is something I personally think you should be getting a lot of while you're still spunky.
So go out there. Meet people. You never know who or what might change your world.
5) Attending as many events related to the work I wanted to do as often as I could
Heavily related to the point above, the whole point of "staying active" is to get to attend these, often times exclusive, events. If you're up to it, be an organizer. You get to be close and personal with the speakers, you can talk to the big leagues that matter in your field about your thoughts over coffee or during the event's breaks. Along with all the sweat and tears that come along as an organizer, there are tons of perks as well especially the opportunity to network through the larger audience.
Pick you events though. It's great if you could spare for everything and everyone, but being realistic, there's only so much you can join. I mean, not all events are free. So choose wisely, pick a crowd, make a good impression and always show your best. A lot of employers see these events as an opportunity to scout for talent and you'll never know whose eye you've caught.
6) Ordering stuff online (companies that do Cash on Delivery)
Cash on Delivery means that you can pay for your purchases when they've arrived at your signed shipping address. Which is convenient, safe and the thing for customers in southeast asia.
I'm not saying you can't do this after you're twenty but being exposed to this culture at a younger age really extended my appreciation for technology. I learned about credit and debit cards because of my interest in online shopping. I learned to be wary about suspicious deals and it made me a better researcher and shopper. Knowing the possibilities made me less ignorant about this new window of opportunity, as e-commerce is still a fairly new concept in our country, and gave me a better appreciation for the services available that we don't often use as a student.
7) Getting a postal ID
This is optional, I would say. I needed this to apply for my Unionbank EON Card, which I will be explaining later on, as one of their requirements are "two vaid IDs" with my driver's license almost expiring, all I had was my school ID. So if you're looking for extra valid IDs, having a postal ID is pretty handy and it's pretty easy to get.
8) Getting registered to the ComElec
I hate voting. I may take this back in a couple of years but right now, I don't see the point. Plus, "using your right to vote" is just too goddamn inconvenient, you have to spend hours in line, shoulder-to-shoulder with tons of people and may possibly faint or worse, just to write on a piece of paper. Well, enough of that. Despite my hate for the actual voting process, registering to the ComElec will prove beneficial when you go job hunting or when you're applying for other formalities. I had to get it eventually so you should, too. Just to be fair.
9) Getting a credit/debit card and using it
Cheap and easy to get with no maintaining balance and an initial deposit of three hundred fifty pesos, the Unionbank EON Card is the way to go for freelancers and those simply interested to explore that service. At the moment, I'm using my EON Card for purchasing and maintaining this blog's domain and Essays.ph which I'll be talking about in another post soon.
10) Getting an SSS and PhilHealth number
Better get it now than later when every graduate in the block is applying for it at the local SSS office. I mean, it was already a race when I applied and it was a good two months before graduation, so imagine how busy it'll be if you wait 'till after graduation. Being familiar with these basic government processes will orient you better with what needs to be done and what the personalities of the local government employees are and their practices.
For example, where I'm from, you'll have to be a good hour early before an office's opening to get to stay as one of the first in line and even then, a good number of people will already be in front of you. Plus, the actual filing of documents will happen a good thirty minutes to an hour after opening as their head of office will have arrived by then. So bring a snack, or your breakfast and a good book because you will be there for a while.
And that ends my list of things I'm happy I did/got exposed to before I turn twenty and hopefully, all these experiences will ultimately benefit me as I get older. Got any more advice on things a youngster should do before they hit the two-zero?