In some ways, I feel like I just turned 30. But I’m 38 and can’t believe I — who feels like she just graduated college — am closing in on 40. While it’s hard to remember how much I grew between ages 20-30, there’s something really pivotal about the things I’ve learned in my 30s. I know so much more who I am… while also recognizing how little I knew about myself, and the world around me, in my 20s.
Here’s things I’ve learned in my 30s:
You cannot live for someone else’s timeline. In your 20s you might have a crew, everyone wants to do things together and at the same time. There’s even a domino effect with marriage and babies. But in your 30s you know better. You realize the only timeline you should focus on is the one you create.
You learn how to say no. If you haven’t learned this one yet, lady… get on it. I’m going to be tough about it because every time you say yes to someone else, it means you’re saying no to you, to your family or perhaps to something more important. It’s a hard lesson to learn but think about that. Consider this perspective the next time you give a guilt-ridden yes. What are you not doing or who are you not spending time with as a result?
The most important part of our life is not what happens during working hours. I didn’t always get this. I’m a bit of a workaholic because I absolutely love what I do — with this blog and owning a PR firm that primarily supports nonprofits and small businesses. When I started working from home two years ago (this post on the topic is one of my favorites), I saw how my world and my perspective changed. The impromptu kitchen dance parties, girls nights, snuggling up with my guy, exploring our own passions, innocent laughter, family pizza pool parties and a million other little moments… these are the ones that make a life we’ll be proud of when we look back years from now.
Kindness is contagious. I tell my children to always lead with kindness, and I do the same. It’s never a wrong decision to be kindness, whether that’s at four years old on the playground, or adulting at 34.
Get on the plane. Having an opportunity to travel? Take it. It reinvigorates your soul.
Other people’s opinions are mostly irrelevant. I learned the hard way if someone wants to invest their time gossiping or saying nasty things about me, let them. It doesn’t matter and it says way more about them than it is about me. YOU decide your self worth. YOU. Just as I tell my kiddos to “stay in your lane,” I do the same. I’ll be honest, I have a people pleasing mentality, so there have been times I’ve of course been hurt by others, but it’s one of the things I’ve learned in my 30s: I’m focused on impressing me. I’m focused on being good to the people who love my crazy self. Why give energy to someone who causes you negativity?
We are not all financially equal. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses, or whoever that couple or family or person. Either they’re in a different financial bracket, or they’re spend happy and will be working the rest of their life. If it’s the later, do you want that to be you? Sure, I’m all about a deal, and yes we love to go out to eat, but it’s never at the expense of saving for the future. Each of us has to be practical with the money we have coming in, and what’s going out. Remember we have no idea what’s going on behind people’s front doors and we can’t compare ourselves in general, and definitely not to situations we don’t know. So many of us in our 20s might have racked up credit card debt trying to be baller, but we know better in our 30s.
Being home before 11 pm is seriously awesome. How did we go out in our 20s after 11 pm?! Seriously, one of the wonders of the world.
People you love don’t live forever. When we’re little most of us think our loved ones will be healthy and will live forever. Sadly, we now know better. Hug your loved ones each time you see them.
Focus on how your body feels. So what if I weigh 120 pounds or 135 or 165 pounds. Do I feel good, healthy, strong, and joyful? If you’re someone who is super focused on numbers, toss the scale and embrace the body you have. Learn to what makes it feel good. It’s the vehicle that takes you through life, that enables you to laugh, smile, hug and conquer each day. Eat the chocolate. And, don’t stress about the dimples on your thighs. And yes… my inner thighs touch and who the heck cares.
You have plenty of time. You guys, if you’re in your 30s, we’re babies. We’re really young. I’m hoping for a healthy 90ish years, so if you’re close to my age range, we have a long way to go. Forget that old “over the hill” garbage… we’re still climbing up the mountain and there’s so much you can accomplish because you have the time to do it.
Go down the water slide. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you should stop having carefree fun. Even more reason to get on that swirly water slide and scream like an eight year old. It’s the most freeing feeling!
People are in our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Sometimes it’s hard at first to realize which category someone goes in — and that can lead to some tough moments — but this is so incredibly true. Once you understand this, you’ll be way better off.
Time with your kiddos will go faster than you think. I remember wanting to rip my hair out just a few years ago catching kids vomit or poop or lord knows what, or not sleeping or just wanting to scream and lock myself in the bathroom with a bottle of wine and a straw, thinking… can we just fast forward time?! The joke is on us. Those people who snarkily said, “the days are long but the years are short,” were right. (I hate admitting that!). Create memories, traditions and meaningful moments with these babies while they still appreciate us, reach for our hands in public, and want to snuggle.
Skincare is everything. Seriously regretting that I let all those comments about how I looked so young for my age, let me think I didn’t need a legit skin care regime. Start early, and moisturize the heck out of your skin. And, never ever forget the SPF.
Be someone who makes your community better. Find causes you’re passionate about and give back with your time and resources. It’s true that you get back more than you can ever give.
A year (or even a week) from now, most of this will not matter. Stop getting so worked up about the little stuff. That thing you’re stressing about now. Is it something that will be irrelevant next week no matter work? Will it be so far off your radar a few months from now? Then, don’t give it power now. Worry when you need to worry, and until then…. bring it down a notch.
You learn how to enjoy your own company. This is something I’m working on every day, and I love exploring who I am. If you let it — and especially with social media — you can find a way to avoid your own thoughts during every waking hour. It takes strength and vulnerability to be alone with your own feelings, and it takes those things to sit at a restaurant or movie theatre by yourself, too. Enjoying your own company is powerful. It helps you determine exactly what brings you joy as you get to know yourself.
Caffeine is life. How did we get through our younger days without a mid-afternoon, pick-me-up?
Plenty of us still don’t have a clue what we’re doing. Ever feel like what the heck am I doing? And worse, why does it feel like everyone has their stuff together? I swear to you, that’s not the truth. Remind yourself people usually only put their highlight reel on social media. If you don’t have a clue, the only thing you owe to yourself is to stop, pause, reflect and try to find what lights your soul on fire. It might take more time, and changing paths as we gets older requires more planning (financially included), but you can’t be afraid to take risks. As we get older, it’s only natural your visions change… what you wanted, that career you wanted 20 years ago, for example, might make you miserable now. Promise you that you’re not the only one.
The best moments often happen without a plan. It’s exactly why NYE is always, always a let down. It’s the ultimate planning. The best moments, best nights are often the ones that came together at the last minute, without any plan or expectation. Embrace more of those moments.
You are capable of everything. We are smart enough to know that we don’t know everything, BUT… you should know that if you want something bad enough, you are capable of making it happen. No one will fight for your dreams like you will, so it’s time you step up because you are smart, strong, determined and badass enough to make it happen.
photos by Erica Dunhill