According to the date on my birth certificate, I am officially 30 years old. I’ve heard your 30s are the most fun, but I have to be honest… I have been feeling a lot of anxiety and pressure surrounding that number. Have I done enough? Have I wasted any of my precious time so far? What’s next for me? Part of me feels so accomplished and the other part of me feels like I’m behind in some way. To ease my fears I decided to sit down and write out a list of 30 things I’ve learned so far in my 30 years of life. Taking a second for a gratitude check usually always helps. I wanted to share them candidly with you too, not to be self indulgent, but in hopes my twenty something year old friends will find something helpful here. And who knows, maybe I’ll need to come back to this list to reground myself at some point. Either way, I hope you enjoy it!
1. What you say to yourself matters
Your brain is a powerful thing, and it can either clip your wings or help you soar. My therapist asked me once why I say things to myself that I’d never say out loud to someone else. That floored me. I had developed a habit of talking down to myself and it held me back from a lot. I slip up here and there, but now that I’m aware of it, I try to catch myself, stop, and re-phrase whatever I said. Basically, I’m working on becoming my own best friend.
2. Quality over quantity, always
This goes for everything. Friends, possessions, and whatever else lol. I’ve been working on keeping what I want and need in my life and removing all the excess. Life becomes a lot less cluttered and much more enjoyable that way.
3. Boundaries are a good thing
This is something I had never done for myself until recently. I have found that setting boundaries is one thing, but maintaining them is another. As a recovering people pleaser, it alleviates so much of the unnecessary pressure I put on myself. At first it felt selfish, but now I see the value in doing that if it means I have time to pour into the things that truly matter to me like my health and wellness, my marriage, my family and friends, and my hobbies.
3. Mental health is health
Within the past year, I stumbled my way into my first session with a therapist. It was the biggest breath of fresh air, and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. Having a 3rd party look into your life is incredibly insightful whether you’re struggling with a particular issue or just want some guidance on how to understand yourself and improve your overall wellbeing. It’s the best thing I’ve done for myself, maybe ever.
4. Productivity does not define your worth
I was a student in some capacity for the majority of my life so far. Between 13 years of school, 2 years of college, 4 years of grad school, and 2 years of residency it’s only natural that I spent all of those years being conditioned to think that ending my days exhausted from checking off a mountain of to-dos meant that I had been successful. Learning to appreciate rest and take comfort in slowing down has been life-changing.
5. Take. Time. Off.
Hey. Listen to me. Lose the guilt, and take your PTO. You don’t have to go on a lavish vacation. You can just stay home and be a couch potato if that’s what you need! But take it. It’ll lead to you being happier and healthier overall, and help prevent you from getting burnt out at work. (Speaking from experience here.)
6. “No” is a complete sentence
Pretty self-explanatory. This falls into that boundary-setting thing I’m working on…
7. Multitasking is overrated
I’m not sure when being a “great multitasker” became a skill worth bragging about, but it’s a one-way ticket to feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. I wrote a blog post about productivity a while back after I had adopted this concept. If you’re not giving your full attention to one thing at a time, you’re not doing it at your full capacity. We are not machines, we are human beings. One of my favorite quotes from Parks and Recreation’s character Ron Swanson says “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” I think that’s pretty good advice.
8. Make time for things that make you happy
There was a long period of time where I couldn’t imagine spending time doing something that wasn’t going to contribute to the bottom line of my day (i.e. ticking off something on my to-do list). Taking time to do things just for the sheer enjoyment of it is a necessity for overall happiness. It doesn’t matter what it is, but make sure it’s something that brings you joy and doesn’t carve out time in your day for it on a regular basis. It took me a while to figure out what mine is, but I’ve fallen back in love with reading for pleasure. I have consistently been making time for reading books every morning, and I treasure that time of the day so much.
9. Gratitude is everything
Hence, why I’m writing this post. I think pressing pause and zooming out to look at your life from a bird’s-eye view can bring so much perspective and peace.
10. Seeing the world is important
I have learned so much in my time traveling the world than I could express in this one paragraph. It will always be the number one thing I am most grateful for because of the lessons I have learned while experiencing other cultures. I think Mark Twain said it best when he wrote the following:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
11. Age is a privilege
I know this seems off-topic, but for the past year or so, I have been working on learning Italian. One interesting thing I realized when talking about your age in another language, particularly Latin-based languages like Italian, Spanish, French is the attitude of the direct translation in English. If I were to tell someone your age in Italian, you would say “Ho trent’anni.” That translates literally as “I have thirty years.” I HAVE thirty years, not I AM thirty years OLD. I like thinking about my age like that. It’s as if the years are something special that I’m collecting, not that define me or dictate how OLD I am. Youth is lovely, but so is the precious experience and wisdom that comes with living life. So far, I’ve collected 30 years and counting!
12. Drink water. Just do it.
This truly fixes everything. It doesn’t come easily to me either, but one thing I found that helps is having an emotional support water cup. (Unpopular opinion: I don’t like the Stanley cups, and I think this one is better.) I take it with me everywhere and it’s 100% dishwasher safe.
13. The difference between lifelong friendships and situationships
I have always been quick to make friends, but then I’d be heartbroken when a friendship fizzled due to outgrowing them or changing situations. There were so many times in my 20s where I ended up in a group of friends that felt like family, and it seemed like it would be that way forever until it just wasn’t. As this has happened time and again, I realize that it’s completely normal and okay. I’d rather have a few incredible friends than a bunch of mediocre ones. Plus, either way, I’ll always have the fun memories to look back on.
14. The unfollow button is a powerful tool
You become the content you consume. About once a month, I go through the accounts I’m following on social media and I unfollow every account that doesn’t leave me feeling positive in some way whether that be aspirational, entertained, or informed. If I see something that leaves me feeling less-than or like I’m not enough, then BOOM I am clicking that unfollow button. Blocking out the noise is a good thing.
15. How to be genuinely happy for others
I feel like my twenties were such a GRIND to achieve all the successes I had my sights set on. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it did cause me to feel ultra competitive. Now I feel like I’m genuinely happy with my own life, and it’s fun to cheer on the people I care about because I know that their success does not diminish my own.
16. Forgive yourself for your mistakes
Life is too short to dwell. I think Maya Angelou said it best with the following quote:
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
17. You are so much more than your work
One interesting thing I’ve learned while traveling, is that it’s weird to ask someone what they do for work right off the bat. That’s a really American thing. Another interesting thing is that people in other countries for the most part don’t say their job as if it’s their identity. For example, if someone asked me what I do for a living, I’d say “I am a pharmacist”. If you were to ask someone that pretty much anywhere else in the world, the response would be “I practice pharmacy.” See the difference? My job as a pharmacist is lovely and fulfilling and something I worked really hard to achieve, but it’s not my identity. I have reframed the way I look at my job, and it’s just simply something I do (and love), but it’s not who I am.
18. Health and wellness takes work, but it’s worth it
As someone who works in healthcare, I can tell you that you have SO MUCH POWER in your quality of life when you consistently invest in your health. Sure, sometimes it boils down to genetics, but you can still control a lot of the situation no matter what cards you’re dealt. I see both sides of the spectrum all the time, and it is so motivating to see patients who have put in the work over the decades they have been alive. It fuels my workouts on days when I’m not motivated, and it nudges me in the right direction when I want to choose a cheeseburger over something a little more nutrient-dense. (But also, please eat the cheeseburger sometimes if you want one because balance is important too.)
19. Spend time defining what you stand for and what you don’t
I think it’s important to know WHY you stand for certain issues and not others. Your personal values are a central part of who you are, and making the effort to define them can help you navigate life in a much more mindful way. I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself on politics, world issues, and causes that are important to me and that has helped me to align my choices with my values. This also helps to ensure that those choices are less likely to be influenced by outside opinion.
20. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room
Being a lifelong learner and having a growth mindset is so important. Read everything you can get your hands on. Pick something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do and take a class! Learning new things at any age is good for your mental well-being, but it’s also great for your self-esteem.
21. Time is the most important thing you have to give
Spend your time wisely, because you can’t get it back. Call your parents. Say yes to exciting opportunities. Quit saving things for “later”. Life is too short!
22. Trust your gut
Whether you call it woman’s intuition, a “funny feeling”, or a red flag… it’s usually right!
23. Celebrate wins, no matter how big or small
Find the magic in the mundane, because that’s what life is all about. It’s not silly or a waste of time! Being excited about the little things makes everything a lot more fun.
24. Take care of your skin
Wear sunscreen every single day. Seriously, like, no matter what. Even if you plan on being inside all day. I’m still mad at myself for being obsessed with the tanning bed in high school. Thankfully, I’ve changed my ways and have mastered a sunless tan. I also wash my makeup off every night, get regular facials, and stopped listening to skincare advice from people who aren’t experts on skincare.
25. It’s okay to ask for help
It doesn’t make you weak or a failure. I recognize I can’t do it all, and in fact, sometimes others can do it better.
26. Don’t take yourself so seriously
I can honestly say that now is the most comfortable I’ve felt in my own skin. It’s taken a long time to get there, and I of course have my own insecurities, but I also know that no one thinks about my insecurities as much as I do. So if I start to dwell on them, I just try to change the channel in my brain because it doesn’t do any good.
27. Lean into your personal style
This has saved me so much headache and MONEY. I really have my personal style dialed in at this point and I’m so happy about it. It makes getting dressed every day so much easier and more fun. I’ll participate in trends if I’m into them, but I also don’t feel the pressure to keep up like I did in my twenties. I feel like myself in my clothes, and it’s been such a treat to start living life in my own curated uniform.
28. Growth happens outside your comfort zone
Talk to people whose ideas are different from yours. Try something new. Do the scary thing! On the other side you’ll feel proud of yourself.
29. Appreciate others, out loud
People are quick to complain, but what if we were quick to compliment? Tell other how much they mean to you. Express gratitude. Say the nice things that pop into your head because people like to hear them and probably don’t hear them enough.
30. Define what success means to you
My definition of success has definitely changed over time, and that’s okay, but I think it’s important to consistently know what success looks like to you so you can make a plan on how to achieve it. For me, measuring success looks less like earning money and earning accolades, and more like making a positive impact on those around me both professionally and personally. I want to leave this place a little bit better than I found it, and I’m doing what I can to make that happen.
Hopefully you found this insightful or helpful in some way! I’d love to know what you thought and what your favorite part of living in your thirties is/was. I’ll keep you posted on what I find out for myself. 🙂