30 By 30 (Or, What I've Learned In Life So Far)

bday week

It’s Birthday week!!!! I’m super excited about this first post….it’s a good one.

I recently had an opportunity to impart some wisdom to a friend a few years younger than me. Discussing it with another friend later, she made the point…and that’s the difference between being 30 and being 25. And it got me thinking of myself at 25, and of how true that statement was.

I told the younger friend that my late 20s have been ten times better than my early 20s, and I meant it. Do I wish I were younger? Eh, I wish I had my younger body and younger energy. But to be younger? Not really, no. I did a lot of dumb things in my early 20s (who am I kidding, I did a lot of dumb things in my late 20s too)….and now that I’m 30, I can look back and realize just how much I’ve learned and how much I’ve grown.

I’m excited for my 30s. Truly. I spent a lot of my 20s figuring out who I was and where I fit in, and though I still don’t have all the answers, I also don’t feel like I need to KNOW-THEM-RIGHT-NOW-OR-I’M-A-FAILURE.

So in thinking about all this, I came up with a list of things I’ve learned in my lifetime. Things I wish someone had told me – or things someone DID tell me, but that I wish I’d listened to sooner. Ready?


1. Everyone has boundaries. Set yours, and respect others’. Especially when you don’t understand. Demand that people respect yours, and don’t compromise them yourself. People will take any opportunity to walk all over you. Don’t let them.

2. It’s ok to not have it all figured out. And it’s ok to feel totally lost. Here’s a secret – everyone I know feels like they’re screwing something up. Sometimes (often times) we are, but I’ve yet to find someone who hasn’t been able to come back from a mistake. Speaking of mistakes, you will always make them. ALWAYS.  The sooner you make peace with that, the sooner it won’t crush you when you screw up.

3. A wise person listens without speaking, and speaks without talking. If this doesn’t make sense to you, mark this down as the number one thing to learn. Words are not the only way to speak. They’re also not always the best.

4. It’s not an apology if you use the word “but.” I’m sorry, but….means you’re not sorry. There’s no getting around this one. Apologize like you mean it, and if you don’t mean it, don’t apologize until you do. Simple as that.

5. Find at least one thing to be really good at. Maybe you can make killer peanut butter fudge. Maybe you can speak 10 languages. Maybe you’re a master at teaching dogs to roll over. Or maybe you’re a master at walking and chewing gum. Whatever. Find something you rock at, and be proud of it. Even better, find 10 things.

6. Having a hobby isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity that keeps you grounded and gives you a sense of self. Find one. It doesn’t have to be glamorous, but find one. Your job/spouse/kids aren’t hobbies, they’re responsibilities. A hobby is something you do for YOU, in your own time. And yes, sleeping counts.

7. There’s never a reason to disrespect others. Civility always wins. Always, always, always. I don’t care how much someone has pissed you off. Anger doesn’t solve anything, even if it “feels” good. Plus, you’d be amazed at how much energy it takes to be rude. Be nice – it’ll take you farther.

8. Taking a step back will often provide you with the best perspective. If you’re emotional about something, you’re too close to think rationally. Shut up, get away, and chill out.

9. Remember that your parents are more than just your parents. They are people with lives and hopes and dreams, and while they love you dearly, their lives don’t revolve around you once you leave the house. Support them, even when you think they’re being fools. It’s their life to live. Learn from their mistakes, but don’t make them yourself.

10. Find a cause you believe in, and believe in it with all your heart. It gives you a sense of purpose. Don’t ever be shy about it….but don’t beat people over the head with it either. Believe it or not, not everyone loves puppies/children/Jesus/republicans/aliens as much as you do.

11. Make peace with your body. Even if you hate the way it looks, make peace with it. It’s the only one you have. There are things you can change, and things you can’t. Learn which ones are which. Be thankful for the things your body does for you, and treat it with respect. Don’t hold yourself back from doing the things you love because you hate your body.

12. The strongest people are the ones who know when to say they’re wrong. Because we are all wrong. A lot. Learn to say it gracefully.

13. Ask for help when you need it. Know when you need it and when you want it. There’s a difference. Don’t abuse it.

14. Seek advice from someone older and wiser than you. Pass the lessons you’ve learned on to someone younger and greener than you. You learn from both.

15. If you’re going to love, do it unconditionally. Flaws and all. No, it’s not easy….but someone loves you like that. Give them the honor of loving them back. And if you can’t, tell them.

16. Break your own rules. Chances are, you set them before you knew better.

17. You choose the person you want to be. You can be difficult, abrasive, judgmental, or critical…or you can be receptive, communal, constructive and objective. You can be lazy, morose, and moody….or you can get off your butt and make something happen. Your call. Nobody is going to do it for you.

18. No decision is a decision. A wise person told me that 7 years ago, and it’s stayed with me to this day.

19. Never apologize for your taste in books, movies, and music. Never criticize someone for theirs.

20. Learn to manage your money and you will always have enough. It doesn’t matter how much, or how little, you have. Control your money…don’t let it control you. Learn how to budget, and how to save, and you’ll never have to worry about what the next paycheck will bring.

21.  Learn the difference between an explanation and an excuse. Choose wisely which one you use.

22. Don’t make the mistake of holding others to the standards you set for yourself. Hold them to their standards. Otherwise you’ll just be disappointed, and you’ll end up resenting the people in your life. Let them determine how high they want to reach. If you can’t accept their standards, you can’t accept them.

23. Don’t get sucked into debates about values. Everyone’s are different.

24.  Take time off from work. It makes you a better employee. The office will survive without you. Promise.

25. As awesome as you are, you have limits. Learn to recognize when you’re reaching them, and figure out a way to manage the stress. Take a walk, take a nap, take a vacation…but learn your own signals, and find ways to soothe your soul.

26. Celebrate everything, even if no one else does. Life is short. Celebrate the small things. Celebrate the big things. And celebrate people – remember birthdays. Everyone loves to feel like they matter.

27. Know the difference between a responsibility and an obligation, and learn to say no gently. And be honest. An honest “I just can’t” is better than a lie any day. People respect honesty.

28. Splurge on the important things. Toilet paper, steak, peanut butter, furniture, underwear, vodka, your health. Some things are worth it. Just trust me on this one. I’ve never once wished I hadn’t spent that extra $4 on nice toilet paper. Not. Once.

29. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Whether it’s a new recipe, new outfit, new job…take the chance and try something new. Sometimes it’ll flop, sometimes it won’t, but either way, you’ve tried.

30. Life should be fun. Work should be fun. Love should be fun. There are different levels of fun, and you need to learn the difference. Sometimes fun might mean laughing at your dog chasing her tail, because that’s the only thing that’s made you smile all day. Sometimes fun might mean an all-night party with 80 of your closest friends. Find your fun.

And a bonus for good measure….

Embrace the craziness that is your life, and own it. You are unique and special and wonderful. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. 

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