30 Lessons Learned Before 30

I am officially 30, and that’s super weird. My twenties are obviously all that I’ve known for the past ten years, and I can confidently report that they were a decade worth getting to know.

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As far as 29 goes, it was the ideal way to say farewell to my twenties. I traveled well, ate deliciously, scored a job that I am passionate about, celebrated nine years of marriage with my favorite adult human and partook in baby goat yoga. The latter may seem out of place with the rest but must be mentioned, because baby goats.

Being a twenty-something was pretty great. It wasn’t always picture perfect, but it was a time overflowing with joy and growth and magic, just the same. It was a season that had me feeling happy, sad, confused and lonely at the same time. Just kidding, those are Taylor Swift lyrics. Here are some of the true feelings, insights and lessons that my twenties have gifted me:

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  1. Taking yourself on solo dates is important and liberating.
  2. If you have the choice between a new item or a new experience, always, always, always choose the new experience.
  3. Be careful when ziplining in Costa Rica. First aid kits are not necessarily required and dangling from your finger in the middle of the jungle is even more unfortunate than it sounds.
  4. Facing your fears is much easier than facing yourself afraid to face fears.
  5. Compliment strangers. Give out genuine smiles freely. Ask someone how their day is going. You have time for kindness.
  6. Confidence truly is its own kind of beauty. Others are attracted to the light that you have created all for yourself.
  7. Finding a job where you get paid partly to eat food and drink wine is, in fact, as amazing as it sounds.
  8. I can and will do things in my own time. We live in a society that says we have to do this, this and this by this age. Oh, but don’t do x, y, and z until you’re this age! And at some point two simple words went through my mind – “Or what?” What happens if I don’t do things like they tell me to? What if I don’t finish college at 22, get married around 27, have 2 kids by the time I’m 31? What if I marry at twenty, graduate at 24, have my first baby and renew my vows in Vegas at 25 (not on the same day, mind you.), graduate with my Master’s at 28, find a job I’m passionate about at 29, and, at 30, have absolutely no idea when I want to have another baby? True happiness found on my own time, by my own rules. That’s what happened.
  9. Petty as it may be, proving others wrong is very, very fun.
  10. Therapy helps to heal. Along with my decision to attend grad school, going to counseling for the first time was one of the best decisions made in my 26th year.
  11. Starting a serious, long-term and healthy (please note that healthy is key here) relationship at a young age does not mean that you will never have the chance to “find yourself.” This is a nonsensical notion pushed mostly on females in our society. Having or not having a significant other has never and will never define who I am. We as women are strong enough, smart enough, independent enough and resilient enough to learn, grow and flourish regardless of our relationship status at any given time in our lives.
  12. I don’t want and/or need that many friends. Younger me would be appalled with this one. In my late teens and early twenties, I collected friends like I now collect coffee mugs from my travels. (Note – My husband bought me a display storage case for my coffee cups because they were overflowing in our cupboard. Now we’re back to step one because the display storage is full. Fine, whatever, I have a problem.) This resulted in me obtaining unhealthy, volatile friendships and also not giving the quality friendships I did have the care that they deserved. Proudly picky is my mantra now.
  13. Jim and Pam are the cutest television couple to ever exist and there is absolutely nothing wrong with You-Tubing “Jim confesses his love to Pam” and watching said video approximately five times in a row. Anyone who says differently is a liar.
  14. Everyone will have an opinion on what you should want, need, do, be. There are so many voices out there, and every single one of them will think something differently. So focus on your voice. Focus on what you want, what you need, what you want to do, who you want to be. Just always remember – You have to live with you for the rest of your life.
  15. Confrontation is awkward and unfortunate but also sometimes very necessary. Because I am bubbly and nice and energetic, there is occasionally this misconception that I am also proper punching bag material. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I discovered that I would much rather face an uncomfortable discussion than let someone speak to me disrespectfully or treat me unfairly. It’s been worth every incredibly awkward confrontation since.
  16. There’s nothing wrong with “faking it until you make it.” In fact, sometimes faking it can actually give you the confidence and drive to make it.
  17. Coffee gets all of the credit, but English Breakfast Tea will sneak up on you in its utter delightfulness.
  18. Getting a tattoo at 18 is not something to regret years down the road. Even if it doesn’t fit your current narrative, it was an important part of your story at one time, and it’s a small piece of the person that you used to be. To have a tangible memory that will forever be a part of this past you? That is something to treasure, never to regret.
  19. Creating a human is awe-inspiring and miraculous and incredibly beautiful. Creating a human much like yourself is equal parts terrifying and hilarious.
  20. Despite what some say, having a child does not mean you can’t have your own life. It doesn’t mean you can’t travel the world. It doesn’t mean you should stop following your own dreams. It means you do all of these things, but more fiercely and with more gusto than ever before. Because you love these things. Because she is watching. Because so many women are still told they can’t or at least should not have it all, and enough is enough of teaching our next generation that crap.
  21. Growing up, I was told by romantic comedies and fictitious love stories that there is somebody out there who would be perfect for me in every way. False. (Said in Dwight Schrute’s voice.) My husband and I don’t have much in common. At all. We have different hobbies, different personalities, different goals and dreams, different ways of understanding and looking at the world. But he also makes me laugh, every single day. He’s truly my best friend. He’s always smiling. This isn’t an exaggeration. He’s like a smile machine. I can tell him every silly, crazy, ridiculous thing that’s on my mind, and I always do. Our daughter looks at him like he’s her own personal superhero. And he loves me more unconditionally than anyone that I’ve ever known. Maybe that’s not enough for everyone. But I’ve learned that it’s more than enough for me.
  22. When feeling worried or paranoid, never under any circumstance Google what you’re feeling worried and/or paranoid about. Google thinks you are definitely pregnant, that your identity has been stolen and that your mysterious new illness will, in fact, cause an imminent death.
  23. There is not a manual to traveling ‘right’. Often I’ll hear how I must pack this, go for this amount of time, “Wait, why would you go to Oklahoma?”, blah, blah, blah. As someone who traveled often in her twenties and plans to do the same in her thirties, I’ve found that these constraints completely defeat the purpose of traveling. Because, for me, traveling is about freedom and adventure and trying new things and meeting new people and letting go of the rules that others have tried to create for me. Traveling is about learning and experiencing those things for myself. And if someone tells me that I have to do all of that in these particular places in this certain amount of time? Thank you, next.
  24. Humans like to put other humans into boxes. Good or bad. Wrong or right. Happy or sad. Do this, or you must be like that. But we aren’t “ors”. Life is never that simple. We are “ands.” I am good and bad and wrong and right and happy and sad. I am this and I am also that. I am all of these things, sometimes all within ten minutes. Boxes are made for things, not people.
  25. Running, music and a good meal. These things are all works of art in their own right. They are exercise, and dance parties and sustenance, sure. But looking past the basics, they are also free therapy and the wind in your hair and your story with a melody attached. Always be willing to look past the surface. That’s where the most beauty is found.
  26. My life story and experiences should never be used as a scale to judge another person’s life story and experiences. Not everyone gets a happily ever after. Many work really, really hard and still can’t make ends meet. Some were born into hardships that I can’t even begin to understand. Just because my life has been fair, does not mean that everyone else’s has.
  27. Life works in circles and juxtapositions. Don’t try to figure it out, but be willing to roll with it anyway.
  28. Don’t regret your journey. It is possible to feel remorse for the hurt that you have caused yourself and others without wanting to take back the missteps it took to get to where and who you are now.
  29. Family is worth the fight. Just know that sometimes “the fight” can also mean knowing when to let go.
  30. Being a strong woman sometimes means feeling uncomfortably loud. I am a female manager in an industry of male leaders. Oftentimes it would be so much easier for me to be mild and meek and agreeable, and doing the opposite has often led me to wonder if I am being overly aggressive or coming on too strong. But I also understand that I feel this way due to society’s lingering standards of how women should act. So I bask in the discomfort, and I continue to be loud.

Bonus (Because I’m 30 and 9 days now, folks.):

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31. Not everything or everyone is worth figuring out. Not everyone will like you, things won’t always go as planned, some people are mean for seemingly no reason at all, life is going to break and heal your heart in equal or unequal measures, the perfect comeback generally comes thirty minutes after a heated conversation, not every human or situation can be fixed. Take a deep breath and let it go. Then do a dance, drink some wine, eat a little cheese and remember that life goes on.

3 thoughts on “30 Lessons Learned Before 30

  1. I may not have known you for, like, 95% of your life, but I’m glad for the last year or so. Cheers to 30 and many more years of happiness and adventure ahead!

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