I’ll admit I’ve been afraid of turning 30 pretty much since I turned 22. With every passing year, I’ve felt a tug of fear over being that much closer. Now that I’ve arrived at what I long considered a dreaded destination, I must say….it’s actually pretty amazing. Like most people, my 20’s were replete with bad choices, too many shots, too little sleep, too much worry, valuable life lessons, ignoring of said lessons, repeating the same mistakes, self-doubt interspersed with feeling on top of the world, financial sloppiness, emotional sloppiness, waiting for it all to fall perfectly into place, and grappling with the painful realization that the real world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But now that my days as a 20-something are up, I can’t help but feel grateful, and—dare I say—empowered over how far I’ve come.
Every year on my birthday I like to reflect on lessons learned, defining moments, and whether I’m moving forward or standing still. Since so much of what I write is informed by my experiences, I could think of no better way to say goodbye to my tumultuous 20’s and usher in my (hopefully!) thriving 30’s than with the 30 best lessons I’ve learned on life and love.
Here they are (in no particular order):
1. Stop looking for love; make yourself a vessel to receive it. You will never be able to experience true love until you conquer the barriers that are preventing you from receiving it. This applies if you’re single as well as if you’re in a relationship.
2. Heartbreak is a blessing or a curse; it’s up to you. A devastating breakup can either destroy you or make you stronger, you get to choose. It doesn’t matter how badly he wronged you, you are the only one who gets to decide if you will be cast as victim or heroine in the story of your life.
3. Stop worrying… it will all be fine. No one looks back and says, “I wish I had spent more time worrying.” Save your mental energy for things that will actually move you in a positive direction.
4. Don’t wait to be inspired, seek out inspiration. Yes, sometimes you will feel a surge of inspiration, sit down and create something great…but those moments are rare gifts and are not the norm.
5. You can’t win them all. One day I was lamenting to a friend about this guy who just wouldn’t commit to me. I couldn’t understand why or what the issue was. Instead of dishing out sympathy and the typical “You’re too good for him anyway” pep talk, she looked me dead in the eye and said: “You can’t win them all. Let it go.” Whether it’s in dating or life in general, these are words to live by.
6. Happiness doesn’t just happen. We create our own happiness. It doesn’t come from having the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect boyfriend, or the hottest new designer handbag. Happiness doesn’t just show up at your door as a consolation prize for years of suffering. You have to plant the seeds of happiness and tend to them daily.
7. Exercise. Seriously, just suck it up and do it. No matter how much you don’t want to, you will never regret it. And the more you do, the more it becomes an ingrained part of your routine.
8. Fairytale love doesn’t exist. The mad, passionate, can’t-eat, can’t-sleep type of love does exist…it’s called infatuation, and it has a very short shelf life. True love isn’t something that just takes you over, it’s something you work for and toward, and it isn’t always pretty or easy.
9. Live in the moment. I’ve spent the majority of my life either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. When I learned to be right here, right now, I realized the present is actually kind of nice.
10. Don’t wait for things to fall into place. They won’t. You have to put them where you want them to be.
11. You won’t be happy “as soon as…” As soon as I lose ten pounds…. as soon as I get a new job…as soon as I get out of debt…as soon as I have a boyfriend. Whatever you’re waiting on in order to be happy, remember that happiness is not a result of “as soon as.”
13. You can’t please everyone. Just stop trying. Sometimes you’ll disappoint people, but they’ll get over it. I promise.
14. What feels like the worst thing that could ever happen can lead you to the path of the best things you have in life (that’s certainly the story of my life). Try not to panic in the middle of a sentence…you don’t always know what comes next.
15. Surround yourself with positive people. You are the company you keep; choose wisely.
16. Love isn’t what you get; it’s what you give. So many of us fall into the trap of focusing on what we’re not getting in our relationship. He doesn’t call enough, he isn’t affectionate enough, he doesn’t take me out enough. Instead of dwelling on what you aren’t getting, shift your focus to what you could be giving. Focus on how you’re showing up in the relationship, on what you’re putting into it, on how you can love better.
17. Wear sunscreen. Seriously. I may be 30 but I still have the skin of an early 20-something as a result of wearing sunscreen daily (and year-round) and hanging out under an umbrella instead of roasting in the sun. It wasn’t always easy for me to forsake a sun-kissed glow, but it was so worth it.
18. Declutter. It never ceases to amaze me how much crap can just accumulate. There is something very invigorating about taking stock of the things in your life every so often and getting rid of what’s unnecessary. (This applies to physical belongings as well as negative people and emotions!)
19. Feel the fear and do it anyway. It never gets less scary, so just suck it up and power through.
20. Stop wanting the one who doesn’t want you. Seriously, move on.
21. If you think all men are jerks…maybe you just have bad taste in men. All the men in my life were “emotionally unavailable” until I stopped only dating emotionally unavailable men. Funny how that happens…
22. Be grateful. Try to think of two things in your life that you’re grateful for every day. It may sound silly, but it can be transformative.
23. Make wise financial choices. Yes, going out and splurging on nice things is fun, but that can never give you the same feeling of ease as having money set aside as savings.
24. Sometimes you’re the problem. It isn’t always easy to recognize and admit this, but it is a sign of maturity and true self-awareness.
25. Let it go. Holding grudges hurts you more than the other person.
26. Nobody really knows what they’re doing. You’re not alone.
27. Being vulnerable doesn’t make you weak…and denying your emotions and putting on a front doesn’t make you strong. It actually makes you pretty lonely.
28. Eat healthy. It just makes you feel and look so much better.
29. Start your day strong. I’ve noticed those days where I’ve accomplished a lot before 10:00 am are usually the best days.
30. Ditch the regrets. There are many paths we could have taken, choices we could have made instead, things we wish we had done differently. There is no point to stewing in regret. Look back long enough to find a lesson that will help you grow and prevent you from repeating the same mistake, and not a minute more.