I turned 30 this year. It was a milestone I had a hard time coming to terms with, as part of me feels much younger, and yet another part feels much older (though the sum of me doesn’t feel ready to be a walking, talking adult as my new age suggests I should be).
Throughout my teens and twenties, 30 always seemed so far away. Like this distant reality in which I’d be married with kids, and/or well on my way up the corporate ladder (spoiler: I’m none of those things). And then it happens. You turn 30, and despite all the things you thought you’d be by the time you hit this defining age, you still feel the exact same as you did when you were 27, 28, or 29 — just with a few more wrinkles.
However, in my short time on this earth, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons that are worth sharing.
Some of these lessons took repeated demonstrations to get through my thick skull, others simply took one, powerful experience to drive the point home indefinitely.
As I enter my third decade on this planet, here are 30 lessons I learned on my journey to this milestone. (Brace yourself for some truth bombs…)
Note: This post took me a year to finish, so (in full transparency) I actually just turned 31, but started this post shortly after my 30th birthday
Two conversational topics to avoid like the plague: Religion and Politics.
I learned that these two topics are ones in which people will never be swayed, and therefore are best avoided at any dinner party, or social function (I would suggest you avoid posting about religious and political views on social media as well, but that’s just my opinion…).
No one likes a person who shoves their views down other peoples’ throats, and since there are so many varying standpoints associated with politics and religion it’s easy to strike a nerve, start an argument, or just look like an idiot if you try to “discuss” these topics in any kind of public setting. Therefore, it’s best to practice abstinence and just don’t go there.
Love is blind.
Oftentimes, we have rose-colored glasses when it comes to the object of our affection. Or, we’re just so deep in a situation/relationship, we’re unable to see it for what it is (good or bad). For example, put your hand right in front of your face, it makes everything look a little blurry right? When we’re so close to something (e.g. a relationship/person) we can’t see things clearly due to the proximity. However, when we take a step back (or, in this example, move your hand further away from your face), we can see things with more clarity.
That’s why we need friends and family. Sometimes it takes someone with a clear, third-party perspective, to help us see what we can’t. That said, I think a great way to determine whether or not someone loves you is to ask your closest, most trusted friends. Seriously, gather your confidants and pose the simple question: “Do you think _____ loves me (based on their actions)”. You may learn a lot.
(I don’t know about you, but after every breakup I look back and think “my friends were right / I should’ve listened”)
Be careful who you vent to… (never talk about people behind their backs).
You never really know who you can trust. Plus, not only does gossip always come back to haunt, it also makes you (the gossiper) look bad. I used to have a friend who would always talk about other friends in our group, and each time she did, I couldn’t help but think “what the hell does she say about me when I’m not around?” It was a strain on the friendship and prevented me from wanting to confide in her. Surround yourself with people who talk about ideas, not other people — this one lesson will strengthen the quality of your inner circle substantially.
ALWAYS Be Aware…
Last year, I was involved in a shooting at a shopping mall in which I watched a boy (standing less than 50 ft away from me) get shot in the throat. I spent the subsequent minutes running for my life and huddled in a storage room with other terrified shoppers. For the twenty minutes that followed the piercing sound of the first gun shot, I honestly thought I was going to die. It was the most scared I’ve ever been in my life.
Prior to that experience, I was always blissfully unaware that anything like this could ever happen to me (and always assumed that it never would). Now I know there are no guarantees in life and it’s so important to always be cognizant. This world is beautiful, but it has a dark side that can’t be ignored.
Today, thanks to this lesson, I’m always acutely aware of my surroundings. I know where the exits are in a building, and I sit facing the door at restaurants. I carry pepper spray and even QuickClot — an army grade bandage dressing for gunshot/stab wounds (which I know may be a *little* over-the-top but I never want to feel helpless in a situation like that again. Plus, I can’t help but think, if I had carried this last year at that mall, maybe that boy would still be alive.)
…But don’t let fear hold you back.
It took me nearly 8 months after the shooting to re-enter a shopping mall. Now, each time I do, I battle anxiety (something I’ve never had to do before). Events with large crowds stress me out, and loud noises still make me jump out of my skin (EVERY. SINGLE. TIME). It took a lot not to be ruled by these fears — or any others. However, In the game of life, taking (calculated) risks is half the fun.
Whoever you are, you will die. To know and understand that means you’re alive.
As a rule, people embellish everything.
Don’t compare yourself or your situation to others, or what you see on social media.. We’re all just hiding the parts that don’t make for good photos.
The draw of comfort wrecks dreams and breaks people.
I’ve learned there are greater things awaiting just outside of your comfort zone, IF you have the courage to pursue them. Leaving your comfort zone is hard, but so is living an unfulfilled life. Pick your hard.
Charcoal Pills are the best life-hack I’ve stumbled upon to-date.
There’s literally nothing worse than food poisoning or the stomach flu (especially if you’re traveling). Charcoal pills can combat the symptoms of stomach-related issues and have you feeling better shockingly fast. Charcoal is a powerful natural absorbent and it absorbs all the bad stuff in your stomach that doesn’t belong there (don’t believe me? When people overdose, they are given charcoal in the emergency room to absorb the toxins and save their lives. So, clearly, it works.)
Take lots of pictures, but know when to put the camera down and enjoy the moment.
Photos can take you back to an exact moment in time that, otherwise, you would’ve long forgotten. However, seeing things solely through a camera or phone prevents you from experiencing them. Take the photos, then put the phone/camera down and enjoy the moment and experience. It’s a balancing act that I’m still working on mastering.
Worrying is a waste of time.
A good nine out of ten bad things I’ve worried about never happened. A good nine out of ten bad things that did happen never occurred to me to worry about.
You don’t need to constantly be nice to everyone; learn to say “no” / stand up for yourself.
This is something I’m still working on. I think as women, we’re raised to be “nice” and “polite” (God forbid we come off as “bossy”). These ingrained behaviors can get us in trouble in certain situations or with those who take advantage of such traits. Anyone who knows me will tell you I have no problem speaking my mind or standing up for myself… to people I know. When it comes to strangers or people I’m not close to, it’s drastically different. I spent a lifetime learning to be agreeable, and now I’m realizing that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.
Don’t weigh your self-worth on the opinions’ of others. Most of the time anyone trying to bring you down is threatened by your awesomeness. Once you learn to see through people and their insults, life (and self-confidence) becomes much easier. Know your worth.
If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
This is something my dad ingrained in me from a very young age. It’s probably the most important piece of advice I’ve ever received and it has inspired me to make the choices that got me to where I am today. Thanks, dad.
Don’t be afraid to be alone. If you aren’t happy single, you won’t be happy in a relationship.
When I was younger, I used to be scared to be single. Now, I’m scared to be in another pointless relationship. I also find it sad that so many people stay in unhealthy relationships due, in large part, to fear of being alone. (So, essentially, many of us would rather be MISERABLE than single…?)
We need to stop discriminating against singles through relating to them like they’re broken, tragic, and lost. Maybe they’re courageous as fuck for leaving an asshole when so many among us endure miserable marriages out of fear of solitude.
Be cognizant of what you say. Regardless of how mad you are. Words are immensely powerful, and one cruel remark can wound someone for life.
Therefore, Don’t react. Think for a moment, then respond. You can create, break, heal, destroy all with a few words. Choose them wisely.
Community over competition.
I’ve always believed there’s a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t help other women. When I was young, girls were so mean to one another. And, unfortunately, I’ve found some women never grow out of that. However, I believe that strong people don’t put other people down, but rather lift them up. As women, we need to stop viewing other women as an obstacle to our happiness. SHE is not your competition.
Life is balancing act.
Everything in Moderation.
Screw what people think.
I spent a lot of time in my teens and twenties being way too concerned about the opinions’ of others. Now that I’m getting older, I’m finally in a place where I care A LOT less (it would be a lie to say I don’t care at all, but I no longer seek justification or hide who I really am for the benefit of others). I’ve found that losing followers or friends because of where you stand or who you are only strengthens your tribe. You’ll never gain anyone’s approval by begging for it, and there’s an amazing thing that happens once you stop seeking acceptance and validation: you find it.
Trust your intuition.
One benefit of dating so many
assholes less than perfect men was the ability to recognize my intuition early-on and learn to trust it. As women, our intuition can be one of the most powerful defense mechanisms we have. Don’t ignore a hunch, trust yourself and your judgement.
It’s shocking the amount of issues that can be fixed / avoided by basic communication.
All this technology that brings us together, yet still we’ve somehow forgotten how to communicate at a fundamental level. Be upfront and honest about what you think and how you feel. Have the courage to tell someone if they’ve offended you. And always ask before making an assumption. Little conversations can go a long way.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw
Don’t be so trusting. Ignoring red flags because you want to see the good in people will cost you later.
I’m still working on the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt without allowing myself to be taken advantage of. I guess I just have a hard time accepting that, to many people, kindness can be perceived as weakness. Therefore, I’ve learned to set limits on how much I allow myself to give, because I’ve found the takers don’t have limits.
Ignoring pain or trauma won’t make it go away.
I’m the most non-confrontational person ever, so when stuff gets bad I tend to shut down and adopt an “everything is fine ” facade. However, I’ve learned that postponing issues — both internal and external — won’t make them go away. Not everything is “fine” and there are some things that can’t be swept under the rug. I’m learning to balance the defense mechanism of not allowing myself to hurt, with the need to face hurt as it arises.
(Also, running from your problems doesn’t work, either — trust me, I’ve tried.)
Big decisions are hard to make, but I’ve learned it’s often the small, seemingly insignificant decisions that can ultimately carry the same consequences.
Think back to the decisions that haunt you the most, did they seem like a big decision at the time? Keep this in mind and always consider the possibilities before jumping to a conclusion. Make decisions every day that honor your true self and who/where you want to be.
It’s better to be underestimated than overestimated.
As a blonde, this is a lesson I learned very early on. Don’t underestimate the power of being underestimated, they can’t stop you if they don’t see you coming. (And proving people wrong is half the fun.)
If you hurt someone with your words or actions, it’s not up to you to decide that you didn’t.
Accept and apologize, rather than defend and deflect.
Never settle. 10 years from now make sure you can say you CHOSE your life, you didn’t settle for it.
Set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.
Nothing ever happens exactly like you pictured it.
Learn to roll with the punches. One of my pet-peeves is people who dwell on the negative. Life is all about being able to accept and adapt — complaining won’t fix anything, and expectations are the root of all unhappiness. As cliche as it sounds, life really is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.
Leave the past in the past (don’t let it control your future).
I’ve been around a lot of people who talk, very often, of all these bad things that happened to them in the past, and it’s almost as if they use it as a crutch or an excuse. I know some people have had it much harder than others, but I’ve got news: shit happens to all of us. The past can’t be changed so there’s no use dwelling. Learn from it, let it go, and move forward. Don’t be one of those people who choose not to fix yourself because you think you get more attention by staying broken.
Pick Your Battles.
Nothing drives me crazier than watching people absolutely LOSE IT over trivial annoyances. Blowing up over tiny things will ultimately make you feel worse (and demonstrates mental instability). I’ve learned that not everything is worth my emotions; being able to simply NOT CARE has, ultimately, made me a happier person.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you think you have issues, turn on the news — that should put your incorrect coffee order (or whatever else you’re freaking out about) in perspective.
Life is one long lesson.
No one has it all figured out. Learn from the bad. Appreciate the good. Make mistakes, and move on. Don’t take life too seriously, no one gets out alive! 😉
Oh yes girl- to all of this! I’m 32 now and have also had a hard time coming to terms with being in my thirties! I feel like I could have written this- except about the charcoal pills…never heard of them but I am def gonna check them out now !
30 is a good age. You’re still youthful enough to have energy and gumption, yet old enough to have gained wisdom and insight. I especially like your first lesson, not to talk about religion. I can think of several gatherings that turned hostile quickly because someone couldn’t shut up about their religious beliefs, making everyone uncomfortable. We didn’t ask that person back to our next gathering or two, by the way!
Hey Brianne, I just read your post and first, congrats on turning 30! These are wise, thoughtful and personal experiences you’ve shared for us to learn from. So sorry to hear about your shooting experience at the shopping mall. That sounded very scary and must have changed your life. I’m glad you’re alright. Anyways, I like your travel blog and have followed you on Instagram!
These are some great lessons! I turn 30 next year, maybe I should start compiling my own list!
30 definitely is an incredible milestone – Happy Birthday! I loved reading through all of your lessons – I always find it incredible to reflect back on growth…there’s times where you think you know it all, but when you reflect back, it’s crazy to think how much you didn’t know. I love how each year can show us just that!
-Madi xo | http://www.everydaywithmadirae.com
As someone who is approaching 30 in the next couple of years, this list was very powerful to me! Here’s to learning and growing with age, and embracing it!
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I love these lessons. Totally agree about being single.
Not quite 30 yet, but good list of things to learn before turning 30.
Happy 30th bday. Great article!!!
Nice Post! These are some great life lessons that I would have taken time in learning. But, I just read a traveler’s life lessons. Solo travel is love. Looking forward to reading more of these amazing blogs. Keep clicking beautiful photographs 🙂