My sister and I are the babies of our family, but in just ten days we will be turning the big 3-0. And all I have been able to think about lately is the day one of my older brothers turned thirty – I recall my naïve barely-twenty-something-self asking him, “How does it feel to be three… DECADES… old” (yes, with all that dramatic effect), and him just looking at me and saying “sheesh, thanks sis.”
To me, turning thirty just seemed so old and so far away… but that was eight years ago, and now time is knocking on my door. About a month or two ago it started really setting in that I was turning thirty. I was overcome by a confusion of mixed feelings ranging from excitement, to fear, to curiosity, to disappointment – a reaction I had never experienced with any of my previous birthdays. I didn’t know what it meant or which feeling was the right one. I always sailed through previous birthdays with no problems. So what’s the deal with 30 and why does it feel so different?
After a lot of thought and reflection on this, I’ve come to the conclusion that the 30th birthday is big because it is the first birthday that solidifies you as being “grown.” You’re normally done with college and even some higher education by that time, have started your career, and may be married or buying a house or checking some other very grown-up item off your life-goal list. But I think it’s also a time where you reflect on the things that are still left to do from that list and wonder if you are on track for the grand life plan you’ve always had for yourself.
You start to feel proud of all the things you’ve done so far, but also freak out thinking about all the things you still have not done. I’m starting to smile and cry all over again just thinking about it! So what is one to do to tackle the two-headed monster that forms inside of you as your 30th birthday approaches??
I didn’t have the answers… So I took it upon myself to ask some very wise friends and family members what advice they would give their 30-year-old selves. “If you were talking to the 30-year-old you,” I asked, “what would you tell her?” And I got some really great answers! There was also quite a bit of overlap – which, in my opinion, just reinforces the advice – and one person in particular, my linesister (and my new self-imposed life coach), dropped all kind of gems on me!! So I happily share these #TipsFor30 with any of you who may be struggling with the same feelings and concerns.
In no particular order, they told me the following:
1. “Don’t spend all of today waiting for tomorrow, enjoy right now!”
One of my best friends, Jahmese, reminded me that there are so many exciting things to look forward to in life, but it should not be at the cost of overlooking the amazing blessings of right now. Similarly, my linesister Marcuetta (see the reference to my life coach above), said to stay in the present moment and don’t say things like I will be happy when xyz happens. No, be happy with what you have now. Wake up every morning and be thankful for the life you already live.
2. “The prescription for life that has been handed to us by society isn’t a one size fits all.”
Marcuetta also shared that many of the decisions that she’s made in her life often weren’t of her own accord, but rather because she felt the pressures of societal expectations to meet certain standards by a certain age or for other superficial reasons. She would tell her 30-year-old self to do things not because other people expect it of you, but do it because it is what you want.
3. “Give yourself the room and freedom to make mistakes, learn, and live.”
That came from the homie Katherina! And another friend echoed that sentiment by reminding me that we can’t be afraid of the reset or hardship; it builds character, teaches you about your own strength and prepares you for the greater that is to come. Marcuetta spoke to my spirit on this one too (oh y’all thought I was playing when I said she drops those gems on ya!). She said that while we are given a lot more permission to make mistakes when we’re young, we should always remain open to making mistakes because that is how you learn. And you know what they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
4. “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Another wise linesister of mine, Jasmine, introduced me to this saying. She so eloquently said, “especially in the world of social media, it is incredibly easy to constantly compare yourself to what someone else carefully selects to share with you. Sometimes we’re so focused on what someone else has (that in many cases, we don’t even want right now) that we can’t appreciate the joy, blessings and accomplishments that are happening in our own lives.” This one really hit home for me, because it’s so true! And, yup, you guessed it, my girl Marcuetta made me jump out of my seat on this one too! She said we shouldn’t compare our “every day lives” to other people’s “highlight reels” on social media. The only person you need to compare yourself to is who you were yesterday. (Preach!)
5. “Celebrate Yourself”
You need to celebrate every single thing along the way. Every single accomplishment. Every single achievement. And don’t do it just to stunt on the ‘gram, truly celebrate yourself. (Y’all already know who told me that — Marcuetta!)
6. “You’re only 30, relax… you’re NOT OLD.”
My sister in law, Dani, said it plain and simply. Despite what I thought when my brother turned thirty, she reminded me that “You still have the rest of your life ahead of you!” Some even say that 30 is when life truly begins.
7. “Everyone is going through life a little bit afraid, even the grown ups.”
My dear friend, Diana, confessed that her initial reaction to so many things is fear, or a sense that she can’t do something or she’s not ready for something. But she reminded me that being a little bit afraid doesn’t mean you can’t or you shouldn’t. Her advice is that it’s ok to keep going, even if you’re a little bit afraid. Another friend told me that being afraid or nervous about something does not mean that you’re immature or incapable, it just means that whatever is making your nervous actually means something to you and is something that you value. So pull up your big girl pants and go for it!
8. “Don’t ignore health issues that run in your family.”
My mother reminded me that we all need to focus on our family’s historical health issues to see what we can do to prevent ourselves from going down the same path. Diseases that inflicted our parents and grand parents at old ages are starting to creep up at younger and younger ages. And besides that, most of them are wholly preventable. We just have the discipline to do our research and make informed decisions in our diets and lifestyles today – and stick to them.
9. “What someone thinks of me is none of my business.”
My friend Katherina also cracked open this fortune cookie for me. She said that once we stop caring about other people’s opinions, or at least what we think they think about us, we allow ourselves to accept who we are and to truly love ourselves. And I just think this is so important because all our lives (or at least mine) we’ve been trying to please those around us – and it’s such a liberating feeling to not care what others think.
Then, to round it out, I came up with the tenth “tip” on my own…
10. “Stop playing scared.”
Over the next year I’m sure I’ll have to periodically remind myself, “you’re 30 now – you know yourself and what you’re capable of.” Don’t stay in situations that aren’t working for you. Say what’s on your mind. And do all the things you’ve wanted to but instead always managed to find an excuse not to. Go out there and have the confidence that the last 30 years has earned you!
I hope these tips help you as much as they helped me! I am so grateful to all of the family and friends who contributed to this and who always take the time to build me up and support me.
Now let’s raise a glass, and say: Cheers to Thirty Years!