Thirty & Thriving: Thirty Things I Learned in the Year That I Turned Thirty
A journey through thirty.
The idea of turning thirty was making me anxious. What if I wasn’t ready to be that old? What if I hadn’t accomplished everything that I wanted to? I decided I would do what I do best: avoid it. I began planning a vacation; hoping, if I went far enough away, I could convince myself that it wasn’t happening. Unfortunately, my thirtieth birthday was slated for May 22, 2020. There would be no jumping on a plane, no vacation—no escape as the world entered a global pandemic.
Despite my best efforts and all my attempts to avoid living my life; I failed. And at the core of that failure, I learned how to live again.
Here are thirty of the things I learned in the year that I turned thirty (begrudgingly or not).
Getting old sucks. My biological clock must be right on time, because in the past year I felt aches and pains in places that I did not know exist. I have awoken stiffer than I imagined was humanly possible. I went to an orthopedic doctor twice. And my skin and hair have both made changes without my consent. But this has given me more empathy for anyone with a physical condition and greater appreciation for my own health.
There will always be problems. Recently I made the choice to make dinner my “problem”, but I became annoyed by the inconvenience. I reminded myself that I had chosen this problem. Then I changed my mentality to be grateful that I had the opportunity to make dinner, to be creative, and the luxury of choosing what I wanted to eat. There is no such thing as a problem free life. Choose your problems wisely and remind yourself frequently that you have chosen them.
Run the dishwasher. Until recently, I had two sentiments about using a dishwasher: first, I was convinced that you could not run the dishwasher without it being full and second, I believed that you could only put certain dishes in it. The second sentiment is true for some items, but you CAN run the dishwasher without it being full. I now put everything in the dishwasher and run it at least once if not several times a day. This gives me more time and less stress.
Make a home first. As Stephen Covey wrote, “Put First Things First”. Think about your priorities and make sure that you put the most important things first. If you want a “home”, a safe place, where you can feel loved and enjoy the company of those most important to you; focus on the people not the house. As they say home is where the heart is—not where you reside.
More minimalism. Consumerism asserts that to be happy, we need more—more cars, more clothes, more things. We earn money to buy things, then we must find places to store them, and time to organize and clean them. I didn’t like the repetitive loop: working to collect things that I didn’t have time to enjoy. What if I just stopped buying things that I didn’t need? I have found that I find more joy with fewer curated items. Questioning whether something adds value before purchasing it allows more money and time to experience the things that I value.
If it makes your life easier and you can afford it; pay for convenience. Convenience and how much you should pay for it is relative. I don’t like to pay for a manicure, so I do it myself. But I use Instacart, a service that picks up and delivers groceries to my door. I struggle to focus inside a grocery store—there are so many possibilities, so many options and I spend a lot of time picking an item up, reading the label, comparing prices, putting it back, picking it back up, choosing something else, putting it back and then forgetting to go back and pick up the first item. Instacart saves my brain power for more important tasks and reduces my stress.
Choices are overrated. Not all choices but having too many choices. Too many choices stress me out. I feel like I must make the “perfect” choice out of fear of choosing the subpar choice. This results in indecision, regret, and a lot of wasted time. Less options, less stress.
You must choose. There is no such thing as not making a choice; even not making a choice is a choice.
You can’t make everyone happy. Winston Churchill said it best, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last.” I have spent a lot of effort trying to make everyone happy. I am here to report: it is not possible. Even if you somehow succeed at making everyone around you happy—there is a 100% chance that you will have sacrificed your own happiness. And you are someone too. Do the right thing, find joy, be kind, but stop trying to worry about everyone else’s happiness.
Stop trying to make people love you. And investing in relationships that don’t give back. If you have to do things, pay for things, or pretend you are someone else to make a relationship work—heads up, it is not working.
My favorite kitchen appliance is the basketball hoop. In middle school, I vowed to hate basketball. Last year on a whim, I hung a basketball hoop in the kitchen. To my surprise, I have enjoyed games of PIG and have even thrown a few free throws on my own. Find the thing that seems odd or out of place, but brings you joy.
Take the time to dance. In the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the shower—take the time to pull the ones you love close and dance. When you want to protest about all the things that you should be doing; pull in closer.
I should read more. I have always enjoyed reading, but I don’t read nearly enough. I love the way reading can broaden your knowledge, take you somewhere you have never been, or terrify you with mere words on paper (i.e. Stephen King). Science has proven reading can increase intelligence and brainpower and reading before bed can help you sleep.
A walk a day, keeps the insanity away. Exercise is beneficial for both physical and mental health. And it gives me a chance to process and reconnect with my thoughts.
The power of a break. It is okay to have bad days. Rest. Drink fluids. Take a Tylenol. You don’t have to be a superhero 24/7. Taking a break from the “to do” list to breathe and restore allows you to be more productive. Taking a break does not make you weak.
It’s okay to quit. Not everything is meant to be finished. Some things are only meant for a period; try them, experience them, learn lessons, and if they are not right, quit them.
It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to change. Commitment is important. But staying committed to something that is harmful to your physical or mental health is not good.
Your time is your most important asset. Invest it wisely.
Cut out the bad. Don’t be afraid to say no. Not everything or everyone should be in your life.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. There were a lot of things that I was doing because I thought if I could, I should: taking on projects at work outside my scope, helping other people live their lives, trying to make everyone happy, etc. Being a “yes” man or woman does not make you a good person, it makes you a doormat.
Take care of your body. I think sometimes we take better care of our vehicles than our bodies. We know if we want our vehicles to run properly and have a prolonged life, we need to keep up with routine maintenance and fill them with the proper gasoline. Our bodies are similar, except more important and more complex. This year I realized how poorly I have treated my body. If we want to live a healthy life, we need to actively care for ourselves.
You are going to hurt people. And you are going to hurt. It is impossible to not make mistakes or choices that will eventually hurt someone. It doesn’t always mean you are a bad person, or you made the wrong choice.
Bench conversations. Do you know in the movies when the coach sits the kid on the bench, puts their hands on their shoulders and gives them a “talk”? He tells the kid exactly what they did wrong and then allows them to decide if they are going to get back out there or if they are going to sit and feel sorry for themselves. Then they must decide. It’s hard and it works. When it matters, have a bench conversation. Tell it how it is, lay out the choices, and let them decide.
Remove the guises at home. Or they’ll never know who you are underneath it.
Be vulnerable. It is hard to describe how to be vulnerable, only matched by being vulnerable itself. The dictionary describes it as putting yourself in a situation where you are likely to be harmed. I played a game this past year, the only rule: be honest. Avoidance was deemed defeat. Due to my competitive nature, I experienced what it meant to be vulnerable. And realized that most of my life, I have not been vulnerable with anyone, including myself. I have avoided experiencing and sharing my thoughts and feelings to prevent being hurt and as a result have avoided intimacy too. To have authentic, fulfilling relationships you must be vulnerable.
You don’t have to be perfect. I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want to be a perfectionist. But that’s not enough. I was reminded that I can easily fall back into the perfectionist mindset at any time. It takes self-awareness and commitment to change this corrosive mentally by establishing achievable goals, accepting failure, and monitoring your inner dialogue.
Try something new. It is safer and more comfortable to stay where we are, where we know what to expect. This past year, I tried new things, things I thought I hated, and I have taken risks that didn’t work out. It’s okay to try something new and fail, it’s okay to try something new and quit, and it’s okay to try something new and like it. Trying something new teaches you a lot more than remaining in one place.
There are good people. Find them. And be one of them. There is a common saying that we are the average of the five people closest to us. If you don’t like who you are surrounded by, make a change to your social circle. But consider that may mean that you need to change as well.
Living someone else’s dream won’t bring you happiness. I used to think that if you helped someone else live their dream life that you could find happiness on the coattails of their success. But what I found was that if you can’t find joy on the journey, then their success will never bring you happiness.
We learn when we live. Growing up I hated swimming lessons. I learned that I could convince the teachers to let me sit on the side of the pool and watch the class. I passed a few levels sitting on the side, but eventually, I failed, and then I quit. When I stopped engaging with the lessons, I stopped learning. When you watch life from the sidelines, you stop learning. We learn the most when we jump and plunge into life.