Turning 30: 10 Things I Learned from my 20s (Part One)
I recently joined The 30 club and well, it feels kind of….meh.
Ok, if I’m honest, I actually don’t feel any different than I did in the last year of my 20’s. This possibly could be because I spent at least 6 - 9 months of being 29 mentally preparing to turn 30. I was carrying a lot mentally and emotionally from my 20s that I was determined to be in a better head space in this new chapter of life. I was also gravely afraid and anxious that I had not done everything I wanted to do by 30. I was placing these impossible standards on myself to at least have everything figured out by 30, and if I haven’t already achieved those things, at least be actively working towards some them by the time my birthday came around.
This, in itself, can be productive. Setting and attaining goals for yourself almost always is.
HOWWWWEVVERRR… It can also be very detrimental to your self-worth, self-perception, and mental well-being. You see where I’m going with this?
I needed to realize that I didn't need to rush my process of growth and letting go! Instead of focusing so much on what I did or did not accomplish by 30, I shifted my focus on healing, gratitude, and reflection.
I found myself spending most of my 29th year rediscovering myself and what I really wanted out of this next phase of life. I spent time in therapy expressing thoughts, dreams, fears, and tribulations that I had literally never voiced to anyone, ever! I rediscovered dormant passions that I set aside due to life circumstances. I often reflected on each year of my 20s to see how much I've grown and in what ways I can improve myself. Ultimately, I wanted to present the best version of myself for my 30th, which I think is the greatest gift I can give.
Needless to say, I accomplished a lot in my twenties, learned a great deal, and I'm still so very excited that this is still only the beginning of my story.
So, in light of surviving my twenties, here’s what I’ve learned in preparing for this new chapter of life.
1. 30 is the new 20.
“I saw turning 30 as a new license to recreate my life and edit out the things that I genuinely didn’t want for myself.”
Hear me out. I know everyone is saying this now, and it’s mostly us millennial’s that don’t want to let go of our 20s that are mostly the ones including this in their Instagram birthday captions, but I believe we may be on to something. Millennials in particular have had unique challenges in regards to adulting that have resulted in some tumultuous times in our 20s. Most of us graduated college or entered the job market during an economic crisis, started college during the time where tuition was historically most expensive, accruing in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, all the while dealing with aging parents, changing trends in the workplace, technology, social media, etc.
Whew chiiillllleeee, it's a lot.
And somehow, we’re supposed to get married and bring new humans into the world?! Like, I’m still trying to figure out how to feed myself!
But inching towards 30, I decided to turn the focus from figuring out how to plan my life to fit societal norms to figuring out what really works for me, which is the rat race I embarked on the second I turned 20. I saw turning 30 as a new license to recreate my life and edit out the things that I genuinely didn’t want for myself.
That leads me to my next point.
2. It's okay to change your mind.
Sooooooo, I was kind of engaged at 20. Well, not kind of, I was.
I know, I know. I’ve already punished myself for trying to get married so young, but at the time, I thought it was the right thing to do. Not that it was a shotgun wedding or anything (I’m from the south and those are really a thing). I was just young and jumping the gun (see what I did there?). But I knew early on that I wasn’t ready to be anybody's wife, simply because I had so much life to live and so much about myself to explore. But, I had already said yes.
Unfortunately, I am the type of person that hates disappointing others. I knew that with my wedding date quickly approaching that so many people had already RSVP’d and made accommodations to come. I was more afraid of changing my mind than making a decision that would change my life forever.
Oh, the agony.
Fortunately, I worked up enough gumption to call it quits. This didn’t come easy though. It was literally at the last minute and after much anxiety-filled deliberation. I’m willing to bet anything that this process would’ve been much easier had I realized it's okay to change my mind! Alas, I didn’t, but it’s okay. We live and we learn.
Fresh out of our teenage years, we have to make decisions that impact the rest of our lives. In my humble opinion, that’s a lot of pressure to put on kids just entering the very early stages of adulthood. At 18, you’re supposed to know what you want to be for the rest of your life, what college to go to, how to handle finances, etc. I took this challenge with great stride because by 18 I was pretty independent and had moved away from home. But I think people forget that a 20-year-old was just a teenager two years ago. There’s only so much growth that happens in two years.
I wish I would’ve not felt the pressure of adulthood so hard at 20. I learned that it’s okay to change your mind on things if you’re not ready to grow up that much so quickly. Your twenties should feel easy, like a walk to your mailbox, not like a triathlon. This is not to say you won't face trials, but some parts of living should be certainly be easier than others.
3. If you don't have it figured out, you're in good company.
“Our world is rapidly changing and making room for new norms and ways of life is the best way to change with it.”
Most millennials turning 30 around this time (from 2016-present at least) are all in similar situations. Some have dived head first in a few areas of their life, bringing success in either career, family, finances, health, friendships, etc. but usually not all. What I’ve seen in most cases is that most millennials choose which of those areas are more important leaving the others on the back burner. The day and age where our parents had 4-6 kids by age 30, made it to the top of the corporate ladder, bought a home with a white picket fence, a two-car garage, and a perfectly trained golden retriever are far behind us. That’s just not the world we live in now.
By 30, my mom was married, bought a home, moved away from home, started a career teaching, birthed me, the last born of her five children, aannnndddd stayed super skinny! I have proof of the latter! She was all belly at her baby shower when she was pregnant with me. That’s a lot to live up to, lol. Nowadays, more millennials are waiting later to get married and have kids, delaying the home buying process and renting longer, and we change jobs and careers like we change underwear, almost. And you know what, I’m here for it!
I’m here for figuring it out as we go. Our world is rapidly changing and making room for new norms and ways of life is the best way to change with it. The best thing about this is, we’re all in the same boat! That’s right! We’re all figuring life out as we go...just winging it out here in these streets!
The takeaway here is that there is no one blueprint for life, only the one you make. And even that should only be considered a rough draft. Be flexible as your needs, wants, and desires may change as you figure your life out. Most importantly, you can breathe easier knowing you’re not alone!
4. Stop comparing yourself to others. Like, just stop it!
(Look at the kettle calling the teapot black!)
I spent a lot of time comparing myself to others in my twenties. With the growth of social media and the growing access to other peoples’ lives, it’s so easy to compare your life to others. The truth is, IT’S NOT WORTH IT! There’s absolutely nothing valuable about looking at what someone else has and wishing you had it. Here’s why:
No one person is the same as the other. No one person’s life is meant to be the same as someone else’s. You can desire and aspire to obtain the things, relationships, experiences, etc. that other people have, but even if you get it, it won’t look the same as what others may have. Even more so, you’ll find that the things you thought you wanted aren't what you need.
So, just stop comparing yourself to others because it’s really not worth it. Live your best life on your own accord. Appreciate what you have and work towards the things you want for yourself and no one else. If there should be any comparison, compare your life as it is today to what you wish your life to look like in 5 or 10 years from now. Your pace is legal and however long it takes you to build your dream life, it will be worth it because it’ll be what you truly wanted and not because you were influenced by comparing yourself to someone else.
I know this is hard to do, because...well social media. This is why I advise you to periodically take inventory of your social media feeds. Ask yourself these questions:
Are there people you follow that constantly make you feel insecure about yourself because you feel you can’t live up to their standards?
Do you envy what they have? Do they're posts make you feel less than or unworthy?
Do you doubt your gifts and talents and feel unappreciative of what you’ve accomplished because it seems insignificant compared to what you see on social media?
If you said yes to any of these, it’s time to either take a break from social media and center yourself or unfollow those people for a while. Some may consider the latter to be malicious or done out of spite, but nothing can be further from the truth. Doing this for the right reasons can help protect your mental health and self-worth and block out distractions.
5. Take care of your body.
I can’t stress this enough. In your twenties, your metabolism is fast, your body fat may be naturally low, and your skin is as tight as a stretched rubber band. There will come a time (soon) that these things will not be! So, enjoy your youthfulness, but also be proactive in prioritizing your health now.
Work out and eat well. Ditch the fatty burger for a clean salad every now and then. Skip the alcohol for a fruit smoothie. And if nothing else, drink your water! DRINK PLENTY OF WATER!
I’m naturally slender due to genetics (thanks mom!), but in the last couple of years of my twenties, I was the heaviest I have ever been. I won’t mention my exact weight, because my unhealthy weight might be someone else’s healthy weight, and we've already talked about not comparing ourselves to others. Not only was I at my heaviest weight, I also experienced more health issues than ever. After several months of not feeling like myself, I decided to make some major changes. I got back on my fitness training regimen and cut meat and dairy out of my diet completely. It paid off because, at 30, I literally look and feel like I’m 20 years young. Who am I kidding, I still get asked what high school I go to, lol!
Most importantly, you must take care of yourself because as we have seen with the recent pandemic, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for a healthy immune system and combating other major diseases. We aren’t promised tomorrow and our time is limited on this earth. In your twenties, it’s easy to think you’re invincible, and in some ways, you are. But it’s so important to be good stewards of your body because this is the only one we have!
So, guys, there you have it! The first five of the 10 Things I've learned from my 20s. If these resonate with you , check out the other half of this list here:
Until next next time,
Stay Authentic, Keep Growing