30 Lessons By 30

For the longest time, I dreaded my 30th birthday. I was upset by the prospect of having to start over again romantically, having to re-establish myself in a new city in a state I'd never really spent much time in, and I was terrified to feel directionless after having my entire life revolve around the career of someone else. But now I'm here and I can honestly say I've never felt happier. I don't have this whole life thing figured out just yet, but who honestly does? Now, in my old age, I feel like I've learned enough to impart some of my elderly wisdom onto you all.

1. Don't pet the sweaty stuff, and don't sweat the petty stuff:

I feel like this one doesn't need much explanation. Don't jump into "sweaty" situations and don't worry yourself with people who want to be petty and vindictive. They aren't worth sacrificing your mental health over.

2. It's not your responsibility to save anyone:

Let me repeat that (mostly for myself) - It's NOT your responsibility to save anyone. You wouldn't board a sinking ship, would you? No, you wouldn't. So don't try to set off on some sunset river cruise with someone when their boat is on fire. I struggle with this one because I'm a fixer. I care deeply about the people in my life and I want the people around me to be happy and healthy. However, the more of yourself you give away trying to fix issues for others, the less you have to give yourself, which brings me to my next lesson...

3. It's not selfish to focus on you:

When you choose yourself, things will become immensely easier for you. This isn't to say you should abandon the people in your life, but it's ok to need a break from your friends, family, partners, etc. Take some time to be introspective and get to know yourself again. Do things by yourself that make you uncomfortable. Take yourself out to dinner, go see a movie, or go on a solo trip (but be safe about it).

4. It's ok to be single:

Along the lines of the previous lesson, it's FINE if you don't want to be in a relationship or want to be and just aren't. You'll find the people you need most when you aren't looking for them and you'll have a much healthier relationship if you enter it as a better version of yourself. You don't have to be the best version, but at least be working toward that. There's a lot of truth to the saying that you can't fully love someone else until you love yourself. You may even realize that you're totally fine on your own and don't need a relationship at all. This will help keep you from settling if you do find someone you vibe with.

5. The people who mind don't matter, and the people who matter don't mind:

The people who ignore you, make you feel ashamed, or even berate you for being in a funk don't matter. The people who truly care for you will be there in whatever capacity you need and they won't judge you for it.

6. Therapy isn't a bad word:

I've said it before and I'll say it again that there's absolutely nothing wrong with needing a therapist. They can offer you insights that your close friends and family can't because they are able to look at your circumstances from an outside perspective and it's literally their job to help you. Utilize this invaluable resource. I promise you won't regret it.

7. You will outgrow friends and family:

I could regurgitate quotes about family being everything until I'm blue in the face, but the truth of it is that you won't always be able to salvage relationships with family members you were once close with. Life happens, situations and opinions change, and sometimes people who love you get too involved or won't respect the choices you've made for yourself. If these relationships are hurting you more than they're helping you, it's ok to let them go. The same goes for friends. There are only a handful of my closest high school and college friends that I still keep in contact with regularly. People you think will be permanent fixtures in your life won't always be and there's nothing wrong with that. Respect the relationship for what it provided you and move on with your head high.

8. Boundaries make everything better:

A lot of these lessons are related to each other, but it's important to acknowledge them just the same. Set your boundaries and don't apologize for them. This is something I've struggled with a lot because I want to make excuses for people or believe there's good in everyone. It's ok to give chances and forgive, but don't do that without evaluating the situation from every angle. If you're uncomfortable with the way something is going or flat out can't support it or be involved in it because it disrespects or diminishes your own values, don't do it. Plant your feet and honor yourself.

9. Chill with the expectations:

I know it's hard not to hold everyone and everything in your life to the highest standards when you've been hurt, but stop. Not everyone will be at their best all the time, yourself included. If you're not married with kids by a certain age, if you haven't finished your degree yet and it's nearing your 10-year reunion (hi, this was me before graduating), if you're not progressing in your career or relationships the way society tells you that you should be, it's OK. Take a deep breath, analyze your situation with a kind eye, and realize that not everyone has the same path to follow. You might feel behind, or even ahead of, the people around you, but you won't stay in that place forever. If you're happy, healthy, or even just surviving right now, there's nothing wrong with that. Change what you can, but enjoy the ride. You'll get there eventually; you just have to work at it.

10. Be patient:

Be patient with yourself and be patient with others. Good things take time. Our time on this earth might be limited, but there's no rule saying you can't dance and laugh and have a good time, even when you're waiting in line.

11 Find a hobby:

I can't stress this enough. Make time for the things you enjoy. Giving yourself a break and granting yourself permission to be creative, active, whatever it may be, will help you immensely in the long run. Even if your hobby isn't something you want to share with the world (just don't be a serial killer), you can share it with yourself. Hobbies make us more interesting and well-rounded people. I clearly like to write. That's my happy place and something I don't take time to do often enough. I enjoy journaling, writing poetry, and putting these blog posts together. It gets my brain going and allows me to express myself in a way I might not be able to while speaking.

12. Do no harm but take no shit:

Don't hurt other people but don't let other people hurt you. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee...or something like that.

13. Exercise is your friend:

Look, I won't pretend this one is easy. It took me something like 29 1/2 years to get into a solid exercise routine and I know most people don't have as much time throughout the day as I do, but take care of your body. You don't have to be ripped or spend hours a day lifting weights. Take 30 minutes out of your day and move around. Go for a walk, work your abs or do triceps dips when you're watching TV. Stand up at your desk. Do something. Your mental health will thank you.

14. Ask for help:

It's ok not to have your shit together and it's ok to need help from time to time. I have a hard time with this even now, but ask for help when you need it and make sure you accept the help offered to you if it will make your life easier. You aren't inconveniencing anyone and the experience will bring you closer to the people in your life.

15. Don't torture yourself over food:

At the same time as I emphasize the importance of exercise, it's also equally important not to torture yourself over your food choices. I recommend making an effort to eat clean meals, but if you want Wendy's one night or that slice of pizza is giving you bedroom eyes, do it. Eat the things, enjoy your meals. Don't punish yourself for enjoying food. Everything in moderation.

16. Stop giving so many chances:

I know I said it's ok to give chances, but the takeaway here is to only give them to people who truly deserve them. If someone in your life is toxic, bringing out the worst in you all the time, or just doesn't seem to care, cut them out. You don't need that negativity in your life.

17. Always be yourself:

Embrace your flaws, what makes you "weird", and what makes you different. If you're an awkward nerd (like me) or whatever it is you might think about yourself, don't suppress that. You'll be so much happier not tailoring your personality to the people around you and you'll find your true friends that way.

18. The "cool kids" aren't as cool as they seem:

You know that saying "don't meet your heroes"? There's a reason that saying exists. Sure, plenty of the people you idolize are just fine, but they're people just like you. They have good days, bad days, crappy habits, and they make mistakes. But just because someone seems cool, popular, or even just calm and collected, doesn't mean they actually are. Real life isn't divided into the cool kids and dorks.

19. Your worth isn't defined by your social media following:

I've done hours upon hours of research into the ways that social media impacts our mental health and our society as a whole. I've written papers on it more times than I can count and the evidence is staggering. I know it's weird for someone whose career it is to be on social media to say this, but your online presence means little to nothing. You aren't more or less worthy of love, respect, and happiness just because your picture didn't receive as many likes as you wanted it to or because you don't have many followers. Social media isn't real. It's easy to fall into the trap of wishing you lived someone else's life, but the version you see of someone online isn't typically what you get in real life. If you find yourself in a cycle of "I wish" when scrolling through your feed, I lovingly offer the advice my friends and I have started giving and say "go punch some grass."

20. Do the thing:

"You know that thing you've been talking about doing forever and haven't done yet for XYZ reasons? Yeah, go do it. Take the trip, go skydiving, tell someone how you feel, change jobs, go back to school, move to a new city. Just do the thing. If it will make you happy, lift a weight from your shoulders, or offer you some kind of peace, JUST DO IT." - Shia LaBeouf, probably

21 Learn to communicate in a healthy way:

I cannot stress this one enough. Every well-adjusted adult should listen to or read literature on the art of communication. I'll link my favorite audiobook about it at the bottom of this post. Knowing how to talk to people is a priceless skill, especially in relationships and when you're arguing with someone. Expressing yourself in a concise, constructive, and honest way will save you so much time, stress, and heartache.

22. It's ok to say "no":

Don't be a yes man if you don't want to be. This one goes along with setting and respecting your own boundaries, but saying no is ALWAYS an option. I've had a lot of trouble in the past saying no in romantic relationships or in work settings. It's hard not to feel like you're being a jerk or like you're disappointing someone, but it's more important to be true to yourself than it is to spare someone else's feelings. If the person you're saying "no" to is worth their salt, they'll respect you more for being honest than for agreeing to something that makes you unhappy or that you don't really want to do.

23. Change isn't easy:

Trust me when I say that I know change is a huge bitch. It's hard starting over, moving, working into a routine, or forming new habits. You're going to falter a lot, but you'll also accomplish a lot. You'll have plenty of days where you want to throw in the towel, but things change for a reason. Life won't ever be stagnant forever and everything around us is constantly in motion. We can't ever expect that our circumstances are permanent when nothing in the universe ever holds still.

24. Your tribe will save you:

Surround yourself with people who are motivated, encouraging, honest, and accepting. They will save you many times over, I promise that. Finding them won't be easy, but once you do, keep them close. They will help you become a better person and you will do the same for them. These people don't even have to be nearby. I've met so many of my closest friends online and their support is the reason I'm here writing this now.

25. Sometimes you need a vacation from vacation:

Ok, so I know this one sounds kind of weird, but sometimes breaks can be exhausting. When I go on trips, I try to give myself a two-day grace period to get back into a solid routine and for my brain to recover from vacation mode. Drink your water and coffee, take your vitamins, and nurture yourself when you get home to avoid the post-trip funk.

26. Not everyone has your best interest at heart:

It's difficult to realize that some people are simply in your life because they think they can benefit from having you around and not because they actually care, but that's why some of them exist. It sucks, but sometimes you'll be pushed in certain directions for their benefit and not for yours. Stick to your guns and learn to recognize these people so you can either keep them at arm's length or cut them out of your life.

27. People will talk; let them:

This one is by far the hardest lesson I've had to learn. When you're being harassed or find out people are saying malicious things about you, you want to react and stand up for yourself. That's fine. It's ok to speak your truth and I won't ever encourage anyone to stay silent when they're being mistreated. But just be aware of how much time you're spending pouring your energy back into things that you could most likely disprove simply by living your best life.

28. Money doesn't buy happiness or love:

Yep, I said it. Having money certainly makes life a lot easier, but it also won't magically cure every issue you have. You can't buy the affection of the right people and you can't buy emotional stability.

29. Practice gratitude:

Find something to be grateful for every day. Be grateful you woke up today, even if you feel like shit. Be grateful that you took the trash out, showered, changed your clothes. Finding things (big or small) to be thankful for will give you a little boost of serotonin to help get you through your day and will help you put hard situations into better perspective.

30. Make lists:

I tend to compartmentalize a lot of my feelings because it's easier for me to cope that way when things get stressful. Lists are a great way for me to visualize my own feelings and they're an effective tool for really unpacking your own feelings about situations or people. I make lists about things that are bothering me, deciding what I can and can't control about them, and then writing out the ways I can actually change or navigate what is within my control. I've found that it's a wonderful tool for analyzing my relationships or new people I might feel unsure about.

I genuinely hope that even one of these lessons can help you in some small way because I know it's helped me to learn them, even if getting here wasn't easy. As always, try to go easy on yourself. If you're trying, you're accomplishing something. Click the image below if you're interested in learning how to become a more effective communicator. Stay awesome, y'all.