30 Lessons I Learned Before Turning 30

It’s my golden birthday (also called champagne birthday) and that means I turned thirty! Since I’ve entered my late-twenties I dreaded this change in the second digit of my age. Mostly because I felt like time was passing too quickly and I wasn’t ready to turn thirty. But instead on this birthday, I feel calmer and kind of excited for my new decade. I want to celebrate with a roundup of all the lessons (in no particular order) that I have collected in the past 30 years.

1. The way people treat you is more a reflection of them. I learnt this the hard way, I have taken many comments from people personally. Eventually, I learnt that how someone is treating you is a reflection of what they might be going through in their own life or something they are insecure about themselves.

2. Love yourself first. If my twenties drove home a lesson, it was this. This one is still a work in progress. I still catch myself being overly critical sometime. Self-love is very important. Of course, it’s important to know the difference between narcissism and self-love. But listening to your inner voice, accepting and being proud of who you are is the most important thing. Want to find success in what you do? Love yourself. Want to make a dream come true? Love yourself.

3. Happiness comes from within. It is easy to get caught up in thinking that filling your life with things will bring happiness. At best, the things we buy only pacify us. Happiness is a choice. For me, this is as simple as switching my attention to something I love when I notice that everything seems negative around me.

4. Capture Everything. We experience so much in our life and sometimes, time just flies by before you know it. I’ve been good at taking pictures of everything that mean something to me because it gives me a constant time machine into a particular experience.

5. Be proud of the things you love. Sometimes, you might like things that other people don’t necessarily consider cool. But, it’s ok! I’ve learnt not to apologize for being me, taking up space and sharing my thoughts irrespective of the other person’s perspective.

6. Preferences change. When I was a teenager and loved something I was so sure that I would love it for the rest of my life and if I hated something, I would never in my life like it. I could not have been more wrong. Living through my twenties I’ve learnt that if I never say never, something that I thought I would hate for the rest of my life could actually be something that I really like.

7. You cannot pour from an empty cup. As a society, we tend to celebrate hustle culture. Too often we expend more energy than we take in. And down the line that’s going to be a problem. I’ve learnt that self-care is a conscious effort in making time for activities that I find beneficial. Once I have filled my cup and recharged, I have found I have more to offer the world.

8. Stand up for yourself. My biggest regret comes from times where I haven’t spoken or stood up for myself and I walked away from the situation feeling like I was taken advantage of. So, even if the situation is hard and no one is standing up for me, I am standing up for myself!

9. Life isn’t fair. Growing up I believed that if you worked hard and put in the hours, you’d be successful. But over the years, I’ve learnt that in life there are a lot of things that are out of my control. These out-of-control variables, can change the degree of success you see. There are people in the world who strike a better deal and some who have it way worse than they deserve. In the end, it’s important for me to remember to make the most of every opportunity I get and remember that certain things are out of my control.

10. Health is wealth. When your health suffers (mental or physical) you’ll see that impact on everything in your life. In addition, there’s no mental health without physical health. In my case, I have noticed that if I don’t take care of my body by getting enough sleep, drinking enough water and working out regularly, my mental health suffers and doing the simplest things like going out on a walk takes a lot of effort. It can become a vicious cycle. So paying attention to my body and taking care of myself is extremely important!

11. Resilience helps get you through difficult situations. Life can throw you curve balls when you least expect it. But, if you’re resilient, you can recover from the shock and stress it brings and spring back up. By being resilient, I’ve been able to quickly stop the self-pity and focus on finding ways to get out the stressful situation.

12. Reading evolves over time. When I was a teenager, I mostly read fiction and I mostly read for fun. Now, I read to understand different perspectives and different worlds. Reading is an opportunity to travel without leaving my house and I am all for it! My stack of bedside books has evolved to incorporate memoirs, non-fiction and business books along with the many fiction books I have. Each genre offers something and it’s important to read anything and everything that can open up the world. This quote by William Faulkner is what defines my reading now:

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.
Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

13. Picked up so many hobbies. For most of my life, reading was my only major hobby. But in my twenties, I’m super proud and grateful that I got the opportunity to try out a lot of different hobbies. I learned how to ice skate, to sew, to write more, play video games and even how to play the Kalimba. I started to become serious about fingerstyle guitar. In the end, some hobbies stuck and some are on the back burner for now but each new hobby I picked up brought me joy and taught me skills that I will cherish.

14. Relationships Matter. And, maintaining a relationship takes work. Every relationship — family, friends, romantic or other relationships — is a collection of gives and takes. For the relationship to work both parties have to contribute into the “Us Box”. If you are the one constantly giving and get nothing, you’ll start feeling exploited. If you just take and never contribute, you’ll be a parasite.

15. Vulnerability is what deepens relationships. We are taught to be strong and act strong and always look put together. But the day I decided to share my feelings and insecurities with the people I care about is when my relationship with them flourished. The thing is, when you open up, you tell people that it’s ok to be themselves and finally they let their guard down and see them for the wonderful people they are.

16. Learned how to bake. I always thought I was going to be bad in the kitchen, but a few years ago I learnt how to bake and it has been the most fulfilling experience. I enjoy the process and I love that baked goods make people happy!

17. Write it all down. There’s something so profound about putting your thoughts into actual words. Journaling is something I have found myself going back to over and over again. I don’t journal every day but when something significant happens (starting a new job, getting married, etc.) I find myself wanting to sit with my thought and write it all down. I’ve learnt to journal whenever I need it. I also like reading through all the highs, the lows and everything in between to understand myself more.

18. Anxiety can creep up on you when least expect it. Seneca says, “We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” Many of us suffer from “empty” fears and learning how to catch ourselves and change our thinking pattern is extremely important.

19. Admit when you are wrong or at fault. This does not come naturally to everyone. I’ve learnt that there is strength in accepting when you are wrong. Not apologizing to people only hurts relationships and boosts your ego. Admitting you’re wrong strengthens relationships and also makes the someone who really matters to you feel better. It really takes nothing away from you.

20. Learn to forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. But for me, I would beat myself up about the smallest mistake I made and feel awful. Instead of asking, “What I can learn from the mistake?” I was too focused on, “How could I have made such a mistake?”. Changing my focus by remembering that I am only human has helped me move on from mistakes more quickly.

21. It’s OK to say no. It’s ok to turn people down and disappoint people. Saying no to things that aren’t important just leaves more room to say yes to something you want.

22. People come and go. In my thirty years, I have met a lot of people. I’ve learnt that while some people come into my life for a week, a month or even a year and then leave, some others are here for the long term. But instead of mourning the loss of these ephemeral friendships, I’ve learnt to appreciate the time I spent with these people. I also remember to cherish the long term relationships!

23. Work isn’t everything. We live in a society that idealizes hustle culture. But, the reality is that in life you don’t get points for always being busy. I’m tired of people saying they are so busy at work that everything else doesn’t matter. Life is more than your work.

24. Be kind to the woman in the mirror. It’s so easy to be cynical of the person that I see in the mirror everyday. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking, I’m not tall enough, thin enough or pretty enough. But I’m learning that irrespective of how my body looks, it lets me do all the things that I like.

25. Find joy in the simple things. Brené Brown said, “We chase extraordinary moments instead of being grateful for ordinary moments until hard shit happens. And then in the face of really hard stuff — illness, death, loss — the only thing we’re begging for is a normal moment.” The irony of life is that we are constantly after the next exciting thing. Life is truly lived in the ordinary moments, cherish those moments.

26. Everyone changes and that’s natural. Change is how we grow. If we want different results in our life, we need to change and everyone is on their own journey of change as well. With change comes discomfort which is why when people close to us change we are uncomfortable. But by appreciating the process of change we can embrace the results that it reaps.

27. Fight fair with the ones you love. When we fight with anyone, it’s easy to let anger rule and cloud our thinking. But remember that most of the time, when you’re fighting you are not trying to hurt someone. It’s the two of you against the problem. So before letting anger take over, try to listen to what the other person is saying. Fighting can even be healthy for a relationship if done the right way.

28. Fall in love with the journey. It’s easy to get caught up in reaching the goal you have in mind. While this is helpful sometimes, it’s important to remember, our goals change, we may fail and take a different direction. But if we fall in love with the journey, we’ll enjoy the ride and eventually the results will come.

29. There is meaning to the bad days. I used to shut myself off to negative emotions and try to force myself to always be happy. But, when I look back some of my most painful experiences have defined who I am today and without those negative emotions I would not have grown as a person. So now, I embrace the good, the bad and everything in between to truly embrace life.

30. I’m still trying to figure it out. While I have picked up all these lessons in the past 30 years, by no means have I truly figured out my life. I am still working on some of the lessons above and I’m sure I’ll adapt and learn more in the new decade.

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