I turn 30 soon. Earlier this year, I realized that there are two ways to go about that: You can either treat it like any other year or dig deeper than you’ve ever done and make informed, thought-through foundational changes to help you through the next decade.
I chose the latter. While I’ve been busy trying to get my life in order, here’s a list of gritty lessons I learned in the last year of my twenties:
1. Every so often, go into things unprepared. More precisely, reach for things you don’t know how to prepare for yet, because this will keep you from getting stuck.
2. Getting out of your comfort zone usually just means getting out of your head. Much of our anxieties and limits are in our minds. To keep growing, you must find ways to act more often than you dream, plot, or spiral.
3. Everything you think that makes you feel poorly about yourself is your mind speaking with you. Notice when the mean voice in your head starts taking over. Cull it before it encroaches upon all your other thoughts.
4. The voice in your head that keeps you accountable does not have to be a harsh one. It does not have to berate, guilt, or shame you. Don’t give up that voice and don’t let it get cruel.
5. There’s a reason we each make the decisions we do. Instead of bashing your choices, ask yourself what made you the person who felt inclined to make them. Empathy rounds the stories we tell about ourselves, which in turn impacts the choices we make to be more wholesome ones.
6. Move your body to shake off residual stress, tension, anxiousness, or discomfort. A tired mind and body go a long way to help you get a good night’s rest.
7. Unlike the common notion about anger, it does not start off as seething rage. Most of us first feel it as a mix of restless frustration and anxiousness. If you notice it at this stage, you will have a lot more control over how you respond to it.
8. It’s okay to miss parts of a person you once were. When we miss old friends and partners, we remind ourselves that they may have fit with a person we used to be, but not with who we are. Remember the same thing about your old selves. Find new ways to honor and embody those good parts in who you are today.
9. It’s understandable to reach for binaries in a world that asks us to constantly quantify our worth. But if you can make room for yourself to recall the vastness of life and your inner world, it is far more likely that you will find the right questions to ask, the ones worth finding answers to.
10. Make lists. Commit to eccentric projects. Do things in 100s. There’s a purpose for every odd adventure, trust it.
11. You are worthy of love and nothing you do will ever change that. It’s easy to forget this and start treating yourself like someone who isn’t a loveable type. You are absolutely a loveable type—keep bringing your vision back to that.
12. You owe sorrow no allegiance. You are allowed to find light even in the thick of it.
13. Let yourself be silly and joyful whenever you can. Find spaces of beauty and be in them as often as possible.
14. Find ways to be diplomatic, gentle, and tactful, even with friends. It is a rare person who can palate harsh truths delivered bluntly.
15. You can continue to have different feelings around old relations even after you’ve ‘gotten closure’. As we grow, we look at our past and memories through different lenses. Healing can be a lifelong journey that involves acceptance and reframing over and over again.
16. If you feel unsettled about a relation that’s no longer in your life, consider revisiting it with a simple and intentional ritual, like writing a letter or your own closure ceremony. This will provide clarity about what exactly you are feeling and need to release.
17. A C+ in relational living is so much better than an A+ in theoretical living. Be around people and take some chances. Do not wall yourself away from the world because of a fear of getting it wrong or being hurt. No life will come from that and you are too wonderful to deny this world anything but your complete self.
18. Trust issues generally boil down to boundary issues. It isn’t so much about our inability to trust someone else as it is about not having clarity regarding what we truly want. Once we are clear about it, we will know whom to ask, whom to give our time to, and to leave spaces where our needs cannot be met.
19. Gifting is not a materialistic love language. If done right, it can be a way to show people how you see them and to help them feel a specific way. Before getting someone a gift, ask yourself what you are trying to convey and to whom—this is how it becomes meaningful.
20. It’s so okay to feel jealous when your friends hit milestones before you do. Remind yourself that their success isn’t about you, that it doesn’t take away your ability to accomplish the same in time, that they are not winning and you are not losing. Remind yourself that the number of people doing a particular thing before you makes it more likely that you’ll do it too, not less. Ask yourself how you can celebrate their milestones and get involved in the joy of the thing!
22. Look after your friendships, but know that you cannot control them. They will take their own course, never resist.
23. Please do not pull away when you feel the fear of being abandoned. Reach out—this is when you need love the most.
24. Feeling connected to someone isn’t always about sharing your thoughts, feelings, and life updates. Sometimes it’s just about meeting them or giving them a call and allowing for the day or conversation to take you where it does. This is how you make memories, how you build a life together.
25. Getting back out into the world after the pandemic and its staccatos of isolation is not just about socializing. It’s about getting back into the groove of facing small everyday challenges that make you an active participant in this world.
26. Consistently taking small steps that are slightly scary is the way to pave any large and lasting change. Make note of the small steps you take. Give yourself credit for them, even if they may not seem worth celebrating to the world.
27. Uninstall social media as often as you can. It doesn’t matter if you need to be on it again in a week or a day—every minute it isn’t easily accessible is a good one.
30. If you are a creator, create for yourself and for those who look to your work for joy, comfort, resonance, or answers. Do not create to win or impress the imaginary greats artists, writers, or musicians in your head. Actually, do not write to impress anyone.
28. The boring things don’t just happen as you grow older. At some point, you have to sit down and find a way to make more money, find medical support, do taxes, and learn to drive.
29. Responsibilities keep you tethered to life. Make sure you have a healthy amount of responsibilities without drilling yourself down seeking perfection, trying to do it all.
30. A lot of things that feel icky and lame are actually incredibly healthy and vital to your wellbeing. The ‘ick’ comes from holding on to an image of yourself, what you should do and love, who you should become. While having a vision for yourself is great, holding on too hard comes from fear. Trundling through the awkward is key to reaching past this image and growing into your actual potential.