I woke up on the morning of my 30th birthday, hungover, sunburned, and feeling humbled by the love around me. My closest friends from all over the country had journeyed to the Airbnb I rented in Jersey City, with a view of the Manhattan skyline. At the time, I had just finished a year-long trip around the world that fundamentally changed who I was, my career, and my perspectives for the future. I had packed on some extra pounds, thanks to 365 days of indulgences, and my heart had taken on the weight of humanity I experienced while trekking. The continents didn’t seem so spaced out anymore and people not all that different, even if we speak different languages. And yet, turning 30 felt foreign.
A new beginning that felt both very adult and very naive. As I poured myself a cup of coffee and stepped over my sleeping friends to reach the balcony, I repeated the number in my head over and over, hoping it would stick. Wondering when it would feel like me. As life often does, my 30th year surprised me. It took me to places I couldn’t have predicted. I felt things I never thought I’d feel. I grew forward and fell back some, and I became more ‘me’ than I had ever been before.
Perhaps that’s the shiny, incredible truth about aging: The older you get, the more of you you’re willing to accept. Turning 30 brings an immeasurable amount of pressure and for some, and it can feel like a deadline to mature. For me — so far anyway — the year brought clarity. Closure. Opportunity. But then again, I’m only 31. I still have a lot of land to cover in this decade. Still, for anyone who is scared of turning 30, I wanted to share some real life advice. So here are 21 things I learned in my first year of being 30.
1. You’re not ‘old.’
It’s true, even if your body aches and the extra pudge around your midsection will argue otherwise. Immediately after turning 30, I felt instantly ancient — but quickly realized it’s no different than any other age. I think the less we label ourselves as expiring, the more possibility we envision — and thus, experience.
2. Information is power.
Because 30 often feels like a huge milestone — and sure, it is — it also comes with anxiety. Am I measuring up in my career? Am I saving enough money? Am I on the right track to have a family one day? Instead of standing still and letting these worries circle me, I grabbed each of them and researched. What I found was with information, everything feels lighter. My mind is at ease, and I feel more in control.
3. Tune out the fertility noise.
Being a journalist is a fun gig, but it also comes with plenty of deep-dives into a vast variety of topics. Most writers, including myself, pitch based on our curiosities, and since I’ve been concerned about my eggs aging, I spent a good portion of the first year of my 30s dreading a visit to the OBGYN — and researching egg freezing. While there are true biological timelines for women (and for men, mind you), every reproductive system is unique. And chances are high you’ll still be able to have a healthy pregnancy (or even three) in your 30s.
4. Putting deadlines on life stages limits you.
If you would have asked me at the age of 25 what I’d be doing at age 30, I definitely wouldn’t have said: “Traveling, dating and building my own company.” Nope, I’d probably say — with great angst — that I’d be married and expecting my first child. For much of my 20s, I gave myself deadlines for life’s biggest events. And guess what? I didn’t meet any of them. But at the age of 31, I’m happier than I could have ever predicted.
5. The best dating advice is the worst dating advice.
Exactly three months after turning 30, I swiped right on the most wonderful man I’ve ever met. We spent seven weeks chatting via text, talking on the phone, and making FaceTime dates before we finally met in person, thanks to my traveling schedule. Fast forward ten months later, and it’s the healthiest, most fulfilling relationship I’ve ever had. But for a solid eight years before I met him, I sought all dating advice I could because I was single. And I hated it. In the end, the best dating advice is to do you. Find things that make you happy and (don’t hate me) put yourself out there. That energy sends the right signals — and attracts the best people.
6. A sincere partnership is more important than sweet nothings.
What I love most about my boyfriend and our dynamic is that we are partners. In life, in love, in day-to-day expenses and experiences. In our careers and our discussions. For a long time, I equated ‘true love’ as all of those romantic gestures, random notes, flowers, and candlelit dinners. But what actually matters? Someone who will go line-by-line with you through a proposal for a new client you’re anxious about. And will drive the rental car through winding roads because it makes you nervous.
7. Book the f***ing ticket already.
…you’ve had that flight alert set up long enough. And travel is one of those expensive, shiny things you’ll never regret spending the money on.
8. Some of the people who will mean the most to you, you’ve yet to meet.
When I traveled the world for a year, I did it through Remote Year. Because of this, I trekked through 12+ countries with 50+ people. When I think about the fact that a little over two years ago, I didn’t know any of those incredible souls, I’m flabbergasted. They’re such a huge part of my life now and fill my WhatsApp with endless laughter. It reminds me that many people who will mean the most to me… perhaps I’ve yet to meet.
9. Retirement is closer than it appears in your mirror.
One of my closest friends reminds me, near daily, how important it is to think about your retirement. Though it’s still decades away, planning for it today will never feel less stressful or be more important. Set the money aside, invest smartly, and try to breathe deeply into a paper bag. After all, there is nothing more important than investing in your own future.
10. FOMO is a choice.
And sometimes you should choose to not give into it because you need an evening (or three) to stay in bed, watch Netflix, order takeout, and just chill. Don’t guilt yourself for giving your mind and emotions time to be alone. JOMO is real, people. Give it a shot.
11. There is no normal.
Your sister may have three children by 30. Your best friend may have a rock-solid career path. Your childhood friend may still be living at home, spending her holidays traveling the world. There is no normal — so stop measuring yourself up to expectations from other people and comparing your journey to that of others.
12. Friendships should be about quality, not quantity.
Though I have incredible friendships — I have less than I did in my mid-to-late 20s. Sometimes, is a sad and scary thing to think about, but what I value more in a friendship is quality. Perhaps it’s trite but as we age, it’s easy to see who is going to stick around — and who isn’t willing to invest equally. Those who are there, without question, whenever you need them, for whatever reason? Hold on tight.
13. It’s okay if you just don’t care.
About putting on makeup. Or pants. Or about the latest tweet from the president. Pick your causes, stand by them, and let the rest go. You can’t save the world on your own, but you can make a difference if you streamline your efforts.
14. Communication is the key to happiness.
Tell your friend when they hurt your feelings. Ask your partner what they meant with a sentence that sparked your anxiety. Tell your manager when something feels off — or that you feel you aren’t being compensated accurately. Most people experience angst because they are confused or aren’t expressing their needs. When you speak up, your joy sparks.
15. Let your priorities change.
This one is a tough one. And by tough, I mean something I think I’ll battle for the rest of my life. But in the spirit of support, say it with me: Priorities change — and that’s okay! Two years ago, I wanted to party until dawn with friends at a club in Lisbon. A year ago, I was still in jetsetting non-stop mode. And now, after turning 30? My hopes and perspectives for the future are different. What I want to do on a Saturday night doesn’t look how it used to. Where I aspire to be in five years isn’t what I would have predicted for myself. Priorities always transform as life does — but the best of friendships and relationships are up for the adventure.
16. You can’t give 100 percent to everyone.
Some weeks, you’ll over-index on work. Another, you’ll spend endless time cuddled up with your partner. The next, you’ll work out, focus on healthy eating, and see your friends four times. Instead of giving everything to everyone all of the time, I’ve learned to let my percentages be more balanced, to ebb and flow, and roll with the change of the days, weeks, seasons, and demands.
17. Saying ‘no’ feels so damn good.
And on that note, learn how to say no without guilt. Nope, not going on out Friday night. Nah, not going to go to a spin class since I’ve tried it 10 times and I’ve hated it each and every time. No, not in the mood for Indian tonight — but how abut Thai? While women are programmed to say ‘yes’ — saying ‘no’ is a major confidence builder. Say it often, say it proud, and strut it.
18. Certain luxuries are worth it.
For me, having a cleaner come in every six weeks takes one item off my to-do list. For my best friend, sending her laundry out removes stress from her routine. I get Starbucks so often, I no longer consider it a ‘splurge’ but rather part of my routine. Upon turning 30, it’s time to figure out what’s ‘special’ in your routine — whether that’s your morning latte or your evening skin care routine — and what is a luxury you’re worth shelling out money toward.
19. Your heart can. And it will.
What’s surprised me the most about my relationship is how quickly — and yet slowly — my heart opened up to a good person. After so many dating disasters I lost count, believing someone had my best interest at heart, who cared for me unconditionally and was supportive of my quirks and talents was, at first, unbelievable. Over time, I grew amazed at the capability of my heart. No matter how many dead walls you’ve faced, how many duds you’ve had to sit across at a bar table or how fruitfulness your efforts feel… your heart can open up again. And best of all, it will. You just have to let it.
20. Routine brings ease.
And hey, that’s not for everyone. But after a year of living out of a few suitcases and constantly boarding one flight after another, there is an undeniable pleasure in waking up and making myself a cup of coffee with a machine I own in an apartment I rent all by my bad myself. Routine sometimes is associated with lack of spontaneity or even boredom, but in reality, it’s the secret to earning enough energy to live life big.
21. Love yourself through it all.
And I mean all of it. Because there is so much more life to live. And so much of that will surprise you. Won’t go as planned. Won’t be how you imagined it — or hoped for it. But guess what? Most of the time, it’ll be even better. And will probably come with a handful of gray hairs.
Turning 30 is not the end of your life as you know it. Honestly, it is a bright, new beginning. Welcome to your prime.