lessons i’ve learned after turning 30

There’s so much hype about turning 30 (don’t get me wrong, I was also worried/anxious/excited when my birthday came around) but nobody really ever talks about what this year is really about, or more so what it isn’t about.

30 is a milestone, let me rephrase, it is a milestone set by society. What’s the difference between 29 and 30? Who determined that 30 is “the big one”? There’s so much pressure to do everything on the “life bucket list” by certain ages and quite frankly, I’m tired of getting measured against these “milestone” moments and ages.

Yes, I’m 30 but I don’t own a car (I can barely drive) or a house, I don’t have a 9-5 job, and truly, the only thing dependent on me, is me, and sometimes, even that is overwhelming. After coming out of a whirlwind month in January with being sick, taking a Spanish level exam, starting a new job, and moving apartments, I decided to reflect on the past 6 months…and even beyond that. So here are some things I’ve learned as I try to navigate “adulthood”.

Being happy (like genuinely happy) for other people is underrated.

I think with age, it’s natural to be more focused on your own day-to-day. Jobs get busier, family life gets more hectic and time-consuming, hobbies get harder to pursue, and friends become harder to keep in touch with. With this hustle and bustle, we forget that saying hi and catching up with a friend doesn’t need to be a 3-hour coffee chat or 1-hour Zoom call. It can be as simple as a “hey I’ve been busy but I’m thinking of you” message or a simple congratulatory message on a new job or engagement. I say this because just this simple act can make you feel more happy and less stressed, but only if this comes from a genuine place. My best friend just called me to tell me she is pregnant and instantly my mood lifted. I could hear in her voice how happy she was and this was absolutely contagious, I really don’t know how to describe it. I was overwhelmed with joy for her and her husband and my day immediately turned around. My other friend just got his dream job that he’s talked about for years and I was so thrilled to see how his career has brought him to where he is now.

In such a competitive world, and with the mindset of “milestone ages” it’s easy to get caught up in being jealous but you can’t view other people’s achievements with that mindset. That’s their goals, their life. It sounds strange and embarrassing to admit but I think that maybe a few years ago I would have been jealous of my friends, only because I was so unsure of the place I was in at the time. Now, I realize that what they do doesn’t affect my potential or my current status, nor will it ever be exactly what I want for myself. Being happy for others and bringing yourself happiness in the process is one of the easiest things to do once you stop comparing yourself to others.

Remind yourself you are exactly where you need to be.

Tying a little into the above, I need to remind myself occasionally that I am where I need to be. Unfortunately, the “what if” game is one of my favorites to play and it causes a lot of unnecessary stress. Last month, I was busy, stressed, sick, and had a lot of unknowns; in some ways, I was almost paralyzed by everything going on. Instead of making moves and taking care of the changes, I laid awake at night, unable to sleep and making numerous to-do lists. Thanks to my Spanish tutor, I began to say to myself “no puedo controlar todo” meaning “I can’t control everything” and it actually helped. I realized that every other time in my life that I have been that stressed has led me to where I was in that current moment. It had worked out. And would I be worried about the same things 6 months from now? Maybe. 1 year from now? Probably not. There will always be something to stress about but we need to remember that it’s going to be okay. Control what you can control, but let the rest be. Today you are exactly where you need to be, 6 months from now you will be where you need to be, and even 10 years from now, you will be where you need to be.

Figure out your priorities.

I’m not sure if moving to another country or my age has made me ask myself “what do I want?” more often. It is a seemingly easy question when you’re choosing from a food menu or clothing store but when it comes to some of the necessities (for me, a job, place to live, family) it becomes way more complicated. I recently made the decision to take a more stable job with some flex hours and some set hours. This was a big departure from the decision I had made in 2019 to quit the “stable work life” and try to find more work-life balance. It took me a few years to realize that part of me does value some sense of stability in terms of hours and work, and a team-oriented work environment, neither of which I got through freelancing. I made it a point to then steer myself toward opportunities that would provide me with my priorities within my work. It wasn’t easy but I did it by asking myself “is this the life I want?” or “is this what I want for myself?” and having the yes/no answer choice makes it very clear.

Identifying your priorities is only half the battle though. The second half is working to either achieve them or maintain them. For example, my priorities when moving to Spain were to become fluent in Spanish and to travel. Sometimes I lose sight of these goals (honestly I could go a day without speaking or hearing any Spanish if I chose to) and need to remind myself that this is why I’m here. Again going back to the 30 “milestone” these should be YOUR priorities and what’s important to you. If it were up to society, I’d probably not be transitioning jobs, having awkward conversations in Spanish with strangers, getting a new apartment by myself, or adventuring to new cities on the weekend..but these are the things that make me happy, and dare I say, thriving, at 30.

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