Yesterday was my 30th birthday, and unlike the mass consensus I have heard that I should be down about getting older, I’m excited to be 30 years old. To me, 30 is a wonderful age. You’re old enough that people might actually mistake you for an adult, and still young enough to pretend dancing all night long doesn’t hurt (even though you’ll probably be popping ibuprofen like candy in the morning).
So to celebrate my entrance into my 30s, let’s reflect on some of the things I’ve learned over the past 30 years.
You don’t have to be friends with everyone. Some people just don’t jive with who you are and what your values in life are. That doesn’t mean they are crummy people, it just means you don’t have to force yourself to be their friend. Spend time and energy on the people who make your heart happy.
You don’t have to have two (or even one) kids. I used to think my life was about having babies. When my daughter was born, I quickly realized I’m not actually that person. I’m selfish and day-dreaming and really enjoy my own time and space. And that’s okay. There are so many benefits to having one child, and I truly believe that this societal “truth” that you “have to have siblings” is such a crock. You should only have a child if you really, really want one, and not just because it’s what you’re “supposed to do”. No one benefits from that scenario.
Parties are way more fun when you only invite a small group of people you are really close to. I used to invite anyone and everyone to all my get togethers, and was always disappointed when only a few people would show, or was way to overwhelmed when all these somewhat familiar but still anxiety-inducing “strangers” filled my home, making me spread my time so thin I didn’t even get to enjoy my parties. Less truly is more.
I am not a fraud. I have felt the feeling that I’m a big old fake in so many areas of my life over the past few years. Like, even though I am doing my best and trying my hardest at whatever I do, I’m still a fraud. I recently read a post about this “imposter syndrome” (let me see if I can dig that up to link to… where did I find that again?), and it lightened my gloom so much to know that a) lots of other people seem to feel like this, too and b) there is no magical time when you can say “I am finally a _______.” If I take photographs, I am a photographer. If I teach preschool, I am a preschool teacher. If I write, I’m a writer. If I own a home, I’m a home owner. I don’t have to feel like I’m faking when I am literally doing these things, and it’s actually kind of ridiculous to put myself down in my head so much.
I am not alone. On that note, I’ve realized that pretty much everything that I go through, all of the emotions and fears that pass through my brain, I am far from the only one experiencing it. In fact, if I ask three people around me, it’s fairly likely that 2 out of the 3 (if not all) will probably have struggled with exactly the same things.
Talking helps. When you feel down, call a friend. Have a real, honest conversation with someone close to you (preferably face to face, or if that’s not possible, a voice call instead of a text or a message). Even if all you do is rant and complain and cry, you will feel so much better for having let it out.
Most problems are smaller than they seem. Everything seems enormous when you first bump into it. Situations can feel like hopeless problems, and can become bigger and bigger in your mind as you blow them up, but when it comes down to it, almost everything is just a drip in the ocean. This too shall pass has become a fast motto in my life (even if I forget it at first, over and over again as new problems surface).
Travel will change your world. I’ve been on a number of trips to other countries now, and I always come home changed. Travel has a way of changing your perspective on so many things, and helping you step out of your mind frame to reconsider your own habits and culture and ways of being. Travel as much as possible, whenever possible!
You have to fight for your right to proper medical care. Doctors have a lot of information and experience, but the only one who knows you well is you. I have had to fight many times for different doctors to hear me out and believe what I have to say to them about my body and my suggestions of what is going on. Oddly, it always turns out that *surprise* I was right about what is going on. If you feel like your doctor is missing something, speak up, get another opinion, or several opinions, until someone finally hears you. Squeak, wheel, squeak!
Mashed potatoes are a perfectly acceptable meal. And a delicious one, at that. There is never a time when I can’t eat them, no matter how bad I feel. Best food ever!
B-vitamin supplements make me a better person. Since becoming a mama, I feel more stressed and angry and overwhelmed than I ever have before. Someone suggested taking B vitamins, so I gave it a shot and have noticed a big improvement (when I remember to take them) in how much calmer and collected I am.
You have to do what you have to do. I grew up in Alberta, and left my old life behind to move to the coast of BC ten years ago. There have been times when I felt like I should be where most of my family is, but I know that this is my home now. I am happier here, I am a better person here (by a long shot), and I belong here. I shouldn’t feel bad for doing what makes me the best me I can be.
Microwaves are a better way of cooking than boiling. Yup. There are a lot of scared people out there that won’t use microwaves, mostly based off this one study where they cooked food in water in a microwave. I’ve actually had multiple people in shock at a potluck when I admitted yes, of course I have a microwave and use it when needed. Science has proved with further studies that it’s actually the act of boiling food in water that steals most of the nutrients, and that microwaves retain the nutrients far better than boiling food on the stove. #Themoreyouknow
Less is more. I read a book, changed my mindset about “things”, and went through my house to get rid of a ton of stuff. Now I’m much more choosy about what comes in and stays in our home, and now I’m much happier about the life change, and understand much better what I actually like and what doesn’t suit me. You can read about that journey in these posts.
Home ownership is draining. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so thankful we have the opportunity to own our own home. But (much like motherhood) I didn’t fully realize how hard it would be. There is always something to be done, worries that our house is going to fall apart if we don’t keep up with repairs and renovations, and so much money to be spent on keeping our home functional and safe. Something new is always coming up, and we can’t just call up the landlord to take care of the problem and pay for it. It all falls on us. Worthwhile, I think, but still much harder than imagined.
I’m thankful for religion. Now, this may surprise you, as I’m certainly not a religious person at this point in life. Growing up, however, I was part of a very religiously devoted family. And while I have chosen for myself not to be part of organized religion as an adult, I am thankful for all the lessons, values, and ethics that were instilled in me as a child. Yes, I believe these lessons don’t need to be passed on through religion, but for me they were, and I’m glad that I had the upbringing I did.
Island time is totally a thing. The pace at which people and projects move seems to slow down in accordance to the size of the island. Vancouver Island has a sense of island time, but to really experience it, go to one of the smaller Gulf Islands. I don’t think you can miss this phenomenon, even on a short stay.
Having childless friends when you’re a parent is a sanity saver. When you have kids, and everyone else around you has kids, everyone hunkers down in their own houses for the night come bed time. In order to experience kid-free conversations and games on a regular basis, without a sitter, we’ve been lucky enough to keep friends that have no kids of their own and come to us once the little one has gone to bed. Games night has saved my sanity and offered me and my husband a chance to hold on to these before-kids connections and experiences, while still fulfilling our duties to be around and keep our little safe while she sleeps.
Forest bathing is self-care. Feeling low? Go outside. Feeling lazy? Push yourself to get out for a walk. Spending time in nature changes my outlook, and energizes my soul.
If you will it, it can happen. It’s amazing how many things have happened in my life once I decided what I needed, and willed it in to happen, while keeping an open eye and an open mind to see when opportunities arose. Truly amazing. Good things come to those who put a positive mindset to it and are willing to make it happen when the timing is right. On the other hand, negativity is a sure-fire way to keep your dreams from coming true. Think positive.
There is good and bad in everyone. No matter who it is, we are all human. We all do some amazing things, and we all do some crappy stuff. Try not to judge another human being by a single action. We all have our bad days.
Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay. This is a tough lesson, and one I am still trying to keep in mind. Not all people who mingle can jive. There are lots of people who don’t like me, but guess what? It doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s a positive sign to me that I’m on the right track, as the people who look down on me are not at all the kind of people I want to involve my life with. So keep on trucking, and let go of the idea that you can be everyone’s friend, and try not to feel bad when you realize you’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
I am not bound to one identity. I remember trying to find out who I was, moving through adolescence trying to pin down the facts about the person I am. I never did succeed because, although there are a lot of truths about myself that I can find in a particular moment or phase of my life, we are all constantly changing. Our mindsets, our preferences, our energy levels, our values, our priorities, our social circles, our everything. Change is unending, and it’s actually comforting when you succumb to the idea that you are not defined by a single identity for the rest of your life.
Judge not, cause you don’t know. Unless you are in it, you have no idea what another is going through, and what is the “right” thing for them to do in their own, unique situation. Yes, there are some things others will do that you feel deep down in your heart is so vitally wrong. So share your concerns, but do it in a gentle, and open-minded way. More often than not, what your ideal of the best thing to do in a situation is is based on an incomplete understanding. Sure, there are “recommended best practices” in parenting, for instance, but there are so many invisible pieces that come in to play that you probably would be doing the exact same thing as the person you think is “wrong”, if you only had the understanding they do in their unique situation. There are a lot of “better than” decisions in parenting that we have to make, even though we recognize the ideals.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. You can drive yourself crazy worrying about why your partner can’t put the Tupperware back the way you have deemed necessary, or any number of small “problems” that really aren’t problems at all. Who cares. Throw it in the drawer and be done with it. Don’t put yourself into a crummy mood over things that really don’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things. You’ll just make yourself and everyone around you feel crummy.
I’d rather enjoy life than fill my bank account. Sure, money is necessary in the world we live in, and hard work is important. However, I would much rather be present and enjoy the small moments than push myself all the time in pursuit of the almighty dollar and what it can bring. A house that is warm and dry, with a fridge full of food, and clothes in the closet – these are necessary. The fancy coffee maker isn’t. The expensive car isn’t. Model-home decor isn’t. Nothing is quite as important as actually having the time to enjoy the life you have been given. I don’t work evenings and weekends as a rule as long as our basic needs are filled (with a little cushion room for travel and extracurricular enjoyment), nor does my husband, and I love the simple, modest life we lead.
Don’t believe everything you hear. People lie. People tell falsehoods, and many times even they think they are telling truths. Unless you can be assured you have a reliable source with concrete evidence to back up claims, take every rumor you hear for exactly that – a rumor. (Especially in a small community like mine, where rumors spread like wildfire and can often be deemed truth just because so-and-so said it.) Do the research for yourself if it really matters to you, and let the rumors stop with you.
Be gentle with your body. It will need to last you your whole life, and as you age, you feel everything more. I’ve had a lot of injuries lately that don’t seem to disappear entirely. I am getting older, and I’m not afraid, but I’m also recognizing the impermanence of my physical self and how important it is to take care of myself.
And last but not least: Smiles are contagious. No, you don’t have to smile when you don’t feel like smiling, but the simple act can improve your situation and others. Smiling can make yourself feel better. Smiling can show those around you that you are friendly, and that they are welcome. Smiling can be the start of beautiful friendships, or can simply help strangers know that you’re on their side, that you wish them well, and that you are there if they need you. Smile and laugh as much as you can, to brighten your life and everyone’s around you. (Even better yet, step right out of your comfort zone and say something nice along with that smile whenever you can. You never know how much it will mean to someone.)
Thanks for reading. (And if you made it this far I really am impressed… this was long!)
Here’s to 30 years, to aging with positivity, and to continuing to learn and grow every day, no matter your age!
I have a sign up list to stay in touch with new things I write, and I have social accounts I’d usually link to here, too, but it’s my birthday. So I’m taking the easy route today. I’m sure you will find the right place in the sidebar or another post if you really want to connect with me.