34 things I learned before turning 30
I started my 20s with little to nothing.
I found purpose around age 25.
At age 29, I felt like I lost everything.
And at age 30, I was able to create something incredible out of that nothing.
In my 20s I experienced some of what I thought I would. Hyperboles, happiness, euphoria, the gripping feeling of depression, red hot anger - but don't forget the heartbreak because there was lots of it. I balanced on the thin line between life and death (that is not a hyperbole), and it taught me a lot about who I am.
All of these things at times have been enough to make me want to drive across North America on a crazy road trip Pulp Fiction style then settle in LA pretending that none of my 20s ever happened. In my head I have thought over and over and over again, 'take me to the land of the palm trees.' If that's not vivid then I'm not sure what is.
Reading this, you're probably picking up on the fact that my 20s weren't...seamless.
When I turned 30 I avoided doing any sort of compilation in relation to turning 30-years-old. But I did learn a lot in my 20s and it’s only now when these things have come to fruition that I feel it really means something when I write it down.
During my 20s I never really felt like anything was happening. During this last decade, I hunted for a feeling of knowing I was really, really living it. But the truth is that I was thriving in the thick of it, and I wasn't anymore out of tune than anyone else. This is because you're living your 20s, even if you haven't given yourself permission to move forward.
I learned tons in my 20s so I've listed just over 30...do you sense my acrimony?
So let’s kick it off. Here are 34 things I learned in my 30 years of being alive, with a focus on my 20s because it's such a life-defining decade. I never thought it would happen, but it did, and I’m proud. Maybe, somehow, this stuff could help you.
1. You are your own PR manager
Own your life, speak up for yourself, and know your truth.
2. Figure out what you believe in
This doesn’t mean you have to believe in anything, but it’s important that you explore. I’m not a religious person, but one time I made myself sit in the cathedral on Vancouver’s Dunsmuir Street just to see how it made me feel. It was kind of nice. This doesn’t just apply to religion. It applies to anything universally that you’re able to believe or not believe in.
3. Be informed about the world you live in
It's just a good thing. Know what’s going on with the government – read a magazine, pull up the news on the Drudge Report or Google or whatever. Being able to speak confidently about politics and anything other than the Kardashians is a turn on. If you find reading the news to be bland, check out Vox. Works for me but doesn’t have to work for you.
4. Take a break from the sauce here and there
Alcohol is great but we’re really connected to ourselves when we sit sober for a while. Learn how to trust your sober brain and take pride in whatever you’re able to do because that’s part of who you authentically are. No, this is not common sense for everybody because we live in a society where there is booze available at most of our meals and even sometimes at work.
5. Don’t feel like you have to cook
Agh, everyone tells you that you NEED to cook, but what a hoax. Do you know how much time I’ve saved from not cooking? You get more sleep, more exercise...the end. I have chosen this way of life because I suck at cooking, and it's given me lots of extra time for other opportunities. I kid you not.
6. Watch your body
Some people have great genetics but even they will start to notice their body is slowing down around age 30 if it didn’t already happen around age 25. How to deal? Exercising. I've seen it happen time and time again and the truth is that no one gives a damn about whether or not you feel inadequate. We all have our off times but try to keep it short.
7. Know when to call a relationship off
This is difficult because when you like someone you can’t really see the situation straight. Try to keep your head up and be aware of any red flags. If they’ve already messed up three times then you can rest easy knowing you gave it way more than what it was worth. The right person will see that you're a gem from the very beginning, and they'll stick to it.
8. Find love with purpose
The best rule of finding love is asking the right questions from the get-go. If you sit down with someone in person and you just know it won’t work, it’s ok to just say, ‘look, I’m really sorry and you seem cool but this isn’t going to work.’ Pay the bill and leave. Honesty is the best policy and nobody has time to waste - respect that.
9. Wear whatever the hell you want
There’s a girl my age who I really admire because she wears anything of all colours and….everything! It doesn’t have to match. No one else needs to approve because it’s her choice. I think everyone should dress how they’d like.
10. Stay within your budget
People might give you a hard time for not being out at the bar every weekend because you're sticking to a budget, but more than anything it feels crappy being broke. You are who you are. You’re not what you earn.
11. Pick your friends
A lot of people are surprised that I don’t say I have 25 friends of whom I have 17 networking circles with. Just no. It’s ok for some people but I’d suggest you filter through the bullshit and figure out who’s really there if shit hits the fan. On my hands? 5 high quality people who I completely love and I’m not ashamed to say that.
12. Don’t obsess over your social media
I know, it’s hard. I can’t believe I have to give this advice, but welcome to the 21st century. A younger friend who's in her 20s told me that she inadvertently feels shitty when she compares her own life to all the 'glam' Instagram users. This is a miserable way to live. If needed, stop using it for at least one month. The followers will come back.
13. Don’t gossip
There’s nothing more off-putting than walking in to meet a group of people who have it in for the local celebrity or the person sitting at the opposite side of the restaurant. Also, if your friend talks about their friends in a derogatory way, he or she does it to you, too.
14. Don’t fake and bake
Oh man, those who did it during their early 20s are really feeling it now. My dad mistook someone I knew, aged 23, as a woman of age 35! Slap on the sunscreen and make it a habit. You'll thank me when you're older.
15. Protect yourself – this especially applies to women
I had a crazy ex who stalked me onto my international flight. He wrote me constant emails, followed me at night between different bars, and phoned me even after I told him to repeatedly stop (he would even use services to disguise his number.) So take the advice the police gave me, even though at heart we want to believe that no one’s a bad person: these guys are dangerous and are all over the place (but let’s not forget about the good ones!) I share this story because I know several girls who have gone through or are going through similar situations and it's so unfair.
16. Be a good person
Take mind to do things with care. Say thank you when someone does something nice for you. Leave a decent tip whenever it makes sense. Have the humility to say sorry when you’ve messed up – this has done me wonders. Make time for the people you love. Be there for your friends. Put your family first.
17. Don’t be afraid to cry, but know when to cry
Interpret this however you'd like, but I think you get what I mean.
18. Take lots of video and pictures
I don’t mean for the purpose of posting it on social media, because every form of social media is inevitably replaced by something else. I mean, keep this stuff in folders and on your hard drives. When I took a good look at my 20s, it was so cool getting to see how differently I acted and talked earlier on.
19. Do what you want with your body
If you feel like airbrushing your face, fine. If you feel like toning your arms, fine. If you feel like belly dancing, fine! If you feel like wearing the pair of short shorts, fine. We’re so critical of our bodies but we’re not getting any younger. Worship and celebrate your body – be thankful for the mobility you have - to walk where you’d like, to be able to stand up on your own feet, to be able to dance.
20. Be alone
The feeling of being alone after a breakup can be debilitating and it’s difficult to get around. When I realized this was holding me back, I vetoed relationships for a while. I made myself eat at restaurants alone, go on walks alone, do everything alone not saying a word to anyone else. Do it and you can rest easy knowing when you are abandoned you'll be perfectly happy alone.
21. Eat veggies and fruit
I only recently started to realize this and I don’t know why. Yes, nutrition does matter. You almost feel like a better person when you absorb all that good stuff. This will read as totally silly to some people but it took a while for me to grow up in this area.
22. Never feel stuck
Remember that as a human you have the holy ability to move wherever you want. The only thing barring you from this is often financial responsibility. Once you’ve been able to save up some money, be thankful in being able to book a ticket and move to New Zealand if you feel like it.
23. Appreciate your parents
It’s not until in your mid 20s that you really start to see your parents as actual people. Before they seemed like almighty beings or gods that you’d never understand, but you inevitably start to see their emotions and flaws. This situation is very humanizing. Seeing that your parents are flawed is a good lesson in taking what they’ve taught you and turning it into tangible material that people in your life can learn from. Honour what they’ve given you.
24. Don’t be afraid to change
You have to trust that the universe will allow you to change if you have the guts to stand up and make a difference. You have so much more control over your life than you know!
In short, if you’re not happy in a relationship with your significant other, dump them. If you hate your job, quit. If you don’t like where you live, move.
25. Be vulnerable
If you’re looking to fall in love, I suggest that you be vulnerable, knowing all the same that you could get hurt. In life we have to say screw it and fight for what we believe in. If it doesn’t end up being that person, there will be another.
26. Don’t give a fuck about turning 30
My biggest concern about turning 30 was the questions people would ask me. It would be difficult for me to answer these said questions because I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. The best way to look at this is that turning 30 is getting to flip the page of a very exciting new chapter in your life. It’s your moment and it’s your life, so just own it. Don’t make sad remarks about turning 30, seriously. Just feel happy and blessed in getting to where you are now, and looking gratefully at the things you have in life! Yes, count your blessings. I do this often and it brings me back to earth.
27. Be open to relationships
Maybe you do want to get married or maybe you don’t. Maybe you want to have kids or maybe you don’t. Whatever it is, don’t feel blocked by self-limiting beliefs and keep your mind open instead. Sometimes when we meet a special someone, our ideologies change. Look at life’s possibilities as limitless. Anything is possible. Never shut doors.
Another thing – think beyond ‘your type.’ You’re more likely to meet ‘the one’ if you give someone a chance (who you normally wouldn’t consider) and see what they’re like. Be open to dating people with different looks, backgrounds, ideologies, humour, you name it. Try every hair colour! You can’t have a taste preference if you don’t try every piece of chocolate in the box. That’s a dumb analogy but…you get it.
28. Get over your ex
Stressing about exes or talking about exes to friends over and over again is like putting the control back in their hands. If you date someone who’s not over their ex, set them free. In this way you are setting yourself free, which means you can find a better partner.
29. Get yourself promoted
Never wait for an employer to approach you and promote you/give you a raise. Work hard and diligently. Once you’ve done this to the max, ask for a promotion/raise. If I hadn’t done this in an old job I would have had someone with less experience telling me what to do, and I would have been earning thousands less.
30. You can be successful - without university
One of the smartest guys who I know didn’t go to university. He moved from a remote province to the big city and decided to master tech. Today he’s totally set financially and enjoys a lot of freedom. I’ve always admired that he never surrendered to the belief that going to uni was a must, because it isn’t! In retrospect (I have 7 years of post-secondary) I wish I stopped my education after my first journalism diploma. That was all I needed to know to make it. That’s when I really learned how to write.
31. Do something crazy
Wow, now I’m getting wild, right? But seriously, do something crazy. For me, that was deciding to move to Australia two weeks in advance of boarding my flight. I then met my Aussie best friend, Sam! If you’re going to make a risk, now is the time. I also started my own business and I feel like it's crazy but it's the best thing I've ever done.
32. Keep in touch with someone special
It might be your ex who you miraculously have a platonic relationship with (yes, it’s possible) or it could be your best friend from first year university. When I landed in Saskatchewan for a news job I met someone who I still talk to today. It blows my mind to hear from him how much I’ve changed and how far I’ve come since then. It also blows my mind to see how far he’s come – from working a road job to making his way through law school. Find this person and keep them in your life; they will understand you in ways that no one else can.
33. Don't take anyone's shit
This one's easier said than done, but if there's one thing I wish I hadn't done, it would be putting up with other people's shit. In one particular workplace newsroom I was bullied incessantly by the two morning anchors. At that point, I had never felt so put down. If I could go back in time I would have told them to suck it and then I'd sue for work harassment. I wouldn't deal with those douches now, and I never should have! Unfortunately these people have a tendency of popping up all through your life, so just be prepared.
34. Have hope
There was a period of time when I was about 25-years-old that I stayed in the hospital for a good part of the year. I've never felt so rock bottom and hopeless and sick before. My prognosis at the time was looking pretty crappy. I had to pull myself out of that and fight hard. This meant I had to embrace optimism and find hope within myself.
Whenever I'm stressed out I just remember how hard I worked to get out of that, and it brings me back to earth. You too will need some optimism and hope if you get stuck somewhere crappy. Life does get better...it really does, I promise.
There's this saying that you're always where you're supposed to be. Whatever it is that you're experiencing in life, you're in the right place, trust me. If it helps, just visualize my palm trees and see where your ideas take you. Have a beer, break dishes, go fishing, shoot some video, write a blog, do whatever it takes to feel better about your current situation.
Hell, maybe your 20s are close to perfect! Hold on for the ride and remember that actually, nothing is perfect and that's what makes turning 30-years-old beautiful. No listicle could really prepare you for your own exciting journey, and you'll have to learn some things the hard way. Just laugh it off and know that someday you'll laugh at your mistakes too.
Like I said before, I lost a lot and I gained a lot. What I really appreciate more than anything is anyone who treated me poorly or told me that I wasn't capable of doing something I wanted to do. If someone tells you that you're not capable of something, go and do it anyway. Better yet, do it 10 times better than that other person.
Doing what other people don't think you can do is the best form of revenge. And birthing yourself from the evil of someone else is one of the most effective ways to become better than you already are.
Turning 30 - it was real, it happened and I 'm proud of myself. I have a feeling that I'm about to experience the best decade of my entire life.