I turned 30 yesterday. For some reason, birthdays always make me giddy. I’m not a big fan of parties, dressing up, or elaborate gifts, but there is something about a new year that thrills me. Naturally, a new decade is even more exciting. Even though we were stuck in the house celebrating my milestone birthday #QuarantineStyle, it was the best day I could’ve asked for.
I had a Zoom call with some of my best friends from college, and one of them asked me how I feel about turning the big 3-0. If you had asked me five years ago, I would’ve predicted that I’d spend my 30th birthday moping about the fact that “my best years had gone by.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth now, though – I told her how that I really think the best is yet to come. My 20s were incredible, don’t get me wrong. After all, I graduated from Vanderbilt, got sober, met Jeremy, got married, moved all over the country, bought a house, and had a baby! But a lot of my 20s were also messy and riddled with anxiety. As I head into my 30th year, these are the things that I’m taking with me – and the things that I’m leaving firmly behind in my 20s.
There were weeks (and months) in my 20s when things were pretty bleak. I think my lowest point was June 2014. One of my best friends had recently died in a tragic accident, I was in rehab for alcoholism, I lived alone in a studio apartment the size of a shoebox, I was in between jobs (read: unemployed), I was having daily panic attacks, my best friend and I had recently “broken up,” and I felt absolutely worthless. While I am hoping and praying I don’t experience a similarly low point in my 30s, I’m so thankful for that entire chapter because it made me resilient as hell.
Going forward, I’m reminding myself that bad times happen but I always survive them, and I always learn from them (as trite as that sounds). I know that this next decade will throw me curveballs, but I also know I’m equipped to handle them.
One thing I’ve learned through the crazy ups and downs of the past 10 years is that when you find a truly good friend, you need to hold on and protect that relationship. It’s an overused term, but I am fiercely loyal to the people I love and I’m extremely proud of that. Though we’re scattered across the country, navigating marriages, careers, babies, and countless other adventures, I will never lose that sense of devotion to my friends. Most of my best friends today were steadfastly there for me throughout the chaos of my early 20s, and I will never take that for granted.
Curiosity & Drive
Obviously, our 20s were a time for a ton of exploration. We graduated from college, some of us embarking on careers while others pursued further education. 10 years ago, I had no idea what exactly I wanted to do, but I was very willing to roll up my sleeves and work hard to figure it out. I think as a naïve 22 year old I would’ve assumed I’d have everything figured out by 30, but that’s… well, very far from the truth.
I’m bringing the curiosity and drive of my 20s into my 30s, and I’m eager to chart a new path for myself. I have plans to go to graduate school and explore an entirely new field. I’ve learned that there is no age limit on school, and no deadline to figure out exactly what you’re meant to do or be. I’m so excited to continue setting new goals for myself, and I’m eager to see where the next decade will take me.
I mean, I can’t totally control my anxiety level because part of it is due to my brain chemistry, but I can consciously rid myself of the anxiety I feel over my anxiety. I waste a lot of time being anxious about the possibility of anxiety attacks. I’ve labeled myself as a super anxious person, and in a way it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, a lot of my friends know I struggled with runaway anxiety during my pregnancy with Tillie. Now, when I look to the future and baby #2, I think things like, “Ugh, I’m dreading how anxious I’ll be for those nine months.” I cannot keep thinking like that!
I’m approaching this new decade with the outlook that yes, sometimes I have anxiety, but it’s only an extremely tiny part of who I am. I definitely can’t choose how to live my life based on worry and fear. Instead of going into situations thinking about the worst way it could pan out, I’m going to think of the best way it could pan out.
Stressing over the opinions of others*
I need to clarify this, though. When I was 20 years old, I would’ve happily (and falsely) announced that, “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me!” The past decade has shown me that I do care what other people think about me – in fact, I care deeply what people think about me. But I care what my family, my husband, my daughter, and my best friends think of me. I care that other people see me as a kind, accepting, and honest person.
I don’t care about the opinions of people who snark for the sake of snarking. I will not lose sleep over nasty words. I don’t care that so & so thinks my sobriety/veganism/political posts are annoying, when they’re not speaking up about a damn thing they’re passionate about. Brene Brown has a really awesome quote about this: “If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
Impatience & Restlessness
One of my biggest goals for my 30s is to become more mindful, patient, and content. The other day, I stumbled upon a quote from Eckhart Tolle that really resonated: “Your entire life only happens in this moment. The present moment is life itself. Yet, people live as if the opposite were true and treat the present moment as a stepping stone to the next moment – a means to an end.” I realized I treat so much of my life as a stepping stone, whether it’s as small as counting down the minutes until Tillie’s next nap time or as big as waiting until the next trip, next project, or next big milestone.
I don’t want to miss everything that’s going on right this minute because I’m caught up wishing for the next thing. I don’t want to think back on these slow days at home with my family and remember how much time I spent wishing I had more work. I don’t want to miss the joy in these baby years wishing she was just a little bit older, a little bit more independent. I want to learn to live my life in the moment I’m in.
The way I view it is like this: I spent most of my 20s just trying to figure out who I am, and I’m excited to spend my 30s absolutely owning it. I know that there’s no finish line when it comes to self-discovery or personal development, but I’m thrilled to be just a little farther away from the start line than I was at the beginning of my 20s.