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30 Things I Learned by Age 30

I’m branching out of my usual hiking related content today to share with the youngsters out there (can I use that word now that I’m 30?) 30 things I learned by the age of 30. I turned 30 back in January so I’m a little late to the game on this one. However one of my lessons is not to force things, so I’m really just following my own advice. 

By all means, I don’t think I’m full of sage wisdom or have nothing left to learn. I just think I’m more knowledgable now than when I was 20. Everything I’ve listed are things I’ve discovered about myself in the past and either embraced or fixed, depending on the situation.

Hopefully a few of these things resonate with you as well. And please share your own life lessons in the comments.

RELATING TO YOURSELF

1. Done is better than perfect.

I got this gem of advice from Lean In. As I detail-oriented person I tend to get fixated on the small things. But most projects don’t require perfection; they just require completion. 

2. You don’t get what you want if you don’t ask for it.

If you want something, then you better advocate for yourself. Nobody can read your mind. 

3. Have a realistic self-care routine.

Please don’t try to all in one day do meditation, a full workout, journaling, clean eating, make time for friends, work a full 8 hours, and drink a soothing cup of tea from the herb garden that you grew yourself. If that’s the expectation then you will feel like shit when you inevitably fail. 

My realistic daily self-care is drinking two liters of water and doing my skincare routine before bed. It is ok if I fail at that goal once a week. Your daily self-care can be anything you want; just choose something that you care about. 

4. Do things that you’re bad at.

It keeps you humble and forces you to learn. I sucked at WordPress when I first started this blog, and now I’m happy I stuck with it because my website looks bomb. Plus, there’s plenty of other things I do that I’m bad at (like snowboarding) that are still enjoyable. You don’t have to be good at something to find joy in doing it.

5. Give yourself daily internal affirmations.

Don’t let your self-talk get too critical. I like to congratulate myself on small things throughout the day. Examples include: “Damn, you make a good cup of coffee.” “Way to be responsible getting gas after work and not in the morning.” 

It sounds like a small silly thing to do, and it is. But it really does wonders to shift your overall mindset into being more positive towards yourself.

6. Stop talking about what you want to do and just do it.

I’ve noticed a pattern over the years. The people who are not ever going to actually do what they say will tell you all about their plans for doing it in the future. I’ve known people to talk everyone’s ear off about how they’re going to grad school or starting their own business, then years go by and they still haven’t taken the first step.

Then there’s the people who don’t talk about it and just make it happen. All of a sudden my single mom friend is in school for engineering or another friend is halfway across the world studying marine biology. 

I’m not saying to never confide in other people about your plans. I’m saying that you should be spending more time taking action than talking.

7. You’re not entitled to anything. 

It’s astounding how many adults I’ve heard complaining when a friend or parent won’t give them something they want or do a favor for them. If someone tells you “no” then respect their choice. Learn to provide for yourself whatever it is that other people don’t want to give you.

8. Identify your faults.

We are all flawed and have things we need to work on. Don’t make up excuses for yourself and continue whatever behavior isn’t working for you. Own up to your flaws and work on them.  

9. If it fits, let it sit. If it doesn’t apply, let it fly.

This was a staff motto when I worked in wilderness therapy. Essentially, when someone else gives you feedback or criticisms, decide for yourself if it has weight or if it’s not applicable. If what they say is valid, then sit with it and think about how you can work on it. If it really doesn’t apply to you, let it go.

10. Take accountability when you do wrong.

Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s what you do after that really matters. Apologize to people you hurt (or leave them alone if that’s what they want) and clean up your mishaps.

Blaming others and saying it’s not your fault will only lead you to make the same mistakes in the future. 

11. Learn how to budget. 

Just because your parents didn’t teach you is not a good excuse. There’s a million resources on Google University (my favorite is Hey Berna) that will teach you how to manage money. 

Even if you don’t make much money, you can still have a plan. Then as you get older and start earning more money, you won’t just be blowing it on frivolous things. Basically, bills and the savings account come first. Fun money comes after. 

12. Start a retirement account. 

I don’t know about you guys, but in thirty years I want to be drinking margaritas on a beach and not worrying about how my bills are getting paid.

Even if you don’t have spare cash now, educate yourself so you’ll be ready when you do have some extra money. Even if you can only put $20 a month into a retirement account to start with, it’s better than nothing.

13. Stop complaining and change it.

I know we all need to vent every now and then, which is totally reasonable. But you can’t just sit around and complain and not doing anything to change your situation. Complain once or twice to get it out, then either let it go or fix it. 

14. Learn to communicate effectively. 

Being passive aggressive or not saying how you feel will not get you anywhere. 

Is your roommate messy in communal space? Tell them it’s bothering you. Does a family member act manipulative? Set boundaries. Significant other not meeting your emotional needs? Let them know.

Nothing is going to change if you don’t speak up. 

15. Go to therapy.

Literally we can all benefit from therapy. Nowadays lots of jobs provide therapy as a part of their Employee Assistance Program and sometimes health insurance will cover it. Otherwise it can be expensive and a luxury not available to everyone. 

However, if you have access to therapy then you should take advantage. We all have dark, twisty stuff we can sort out. 

And in my personal experience, the people who say “I just don’t think I need to go to therapy” are the ones who need it the most. 

16. Seriously consider whether you actually want to go to college.

When I was in high school and in honors classes, everyone acted like going to college was literally the only option to a successful future. I don’t think my parents cared, but there are a lot of parents out there who put tons of pressure on kids to go to college. 

While I did gain valuable knowledge, lifelong friendships, and my degree has probably helped me land a few jobs; I’m also still paying off these student loans. The system is flawed.

If you’re sure you want to go to college, then great. However, don’t just go because that’s what’s expected of you. 

17. Don’t force things and know when to let go.

This could be in regards to anything: a job, a friendship, a particular belief. 

If something doesn’t feel right and is a struggle every step of the way, then it might not be for you anymore. I don’t mean that everything in life should come easily. There’s just a difference between working for something that’s worth it and pouring energy into something that isn’t for you. 

RELATING TO OTHER PEOPLE

18. Don’t judge other people for wanting different things than you.

Some people want to invest in a house young and have a good career. Other people want to screw off and travel and have fun until they’re 40. Those things are all fine. You can look at another life path and think, “Not for me.” But don’t sit on a high horse judging other people for finding their own joy.

19. Cut out toxic people.

We’ve all had friends that are negative all the time, talk shit about other people, and seem to always need something but never repay the favor. Cut those people out. 

I’m not saying get rid of friends when they’re going through a rough patch and need support. I’m saying get rid of the people who are truly ugly on the inside. 

20. Take what people say at face value.

Has anyone ever said they’re fine or that something is OK, and you wonder if they really mean it or not? Stop doing that.

Don’t waste time trying to interpret what people really mean. Trust that if they have an issue with you they will tell you. If someone can’t communicate their feelings or say what they want, it’s not your job to figure it out. They’re on their own journey with that problem.

21. Believe people when they show you who they are.

This goes both ways for the good and bad. If you have a friend who has been reliable and treated you well, don’t project your past issues from other bad friendships onto them. If they’ve shown you they’re a good person, believe them.

Also, if someone has had a pattern of being a bad friend or taking you for granted, don’t continue to put energy into that friendship. They have shown you what to expect. 

22. Don’t let people borrow money.

I’ve yet to be repaid any amount of money I’ve ever loaned out.

Don’t let people borrow money with the expectation that you’re going to get it back, especially if it’s going to inconvenience you when they can’t repay their debt. If you want to give money as a gift, then that’s your choice. 

23. Put yourself before your romantic relationships.

Christina Yang once said, “Don’t let what he wants eclipse what you need.”

We’ve all been there in terms of putting too much of ourselves into romantic relationships. I once lived with a boyfriend who almost never cleaned and acted like a twelve-year old boy when mad. I definitely never looked back after dumping him and moving out.

Relationships should be a partnership, not a mental drain. Maybe your relationship will last forever and maybe it won’t. But you want to make sure that at the end of the day you’re satisfied with the choices you’ve made and you haven’t sacrificed any of your goals or happiness. 

RELATING TO THE WORLD

24. Speak up when you see something wrong.

It’s easy to laugh something off or ignore it when you see something that seems minor. The things that come to mind are when I’ve seen drunk dudes sexually harassing scared girls. Or when white friends have made casually racist comments. 

Don’t let those things slide. I know it feels uncomfortable to speak up in those situations. If you don’t speak up though, you’re implying to the perpetrator that you’re ok with their behavior. Don’t choose to be complicit. 

25. Vote. 

Yes, it’s a pain in the ass and your vote might not matter in the grand scheme or things. But every time you proudly declare that you don’t vote because it doesn’t affect you, you’re really declaring that you’re so privileged you don’t think anyone will try to infringe upon your rights. You look dumb when you do that.

26. Social media is fake.

As someone who is a hobby blogger and loves Instagram, I know I shouldn’t make these claims. But I’m going to anyway…

For every photo I post looking over a mountain view, there’s 15 photos that sucked, a package of dry oatmeal eaten for breakfast, 40 bug bites on my legs, and I smell bad. 

Life is not as glamorous as anyone’s feed would lead you to believe.

27. Get some perspective on the world.

Move to a different state or travel internationally if you can. It’s way easier to have empathy for people who come from different backgrounds than yourself if you’ve gotten out of your own comfort zone and seen different places.

I’ve noticed a pattern that those who have the least empathy towards people of other religions, nationalities, and races are the same ones who have always comfortably stayed in their bubble.

28. Spend money ethically.

When you spend money, you are essentially voting with your dollar for what things you want to continue to be produced. I understand that it’s impossible to know where every dollar you spend is going. But you can do research and make an effort.

I realized how bad the clothing industry is for working conditions in other countries and for the environment. So now I try to only buy clothes at thrift stores. Or if I want something new like jeans or underwear, I look into which companies are more ethical.

I’m sure there’s plenty of ways I’m still putting money towards irresponsible companies, but I do learn more every year. 

29. Put your cart away at the grocery store.

This is more of a metaphor for doing the right thing when no one is making you. We all know that putting your cart away at the grocery store is the right thing to do. However, no one will say anything if we don’t do it or enforce that rule at all.

Do the right thing because it’s not that freaking hard.

30. Don’t let the society decide for you what you should be doing.

If you’re not sure about what want out of life, then society is going to be quick to tell you what you should want. 

Life is more than just drinking coffee, going to work, and paying bills. Sometimes what you want is going to fit the mould and sometimes it’s not. Both things are OK. 

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