35 things I’ve learned in my 35 years

35 things I’ve learned in my 35 years

I turn 35 this weekend, which simultaneously blows my mind and seems completely natural.

I’d always heard the thirties were the years where you hit your stride, and now that I’m smack in the middle of them, I believe the hype. I’m a million times more sure of myself, and more comfortable in my own skin and my place in the world, than I was at 24, or 29.

It’s true, I could wake up cosmically freaking out tomorrow, but if I do I hope I have the good sense to take a nap (lesson #32) and get something to eat. Because really, the thirties are pretty great.

For my birthday, here are 35 things I’ve learned in my 35 years.

35 lessons I’ve learned in 35 years.

1. Younger people tend to see things in black and white. Experience lets you see the grey.

2. How you dress changes how you feel. When you put in the extra effort to look (a tiny bit) snazzy, you’ll look cute and get a spring in your step.

3. Getting to know yourself sounds deceptively simple and is surprisingly complicated. It’s still worth doing.

4. It is possible to make good coffee at home, for cheap. Even lattés! (You’re welcome.)35 Things I've Learned in 35 Years | It is possible to make good coffee at home. Even lattes.

5. Fanfiction stinks. Pretty much always.

6. Hard times are no fun but they make you who you are. A story–your life story–is pretty boring without highs and lows. Don’t fear the lows.

7. Don’t wish your life away. When I was a teen (and a young 25-year-old mother) I spent too much time wishing I was older. Now that I am older, I can see how silly that was.

8. Dorks are more fun.

9. “More” does not mean “better.” Consider: choices, stuff, email.

10. Don’t be a people pleaser when it’s time to make big life decisions. Or anytime, really. Life’s too short.

35 Things I've Learned in 35 Years | Modern Mrs Darcy

11. Look for actions that yield disproportionate results, and hammer them hard, whether it means a $3 bouquet that brings you a zillion units of happiness, a 5 minute call to your mom that makes her day, or setting the coffee timer the night before.

12. Looking put-together is 90% hair. Experiment to find a flattering cut, and figure out how to style it yourself.

13. Trying to time a pregnancy? It’s a crapshoot.

14. Figure out your personality type. And while you’re at it, figure out the personality type of your best friend, husband, roommate, mom.

15. Don’t talk about people when they aren’t there. There might be one good reason to gossip, but there are a whole lot more not to.

16. Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. (This Eisenhower quote is one of my favorites.)

17. When you have no idea what to say to someone who’s hurting, just say something, and say it from the heart. Saying nothing hurts more than saying the wrong thing.

18. The twentysomething years are full of drama. They just are.

19. Living debt-free brings freedom and flexibility. We drive old cars and are still in our starter house, but our significant life decisions haven’t been impacted by student loan payments, a monster mortgage, or an ambitious car payment.

20. Even if you like to fly by the seat of your pants, you’ll be better off with some structure to your days. (Ahem.)

21. Coffee dates pack as much quality time as dinner dates, and are a whole lot cheaper.

22. Even good change is stressful. Getting married, having a baby, landing a dream job are just a few examples of happy milestones that still shock your system. You’re going to feel discombobulated for a bit, and that’s okay.

35 things I've learned in 35 years | Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is walk your dog

23. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is walk your dog.

24. Failure isn’t a verdict: it’s information you can use to plot your next move. Getting things wrong is every bit as helpful as getting things right.

25. Pretty much everything is more fun when you’re good at it. Spend the time to get really good at something.

26. Be really, really careful before you give away the baby gear. Judging from my own experience–and the experience of a whole lot of other parents I know–that’s the other way babies are made.

27. Before you say, “I could never…” remember that other people once thought they couldn’t, either–maybe even the person you’re speaking to. And now they’re doing it. Think hard before you open your mouth and sound like a jerk.

28. Get a counselor before you need one. At the very least, decide who you might see if a crisis erupts. Then when you need to reach out for help you won’t have to figure out how to deal with the problem before you can even begin to actually work through it.

29. Traveling is great. But there’s nothing like your own bed.

30. Personal growth isn’t linear. It’s messy and winding; you’ll circle around and backtrack and then leap forward so fast it takes your breath away. Just go with it.

31. When someone you love enters the room, let your face speak what’s in your heart.

35 things I've learned in 35 years | when you feel like you're on the verge of an epic meltdown, eat a sandwich

32. When you feel like you’re on the verge of an epic meltdown, eat a sandwich. Drink a glass of water. And if possible, take a nap.

33. Don’t let relationships drift away. If you find a kindred spirit, hang on tight. Some relationships naturally come to an end, but to let it happen because of carelessness is just sad.

34. When it comes to coffee and ice cream, buy the good stuff. It’s worth the extra cash.

35. It’s true what they say: the thirties are pretty great.

What would you add to the list?

P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.

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  1. Carie says:

    Hey! Going to be 38 this year. While this may not have been the 35 things I would have chosen. I enjoyed reading them. So true, even good change is stressful. I would disagree with #17. In our American culture we are uncomfortable with silence and feel we always need to say something. For example when my friend’s husband died of brain cancer and someone passing through the viewing line at the funeral home says, “you’re young, you will find someone else.” Yeah – a hug is better. Or when my husband had been deployed to Iraq for 5 months and wouldn’t be returning for another 8 or 9 months and a mom at the home school group says, “Oh, that’s just around the corner.” Yeah – offering to take my kids for the night or just saying nothing. I have lived in several countries and cultures now. I’ve come to the conclusion that spending time sitting and saying nothing is sometimes a really good option.

    • Anne says:

      Oh my goodness! Those are truly horrible things to say. Let’s try this: it’s much better to give a hug than to ignore the pain and try and pretend the devastating thing never happened.

      My husband was just gone for a week and it was ROUGH. Thirteen months has my utmost respect (and kicks all my can-I-bring-you-brownies gears into overdrive). Just around the corner? Yeah, better to just keep quiet. 🙂

  2. Molly says:

    Tons of great advice here! I’m pinning this and rereading it regularly. I turned 40 last year, and these are still good reminders.

    I’d add: 1) When you decided to be your own person, don’t be shocked be major backlash from others. Some people can’t handle it when others choose for themselves. 2) Soak it all in and enjoy the ride. You can’t get back in line for this roller coaster.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Happy birthday, Anne! These are excellent words of wisdom; thanks for sharing them. I especially liked #31 because an hour ago I took my son to his special-needs day camp. He was hoping his friend Nick, whom he hasn’t seen for a few months, would be there, and he was. They saw each other from across the huge parking lot, and their faces said it all — the sheer joy of being together again.

  4. Sara K. says:

    As a fellow 35-year-old I completely agree! I am loving my 30s! I work with a lot of 20-somethings, and sometimes I just shake my head at them thinking “Soon they will learn. Soon they will see otherwise.” I feel much more confident in myself now than I did 10 years ago.

    The only thing I would add is that its ok to like what you like even if you are the only one who does. You don’t have to follow the fashion trends or be up on the latest celebrities. It’s ok if it’s your thing, but don’t feel pressured.

    Happy Birthday!

  5. Diane says:

    You’ll be happy to know the that the 30’s were good, the 40’s better, and I’m finding the 50’s even better! Lots to looks forward to!

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