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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.