When I thought about turning 30, it came with a long laundry list of expectations—but when the big day arrived, I had accomplished exactly zero of these things. And guess what? It’s okay.
So often, we make a plan of action and then berate ourselves when we don’t reach our objectives at the speed of light. We forget that a lot of good things take time, and occasionally, setting an intention is more powerful than checking a goal off a list. Here are 25 things I wish I would have done before turning thirty, but didn’t—and why that’s perfectly fine with me.
1. Learned to sew a button.
As ridiculous as it may be to put this on the list, it’s more ridiculous to be three decades into life without knowing how to repair a damn button. I’m hoping this is the year I use YouTube to learn how to thread a needle so that I can stop walking around with random holes in my clothing. (Then again, that’s what tailors are for.)
2. Eliminated all debt.
Boring and true. I wish I had put more time and energy into reducing—and completely avoiding—credit card debt, as well as aggressively paying off student loans. I also wish I had three months of an emergency fund. However, I don’t, so instead of lamenting the money I don’t have, I’m trying to be proactive to the best of my ability. Like actually setting a budget and meeting with a financial planner and not buying stuff I don’t need.
3. Traveled to the Greek Islands . . .
. . . or Croatia, or Iceland, or South Africa, or anywhere abroad more frequently. I’ve got wanderlust running through my veins, which means I want to travel everywhere, every year. Maybe I didn’t check numerous exotic countries and cities off my list, but I’m grateful for the places I did visit. And going forward, instead of waiting to go someplace new another one, two, five years down the line, I now make a yearly plan (with a savings account to back it up) that ensures I’ll eventually see all the greatest wonders of the world.
4. Lived in my own place for more than a year.
Between college, city life, and relationships, I lived alone in my twenties for a total of about one year—and now that I’m married, I wish it had been longer. (No offense to my husband; he’s awesome.) Having your own place, where you can do whatever you want whenever you want, is a special kind of freedom. The bright side? I learned many, many helpful lessons from cohabitating with a few different significant others as well, which just goes to show that both sets of experiences can be valuable.
5. Took a long break from dating.
In your twenties, it is easy to slip into the habit of always either “seeing” someone, being in a relationship, or constantly looking for a partner. While I definitely experienced pauses from the dating scene, they were always combined with heartache of some kind, and I wish I had given myself a chance to experience life without dating and without being sad about it. That being said, being consistently open to pursuing love also taught me how to discern what I needed in a relationship, which guided me to the person I wanted to marry.
6. Stopped trying to “fix” people.
Say it with me: Stop. Trying. To. Fix. People. I promise that you can care deeply for another human being—and offer support, love, and advice— without taking on the weight of their problems. I would’ve saved myself hours (or weeks, or complete years, ugh) if I had learned this a bit sooner. Getting walked all over and treated terribly did, however, show me the importance of stepping back from certain individuals and situations. That means I’m now a little better at accepting people for who they are, not who I want them to be, and I can pull back when I notice myself drifting into “savior” mode.
7. Said goodbye to toxic relationships.
Similarly, why did I devote so much energy to relationships that I knew were bad for me? Whether a friend, lover, family member, or close acquaintance, the sooner I moved away from people that brought me down, the more at peace I felt—and wondered what took me so long. As much as I want to shout this piece of advice from the rooftops, I’m aware it’s one of those life lessons you can’t always learn until you go through it, and even then, sometimes that’s how you gain wisdom. Poet Mary Oliver puts it this way: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
8. Stayed up all night for the sunrise.
My dad used to wake me up by turning the lights on, yanking the covers off, and singing loudly—and if I complained, he’d add, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” In other words, he meant that I should take advantage of being awake rather than succumbing to the “I’m tiiiiired” line. When I look back, I wish I had occasionally lived a little and stayed up all night to watch the sun rise. Time slows down, the world is quiet and all feels peaceful. But all those hours I snoozed in the comfort of my cozy bed? #sorrynotsorry.
9. Spent fewer hours at the gym.
Up until age 30, I thought that working out meant being skinny and/or looking good. Wrong. Being active is about feeling good, and exercise can happen anywhere, as it is more of a lifestyle than a singular choice. All those hours at the gym added up to the realization that . . . I hate the gym, and I prefer to be outside or in a yoga class. Lesson: Pursue movement that you actually enjoy, and give yourself the chance to try new activities.
10. Climbed a mountain.
Whenever I hear about someone climbing a literal mountain, I feel a little twinge of jealousy and imagine what it would be like to stand at the top of a giant part of Earth and see thousands of miles into the distance. But have I, in the past ten years, come anywhere close to climbing a mountain? Hell no. And that’s fine. It’s staying on my personal bucket list as an extraordinary goal. If anything, it reminds me to practice tackling the smaller “mountains” of my everyday life—like making it to work on time every day.
11. Ran a marathon.
After running my first half-marathon upon turning thirty (and six months after having a baby!) I felt strong, empowered, and capable. Many of my running buddies set their sights on completing a full marathon next, which I politely declined. Truth be told, the idea of putting one foot in front of the other for that many miles intimidates me beyond belief. But maybe I will, someday, because nothing beats the sense of accomplishment at the end of doing something you weren’t sure you could do.
12. Learned a second language.
Throughout my twenties, I dreamed of dusting off my French skills from high school to claim the title of bilingual. I even ordered the infamous Rosetta Stone! Then I proceeded to set that goal off to the side because it seemed like . . . a lot of work. But in an ever-changing global world, I’m aware that additional language skills can prove invaluable for setting me apart in terms of career growth. And if toddlers can pick up a few words here and there, I certainly can give it a go. Besides, I really want to order a cappuccino in a cute cafe on my next trip abroad.
13. Took a coding class.
While I know coding basics from a marketing and blogging standpoint, I’ve never taken the initiative to learn more—because it’s super overwhelming. I think I’ve also fallen prey to the whole “I’m not good at science” mindset. Instead of selling myself short, it’s high time to check out online offerings such as Khan Academy and Codeacademy that claim they can teach anyone to code. And as technology continues to change at a rapid pace, I certainly don’t want to be the old lady in the corner unwilling to join the conversation.
14. Invested in high quality clothing items.
I used to buy a new pair of black flats every single year, reasoning that I “wore them out.” I finally realized, however, that they wore out because they were cheaply made—and once I bit the bullet on a higher quality brand of shoes, they lasted much longer. Now, even when clothing items feel more expensive upfront, I consider them an investment and calculate price per wear. Doing so adds value to my closet (and shields me from the frustration of trying to resell at Plato’s Closet for pennies). Will I ever have a true capsule wardrobe? Nah, but at least I’ll have a few pairs of good jeans handy.
15. Road-tripped across the country.
Growing up, my family drove to Florida for vacation once a year, and while my sisters and I complained immensely about being cramped in the car sharing snacks and discmans (it was the 90’s, y’all), we made the best memories. Nowadays, flying tends to be the go-to (though still a luxury), but I wish I made the effort to drive across the country more often as an adult, either with a partner, siblings, or friends. There’s nothing quite like traveling in a car for miles and hours on end, stopping wherever you feel like it, and being open to whatever experiences arise.
16. Scheduled an annual girls’ weekend.
I recently read In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney, which made me think about all the amazing, creative women in my life who I only see a few times a year, if that. My best friends and I always talk about getting together on an annual basis to reconnect, but then life gets in the way and it doesn’t happen. Going forward, I’m much more aware of the value of these relationships, and the fact that they need nurturing—not just social media likes. The good news is that it only takes a quick FaceTime to get back on the same page!
17. Asked questions about my family history.
I keep thinking I should ask my grandparents all these questions about their lives, and yet I find that I continue to put it off. Or I go to the doctor, and when he or she asks about family conditions, I realize that I don’t actually know who had any particular disease. What happens, then, if they aren’t around in another ten years? The answer: I’ll regret not making time to have those conversations, about health or tradition or crazy stories or anything, really. In other words, time to make some phone calls.
18. Read all the classics.
Google any “classic books everyone should read” list, and guaranteed, I haven’t read at least 25% of them. And I’m an English major with a graduate degree in literature. The thing is, reading books takes time, and while I wish I could say I’ve read them all, I haven’t—but that just means I’ve got a long-standing list of great ones to check out every time I hit up the local library. Or I can continue to rely on Wikipedia for a short summary. #sorrynotsorry
19. Attended the symphony.
I love music, but I’ve never been to the symphony because I’m nervous it will be . . . dull. It’s time for that to change, because the symphony is really just an opportunity to get dressed up, be classy for a night, and pretend like you’re living in a soundtrack. Alternatively, I’m open to saving that *very adult* outing for another birthday, and continue to prioritize attending Justin Bieber concerts with my 18-year-old sister. (True.)
20. Lived in another country.
While studying abroad in Rome, I swore to myself that I’d come back one day—to live as an expat. The reality is I haven’t set foot in Italy since then, though it’s something I’d love to do eventually. Living like a local in another country is not only a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of one place, but yet again provides a nuanced, fresh way of looking at the world—and your place in it. On the other hand, living in another country is very far from my loved ones, and I think in reality, I’d hate dealing with the distance. For now, I’m happy I’ve made my mark, and a home, in the Midwest.
21. Ran for local political office.
If anything, this year’s election has shown all of us the importance of getting involved—and making your voice heard—in the political realm, both at the national and local level. Rather than griping about how things are in my city, I wish I had made the effort to join in much sooner, but I also didn’t have a good grasp of my political stances and opinions, so I wouldn’t have known how to make a solid impact. And even if “office” translates to city council or a nonprofit board, better late than never.
22. Made more friendships of all ages.
Right now, I have friends ranging from twenty-two to mid-forties—and that’s a good thing. By building and nurturing friendships across many ages, I’ve been able to learn from different walks of life and sets of experiences, which is something that didn’t happen when I only hung out with people my exact same age. The trade-off of having friends your age, though, is going through much of the same things at the same time, and for that, I’m grateful.
23. Gotten a facial.
YOU GUYS. I got my first facial this year, and it is like a massage for your entire face. The benefits are endless: better circulation, reduced lines, faded age spots, and overall relaxation, just to name a few. Even though facials are pricey, and seem like they should be reserved for lifestyles of the rich and famous, I wish I had given them a go sooner as part of my skin-care routine. At least I’ve been wearing sunscreen and avoiding the tanning bed, and I’m much more aware of the importance of skincare.
24. Wrote a book.
My biggest life goal is to write a novel, and for the longest time, I pictured completing it by the age of thirty. But that didn’t happen. As much as I wanted to pursue this dream, I kept putting it off for when I felt “ready.” Newsflash: Nobody ever feels “ready” to start in on their dreams; you do so with baby steps over time. What I learned from not doing this before 30 is that I could easily go another ten years and find myself in the same place. And I don’t what to do that. It turns out not hitting your goal helped me decide how much I wanted it.
25. Threw myself a birthday party.
For some reason, the older I get, the more I witness people downplaying their birthday. “No big deal,” they shrug. “I can’t even remember what age I am anymore.” Um, no. Every year that you get to live is a reason to celebrate, and a gift. Going forward, I plan to throw my own birthday bash every June and enjoy half-birthdays as well. Why not?
What do you wish you would’ve done before turning thirty? Or, what’s on your bucket list before turning thirty?
This post was originally published on January 21, 2017.