Why Life Gets Even Better After Turning 30

There’s a scene in the movie 13 Going On 30, when the main character—Jenna, a young woman sick of being a teenager—makes a wish to become “thirty, flirty and thriving.” To her great surprise, Jenna wakes up the next morning as her 30-year-old self, which begins an adventure where she learns that life can be challenging at any age.

In my experience, there are two dual expectations around arriving at the big 3-0: You either have it all figured out (ha!) or you’ve just hit an expiration date on multiple personal levels. For instance, when I turned thirty, people asked with a smirk how it felt . . . as if they expected an angst-ridden answer.

But here’s the truth: Hitting the third decade of life can actually be pretty awesome, so read on to learn why.

 

You realize age is just a number.

True to the Aaliyah song, age ain’t nothin’ but a number. On my thirtieth birthday, I woke up and felt . . . exactly the same as 29.

Sure, I’m definitely noticing extra creases around my eyes and I’ve upped my skin care game like whoa, but I don’t “feel” older. Nor do I feel more “grown-up,” despite having checked some societal boxes like marriage and parenthood. Most of the time, as my friend Elyssa says, I still kind of feel like a kid trying really hard to be an adult.

So when it comes to the number of candles on your birthday cake, remember that your attitude defines your outlook going forward. You can choose to be stressed and anxious about a certain age, or you can choose to be grateful and open to another year of life on this earth.

 

Source: @elliedanver

 

You learn to practice daily self-care.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if every day, someone came up to you and was like, “Hey. You work so hard. Treat ‘yo self.” I hate to disappoint you, but nobody is going to necessarily remind you to take care of yourself, which means that you have to be the one to do it.

At thirty, I’ve learned there are many ways to practice self-care. It might mean eating a nutritious salad or indulging in a cookie, appreciating your curves or going for a run. It could involve carving out an hour (or three) on the weekend to watch your favorite television shows, skipping that happy hour event with a bunch of acquaintances, or journaling every morning before work. You get to decide how best to prioritize your mind, body, and spirit.

 

 

You know your own impulses.

For better or worse, I am much more aware of my impulses—like when I’m getting cranky and about to say something rude to my mother but really I just need to get off the phone and go to sleep. Or when I’m dwelling on 747382943 things but really I just need to let all the things go. Or when I’m tearing up because I got cut off in traffic but really I just need to cry about something sad from the other day.

Being thirty has taught me to be a little more in tune with my patterns, habits, and behaviors. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect; it just means I’ve lived with myself long enough to know when I’m about ready to take action in a certain way. Sometimes I can cut poor choices off at the start (“Hi, maybe don’t drink half a bottle of wine tonight”) or acknowledge how best to push myself further (“Hi again, I know you like to procrastinate but maaaaybe start that project now”).

 

You are more confident.

The older I get, the more confident I become regarding my appearance, career decisions, relationships, and overall choices. I care less and less about pleasing other people, spending money on the “right” materialistic items, and obsessing about how my life looks on the outside or on social media. I’m better at saying no, backing off and turning away from the people and things that do not serve me.

That doesn’t mean I always feel confident, of course—but I know that I’m doing my best and trying to grow as a person. And that’s good enough for me.

 

 

You quit judging everybody all the time.

Okay, so maybe you don’t 100% quit, but you at least notice where you’re doing it and call yourself out. At thirty, I’ve lived long enough to realize that A) lots of things are gray, not black or white and B) you never know the battles other people are fighting. Sure, being critical makes me feel high and mighty for a hot second, but then it feels kind of yucky, like I just ate too much candy. I also know what it’s like to be judged, and it sucks.

So, I am trying to gossip less and be more open-minded and wait for context (because there is always more information to come!). What other people choose to do is none of my business, which makes it a waste of time for me to spend so much time criticizing.

 

Source: @homeyohmy

 

You own your mistakes.

One big sign of maturity? Taking full responsibility when you mess up, instead of blaming it on other people or external forces. Similarly, there comes a point where you should know how to deliver a real apology, one where you say, “I’m sorry I hurt you” rather than “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt.”

Learn how to have empathy for yourself and other people; we all know that it doesn’t feel good to hurt someone with our words or actions, and it also doesn’t feel good to be the one who royally messed up. At age thirty, I’ve started to hold myself accountable to a higher standard related to my own mistakes and missteps.

 

 

You admit what you don’t know.

This is a strange thing to admit on the Internet, but I used to majorly stress out when I didn’t know the answer to something, or I wasn’t familiar with a subject of conversation, or I didn’t have a ready-to-go response upon being asked a question. I thought it made me look dumb, and I wanted to seem intelligent and smart—so sometimes, I would pretend rather than simply say, “I don’t know.”

And then one day, I realized that . . . it’s OK to not know. People actually respect you more when you’re honest about the gaps and limitations in your knowledge bank, and admitting what you don’t know allows you to ask questions and actually learn something new.

 

You stop wasting time.

For some of us, turning thirty brings us closer to a sense of our own impermanent nature (you know, death, which is scary to think about it). But instead of letting it bring you down or paralyze you, allow it serve as motivation. You don’t know how long your life will last, and the longer you live, the more you realize how quickly things can go in a different direction than anticipated.

So, surround yourself with the people you love, and tell them you love them every day. Pursue hobbies and activities that bring you joy. Say no to shit that weighs you down. Forgive the best you can. Help others whenever possible. Let your ambition be a light guiding you forward on a journey of exploration. Learn something new, even if you don’t get paid for it. Allow yourself to be surprised, so that you can embrace change and make the most out of the one short life you’ve got.

 

Source: @ariellevey

 

You discover there are no rules.

The best thing about turning thirty, for me, was realizing that I literally did not have to follow the rules. I mean, yes, I have to pay taxes and all that stuff—but what I’m talking about are the dumb societal rules that suggest you must live your life according to a certain trajectory. The truth is, you get to decide.

Maybe you want to live in an apartment with no pets and run your own online business. Maybe you move in with your parents to help take care of them in old age. Maybe you quit your job, and maybe you stay the course for a few more years to save money. Maybe you break up with your boyfriend of five years and start a new life across the country. Maybe you get married and have 2.5 kids and buy a big house with a picket fence. Maybe you land the corner office. Maybe you have a plush 401k or maybe you have a couple hundred bucks to your name.

There is no “right” way to live your life, even if your parents and siblings and friends all think so. A good life is one that feels right to you in terms of where and how you spend your time, health, and wealth.

 

How do you feel about turning thirty, or if you’re already there, what is the best part about it?

 

This article was originally published on December 11, 2016.

  • Nikki Laraja

    Great post, I couldn’t agree more!

    http://www.shopthecoconutroom.com

  • You give zero f**** about what people think about you and your decisions!

    Love this post, and while gravity becomes a real bummer in your 30s 😉 everything else can be pretty awesome!!

    • Julia

      yesssss – there are no f*cks to be had! 🙂

  • This most comes at a really great time for me. I’m in my early thirties and I tend to place a lot of pressure on myself to be at a place that most of my peers are at: homes, kids, career, retirement plans, etc., etc., etc. But when I stop playing the comparison game, I feel fine – great even. So thanks for this reminder that it’s up to us to find and create our life, because age is just a stinkin number. xx

    • Julia

      It absolutely is – if you feel good about your life, then you’ve got a good life, no matter what society tells you! <3

  • Rebecca Ann

    I just passed the halfway mark of my 30th year. I have become a much better version of myself than I was in my 20s, but I am still working on some of these things. I’m sure I will get there as time goes on. The one I can’t seem to shake though is feeling behind in life; I’m single, with what seems like no hope of a serious relationship anywhere in the near future, and a mountain of student loan debt weighing on my every decision and keeping me from doing as many things as I’d like.

    • The Everygirl

      Hi Rebecca,
      Thanks so much for sharing! It’s so hard not to play the comparison game, even as we graduate to our 30s. (Plus, social media and cultivated lives don’t help, are we right?) It’s all about making the best decisions for you and trying (we know it’s hard) not to judge ourselves based on anyone else’s journey. <3

    • Julia

      Girl, I HEAR YOU on the student loan debt. (I mean, I’d love to go freelance someday with writing but for now I got a full-time gig to pay those loan bills… which won’t be paid off until I’m like 40! Woo! Ha.) And it is so hard to feel like you’re not where you want to be. Know that you aren’t alone, and be kind to yourself. You’re doing your best.

  • Denise

    I agree with all these points! I was scared to turn thirty because of all the expectations that come along with it. But now I realize I can care less about others expectations and live for myself.

    -Denise
    http://activehabitat.blogspot.com/

    • Julia

      So many expectations – it’s just crazy. Glad to hear you are living for yourself, as you should!

  • lucialeongt

    I recently turned 30. Great post and thank you. I felt insecure about turning 30 but at the same time, i felt also happy because I am already living in an apartment and that was a main goal for me before turning 30. The scary part comes when we start comparing ourselves with the rest of the women out there and we forget that everyone has its own path to live by. 🙂

    • Julia

      Lovely words of wisdom – thank you! “Follow your own path” is wonderful advice. Also, happy belated birthday, and thanks for this thoughtful comment!

  • Janine

    Agreed! I’m 34 now, but I remember turning 30 felt freeing – I began to feel more like myself and began to embrace myself for who I am.

  • Lexi

    Really love and appreciate this post of yours, Julia! I’m just about to turn 30 this year and already agree on everything you shared. I’ve really become more mindful, braver and confident in the decisions I make – whether I end up thriving or making a mistake that I have to learn from. I guess in the end it’s the realization that there’s absolutely no reason to fear turning 30, but instead, I’m actually really excited! ☺️

  • Yesenia Medina

    Turning 30 definitely scared the heck out of me. This article gives me some peace of mind that it will all turn out ok. Thanks for the read.

  • Tiffany

    Exactly what I needed at this moment. I turn the big 30 in July, family and society put so much pressure on the whole “you should have your life together.” I say screw it all. I’m just going to live my life. Thank you for writing this article 🙂

  • I definitely agree with you that there are no rules. A lot of people expect to be married with kids by thirty or have snagged their masters degree in some prestigious arena. I’ve done none of those things and I don’t feel much like doing them either. Woot for just continuing to be my quirky self, living life on my terms, until the end of time!

  • Girl yes!! There are no rules! The first time i started to realize that I felt so calm. I’m learning not to compare my chapter with someone elses. They’re writing a completely different book than I am! And both books are best sellers. There truly is no “normal”

  • Liz B.

    Love this. I too have tried to drop the judgement. We never know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. A good reminder!

  • Beautyful Rissa

    OMG! My bday is today and I am so nervous but embracing turning 30….it is another chapter in my life for me to learn more and better myself! I am in school right now to become a Paralegal and I couldn’t be more proud of myself?!!!! I feel alone and wish I had more stable relationship or a friend or two, but there always progress to be made?! I think the biggest thing for me to do is embrace how far I’ve come and I’m not the same person?! I know I have grown and I still am even though, others may not see it….I know I have changed for the better! I’m happy about my career choice and other things that are going good in my life……