I recently (ish) celebrated my 30th birthday – welcome to the next age bracket on the demographic forms!
As I’ve entered a new decade of life, I decided to pre-empt any “oh-god-I’ve-wasted-the-last-ten-years” regret (hello, my twenties!), and begun reading around for advice for people entering their thirties.
I found the same advice often came up again and again, from a variety of sources, countries, and life experiences. Reassuringly, many people say that your 30s are the best years of your life – you’re still young, but with the hard lessons and gained wisdom from your 20s behind you. That has been true for me so far, and I believe that it’s all uphill from here. My 20s were kind of a nightmare, but I figure that I’ve got all my misery and hard lessons out of the way ready for the rest of my life to be a joyful, exciting adventure.
I thought I’d share what I learned here – so, here’s a few tips gathered from the sage wisdom of the internet on how to make the most of your 30s – although honestly, it’s good common sense that applies to people of any age.
Get your finances in order
Your 30s is the decade to get your shit together, finance-wise – this includes paying down as much debt as you can, paying into a pension if you haven’t started already, and making sure you stash a small portion of every paycheck into a savings account. I believe that every person should have a “Fuck Off Fund” – enough money saved away in a private savings account to enable you to get out of a shitty situation if you need to, such as being stuck in a miserable job, an abusive living situation, or ending up with an unexpected large bill. I’ve had a Fuck Off Fund since I first read about it in 2016, and knowing that the money is there if I ever need it gives me a huge sense of security.
Take care of your health
We all know what we’re supposed to do – exercise 3-5 times a week, eat well, avoid saturated fats – and as we get older, staying healthy becomes more important than ever. Bad habits are easier to shake now than later, and damage is harder to reverse the older you get. I’ve noticed that my body is starting to lose its resilience in the last year or two – I get achy knees when I’ve sat down for too long (!), and partying until dawn results in a minimum of a 2-day hangover afterwards. As much as I long for the halcyon days of effortless joint movement and hangover-free benders, I know that these days I need to take care of myself a little better – or, accept that sometimes the juice is worth the squeeze, and resign myself to a bit of misery for the sake of a great night out.
You can’t have it all
Our time on earth is finite, and unless you’re a multipotentialite high-performer who can survive on 4 hours of sleep and still be happy and productive, then there just isn’t the time to do everything we want to do. I tend to be a jack-of-all-trades, so this has been a hard lesson for me to learn – I wrote about it in issues 16 and 20 of my zine, and listed all my retired creative projects that I finally realised I didn’t have the time to dedicate to. Up until now, I have had the tendency to try loads of different things at once, which is fun in the moment, but means I inevitably end up half-assing a lot of things instead of whole-assing one or two things. I’ve come to accept that it’s more rewarding and enriching to focus on fewer things and do them well, rather than spreading myself thinly and constantly burning out (although your mileage may vary of course, and if being a multipotentialite works for you, then go for it). This means I may have to finally accept that I won’t ever learn how to speak fluent French… (le sigh)
Prioritise meaningful relationships
Let go of people who aren’t making your life better and surround yourself with people who treat you well. This includes enforcing good boundaries, prioritising moments with loved ones over material things, and refusing to settle for mediocre friends and relationships. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and lift you up as much as you can, rather than those who bring you down. Value your friends and family (your given family or your chosen family – I believe that family is whatever you make of it, and not necessarily only who you’re related to by blood), and invest in developing and maintaining those relationships.
Your life is not locked in at 30
We’re often told that we should have everything figured out by the age of 30 – a clear career path, a marriage, mortgage, children, and so on. But this isn’t true, of course – life doesn’t always turn out as planned, and it’s ok to tear it all down and start over at any age. Major career, lifestyle or relationship changes are brave and valuable, and it’s ok to take some time figuring out what exactly you want from your life.
“leap, and the net will appear” – Julia Cameron
DO what makes you happy, not what’s expected of you
Related to the above point – if a career path, marriage, mortgage, children etc aren’t for you, that’s fine! Life is too short to waste in unhappy situations, or mired in anxiety about whether we’re doing the “right” thing. We don’t live in our parents’ age anymore – we don’t ‘have’ to get married, have children, buy a house, stay in the same job forever, or live in the same town that we grew up in. This freedom can be frightening, but it’s also very liberating.
“don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice” – Steve Jobs
Keep growing and learning
Whether it’s going back to school, taking up new hobbies and practices, investing in therapy, or finally doing the things you’ve always wanted to do, you should go for it. Life doesn’t stop at 30, you don’t need to stop developing yourself just because you’ve reached a job you like well enough, or because you’ve reached a certain age. We’re all constant works in progress, and keep growing and changing with every passing day. Personal growth, challenge, and self-development make for an interesting and rich life. The future awaits!