Back in 2019, Taylor Swift penned an essay for Elle Magazine titled 30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30. I knew I had to do the same thing once it was my 30th birthday. Last year, I turned 29 a week before quarantine began and because I’ve been home ever since, I feel like I went straight from 28 to 30. Even though my 29th year was spent in close quarters, it was a great time to reflect on the last three decades of my life. And boy, was there a lot to look back on.
Now, on my 30th birthday, I’m sharing 30 things I’ve learned so far. Some of these things I’m still working through myself. But that’s okay: I’m human. I’m always learning. I’m growing every day.
Here’s to more lessons, joy, and love yet to come.
One through ten
1) Finding and keeping friends as an adult isn’t easy, but don’t take it personally. I wrote about this once and I’ll say it again: people who really want to be a part of your life will find a way to be a part of it.
2) Sometimes, the things you wish for aren’t right for you after all. And sometimes, things turn out even better than you imagined.
3) Unconditional love shouldn’t be romanticized. It is often used as a crutch to be lazy. Don’t get lazy.
4) Everyone doesn’t need to know everything. Privacy is important. Some things are better kept to yourself.
5) Having a hobby is just as important as having a job. Make time for the thing you enjoy doing not because it makes you money, but just because you love it.
6) You have to learn to let some things go: difficult friends, eyebrow-raising comments, dumb boys. Sometimes, they’re not worth your brain space.
7) When all else fails, put on music. Had a bad day? Music. Just got good news? Music. Someone fighting with their boyfriend loudly on the phone during an otherwise quiet bus ride home? Music.
8) You should surround yourself with people who love you, not pick you apart—no matter how much you want their approval.
9) Love changes shape over the years and becomes something else. This is fine. Just because it doesn’t feel like how it first felt doesn’t mean it isn’t love anymore.
10) When people are mean to you, it’s usually more of a problem with them than with you.
Eleven through twenty
11) When you start setting boundaries with people who are used to steamrolling you, they won’t like it. They will push back. Don’t let them.
12) You can be as kind and supportive as you like, but if people don’t want it, they don’t want it. Don’t force it.
13) You don’t need to love yourself first to love someone else, but it helps. Take some of that love you give to them and learn to give it to yourself.
14) Conversations hit different after midnight, always.
15) Most social media is a big lie and you can’t let it deceive you. Remember that nothing—and no one—is perfect.
16) You can’t make everyone happy, so don’t even try. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just focus on what’s best for you or the team.
17) Video games are not just for kids. Don’t let anyone tell you that shit. They’re just jealous that you’re still having fun and embracing your inner child when they obviously aren’t.
18) Whether you make $40k or $140k, your day job doesn’t define who you are. If your job is suddenly gone one day, you are always left with who you are.
19) Self-care and self-love should be your #1 priority. Take care of yourself first so you can then take care of others.
20) The criticisms are always louder than the compliments. Try to focus instead on what you love about yourself, not what others don’t like about you.
Twenty-one through thirty
21) If you don’t hear it enough, you should tell it to yourself. Over and over.
22) When one dream dies, another one thrives. It doesn’t mean your life is over.
23) The hard times are there to make you stronger—and you will be stronger.
24) Some people are only meant to be a part of your life for a little while. Take what you learned and let them leave.
25) Other people are meant to be a part of your life forever. Make sure you take care of them.
26) Being true to yourself is the key to happiness. If you spend your life doing only what others want you to do and don’t listen to your heart, you’ll never reach fulfillment.
27) Letting something end isn’t the same as giving up if all you ever did was try. Sometimes, the end of something is the start of something necessary.
28) Societal standards are unrealistic so don’t even waste your time. What matters the most is what you think about yourself and what you want out of your life.
29) Communication is key, so always tell the people you care about how you feel. Don’t assume they know. Don’t let them guess. Talk to them. Tell them. Open up your heart.
30) Loving yourself takes a lot of work and a lot of repetition. It’s a life-long process, so start as soon as you can.
What was your favorite lesson from this list? Have you also celebrated a milestone birthday recently? What have you learned? I’d love to know!
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Megan Portorreal is a professional writer, editor, and creative in the New York City area. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, writing about her life, and playing video games.