The surprising lessons I learned before my 31st birthday
I have read so many books and articles on what I am supposed to be doing with my life and what I am supposed to have, be, feel when I hit 30.
Let me tell you, turning 30 was not a good experience for me. I cringed at the thought of having one of those cheesy parties where friends bring out a big 3-0 on a cake and Instagram a million pictures with duck faces and #dirtythirty’s. Ugh.
So instead, I went for a hike to be alone with my thoughts and really think about how I was going to be different this year. I thought about all those “What to Do Before you Hit 30” lists that included bungee jumping, sky diving, climbing Everest, and eating pig ears and worms. My mind drifted.
I am now 5 months away from my 31st birthday and I feel like an utter failure. I’m still a victim of old habits and I can’t shake off the feeling that I’ve wasted so much time. Where did the days go? I’ve had a big year. I married the love of my life. I moved to LA from Dubai. By all means, those things are hugely significant. And yet, I find myself racing against time to check off the things I promised myself I would do the year I turned 30.
But what were those things?
I went back to my journal and revisited the list I put together on my 30th birthday. I was shocked to find that I was actually well on my way.
No, I hadn’t made a speech in public, saved a life (to my knowledge), or learned a new language. But I had taken a leap of faith (isn’t marriage the ultimate leap of faith?), reinvented myself somehow (that whole moving across an ocean thing), and started pursuing my passion for food, nutrition, and social contribution (by starting a blog about healthy food and inspiration with a Lebanese twist).
I wasn’t exactly blown away by my progress, but I did pause to give myself a pat on the back for my little wins so far. I found myself taking these lessons from my experience.
Write your own list.
Our generation is so overwhelmingly influenced by so much information coming at us from all angles of social media. So many people and articles tell us what we should be doing, thinking, feeling, eating, drinking, etc. While this information is valuable to some extent, it is more important than ever to take time for ourselves and write our own life’s to do lists and create our own story. What does turning 30, 35, 40 mean to YOU?
Be kind to yourself.
So many of us have heard this cheesy cliché, and yet, few of us actually apply it. Why was I so quick to put myself down and call myself a failure? Why was I already assuming the worst of myself? At the end of the day, I understand that we are always our own worst critic. However, where do we draw the line between constructive feedback and just beating ourselves up? We are our own architects of character and we are perfectly capable of our own validation. If we don’t pause to pat ourselves on the back, how can we expect others to? I am sure we can find something to be proud of to build our confidence, every single day. If we look for it, of course.
Sometimes not getting what you want can ultimately get you to where you want to be.
One of the items on my list was “Go on a wellness retreat in India.” The month that I planned to go turned out to be around the same of my brother’s wedding. Needless to say, I deterred my plans. At the wedding, I met the man who I ended up marrying who happened to live in the city that I always dreamed of living in. I guess you could say sometimes the universe knows best.
It’s true what they say about lists.
I remember this one moment a few years ago when I was working in Dubai and my manager brought in his mentor to give us a pep talk on sales success. When asked about one of the secrets, he simply replied with “PIOFP.” Looking around the room at our puzzled faces, he proceeded to elaborate “Put It On F–king Paper.” He explained that goals in your mind are simply fuzzy ideas that you may or may not think about from time to time. As soon as you write a list of goals down, they instantly become more real. Something compels you to take action. Plus, as I just experienced, there is nothing more gratifying than checking a goal off the list.
Lana Ballout Abulhusn is a Lebanese foodie living in Hollywood, having just moved from Dubai. She enjoys reading and writing about all things nutrition, lifestyle, and pop culture related. Anything Old Hollywood inspires her. She’s still a kid at heart and has to see every Disney movie that comes out. She loves long hikes with Beyoncé on repeat and has a Thai papaya salad addiction. Join her healthy food obsession on Instagram @kissmyfattoush.