Erika Jenko
July 05, 2015 8:05 am

I turned 30 a couple months ago. It was a spring day in March, and I was visiting Germany. Ok, I wasn’t actually in the real Germany. It was at Epcot in Walt Disney World where I had spent the entire weekend running around like a little kid and vowing to myself that I would never grow up. In my eyes, turning 30 was something to be celebrated.  I’m not at the place I imagined I would be when I was a  23-year-old. At 30, I don’t feel like a “grownup” in the way I imagined I would. But, so much has already changed. Here’s what I learned when I turned 30.

Your body is going to change, and that’s totally OK

When I was in my 20s, I ate whatever I wanted without a care. Now, the bag of Taco Bell I used to purchase without hesitation makes me feel like I’ve got a salt hangover. My body is changing, but it’s a good thing. Why? I would’ve never learned to seriously adjust my eating habits had my body stayed exactly the same. I’ve always considered myself a healthy eater, but the past couple years has prompted me to really take a look at what types of food makes me feel great and what types of food makes me feel lousy. A little self-knowledge goes a long way.

If you haven’t had kids, you start thinking about whether you want to

I spent the first part of my 20s being terrified and jittery every time I had to visit my OB/GYN because I was convinced that they would find something wrong with me. Once I had quite a few annual exams under my belt, going to the doctor didn’t seem as scary…until my first annual visit once I turned 30. The doctor asked me if I had any questions and I went into verbal diarrhea of saying things like, “I’m waiting to have kids. Like awhile. Like maybe 5 years. And I really want them. Someday. But not right now but I don’t want to miss my window.” As I sat there teary eyed, she explained to me that I should only be worried if I’ve been actively trying for a baby for a year without results. I was worrying about something that I’m not even ready for. Kids aren’t in my plan right now, but while having kids seemed light years away in my 20s, the idea is much closer now.

You’re better able to take care of yourself

I spent my 20s in debt. I never worked full-time and I was knee deep in student loans. Soon enough, my credit cards were maxed out and I was barely living paycheck to paycheck. But in the past year I have paid off two credit cards that at one point in my life would leave me in tears on the phone with debt collectors. I am finally able to clean up after the mess I made for so many years and it feels good. It feels like I grew a little, and furthermore, I can see my mistakes for what they really were…casualties of doing everything right and squeezing the heck out of life in my 20s.

Parting is about quality, not quantity.

I was a party girl in my 20s. But lately, I get a strong buzz off of one glass of wine. Forget about a second glass. And I’m ok with that. Cutting down a lot feels a whole lot better, and when I do go to a party, I really enjoy it.

“Old” means something different

When I was 18, I imagined being married with 2 kids by the time I was 30. It’s an age that seems old when you’re only 18. Now that I’m at 30, I’m loving it, and loving the fact that it is nothing like what I thought it would be. I’m glad I can take more time making life-changing decisions like having kids. I’m happy I can reinvent myself and change my job or my passion and I don’t have to be stuck in a career right now for the rest of my life. All of the rules that I thought I would have to live my life do not actually exist. 30 is whatever I make of it.

Related Stories:
Why I Don’t Mind Turning 30
How I stopped being afraid to turn 30

[Image via Shutterstock]

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