How my 30s will be different than my 20s

In 25 days, 20 hours, and 9 minutes, I will turn 30 years old, and I actually cannot freaking wait. I know that it’s this milestone I’m supposed to be dreading, constantly staring into my pores or down my shirt like “AM I OLD NOW?” But I am not. I like to think that each decade serves a different purpose; if 10-19 gave me all my body image and self worth issues, 20-29 gave me the time and unwanted responsibility to work through a lot of them and better hone my sense of self.

Big milestones often come with big stereotypes and clichés, so the big 3-0 isn’t scaring me like perhaps it does for some people. My 20s were weird and hard and amazing and long and awful and beautiful. I realized a lot of childhood dreams, like living in my favorite city, working for my favorite magazines, falling stupid in love a few times, meeting weird and amazing people. I also experienced what it meant to be flat broke, felt both brilliant and stupid at various jobs, and fell asleep on the subway more times than I can count. When I think about it, it feels like I lived a lifetime in the past 10 years.

At almost 30, I can proudly say that I like myself. Sure, I never quite obtained that Lady Gaga circa 2004 body I always wanted, I still require a lot of emotional attention and hide my feelings with sarcasm, and I still haven’t quite figured out the whole saving money thin – but I can be charming as hell, a thoughtful friend, a great kisser, and I can wear the hell out of a pair of black lycra leggings.

More than likely, because I don’t see myself as a statistical anomaly, my 30s will hold some pretty big stuff that I am not ready for. But, when I turned 20, I couldn’t have handled what I have now. The truth is, at least for me, the big stuff comes when you don’t plan for it, when there’s no pressure to succeed or expectation to fail. For the next chapter of my life, I intend to focus on being nice to myself, and letting everything else kind of fall into place.

Stop feeling guilty about doing nothing

I have this problem where if I am not doing something productive at all times, I have this knot of impending failure in the pit in my stomach, like if I am not always working to better myself, then I never will achieve my dreams. I am literally writing this on a vacation day, because I feel guilty for sitting around in my pajamas eating breakfast at 2pm. I always feel as though I should be writing, or working out, or reaching out to friends, or cleaning, instead of just being alone with myself. For my 30th year on this planet, I vow to savor time spent laying on my bed watching stand-up comedy on my phone, or talking to my cat in a British accent with no guilt. Because at the end of the day, spending time in silence unproductively is healthy, and will ultimately lead to more productivity later. It’s only when you enjoy boredom can you completely refresh and recharge.

Only nourish the friendships I truly want

One of the nicer lessons I have learned as an adult is that you do not have to be friends with anyone you don’t want to be friends with. After losing my dad to cancer four years ago, my truest friends emerged and some weren’t the ones I thought they would be. It was eye-opening for me, for the first time really seeing the magic of a good friend. It was like these truly amazing people were in technicolor and everyone else in black and white – inspired me to be a better friend to them and let go of anyone who was toxic or selfish or unhealthy to be around. I will only nourish the friendships that I cherish, and give my heart fully to the wonderful humans who have stuck around. It is one of the time when quality over quantity matters. You know who you are, and I love you oh so much.

Don’t worry about dressing my age

Sometimes I worry that dress like a 15-year-old emo boy, or like someone who applied for a position at Hot Topic but probably never got the job. As someone who spends her days among the sleek and stylish of a women’s magazine, I at times feels pangs of immaturity for having some dirt on my motorcycle boots or using wrist tattoos as a form of self-expression. I just still can’t get excited about a sensible J.Crew sweater, you know? I would rather get some textured tights or restock on liquid eyeliner. Despite the fact that I honestly think I’m pretty awesome, I have this little buttoned-up voice in my head that tells me to stop in Ann Taylor, or else. Well, no more. Everyone else accepts me as is, so it’s time for me to as well. I like myself as is a whole lot – I’m just going to stop feeling bad about it, or feeling the need to compromise.

Don’t give up on the occasional 4am-er

I will admit that as an almost 30 year old, I do get annoyed when I’m sent a Facebook invite for a birthday party that begins at 11pm, or involves a $20 cover. Chances are if I attend, I’ll be grumpy, and take my shoes off in a booth somewhere an hour in. However, I am not putting a moratorium on all-nighters just because of my birthdate. To keep that youthful albeit tired glow, I think a weird until-sunrise night is good for the soul. This is how you stumble on your favorite band playing a secret show, bond with that cool girl you’ve been dying to befriend, and just experience. Follow new friends to an after-after party, stay up on someone’s couch talking until morning, say “yes” to things, even if it means an extra cup or two of coffee the next day.

Let myself dream the biggest dream

One unfortunate part of getting older I think is that our dreams become (shudder) realistic. We’re no longer allowed to say things like “when I grow up, I want to be a unicorn,” and they are slowly pared down something like “I’d really love my next apartment to have a bathtub.” Recapturing that sense of wonder that comes from being allowed to dream as a kid shouldn’t be lost just because we have bills to pay, we should allow ourselves to dream the biggest dream. It took me a long time to admit that my biggest dream is that I want a book on the shelves of Barnes & Nobles. It always seemed so big, and I could think of a million reason why it couldn’t happen. I don’t have time, I should focus on other kinds of writing, I didn’t go to school for creative writing. Then a strange thing happened – as soon as I admitted that I wanted this more than anything, I started writing, and I started doing it every day. In my 30s, I will keep that dream in my heart and I won’t let it go, or talk myself out of it. I’m good enough, I deserve it, and there are SO many books in Barnes & Nobles. It’s my version of being a unicorn. A 30-year-old, dope as hell unicorn.

[Image via author]