30 Lessons at 30

30 Lessons at 30 photo

I recently turned 30. It's a milestone that is either loathed or celebrated depending on how it's framed.

I wasn't quite sure how to react to turning 30, but my wife certainly made it memorable when she took me to Nashville for the weekend. We toured the Jack Daniel's distillery and attended a Willie Nelson tribute concert. It was great to get out of New York City and do something different, but other than that, my 30th birthday came and went; I didn't wake up the next day with a "dad bod" or even gain so much as a gray hair.

In all seriousness, after a few months of being 30, I can certainly say that it feels like a redefining age. It's a time when you establish independence and all of your life lessons seem to culminate into this life you've built for yourself.

I haven't been 30 that long, but I know that I like it a lot more than I liked being 20, so I thought I'd share 30 lessons I've learned upon turning 30.

1. Be responsible for your happiness

I used to blame my level of happiness -- or unhappiness -- on my life circumstances. Perhaps it was the wrong job, a friend blowing me off, what my parents did or didn't do, etc. But at 30, I've learned that the only person I can make responsible for my happiness is myself. Rather than constantly chasing happiness, it's better to find ways to make yourself happy regardless of life's circumstances.

2. Be present in the moment

It's easy to get caught up in the next thing -- that next vacation, a promotion, or whatever the case may be. But if we spend life looking forward, we don't enjoy what we have in front of us until it's too late.

3. People deserve second chances

Most of us are just winging this thing we call life. And that's ok. Nobody has the answers and people make mistakes -- sometimes really bad ones. But people learn from them, just like you have, and the ability to forgive is much more rewarding long term than holding a grudge.

4. Define yourself rather than allowing others to define you

Our 20s are a time when a lot of big decisions are made, and unless we're lucky, most of them won't work out. As a result, it's easy to lose trust in your intuition and strive to be what people want you to be rather than who you are. Instead, prioritize what matters and let the rest fall as it may.

5. "Not all storms come to disrupt your life. Some come to clear your path."

I found this quote a month ago and couldn't think of a better way to sum up turning 30. Growing up, we've learned to trust our intuition in order to protect us from mistakes we've made in the past. But if we continuously run from situations that are uncomfortable, we get stuck in familiar patterns and never experience the opportunity to grow.

6. Actually call people. Because Facebook doesn't know all.

It's easy to look at all of your friends' smiling pictures and assume that you know everything when it really represents at most, a tiny fraction of their life. When I first moved to New York, I had a 45-minute driving commute where I spent much of my time catching up with friends and family. Everyone, no matter how busy they are, appreciates the call. Plus, it's a great way to stay connected.

7. Parents deserve more credit than they receive

Raising a human being is no easy task; it's an overwhelming responsibility and one that requires complete sacrifice. Unfortunately, it's hard to see growing up. We may have resented their discipline, or a lot of what they did or didn't do or say, but they only wanted the best for us. For those of us lucky enough to have active parents in their lives, we know they are in our corner and will love us regardless of the decisions we make.

8. … But they are far from perfect

By age 30, parents seem a lot more human than they did growing up. Through our own experiences, we realize our parents' flaws and come to grips with the fact that perhaps they weren't as perfect as we assumed they ought to be in our teens and 20s. And that's ok, because they did their best.

9. Sometimes you just have to go for it

After enough scars and learning experiences, it's easy to stick with what makes you comfortable. But maybe, just maybe, things will be different when you're willing to stick your neck out and show some guts. At worst, it's a learning experience; at best, you get the satisfaction of knowing you took a gamble that ultimately paid off.

10. Friendships are about quality over quantity

Growing apart from many of your friends is normal, but there will be those who stick with you no matter what, and those are the ones to keep around.

11. It's possible to find love, but maybe not where you expect it

True love sneaks up on you. It's not what you expected, nor is it what you think it is. But it is something that must be chosen again and again.

12. Embrace the MO in FOMO

Parties and happy hours are fun, but it's easy to lose yourself in a social scene. FOMO is nothing more than a form of anxiety over not being part of the pictures you see on Facebook. At 30, I learned to defeat FOMO rather than become a victim to it.

13. Prioritize your physical health

Your body's imperfections jump out at you. Metabolism slows down and you become less invincible. I know this firsthand as a doctor's appointment regarding my dandruff issue turned into a treatment for melanoma. Notice when something isn't feeling right and do something about it.

14. And your mental health

Society has come a long way when it comes to destigmatizing therapy and self-help. Nearly everyone has grown up with some type of anxiety or depression that affects how they view themselves. But prioritizing mental health enables us to deal with our past in a more constructive way in order to more positively impact our future.

15. Be patient with your career

After five months of unemployment, I found myself hopping around internships and contract work for two years. Even then, one look at my LinkedIn profile will show it's taken a while to find what I'm good at and truly hone those skills. But with more experience and maturity comes new opportunities. I wouldn't be where I'm at now without some early failures.

16. Find role models and learn from them often

Some of the best advice I've gotten recently came from people other than my parents. People like to feel they have wisdom to share. Don't be afraid to ask what they're doing or why they're doing it.

17. You don't need everyone to like you

It is impossible to be liked by everyone and still retain a sense of self. Although feelings of disapproval can be uncomfortable, they don't change anything about you or carry any meaning beyond what's in your head.

18. All relationships require a lot of patience

Dating apps make getting in and out of relationships easier than ever before. While it does allow people to figure out what they want from a relationship, it's much easier to date with a self-centered attitude. The truth is our relationships are reflections of ourselves; the answer to improving them lies in self-improvement, rather than finding a new person. That's not saying one should settle, but patience and self-awareness goes a long way.

19. Embrace change

Change isn't easy, but embracing it ultimately leads to gaining new experiences and life lessons that help us grow. As our lives become more set and stable than they were in our 20s, it's all the more important to keep trying new things.

20. There's more to work than a salary

Living comfortably is important, but considering you'll spend most of your day doing whatever job pays your bills, it's important to get along with the people you work with, have the flexibility you need and most importantly, be able to have a life outside your job. Besides, no job is forever.

21. The best experiences don't give you what you want, but rather, what you need

Nothing about where I'm at now is anything I could've predicted or even what I asked for. Yet everything came together somehow. And it was because I gave myself room to let go of all expectations.

22. Growth mostly happens outside the comfort zone

It's easy to have a set way of doing things, but now is the time to embrace discomfort. Whether it's moving to a new city, changing jobs, repairing a relationship -- anything you've avoided or resisted will only get tougher to address the longer you wait.

23. Make yourself vulnerable

Try Googling any problem you have and you'll notice that there are hundreds of other message boards and articles discussing the exact same issue. But you don't have to use Google; people you know likely have similar challenges. Opening up about your weaknesses doesn't just help you, but it also allows other people to feel like they're not alone in their struggles.

24. Trust your work experience

In my early 20s, I absorbed as much as I could at work, and for the most part, took orders. Now, my managers look to me for guidance on how to improve their business. If you went straight to the workforce out of school, you already have 7-8 years worth of experience by the time you're 30; your career path can become a choose-your-own-adventure novel.

25. Life moves on

There were many times in my 20s where it felt like doomsday was coming and each time, things worked out just fine. Most people don't have room at their pity party for you, but you don't need an invitation anyway.

26. Moving makes you more resilient

As someone who has moved to new places frequently in life, I've always advocated moving when you're young. But moving is not for the faint of heart. Few people know that my move to New York drained much of my savings and I barely had the ability to support myself. Yet, I learned important lessons and came out the other side stronger because of it.

27. It's okay to not be okay

After moving to New York, I was underpaid and lived well above my means. In addition, I had possibly the worst commute I could have ever imagined. But during that time, I learned resiliency and it was a lesson that money can't buy.

28. Nice guys finish last is BS

As a former member of this club, I certainly understand the feeling. Your peers seem to pass you by in life by landing prestigious jobs and dating people who seem out of your league. The truth is that being "nice" and putting other people first creates a passive expectation that others will return the favor. Life doesn't work like that, which is how nice guys fall short; it's their inability to balance helping others without putting themselves first.

29. Find a mentor

Shockingly, turning 30 doesn't suddenly come with a how-to manual on all the things you couldn't figure out at 29. Fortunately, there's no shortage of people ready and willing to provide all sorts of advice whether it's work, family, relationships or even where to plan your next vacation.

30. 30 isn't as old as it seems

I remember when the oldest person I knew who wasn't a family member turned 25 and thinking "that's old." I certainly couldn't reconcile with 30. Like many other birthdays, 30 comes and goes without much significance. But it doesn't have to be that way. Instead of treating 30 like any other birthday, it can mark a more profound period of growth and maturity as we head towards a new decade.


Adam J Miller photo
Adam is a Chicago native currently living in New York after the temptation of the Jewish scene in the Upper West Side became too much to resist. He graduated from UMass as a double-major in journalism and international sports marketing where he worked for 3.5 ... Read More



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