Tomorrow, I turn 30. An age for many women, that we are taught to dread. As though we are born with a clock already ticking, counting down-- a race against time. I clearly remember my race. Years of feeling lost, looking at how far everyone had gone ahead of me--how seemingly together and fantastic their lives were, feeling panic and shame well up in my chest. Admittedly, it was only a few weeks ago that I came to the realization that my clock wasn’t counting down-- it was counting up.
Everything I have looked forward to as a little girl, on the near horizon and closer than ever before. I can’t guarantee that it will all happen the way I’ve always imagined, but I can guarantee I will wake up on my 30th birthday with confidence in knowing that I already have everything I need- myself - and upon realizing this, my whole life came together and I knew it is only the beginning.
I didn’t know it then, but the years of uncertainty were necessary in building the woman I am today. Day after day, year after year, it felt like nothing was changing — the floor continued to break beneath me, as did my Ikea furniture, as did my heart. Looking back, I laugh and realize that I was hurtled into this decade an unsure, naive and impulsive kid and am leaving it as a confident, passionate, kind to the core, self-reliant adult. The number 30, now representing a starting line to the rest of my life and I’m in the driver's seat.
And so my birthday list, in full, for this new decade ahead: just ride the wave.
30 Things I Would Tell My 20 Year Old Self:
1. The biggest mistake you could ever make is to live your life like you'll get another chance to experience all the beauty that surrounds you every single day. Put.your.phone.down. Be present.
2. Once you accept the fact that pizza and wine taste way better than being a size 2, the rest of your life begins. Believe me--I was never so unhappy as when I carried ten almonds in a zip lock bag at the bottom of my purse. I can tell stories of dinner with girlfriends in which we eat burgers and beer and brussel sprouts and baked pretzels with spicy mustard. I will tell you how when I visit home, I sit with my family and eat cheese and crackers until the box is empty. I will tell you how learning to not only accept, but love yourself and all its weird imperfections is a very large part of the story and really, how love and friendships are filling in far more important ways than standing on that scale every morning.
3. The only things that have ever made me strong were the moments where I was courageous enough to be vulnerable.
4. You won't always be the smartest person in the room (let's be honest here)... or the most talented for that matter, but you can be the kindest. The bravest. And this- this is what people will remember.
5. Life hack: Say no. You’ve heard it before, but no one really cares if you go to the party. Stay home, pour that glass (or 2) of wine and order Chipotle delivery if it all feels like too much.
6. I do not know how to love in moderation-- and that's ok. Do not change--ever. Remember this: you cannot love someone into loving you if they do not. You will never be “too much” for someone who can’t get enough of you.
7. You're allowed to and are going to feel lonely sometimes- everyone will... But don't ever mistake someone sitting across the table from you as the cure for the parts of yourself that you've left unattended. Don't wait for someone to show up, to take the trip with or better yourself for. Decide who you want to be and go be her.
8. Figuring out how to be true to yourself will likely be the hardest, most terrifying and thrilling thing you ever do.
9. You deserve to not just be tolerated, but celebrated. This will take a long time to realize- hang in there.
10. I'm learning that happiness doesn't come from experiencing only good things, but from giving yourself permission to appreciate the joy in the midst of the struggle. You do not need to have every single detail of your life figured out to appreciate the small and seemingly insignificant things that we tend to take advantage of every day.
11. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your undivided attention. I will say it again- put your phone down.
12. Friendships change and that's ok- it doesn’t mean they weren’t important and good. You’re not responsible for holding everyone together. I've learned that if you have one, true friend, you can get through anything. Making new friends requires that you put yourself out there (I know, it sucks), are true to yourself and bring light to all situations.
13. Speak kindly about yourself, learn to take a compliment and be able to laugh at yourself.
14. Your life doesn't have to be shiny, glittery and exciting to be interesting. The way you exist every day is enough. How you enjoy a quiet, slow morning with your coffee. The way you take the long route to work when time allows- grateful to pass the same grandpa and young girl walking hand-in-hand to the school drop off down the street. Meaning and purpose don’t come in forms of great accomplishments or undertakings. They reveal themselves on some quiet weekend morning when you realize how much you love someone or that you’re doing all you can, with what you can carry, in the place you are, with the time you have. It can be quite simple and you don't need to reinvent yourself to realize that you're really fucking cool, even with your quirks and your boring routines and the passion you have that is fierce and fiery that nobody else has--not like you. Maybe the interesting parts will always never be the big, shiny moments. It will always be the way you figure out how to live each day, how to carve out stretches of joy, how to make peace with what is.
15. It's not overreacting to ask for what you need. Your heart deserves to be seen and held the way you desire. Do not run into the arms of another if it means you have to run away from your own. I am still learning this.
16. I’ve learned that my superpowers are my sensitivity and life experiences. Empathy and the relentless pursuit of joy--but they didn't always feel so powerful. Being called "overly emotional" most of my life made me doubt myself. My life experience comes from times of great uncertainty. My empathy comes from moments of deep discomfort and pain. If you dig deep, you’ll find that the source of your power comes from very unlikely places.
17. You are not responsible for anyone else’s life choices or problems. You cannot rescue them or do it for them. But you can be a light for them. Your only job is to love people, not to change them. I have found that people are the least lovable when they need love the most.
18. Make sure you're not stressing about "problems" that are actually blessings.
19. I have found that It changes how you live when you decide to love each other and each day without knowing how it will end.
20. Life is hard-- everyone knows that. Though no one really tells you how utterly terrible and brutal it can be and I wish they had. Awful, terrible things are going to happen around you and to the people you care about most. You will find sometimes the worst things happen to the best people and you will learn that you will never be able to work out the sorting system for tragedy or who gets allocated what, when. With that said, there is a strange sense of relief when you accept that sadness and grief is inevitable and there’s no way to avoid it but to continue to stare down that fear with your unrelenting love and hope for life. But there’s light and happiness coming your way too. There will be holidays and birthdays in rooms and homes too small for the size of your family and friends. There will be weddings and conga lines. First kisses and slap happy Sunday’s. Cotton candy sunsets in places you don’t even know exist yet. There will be newfound friends and loves, pay raises and really good haircuts. There will be dinners with loved ones that last far after the meal is finished. There will be road trips, forehead kisses and sweaty palms from holding hands for too long. Try to be present in every moment.
21. Home is wherever you leave everything you love and you never have to worry about it not being there when you get back. Home is natural, familiar and without question. A sturdy feeling waiting for you at the end of the day—one you can return to at any moment. Home is a place that feels right. That feeling deep inside your heart—and you will know when you have found it.
22. I still experience doubt. Sometimes I squeeze my little cousins or friend’s children while watching engagement and pregnancy announcements fill my news feed and worry that I will miss the proverbial boat of marriage and motherhood. Sometimes when my friends talk about their investments and retirement funds I feel pathetic for celebrating payday. But then comes the question: Am I okay at this moment? Yes, I am. Breathe.
23. Life has a funny way of convincing people to back off or quit when the going gets tough. Running is the force in my life that reminds me to ignore that voice; to push through, no matter how much easier it would be to just quit. What I’ve learned is that running never takes more than it gives back. With each run, I am given peace of mind and a sense of confidence I never knew existed. What I’ve learned is that you can keep going, long after you think you can’t (believe me). Running has taught me to fall in love with taking care of myself—mind, body and spirit. If the miles behind me could be put into images, you would see my efforts, my struggles, my desires, my spirit and most of all, you would see my joy.
24. With the big 3-0, comes the predictable and mind numbing conversations of aging…the lines, the wrinkles, the stretch marks… the best way to fight off and stop our bodies from the inevitable. The self-criticism never stops. I never have been less concerned about the crinkles around my eyes when I laugh or the little lines formed on my forehead from my overly dramatic expressions over the years--and let me tell ya, I don’t mind getting wrinkles if it’s from laughing and spending time in the sunshine. (But wear your sunscreen, People).
25. I have finally realized that happiness isn't something large and looming in the distance, but something small, numerous and already here. The laughter of someone you love. Sitting around a table with your girlfriends. The feeling you get after finishing a run. The sigh that so often accompanies returning home.
26. Reminder: You do not need to be polite to someone who is making you uncomfortable. It is entirely possible to still be a good person who refuses to tolerate bullshit. It’s entirely possible and also absolutely necessary.
27. I’m learning that a bad attitude or vibe can literally block love, blessings and destiny from finding you. Don’t be the reason you don’t succeed.
28. Be a good person... but do NOT waste your time proving it. Lesson-- the ones who truly matter already know.
29. If I have learned anything over the past decade, it's that we very rarely know what's coming, even when we think we do. Happiness has its own way of catching us unaware. I don't know what's around the corner, but something is- because that is the inevitability of life. As long as you are breathing, there is still more to come and I choose to believe it’s all good.
30. Most transformation is quiet: Maybe you feel like a failure because you’re not ending this decade with an impressive job title or salary. An engagement or pregnancy announcement. Or a new home. But you smiled at your daily Starbucks barista and when you had it to spare, you left him a tip. You focused on little ways to care for yourself: clean laundry, pushing yourself to go for that run, cooking yourself dinner. Opened yourself up to someone new who didn’t stay, and it made you notice the ones who have. Held onto kindness on a bad day. Made your bed. Went somewhere you had never been before. Moved to a new apartment. Bought yourself flowers. Finally paid that bill you’ve been stressing about. Learned how to cook...kind of. Lit the nice candles in your apartment and had friends over for wine. Just went to bed after a long, draining day, knowing the sun will rise again. Spoke from your heart despite your tremblling hands and voice. Most transformation is quiet. Most years aren’t ushered in or out with grand achievements. Most change happens in moments--moments so subtle and unassuming that we barely notice them. Maybe you’ve just spent the decade becoming exactly who you need to be.