I’m going to be thirty years old in a few months, and I’m psyched about it. Not in the “oh yeah, I’m so psyched to be old” kind of way, but more like the, “oh snap, I’m a grown-up lady…and I kinda like it!”
My twenties have been a non-stop Tilt-a-Whirl ride of “learning experiences” — like, discovering how much bourbon one should/should not drink in six-inch heels; that you should check that the 3-bedroom steal in Park Slope, Brooklyn is actually legal (and that you won’t be evicted); that you shouldn’t miss a train in Europe without preparing to be stranded overnight in a Rotterdam motel filled with prostitutes and drug dealers; oh, and that tattoos are permanent.
But there are more important lessons to gain by the time you hit the big 3-0, and I’d like to think I’ve gathered some nuggets of wisdom along the way. Here are twenty of them:
1. It doesn’t matter where you are — it’s how you feel and who you’re with. In the past 10 years, I’ve lived in nine apartments and six cities. Most of those apartments were pretty crappy and some of the cities were tough to navigate, but the people I kept around me made it bearable and, dare I say it — incredibly fulfilling. Drinking also helps.
2. Prepare for the future, even if you live in the now. Save a small amount of money into an account you don’t touch, every time you get a paycheck; your future self will thank you. And, for the record, my “now” self is calling my past self a whimsical idiot. Though, I really did need that pair of silk parachute pants.
3. It’s okay to eff up. There are no mistakes, only lessons learned, blah blah blah. You know it. But seriously, take away any labels of “negative” and “positive” and see it as a necessary part of figuring out who you are and what you’re good at. Jobs that don’t work out, relationships that fizzle, checks that bounce — all these things happen to propel you, better-equipped, into your next great adventure.
4. Nothing in life is certain. It’s okay if your plans don’t work out; we can’t predict or control the future. We can make confident, educated and deliberate decisions, but that’s the best we can do.
5. Be nice to everyone. It’s a small world, after all. And karma’s a nasty, nasty betch. She also works Tuesday and Thursday evenings at FlashDancers.
6. Don’t post photos on the internet you wouldn’t want your Mom or your boss to see. No explanation needed, YOU DUMMY.
7. Moisturize. Your skin won’t be this silky smooth and radiant forever. *sobs*
8. Road trips are rites of passage. If I were the Head Principal of Life School, I would require everyone to take at least one 10-hour road trip across the U.S. Not only does it remind you that other places exist outside your bubble, it shows you the ways other people live their lives (and makes you appreciate your own). Take in the landscapes, weird-smelling truck stops, cheap diner food, and be amazed by how much more everything means, even if it’s generally disgusting.
9. Be content being alone. For whatever reason you’re single, be whole on your own. Despite the words of Jerry Maguire or Dr. Evil, nobody will ever complete you — but they will compliment you. That said, I’m single and if you know any man willing to please be my boyfriend, tell them I’ll try not to cry as much as I regularly do.
10. Accept sickness and death — it will happen. I feel like most of our lives are spent trying desperately to avoid this fact. It’s not rude, inappropriate or insensitive to be at peace with the fact that nothing is permanent or perfect.
11. Let go. Our egos can be our worst enemy. If we can let go of pride, jealousy, and the need for validation, we leave energy to focus on more important things. Stop texting your d-bag, emotionally unavailable ex-boyfriend or girlfriend because you want attention (unless he or she buys you presents).
12. The food you eat is more powerful than you think. After bouts of both completely irresponsible food choices and immaculately healthy ones, I can tell you with absolute certainty that, if it’s not fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats (though some will beg to differ), it’s mild poison. Granted, I’ll still gladly consume that poison, because I like cheese, crust and marinara, and I like feeling the good feelings.
13. You always have a choice. It’s not that you can’t...it’s that you’re choosing not to.
14. Be as selfless as you can. In a society that reveres individuality and personal achievement, the “you do you” mentality has eclipsed our “do unto others.” We’re all in this together, even though a lot of people are assholes. Don’t be one of them.
15. Read books. Oh, you don’t like to read? Do it anyway. It will literally make you smarter. Plus, I’m judging you.
16. Don’t label or categorize yourself — you’re a fluid entity. You have qualities and characteristics, but you can’t be defined. Don’t pigeonhole yourself.
17. Always take risks. As the wise performing artist Drake would say, YOLO. And, as my fortune cookie says, “You only need look to your own reflection for inspiration. Because you are Beautiful!” What?
18. The blue pill is always an option. You don’t need to know everything. I sometimes find myself tortured by the need to always know what’s going on — what’s that person thinking? Why would they do that? What’s going to happen? Always stay curious, but pick and choose your mental battles.
19. Some friends you’ll have forever; most of them you won’t. As we change, the people that fit into our lives do, too. Solid friends are there whether you talk to them every day or once every couple of months, and aren’t phased if it’s the latter. Be the kind of friend you want in other people, and you’ll get some good ones — and be able to filter out the ones with no bro code.
20. Everything is going to be alright. It really is. Just let it.