growth + wellness

Lessons to Help Me Excel in My 30s

January 14, 2015


Most people say your 30s are better than your 20s. And that the 40s are are even better than the 30s. I’m only a solid year and some change in, but I am undoubtedly enjoying my 30s. I’m definitely more self aware and responsible than I was in my 20s, but that’s to be expected. Our brains aren’t even fully developed until we’re half way through our 20s. Though most of us take on our fair share of adult responsibilities and indulge in the numerous privileges afforded adult humans, we’re also still in our adolescent risk taking, impulsive, and oooh-oooh-look-at-me stage.  That’s just how our biology works, it’s what prepares us for fa real fa real adult shit… like achy bones and memory loss.

A close friend of mine recently shared this article with me entitled, “10 Lessons That Will Help You Excel in Your 30s.” The author essentially crowdsourced his readers 37 and older to get feedback from them on what advice they’d give to their 30yo selves. Out of the hundreds of emails he received, there were 10 main themes that emerged. I strongly suggest reading the entire article, it’s interesting because I’ve heard all of this advice in one form or another from various people in my life. Even as a 30-something, I’ve seen many of these “life lessons” to be so true and important to take to heart. And I hope to really feed off the wisdom of my elders as I slowly transition into elderhood (lol).

I’ve decided to give my 2 cents on each of the lessons, based on my limited 30-something experience…

1. Start Saving for Retirement Now, Not Later

On it! While I’ve had a savings account for most of my life, it really serves as an immediate emergency fund. It seems like every time I try not to tap into it, I inevitably end up dipping into it to pay for shit when shit happens. I didn’t really have this issue until the last few years, and I am mostly to blame for that. But I have been more intentional about my saving. Unfortunately, my position doesn’t allow for me to have a 401k plan with employer matching (I swear postdoc’ing is the biggest swindle in the world for fully grown adults with the highest education working over 40hrs/wk), but I will be starting an IRA in the next few weeks with some money that was put away. I also have life and disbility insurance so I’m doing my best to make sure that I’m financial OK. Major goal is to be financially AWESOME. But, it’s going to take some time and serious budgeting but I’m getting there…

2. Start Taking Care of Your Health Now, Not Later

I’ve always been pretty good about my health. I haven’t missed an annual physical to date, and I make sure to tell my primary care doc about my health concerns as a woman (especially those concerning my reproductive health). I’m also being more intentional about working out consistently (cardio and weight training) and eating clean-ish. I’m definitely trying to ensure that I make healthy eating and physical activity are party of my lifestyle, and I’m seeing the benefits. My mental health on the other hand needs tons of work. It seems to have gotten worse, as I get older. So… yeah. Major goal of my 30s is to keep my head.

3. Don’t Spend Time with People Who Don’t Treat You Well

This is key. For the most part, this is something I’ve done most of my adult life. Sometimes it seems inescapable because the people closest to you can be the ones to hurt you the most. You hope for the best that those people are just having a moment and it’s temporary. But I definitely agree your energy should be focused on people who are good to you and are worthy of your time. Talk about a drain on your mental health. And thankfully, I know some really wonderful people and this isn’t typically something I experience.

4. Be Good to the People You Care About

YES! I like to think that I am good to the people I care about. If ever there were a time where I wasn’t, I hope they would bring it to my attention so I could correct it immediately. I find myself losing touch with friends and family often (those that aren’t on facebook, ha), even people I think of and pray for often. And I feel guilty about that. So while I wouldn’t classify that as mistreating people I care about, I do think it is important to maintain relationships and make sure people know that they are important to me. Whether it’s a text, an email, a get together over brunch or happy hour, whatever. My friendships and relationships with my family are extremely valuable and I never want to lose sight of that, regardless of the chaos going on in my own life.

5. You Can’t Have Everything; Focus on Doing a Few Things Really Well

I’m not entirely sure I agree with this sentiment, exactly. I do believe I can have everything – everything that I want. And I refuse to accept or expect anything less. That said, I’m not entirely sure what the hell I want plus I’m a perfectionist and I tend to shy away from things I’m not good at, so I may end up with less than everything anyway lol.

6. Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Risks, You Can Still Change

I’m very afraid to take risks!!! I’m a perfectionist/control-freak, the uncertainty associated with risk taking as an adult is just… yikes. I’m at a very transitional point in my career so I’m not sure risk taking is exactly necessary or on my radar to do. In my mind, I have lots of opportunities open to me. If those likely jobs result in nothing, then I may have to rethink some things. To be continued…

7. You Must Continue to Grow and Develop Yourself

Hell yes. I never pass up an opportunity to actively exercise being better. I’m clinging to this blog again as part of my growth and personal development. A friend of mine was recently mentioned taking a “life design” class – which I would have scoffed at just a year ago. But I like the idea of being more mindful and centered, and applying that to how I approach success and fulfillment. I want to be more in tune with myself, and my Creator, and I’m willing to try something out of the ordinary (for me).

8. Nobody (Still) Knows What They’re Doing, Get Used to It

This is good news because listen… Being 31 and feeling like my player piece is still at the “Start” square is ego-crushing at times.

9. Invest in Your Family; It’s Worth It

Invest in time and energy. As I mentioned above, my family and friends are so important to me and I completely see the value in this. I try to get home to see my parents as often as I can. I wish I had more time and money to visit my brother and 3 nephews more often – I feel like I’m missing so much in their lives and I would love to be able to give more to those relationships. I also want to invest in my own family. I want to be married and have children while having some semblance of a career and I know that having a balanced, happy, life including all of those things (read: everything) is going to take a lot of time, energy and money (crumb-snatchers are expensive!!!). And I pray that I’m in a position to be able to give my family what they need, while not losing myself (this is a sacrifice I don’t want to have to make).

10. Be kind to yourself, respect yourself

Self care is soooo key!!!!! Mentally, physically, spiritually – myself needs to be handled with care. I used to have a habit of spending a lot of alone time with myself (manis/pedis, massages, me-dates) and I’m starting to get back into it (though my bank account be hatin’). Trying to do better with meditating, spending time pouring into my spirituality. and making sure my [proverbial] heart and mind are on one accord. Sigh that’s always a work in progress so pray for me, Saints.

What are your thoughts on these 10 lessons? For those in their 30s, do you notice a difference between your approach to your 30s than your 20s? Are there things you’re doing now that you think are essential to your success or fulfillment?

Trying to excel at life,

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  • Reply Wu Young, Agent of M.E. January 14, 2015 at 11:47 am

    it’s a solid list that can apply to just about anyone.

    I’m 35 and I’d describe my approach to life as a calm aggression. Adulthood just isn’t for the faint of heart. I have a wife who has been in my life for a while prior to marriage and I’m building much more with her so I road map with what we want and need. No time to f**k around! A bulk of my thoughts on the future deal with being prepared. For what? Who knows but I like to make sure I can handle my family’s needs.

    • Reply Gem January 14, 2015 at 12:39 pm

      I’d describe my approach to life as a calm aggression. Adulthood just isn’t for the faint of heart.

      yo, this is real!! non-student adulthood is so real. (and i say nonstudent because even as a 27yo, i was a student and still in a bit of a bubble, so to speak.) all i can say is i’m glad ive had as many good breaks and wonderful people in my life to help me get through. otherwise i might be out on the street, lost and confused.

      if you ever decide to do an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it survival course, holla at ya girl. i may need some tips cuz im pretty sure i cant handle my family’s needs.

      • Reply Wu Young, Agent of M.E. January 14, 2015 at 7:16 pm

        Those doomsday prep people scare me. The prep isn’t necessarily bad but the reasons they usually give for the end sound like the plot of a Tom Clancy book.

        • Reply Gem January 14, 2015 at 7:21 pm

          lol which is why i want YOU as my instructor, Sensai.

  • Reply madscientist7 January 14, 2015 at 11:50 am

    good post, good tips.

    i’m still waiting to see how my 30s are better than my 20s. i turn 34 this year. maybe it will get better this year. maybe.

    glad you are enjoying your thirties so far.

    • Reply Gem January 14, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      you’ve done a lot of growing and you’ve even said so yourself on various occasions that you have grown a lot since your 20s. you may be experiencing a rough patch now in your 30s (who isnt/hasnt? it seems so natural these days) but i know for sure it will get better. just hold tight to your faith and recognize that the wilderness period doesnt last forever.

      looking forward to good reports from you in the near future!

  • Reply Maris January 14, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    The three things I’ve learned since hitting my 30’s:

    *It really is all small stuff- No, seriously. I used to be concerned with the image I was giving off, how someone’s mother/girlfriend/roommate would let him/her out of the house in THAT, how certain um…acts would affect how I was perceived by a dude..I just don’t care now, man. I really don’t. It’s fucking great.

    *Build a base now, workouts get easier later- I weight-trained for 15 years on and off. Now that I’m in the “just accept every morning you wake up something’s gonna hurt” stage of my life? I can stick to bodyweight workouts and not lose mass or bone density.

    *Now that three decades are behind you, accept life ain’t short. It’s long as hell- So all the stuff I put off because it was gonna take to long? Doing it now, time’s gonna pass. All those people I put up with? Gone, too much time left to endure decades of stress. 30’s are great.

    • Reply Gem January 14, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      these are all great, Maris, thank you for sharing!! when it comes to some small things, i have learned to let go. but thats still a work in progress lol.

      life can be long and i think while you should live in the moment, you certainly dont want to have long suffering. aint nobody got time for that!

  • Reply The Ties That Bind « That's What GEM Said January 20, 2015 at 10:09 am

    […] encouragement, and comraderie we shared was life changing and sustaining. As I mentioned the other day, I’m trying to be more intentional about expressing my love and appreciation of my friends. […]

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