Well, it happened. I finally turned 29 and 12 months. It was a lovely day. We had gorgeous weather, I had some great quality time with my wifey and babies, and for the first time ever I wasn’t carded for a margarita.
I wasn’t carded for a margarita.
When I was pregnant, less than two years ago, I was carded for spray paint. Spray paint.
I guess that’s being thirty.
ICYMI, I’ve been counting down to this day for the past six months with various lists of thirty. You can read all the lists here.
I have learned a lot in my first 30 years, but I know I have a lot left to learn. Hopefully I have many, many years left to learn it all.
Not all of my life lessons were learned the easy way. I guess it takes some tough love for someone as stubborn as I am to learn some things. But I have had a lot of fun over the past 30 years and made a lot of good memories and I think I’m better off for all the lessons I’ve learned. I mean, getting older beats the alternative. So, without further ado….
30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years
1) It’s better to sing off key than to not sing at all.
I sing when I’m happy. Whatever is playing on the radio, stuck in my mind, or a narration of what I’m doing. I’m like a Disney princess, minus the musical talent.
I didn’t realize that I sing when I’m happy until I was navigating a period of depression and it was too hard to sing. Even at times when you’re supposed to, like at church or when “Don’t Stop Believing” comes on the radio. I just couldn’t do it. As I worked through that time and my mental health started improving, one day I was walking down the hall of my dorm on my way to the shower and realized I was singing the classic number by Ernie on Sesame Street. “Rubber Ducky, you’re the one. You make bath time so much fun.” If that’s not a sure sign I was feeling better, I don’t know what is.
Until my “friend” told me she hated it when I sang, especially in the car, because I was terrible at it. I was super sensitive about singing where people could hear me after that. And then, suddenly, one day I said “Screw it. Singing means I’m happy. Who cares what anyone thinks”.
It’s better to sing off key than it is to not sing at all. Do what makes you happy.
2) Everyone has the right to their own opinion.
And everyone has the right to express their opinion. But no one has the right to be free from the consequences of sharing said opinion. If you’re not willing to accept that not everyone will agree with your opinion, even if you think they should, then shut up. No one likes the person who gets angry or pouty because no one agrees with them.
3) Cough syrup doesn’t work
And it’s disgusting. Drink some hot tea with lemon, honey, and a shot of bourbon. It’ll work much better and give you a lot more rest.
4) Listen to your gut.
Your gut instincts are very rarely wrong. If you feel like they are wrong often, get a dog and listen to his or her opinion. Dogs are literally never wrong.
5) Be honest with your doctor.
Lie to your friends or your boss or even your mom. Whatever. But be completely honest with your doctor. My mom scoffed at me when I told her recently that I never lie to my doctor. But I don’t. I never lie to him. I’m actually maybe too honest. He probably hates when I schedule an appointment.
6) Take the time to find doctors you trust.
Speaking of doctors, find a good one. Not all doctors are good. Some are assholes. Don’t settle for one you just tolerate. Keep looking until you find the one you trust.
And when you find doctors you trust, listen to them. My OB/GYN and reproductive endocrinologist are amazing. If they told me to stand on my head and yodel every day at high noon, I would legitimately try to figure out how to do it.
My mom is old fashioned about some things and really likes “old home remedies.” Especially for baby care. That’s fine. It obviously worked–I made it to thirty. But it’s not my cup of tea. When they boys were born she would tell me “Don’t do it that way. The doctor doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Do it like this.” Who’s to say which one of us was right or wrong, but I really wanted to do what the doctors and nurses suggested.
I drove an hour one way to make sure my babies had the best medical care available, and I paid those doctors a lot of money to help me keep those babies alive and healthy. I did what they said.
Side note: It is definitely okay to seek a second opinion when you feel it is necessary. Refer to number 4. If your gut is suggesting something isn’t quite right with a doctor’s diagnosis or prognosis, advocate for yourself and do what it takes to find the right answer.
7) Who you are on the mat is who you are everywhere.
When I was a teacher, I coached the academic team. As a coach, I was all about having fun. Research shows that kids learn faster through play than through any other method, so we took time to play and laugh. But we also took time to practice seriously. “This round, we are practicing like we are in the final match at state” I would say. You can’t coast in practice and expect to excel when it matters.
The same applies to all parts of life. You can’t slack off and then all of a sudden produce a stellar result.
In the words of Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” You have to make excellence a habit and not an aspiration.
8) Friends come and go
Not every friend is meant to be around forever. As you mature and change, so will your friendships. That’s okay. Love your friends while you have them and cherish the memories as you move on.
9) Don’t take yourself too seriously
If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re going to live a miserable life. Life wasn’t meant to be so serious.
10) There is only one proper way to accept a compliment.
Two things that make me incredibly uncomfortable: apologies and compliments. Though most of the time the best response to an apology is “I forgive you” sometimes they can get a little hairy. That’s not true with compliments. Say “thank you”. I often forget and will try to downplay or shrug it off because it makes me squirmy on the inside to be noticed like that, but the only proper response is to say “thank you”.
11) It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s not okay to not try.
This is something else I learned as an academic team coach (and competitor). Many students were afraid to try to answer because they might be wrong and they have been told they are “smart” for so long they have developed a paralyzing fear of being wrong (that was totally me). I told my students all the time that I didn’t care how often they were wrong as long as they were trying. It was okay to make guesses, it was not okay to be chair-warmers.
I really need to remind myself of this because I am
kind of really intimidated by having a blog. I know most people don’t really care about what I have to say, but some people do. And regardless, I like writing so I should just do it. I don’t post as often as I would like because I’m still so afraid of being wrong or not doing well enough that I just don’t try. Here is my pledge that in my thirties I will do better.
12) There are very, very few items that are worth paying “name-brand” prices for; buy generic and save your money.
You can greatly reduce your grocery bill by buying generic brand foods. I promise you won’t taste a difference (except for very few items). I once lived with a friend who swore all ketchup was disgusting except for this super expensive brand. One day I put Kroger brand ketchup in an empty expensive brand bottle. She never knew the difference and to this day I have never told her I did that.
The same applies to non-grocery items, too. I really wanted an Instant Pot, but they’re expensive and I really didn’t want to spend that much money on something I might not like using once I tried it out. This past fall, Aldi had off brand Instant Pots for $30. It has been one of the best purchases I have ever made. I think I’ve used it a minimum of twice a week since.
Don’t get caught up in the name of something. Recognizable name doesn’t always–and in fact very rarely–equals better quality.
13) People will treat you the way you allow them to.
You demonstrate how you expect other people to treat you by 1) the way you treat other people and 2) by the way you respond to how others treat you.
When you are unkind to others, they will assume they can be unkind to you. When you are kind to others, but allow others to be unkind to you, they will continue to treat you poorly until you stop them.
You decide how people treat you and if they don’t treat you well, you decide when to walk away.
14) Education is so much more than “doing school”
I absolutely loved going to school when I was a kid. I had so much fun. Many people view school as reading, writing, and arithmetic though, when it is so much more. I learned creativity and how to question and social skills and how to develop my personal values. I learned how to navigate grief and what it meant to support one another and how the masses hold the power. My school experience wasn’t always good, but I am a well-rounded person because I received a quality education. I sincerely hope that I provided a similar experience to the students I met while I was teaching.
15) You don’t need to please everyone.
You do you. Don’t worry about whether or how everyone else is judging you.
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16) Means girls and bullies don’t end in high school
Even as an adult people will be exclusive. They will talk about you behind your back and make fun of everything you do. It says more about them than you. Shrug it off and move forward. Besides, you don’t need to please everyone.
17) “Toxic people gravitate toward genuine ones and suck them dry”
I don’t remember where I read this, but it is so true. The more genuine and generous you are, the more toxic people will try to take from you. Learn how to set and stick to boundaries, but don’t stop being genuine.
18) YOU choose who is in your front row
You get to choose who is involved in your life and how much of an influence they have. Not everyone has to be invited (review number 15). I explain this in more detail in my very first blog post ever! You can read it here.
19) It takes a village.
I knew when I was a teacher that it truly took a village to raise a child and I was so proud to be part of that village.
Now that I am a mom, I really understand what it means to need a village. I don’t know what Steph and I would do without our village. Our boys are so loved by so many people who have helped us out with them over the past 18 months. I am so thankful to have such wonderful people to help raise our boys.
20) Embrace your idiosyncrasies
Everyone has their own idiosyncrasies. Steph has a knack for finding the most incredibly dull television shows and watching them like she is completely entranced by some kind of riveting plot. (Meanwhile, I literally fall asleep. I mean, I’m not much of a TV person anyway, but, like, fishing shows? Snore). Even though I complain, I also think it’s kind of cute. Especially when she gets excited about what happened and tries to tell me all about it.
No to worry, I have plenty of idiosyncrasies that drive her crazy, too. I assign feelings to inanimate objects, I am not the slightest bit competitive but usually win games anyway, and I think my dogs are people (She does, too, but I kind of take it to an extreme. Duncan is turning 10 this year, which is a big deal, so I’m planning a birthday party for him. I’m not kidding. I’ve already started inviting other dogs and their humans). I could try to change these things about myself, but why? This is who I am.
Embrace your idiosyncrasies. It’s the first step to learning to love yourself.
21) Take lots of photos
The people you love won’t be around forever. Your memory won’t always work as well as it does now. Preserve your memories in photos.
22) Make sure to take me time
Steph worked some very long hours this week. In addition to her normal day job she did some training for a new venture she is trying out. Three days in a row she left before the boys and I were awake and came home after bed time. I love how hard she works for us. But Atticus has another ear infection and was especially clingy and I was exhausted. She came home around 11:00 the third night and I said, “I gotta get outta this house for a few minutes” and went to Walmart.
Walmart is never, ever my first choice for somewhere to go to “escape”. Actually, Walmart isn’t my first choice for anything at all. But that’s all that was open. I bought a few groceries, a reusable pod for the Keurig, and a jar of fancy olives and came home. Exciting, right? I didn’t need exciting though. I just needed me time. My babies are wonderful and I love being their mama, but I needed one hour of not being needed. And that is okay.
No matter your situation, schedule me time. Don’t work yourself so hard you get sick (been there). Don’t put everyone and everything ahead of yourself until you have a mental breakdown (been there, too). Schedule time for you.
23) Know when to add your two cents. And when to shut up.
In my oral communications class in high school, we were required to give two speeches per week every week of the semester. On the front of the podium where we stood was a quote that read “A wise man speaks because he has something to say. A fool speaks because he has to say something.” That quote resonated with me then and still does to this day. You don’t have to speak just to say something. What until you have something worth saying.
24) Surround yourself with the kind of people you want to be.
When I was in college, I took a May Term economics class and sat next to a boy who, every time he was frustrated, would mutter “dammit.” One night after work I was trying to get back into my house and dropped my keys and did the same thing, muttered “dammit.” That’s when I realized that when I’m around people often, I start picking up their habits. Then I started to notice that everyone does it. When you are around someone a lot, whether intentionally or not, you start to act like them. It’s important that your inner circle (or your front row) be the kind of people you want be.
25) Be as kind to yourself as you are to other people
We are our own worst critics. One time Steph told me the way I talk about myself hurts her because I’m too hard on myself. Since then I have genuinely tried to be as kind to myself as I would any other person.
26) Don’t kill yourself for a job that would replace you in a week.
When I was admitted to the hospital to have the boys I was so worried about work. I was very sick. Very seriously sick. And I was worried about work.
My friend sent me this message. Don’t kill yourself for a job that would replace you in a week. And I didn’t. I sent enough sub plans to last a week in hopes that I would be discharged and able to take my maternity plans, and then I didn’t worry about it until I had to go back to work.
I don’t regret that for one second. Steph and I focused on recovering and taking care of our babies and adjusting to a completely new life as a family of six (or four humans and two dogs, if you don’t claim your dogs as people, which is sad and you should work on it). Work did just fine without me.
27) You don’t get an award for how quickly you recover from surgery, sickness, or trauma.
Don’t over-do it. Just rest and allow your whole being time to recover.
Along these same lines, you don’t get an award for toughing it out when you could go to the doctor. Take care of yourself.
28) Know when to walk away
Not all friendships/relationships are meant to last forever.
Not all jobs are worth the stress.
You don’t have to stick around when you are uncomfortable.
It’s not healthy to push yourself to exhaustion or heartache.
Know when to walk away.
29) It’s okay to ask questions.
Not only is it okay, it is ideal. Ask all the questions and learn all the things. Even when it comes to religion. (I know many times we are told we are not supposed to question anything when it comes to religion. I declare that false. That’s just a manipulation technique to brainwash you into believing what someone else believes.)
30) You don’t have to like my dogs, but if they don’t like you, neither do I.
It takes dogs half a second to know if someone is a good person. Especially Duncan. Listening to his instincts has saved me from a bad spot on multiple occasions. I trust him inexplicably.
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I’ve been working on this list for a while. I had this wild idea years ago that I would start a blog and my post would be 25 things I’ve Learned in 25 Years.
I found that list in my Dropbox before I wrote this one and I am SO GLAD I never published that. I’m a completely different person than I was five years ago. I like me better now. And I’m looking forward to revisiting this list in five years to discover which of these embarrass me then.
That’s a Wrap
I’m thirty. Or 29 and 12 months, depending on my mood. When I started this countdown six months ago, I wrote that I wasn’t sure how I felt about turning 30.
I’m very happy to have reached this new milestone. Thirty feels good. Life is good and I’m excited for the next thirty years.