Today is my 30th birthday. The big 3-0.
30 is one of those milestone birthdays where you’re bound to be disappointed. When I was 22 and starting my first big girl job, I thought I would be a senior manager and married with two kids by now. I’m 0 for 3.
On the bright side, 30 didn’t just pop out of nowhere. It came up gradually, like the dull pain in my knees and the permanent knots in my shoulders. Thankfully, this means I saw it coming and could adjust expectations accordingly.
And because I’ve had time, I know how completely and totally stupid my expectations were.
When you ask people (who are not on their deathbed) about regrets in their past, most people say they have none. They wouldn’t change a thing because negative and painful experiences contributed to the person they are today. Well that’s nice, but I still call bullshit.
So on my 30th birthday, I want to own my regrets but also pass along a few bits of wisdom to my 22 year old self. At 22, I had just moved down to San Francisco, was dating a guy who just wasn’t that into me, and was $25k in debt.
Here is my list of regrets in my 20’s:
- Not maintaining friendships because I didn’t put effort into them
- Not letting go of my relationship with aforementioned guy because of a fear for change
- Not pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors earlier because I liked the status quo
- Not listening to my house-obsessed mother when she insisted I buy a house in 2012 Seattle (I didn’t actually have any money at this point, but she ended up being right)
- Not buying more Amazon stock
Not too long of a list, right?
So with that over with, here is wisdom I wish I had in my 20’s:
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try new things. The promotions and salary in your career path are nice, but you won’t feel satisfied with your work. This means you’re not going to put in the effort and sacrifice to climb the corporate ladder.
Don’t worry about having to do something that “makes you jump out of bed in the morning.” The person who said that is obnoxious and you’re not a morning person anyway. Instead, explore something, anything, that interests you and turn it into a side hustle. This is where you might find that thing(s) that is so satisfying, you’d be willing to put in that effort and sacrifice.
You’re going to go through a heartbreak so gut-wrenching that you won’t be able to eat for 5 days straight. And crying at the office? You’ll do that too. Getting dumped is not fun but you’ll have a group of friends who will help you through it. You’ll still be grateful for these friends 5 years later so try to stay in touch.
Also, don’t worry about being undateable. You’re not going to be single for life.
In fact, you’ll go through the “best year ever” where you get to focus on yourself, learn what makes you happy, and make yourself into a better person. How can you do this? By popping your comfort bubble and exploring things that are interesting (see above). In the middle of this self-improvement journey, you’ll find a guy who blows everyone else out of the water.
Money is going to be a subject that you feel incredibly passionate about later.
Meanwhile, save and invest as much as you can. Max out your 401k and IRA in low-fee index funds every year, no matter how ridiculously high the market seems. Throw whatever is left into more index funds at Vanguard. Your reward for this? Freedom and findependence, baby!
But at the same time, don’t compromise on happiness and don’t hesitate to spend on things that bring you long-term joy. This does not include luxury handbags or designer clothing.
Be generous with your money, you have more than you need.
And most importantly, don’t compare yourself with others. Net worth is not self-worth.
The secret to happiness is optimism. Happiness does not equal expectations minus reality. That’s a “realist” mentality and you have to shift from that.
Learn to expect the best out of situations, other people and especially yourself. It might feel like you’re consciously tricking yourself at first. But if you continue making the effort, you’ll get it and realize it’s worth it.
Optimism is the key to happiness, because it changes your perspective and helps you see the world around you in a brighter light. You’ll be grateful for challenges. You’ll gain confidence. And like Mr. Dahl says, you’ll always look lovely.
I still can’t believe I’m 30. 30 used to sound so old. But before I complain about how old I’m getting (which has happened every birthday since 19), I have to take a moment and be grateful for making it this far.
I hope to be able to write a similar post 10 years from now. There will definitely be another list of regrets, but hopefully the rest will be even more wisdomous.
What are some things you wish you could’ve told yourself?