30 Lessons I Learned in my 20s to Help Me Thrive in my 30s

This week I turned 30.  THIRTY.  Over the last several weeks, I’ve experienced all the emotions about this event.  Saying goodbye to your 20s is traumatic.  And then when you add the societal pressures of where someone should be when they turn 30, it’s downright overwhelming.  Because aren’t 30 year-olds supposed to have life figured out?  Aren’t they supposed to be super accomplished and skilled and mature?

And yet, here I am, feeling quite ordinary and far from figuring life out.  However, as I’ve reflected on my life up to this point, I realized that maybe I have figured out a few things.  I still have a lot to learn, but here’s my list of 30 Lessons I’ve Learned in My 20s to Help Me Thrive in My 30s.

1. I’m 30, but I feel like I’m 20, till I hang out with 20 year olds and then I’m like, nope, I’m 30. 

…Or when I try to do things I was able to do when I was 20.  Like stay up past 10:30 p.m., tumble, roller coasters, etc.  I think, “I’m still 20…” and then I am quickly reminded, “Nope, I’m 30.”

2. Find your passion.  

A few years ago I had a coworker burst into tears when she was given tickets to Comic-Con last minute.  I remember thinking, “Wow, I don’t think I’m that passionate about anything.”  But I wanted to be.  And although I haven’t burst into tears over one of my passions yet, I can say that the world is a much more colorful and vibrant place because I’ve searched for the things that make me tick.  The things that I don’t want to stop learning about or doing, the things that keep my mind racing about the possibilities.  

3.  Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.  

4. Don’t be a hater.

The world is full of talented people.  Celebrate them for their success and seek to find your own.  But don’t compare your failures or weaknesses to their areas of success.  It’s not a fair scale, and usually ends with feelings of resentment or inadequacy.  Just don’t do it.

5. Help others feel valued.  

Every human has something to contribute.  I think this was one of the most important lessons I learned working with students with special needs.  In the beginning, I found myself looking at the list of their limitations.  Some couldn’t speak, some couldn’t see, others couldn’t hear.  It was easy to rule out activities because of those limitations.  But the moment I changed my perspective from “What can’t they do” to “What can they do”, my relationship with my students changed.  They taught me that despite the obstacles or limitations, everyone has something to offer.  And more importantly, they need to be told they have something to offer.  And they need to be given opportunities to share what they have to offer.  

 6. Regularly ask yourself “Why?” you do what you do, and only proceed with the things that add value in your life.  

We only have 24 hours in the day, and that is not enough time to waste any of it on things that don’t add value to our life.  Why do you exercise?  Why do you eat your vegetables?  Why do you work at your current job?  Why are you religious?  If these things aren’t adding value to your life, it’s time to reevaluate and either find ways for them to add value, or replace them for things that do.  For example, if reading my scriptures and praying isn’t adding value to my life, I need to figure out what I need to change so that it does, and isn’t just something I do to cross off the list.  

7. You’re not a mind reader, and neither is anyone else.  

Sometimes I assume that I know what others are thinking, or that I know what their motives are.  But I don’t.  Not unless I ask.  And sometimes I think that my friends or family should know how I want them to act or how I feel about something.  But they won’t.  Not unless I tell them.  Ask questions.  Express expectations.  Communicate.  

8. Handwritten notes are always in style.

9. You are living a dream, but it might not be yours.  

I read a blog post several years ago about this that really resonated with me.  You can find it here, as she explains this more beautifully than I can.  But no matter your circumstances,  you are living the life that someone else dreams they could have.  Whether it’s your current job, a talent or skill that comes naturally to you, your family dynamics, your economic level, your body type, your educational opportunities, etc., you are living someone else’s dream.  Don’t waste it.  Don’t spend so much time wishing for another dream, that you forget to make the most of the one right in front of you.

10. Make time for your “Mountain”

A few years ago my Dad drove over 2 hours just to take me to dinner at Maddox and help me talk through some of the struggles on my mind at the time.  During our conversation, he helped me realize that I had completely eliminated “Mountain Time” from my life.  You may call it pondering or reflection.  But whatever you call it, make time for it.  Life becomes so much more clear with increased perspective.  

“You cannot stay on the summit forever; You have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees, one descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.” –Rene Daumal

11. Look for opportunities to give genuine compliments and share them often.  

12. There will always be someone prettier, skinnier, smarter, funnier, etc.  

Comparing yourself to them only leaves you feeling empty and like you’ll never measure up.  And since it’s a moving target, you never will.  Be you.  Be the best version of you.  Because you’re the only one who can.

 13. People can change.  And it’s beautiful when they do.  But it’s up to you to know how much you should be involved in that change.

This may be one of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned, and it’s tricky.  We are taught to be kind and willing to help people.  We are taught to see the good in others.  We are taught to see people’s potential.  I LOVE each of these principles, and seek to live them.  However, I’ve learned that we also need to know how to set boundaries.  I haven’t always known how to do that.  As such, I’ve ended up in some pretty dark places, all in an effort to help friends struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, pornography addictions, gang violence, and other serious and complex issues. And you know what?  I can’t fix it.  And it’s heavy.  Only you know what you can handle and what you can’t, and you shouldn’t feel bad if you are in over your head.  Some days being a good friend means telling them you love them, finding them someone who is qualified to help, and then putting a healthy amount if distance between you and them.  

14.  Choosing not to apply sunscreen will never, ever, end in a tan.  

15.  Relationships/Friendships are worth preserving.  

I think it is an incredibly profound and beautiful doctrine in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, that one of the few things we get to take with us into the next life are our relationships. I don’t know exactly what that will look like, but I do know that means they should be a priority NOW.  Every relationship and friendship is different, but  all need to be cultivated.   Whether that’s once a day or once a year, I’ve learned the effort to preserve those friendships is always worth it.

16.  You are never too old to learn something new or develop a new hobby.

For the last few years I’ve been taking voice lessons.  I love singing, but I’ve struggled for over a decade with some major self confidence issues in that department, so I thought lessons could help.  But when it comes time for recitals, I am always SUPER self conscious of the fact that I am almost twice the age of most of the other students.  Sometimes I wonder if this endeavor is a waste of time considering my age and stage of life.  I mean, isn’t the time to learn a new hobby or skill when you’re a kid?   I was referencing this the other day, and my teacher stopped me and said, “Oh no, not any more.  I have a woman in her 80s that came to me and asked me to teach her how to sing.”  If that woman can learn how to sing in her 80s, I can learn how to play the guitar, re-finish furniture, and hip hop in my 30s.

17.  When Netflix announces they are going to do a remake of one of your favorite childhood shows, prepare to be disappointed.  

Examples?  Full House, Gilmore Girls, Anne of Green Gables…

18.  Check Your Motives 

One of my all time favorite talks is by Elder Russell Osguthorpe, “What if Love Were Our Only Motive.”  He asks us to consider how different our lives would be if our motivation for everything was pure, Christlike love. Every interaction, every word, every thought, motivated by Christlike love.  He references the Tahitian greeting, ia ora na, which means “life to you” or “that you might live.” He talks about how we are all on our way to somewhere, and that, “We are either giving life or taking life from each other as we move forward on our way.”  So, check your motives.  

19.  The experience itself is more important than the Insta worthy photo, story, or boomerang.  

I feel like I relearn this one weekly, maybe daily, because it seems so easy to let the “post” dictate the experience.  I’ve started asking myself, “If there was no post, would I still be taking this picture?”  If the answer is no, then maybe I shouldn’t be taking it, and instead focus on the beauty outside of my camera lens.

20.  Embrace the tears.

I swear, the older I get, the more my hormones have kicked into overdrive and I feel like I cry All.The.Time. I cry in movies, books, commercials, all the things.  Tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of gratitude, tears of frustration, tears of fear, and tears because I don’t know how else to express myself.  I might be slightly exaggerating here, but I am a crier.  But I’ve learned to embrace my emotions and be grateful that I have the ability to feel deeply, the ability to empathize, and the ability to connect, human to human, soul to soul.  

21.  If you don’t like someone, you just don’t know them well enough. .

22.  Running is the best when you are in shape and you feel like you could run forever.  But getting to that point (over and over again because you can’t seem to just stay in shape when you get there)  is the worst and makes you question your sanity as a human in general.  

23.  God answers prayers.  Even when we think He won’t.  

About a year ago I was talking to my mom and discussing how this year (2017) would be monumental birthdays for my brother and I.  He would turn 35 and I’d turn 30.  We decided that the BEST way for us to celebrate such monumental birthdays would be for me to get married and give Chad another brother.  What started out as a joke, soon became a matter of prayer for my entire family.  Now mind you, this had been a matter of prayer for years, but this time it was different.  We decided that because we have testimonies that God is involved in the details of our lives, we were going to pray more specifically than we had in the past.  And that included setting a time frame.  I asked a few close friends to join me as well.  And my close friends, I mean VERY close.  I was too embarrassed to even admit to most people this was happening. I fasted, and prayed every day for months that I would be married in the temple by April 15th.  I think every time I prayed, I added a “But if this doesn’t happen it really will be okay and I won’t be bitter.”

Fast forward 11 months later, Shawn and I were married on April 14th.  I know this was NOT a coincidence, and truly an answer to MANY MANY prayers.  

But I also know that this type of story doesn’t always end with a miraculous (aren’t all marriages miracles?) wedding. Sometimes “April 15” comes and goes, and it does seem like we’ve been forgotten.  I’ve experienced far more of these seemingly unanswered prayers, than clear answers.  But even still, I KNOW that God is in control, and that in His time, and in His way, each of us will experience our own beautiful miracles.

24.  Say Thank You 

25.  Be a Fred 

One of my favorite books is The Fred Factor,  by Mark Sanborn.  The book tells the story of Fred, the Postman, who finds incredible ways, every day, to make a difference in the lives of everyday people.  At the end of the day the most important questions we can ask are, “What difference did I make”, and “What value did I provide for those around me?”

26. Be kind to yourself.  

We tend to be our worst critics.  And there will always be something we could have done better at any moment of any day.  But if we won’t be kind to ourselves, there’s no guarantee anyone else will be either.  Allow yourself to make mistakes.  When you do, fail gracefully, and try again.  

27.  Don’t let someone else write your story.   

It can be really easy to feel like your life is in a rut, and be envious of the people around you who seem to be “Living the Dream.” But to quote one of my favorite bands from high school, “This is your life, are you who you want to be?” (Thank you Switchfoot) Take control.  If you want to be more spontaneous, be more spontaneous.  If you want to travel, plan a vacation.  If you want a better relationship with a friend or family member, take the first step towards changing the dynamic.  Stop allowing your circumstances to make you a victim, and start living your life.  Live your story.  

28.  TSA Pre-Check is the BEST $85 I’ve ever spent.   

29.  Words don’t always mean what you think they mean.  

Like…cupcakes, for example.  If you don’t know this story, ask me to tell you sometime.  It’s one for the books.

30.  Take time to make the personal connection.  

Life becomes exponentially more beautiful when you take time to invest in the lives of those around you.  Pause, ask questions, and care about their answers.  Search for common ground that will connect you with that person from that point forward.  Maybe it’s your shared love of Backstreet Boys, or your mutual adoration for Thai food.  Keep talking till you find it, and then pay attention. Because that mutual connection will open the door for you to ask other questions and learn and grow as you see life through their perspective.


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