I’m getting a bit personal on this post. Forgive me if this reads a little self-indulgent. I turn 30 this month, and this feels like an appropriate time to reflect on things I’ve learned over the years.
Like most people, my twenties were a tumultuous time of change, personal turmoil, heartbreak, and confusion. They were also a time of immense beauty, growth and change. I think about who I was at 21, or 24, and that person feels like a stranger. Sometimes in a good way, and sometimes not so good.
I thought I had the world figured out. I thought I knew what I wanted out of life, who I was and would be. Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at myself. Turning 30 feels like an accomplishment to me, for a few reasons. Mostly because I was never quite able to picture life this far.
There’s a saying in Urdu, that when you turn 30, that you’re “half an old lady.” Now, I certainly hope my life is nowhere near half over, but if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years is that tomorrow is not guaranteed.
Thirty rotations around the sun have given me some valuable lessons and growth that I absolutely intend to help steer me into this next chapter of my life.
Self-awareness is a skill. Hone it.
None of us are born completely self-aware. Adolescence is a time that is understandably self-obsessed. Our early adult years, I think, are best spent unlearning some of that, and learning to be self-aware. It is a skill that should be worked at with commitment and consistency.
Learn to check in with yourself. Slow down. Learn to recognize you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, and how to handle these feelings in a positive way.
Utilize therapy! I’m not saying this because I’m a therapist. I truly believe everyone can benefit from therapy.
It is always okay to leave anything – a person, place, situation – that makes you feel bad. Trust your gut.
Trusting my gut has been one of the biggest lessons I learned in my twenties. In fact, research has shown us that the “gut feeling” we experience in certain situations is your own biological alarm system ringing! When we listen to our gut feelings, the discomfort often subsides.
Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are – believe them.” I spent so much time in my twenties making excuses for others’ bad behavior toward me. In the end, I was the only one really hurting for it. It took me a while to figure out I should have listened to my gut.
You will have moments of unbearable pain – but also moments so beyond beautiful, that you can’t even believe your life is really yours.
Like most anyone, my twenties had its fair share of difficult moments. I had moments of absolute heartbreak, like, sobbing in the shower, feeling absolutely alone in the world, heartache. I walked away from a car wreck that made no sense to have walked away from.
I also had some of my highest highs, and when I reflect back on it, those are the things that I remember more strongly. The day I finally married my partner, the morning I found out I was pregnant, the day my son was born, the day I graduated with my Masters. In the end, the good memories do outshine the bad.
Be brave, be bold. Courage creates change. And sometimes that can feel wild.
Looking back, the wildest things I have done in my life have turned out to be some of the best things I could have ever done for myself.
Find community. Fight for what you believe in.
Create spaces that feel safe for yourself and others. When I lived in New York City, I dedicated myself to finding and building community, to activism and uplifting others, and it made my life so much richer.
Learn to listen. Speak up. Find your voice.
Learn to hold space for others to be heard and support the voices that need to be lifted. We all carry privilege in our lives, and it is important to recognize where it comes into play for each of us. Learn to listen – not just hear – but listen. You might be wondering what the difference between “hearing” someone and “listening” to someone is. Listening is active. It requires focus and intention.
Don’t lose sight of yourself in the search/ struggle for the future.
Our twenties can feel like a rat race. It can feel impossible when you compare yourselves to others’ accomplishments. The most important thing is to not lose sight of yourself and what you believe in when searching for or struggling for the future. Create opportunities for yourself to process your stress and just be. Your future self will benefit greatly.
BOUNDARIES – you create them, you uphold them.
As a therapist, this is something I talk about with my clients incessantly. The thing about boundaries is that inevitably people will push back when you try to create boundaries for yourself. That is where the real work is – upholding the boundaries you have defined for yourself.
Friends will come and go, like the seasons. The real ones stay throughout the change.
My closest friends are not necessarily people I talk to every single day. Life is busy. Things happen. I have learned the truest friends are the ones who understand this, expect it, and love you regardless.
Invest in yourself.
Take the time to learn who you are, what you like. Explore new hobbies and find new ways to express yourself. All three of my siblings are super talented when it comes to drawing and painting. It never came naturally for me. For Mother’s Day this year, I asked my husband for painting supplies. I decided I wanted to explore art on my own terms. It’s been 5 months, and while I am nowhere near as talented as my siblings, giving myself permission to just have fun with it has been quite freeing!
GO. TO. THERAPY. I said it above and I’m saying it again here – I don’t say this because I am a therapist. Therapy provides a safe space where you can share what is in your heart of hearts, without fear of judgment or backlash. It can be a place to work through past hurts and grow toward a brighter future. It can be a life-changing experience, once you find the right therapist.
Focus on healing your own hurts.
I read a statement by the artist Mensen once that really made me stop and think about pain and healing in a new way. “You are not responsible for the actions of those who hated themselves so much that they hurt you on purpose.”
You are responsible, however, for doing the work to undo the damage that hurt may have caused. Until we heal ourselves, the damage we carry with us can unintentionally be inflicted on others.
Finally, I leave you with a statement that has defined much of my personal journey and self-reflection, as I learn to challenge the idea of value and worth being tied to productivity (thanks, capitalism), or being tied to what I can do for others:
You are inherently valuable. You have worth. Ask no one for permission for this.