Don’t worry – these changes to make in your 30s do not constitute of me telling you that you can’t put on a miniskirt or wear your hair a certain way now that you’re in your thirties – I love my crop tops and plan to be a long haired, tutu wearing old lady one day. But now that I’ve been on the other side of thirty for a while there are some changes I feel are worth making when you’re no longer in your twenties. And I’m nothing if not helpful, so I’ll share my 11 changes to make in your 30s with you today. My pleasure.
11 changes to make in your 30s
1. Stop apologizing all the time
I sneeze? ‘I’m sorry.’ You bump into me? ‘I’m sorry.’ You can’t find your keys? ‘I’m sorry.’ If you didn’t know me any better, you’d think I’m the sorriest person in the world. And for what? It’s not as if not sneezing is an option, or that I could telepathically feel you coming my way and thus would have been able to get out of it before you had the change to bump in to me. And if I could, I really shouldn’t. I have a right to be where I am. If you’re the one on the move, you should use your eyes. If you don’t, it’s you who should be apologizing to me.
And the thing is, I’m not actually sorry about these things. It’s a reflex, much like saying ‘ouch’ before your toe even hits the doorpost. The only difference is that this particular reflex basically says that I don’t believe I have the right to be where I was, do what I did or say what I said. Every time I say I’m sorry without good reason, I put myself down. I become that weird dog that immediately rolls on its back the second it’s being approached by another living being. And that’s really not what I aspire to be. So I’m breaking the habit of apologizing for things that are not my fault.
2. Think before you buy
We live in an age of ever faster fashion, which seems to become a bigger burden on our planet with each new season and literally kills the people who are putting our garments together on the other side of the world. In your teens or early twenties you might have gotten away with claiming not to know, but this can’t be an excuse anymore in your thirties. You know, and should act accordingly. This is not to say that you can’t ever buy at H&M anymore – in fact H&M is one of the better (relative, obviously) brands to buy according to Rank a Brand – but please do think about what you buy.
Try to go for materials that won’t look horrible after three or so washes, and only buy things that you really like or need. Don’t let anyone talk you into buying something you’re not sure of yourself. It will only end up in the back of your closet, whereas I find that when I’m emotionally connected to something it makes me happy and I take better care of it. I still wear and love a top bought when I was sixteen, and the pencil skirt my mom got before I was born finds its way into my outfits on a regular basis. Hell, I’m still actively wearing a shirt my dad got on one of his many trips as a marine over 35 years ago – and I used that shirt in PE for years in high school!
Bottom line: Expensive doesn’t necessarily constitutes good. As long as you make sure your new clothes check a few durability markers before you buy, and then love and take care of them after, you’re on the right path. Be aware of what you buy. We do vote with our wallets – and if we don’t change, nothing ever will.
3. Don’t refer to yourself as ‘a girl’ by default
Sure, go out with ‘the girls’ if you want. Nothing wrong with letting loose and acting young. After all, it’s what you are. If nothing goes wrong along the way we have a good chance of turning a hundred, and we’re nowhere close to halfway there yet. But. Girl can be a derogatory term in your professional life. At the NGO where I used to work, we had a woman in her late forties coming in as a freelancer. Every time she addressed me or one of my female colleagues – all in our twenties or early thirties at that time – she’d collectively call us ‘the girls’.
By doing so she subtly but unmistakably tried to put herself above us, even though we were the ones calling the shots. Don’t let others put you down. Don’t profile yourself as a girl at work. You have a lot of life and work experience – show others that you believe in your capacities so they will too. Be a powerhouse – be a woman.
4. Get screened for cervical cancer
It was quite an intense moment when I received the letter requesting me to come in for my cervical cancer screening. One day I was much too young to ever think about getting cancer, and the next I was suddenly old enough to be at a real risk. Real enough to warrant a preemptive screening.
So I did what many of us do. I put the letter away and my head in the sand. And then, some months after, my friend told me about her other friend that didn’t go to her first screening either. When she did go to her next one five years later, she turned out to have cervical cancer. At the time my friend told me this, her friend was in horrible pain and awaiting death. She has since died. Her story was enough for me to finally go get screened. The results were all good, luckily, but for three women in my close circle the screening did turn up something that could become cancer. They were either treated right away or are monitored more closely from now on to make sure that their situation will never get as bad as it had with the friend of my friend.
Of all the changes to make in your 30s, this one is truly a matter of life and death. When you get your letter, go get screened.
5. Stop comparing yourself to others
With Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat omnipresent it’s easy to sometimes get the feeling that you apparently suck at life. Scrolling through endless feeds of happy people at amazing places and parties you wonder where you went wrong, ending up home alone in your pj’s on a Friday night, your last holiday nothing more than a distant memory.
At such times it’s good to remember that much of what you’re seeing online is put there by people who in all probability spend many nights at home in their pj’s as well, editing photos to make them a tad shinier or more colorful in the hope of transferring a bit of the happiness in them to their day to day lives. It’s been said a million times, but most people only put the best parts of their lives online for the rest of the world to like. You posted those pictures of that too long ago holiday on Instagram, but not one of you now, feeling sorry for yourself on the couch. Sharing stuff online is a quest for validation. The whole point of it is to feel loved, so of course people share the stuff that will get them the most likes. Don’t compare your life to the tiny bits that others are willing to share of theirs.
And then there are the people you follow not because they are your real life friends or acquaintances, but because of the great stuff they post. In all likelihood, these people get paid for the things they post. It’s their job to put out great content. Yes, they travel to cool places and do great things, but at the end of the day it’s still a job. There’s a big difference between relaxing on a secluded beach with your love whilst watching a beautiful sunset on a romantic holiday, or having to get an amazing picture or video of said sunset, making sure you look absolutely stunning in that picture and then edit everything afterwards and come up with the most enticing words to accompany the picture or video, AND make sure to get a ton of likes and reactions to your content.
Sure, you could definitely argue that it’s a job that still beats the one you have where you sit in an office all day, and depending on the kind of person you are that may be true. If it is true for you, then try to incorporate more of that freedom or travel you seek into your day to day life. Try to to make a living out of it if you must. But remember, these people didn’t just end up where they are overnight. They spent a lot of hard work and long hours getting where they are today.
6. Care less about the opinion of others
This might actually be the most important one of my changes to make in your 30s – or at least the most personal one. For a long time every time I shared something I wrote on Facebook or made a change to my LinkedIn profile I wondered what certain people from my past would think about it. I hadn’t seen or talked to these people in years, but we were still connected online. I guess that to me, they had long since succeeded in making something of themselves whereas I was still dabbling. And that made me afraid to show my work and the choices I made. It’s not that I doubted those choices or the work, but I was afraid that these specific people would think they were silly or unintelligent at the least.
And as someone having always belonged to the top of my class for as long as I can remember, someone for who learning never came as much of an effort, unintelligent is something I am not allowed to be. Or at least, that’s the thing that I’ve been almost indoctrinated to believe for most of my life. If you’ve got the brains, you’ve got to use them. But what if I like making things with my hands? What if what makes me happy, is helping others have a good time? What if my idea of a well-spent afternoon is browsing ‘silly’ blogs? What if I do aspire to have a library, but aim to fill it with fantasy novels and YA books? What if I love telling stories? Not the well-researched treatises written by renown journalists, but personal anecdotes sprinkled with salt to make you suck in your breath and cry out is this real?!
Well, in that case it’s really time to say fuck you to all those people in my head who are keeping me from doing the things I long to do. And the same goes for you. It’s time to start doing those things, and be proud of them. If you don’t really believe in what you do, how can you ever convince others to? It’s a shame to let the people you love keep you from leading the life that you want. To let the people that don’t even matter do that to you – now that’s truly silly.
7. Be less judgmental
This is a hard one. I can be very judgmental and I suppose this is true for most of us. It’s something inherent to being human. However, a few months ago someone told me that everything is projection: how you judge others is really how you judge yourself. I was quite cross with my mom when she didn’t put in the hours for a project we were planning together. I was her big passion project that she’d been talking about for years so I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t do the work.
But then the ‘everything is projection’-rule put it into perspective: I am the same when it comes to the things that really matter to me. While your dream is a dream, it’s safe. You can cherish the thought of one day turning it into reality. But when you actually try to do so, there’s a good chance of failure and then the dream will be lost. In realizing this I saw that the irritation towards my mom was really anger at my own cowardice.
By being kinder to others you’re being kinder to yourself. And I truly believe that positivity trumps the negative. When your boss gets angry at you for doing something wrong, instead of doing a better job next time you’ll probably get anxious and thus be more prone to making mistakes. Had he told you you’d done a great job, and next time maybe do that to make it even better, that would have had a much better chance to get the wanted result.
And even if you think all this makes no sense, wouldn’t it just be nicer to be kind? Would you really rather be cross with someone over something insignificant than take a breath, get over it, and spend a good time together?
8. Make time for family
While a big chunk of your twenties was probably spend (subconsciously) loosening ties with your family in order to find out who you are as an individual, your thirties are the perfect time to reconnect. Chances are you’ve moved away from the place you grew up in, and as such seeing your family has become an effort that involves quite some planning and conflicting schedules. It’s easy to let months go by without contact. And that’s a shame.
A few exceptions left aside, your family consists of the people that will always be there for you. A lot of friends come and go throughout your life, but family remains. If you find yourself in the middle of a breakup and have literally nowhere to live, you don’t move in with your friend and her family, you knock on your parents’ door. You call you brother to see if you can crash at his place for a while. And they will be there for you. That’s what they are family for.
Don’t only show up when you’re in need though. Spread the love and get the love on the other days as well. Put in the effort and reap the returns. Your life will be richer for it.
9. Work on your dreams
Yes, you have dreams. Many dreams, in fact. Dreams that you will all fulfill, sometime in the future. But the future is now. And if you don’t start working on your dreams today, what makes you think you will tomorrow? If you want something, work for it. Make it happen. Consciously decide that this is what you want and then go for it. Don’t be vague about it. Don’t say ‘I want more money,’ or ‘I want a nicer job’. Tell yourself how much money and what job exactly you want, and then figure out what steps to take to get that.
All you have to do then is take those steps. Easy peasy. Don’t let your dreams get dusty on the shelf where you only look at them every now and them. Make them your life. At the end of the day, our biggest regrets are the things we didn’t do. Don’t fall into that trap.
10. Quit thinking that you should have figured everything out by now
It’s okay to not have a clue! And most importantly: it’s okay to try something new. Don’t stick with the same old thing because you feel you have to, even if it doesn’t feel right for you anymore. People always seem to say that quitting something will be such a waste of the last x number of years that they spend on that something, but that’s just bullshit. Or fear. Probably fear though.
Nothing is ever a waste of time. In this case you’ll have learned things in the last couple of years, even if it’s only what you want to do differently from now on. You know what will be a waste though? Spending the next decades – the rest of your life – sticking to the things you already know are not right for you.
You really don’t need to have everything figured out already. Try new things. Quit old stuff. Fall behind. Fall over. But learn from mistakes and make sure that in the overall picture, you keep moving forward.
11. Learn new things
Remember when you were a child, and summers were endless and years seemed to last forever? How different from today, where that holiday you took last month is all of the sudden two years ago, and you friend’s kid is turning SIX next week? How did this happen?
We all know that time seems to speed up as we age. The days are just not as long as they used to be when you were younger. You know why? Because to you, they truly aren’t.
Yup. Our sense of time is not like our other senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch). We don’t so much sense it, as perceive it. Our brain takes the information it gets from our senses and arranges it in a way that is logical to us. The processing of familiar information takes no time at all, but new information takes longer to sort out and makes time feel elongated.
So our sense of time is not objective at all. Which is great, because that means we can tweak it. In dangerous situations time seems to slow down because you pay really close attention, and the reverse it true as well. If your brain deals with a lot of familiar information, time seems to speed up. As a kid, you were learning and seeing new things every single day. As an adult though? Not so much.
So the trick to longer days is to keep on learning, even now that you’ve long finished school and college, and know how to do your job well. Don’t sit back feeling like you know it all, but start doing karate or pick up those paintbrushes. Sign up for that History of Russia class or work on your Turkish (or Mandarin, if you’re really up for a challenge). Not only will you have the joy of adding new skills to your resume, you’ll keep your brain healthy and meet new people, and have the added bonus of lengthening the hours that make up your days. We might not have figured out how to travel through time yet, but you can definitely bend its rules to your advantage.
Endless days of summer, here we come.
What do you think of my list of changes to make in your 30s? Do you agree with them? Do you have something to add? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your take on this!
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