Today, I turn 30 years old and say goodbye to my 20s. Whoa. I remember watching “13 Going on 30” with Jennifer Garner so many years ago and thinking, 30 is so far away. Now that it’s officially here, it honestly doesn’t even seem real. If I’m being completely honest, while I’m excited for all that’s to come in my 30’s, I can’t help feeling a little bit sad and nostalgic about my 20s being over.
My 20s were a time where I grew, and grew up. I made mistakes and learned from them. I accomplished goals I can be truly proud of. I graduated from college, after spending some of the best years of my life there. I encountered heartbreak more than once. I found and married my person. I experienced loss, in more ways than one. I moved and fell in love with the city of Chicago. I lived in crappy, old apartments. I bought my first home. I traveled to eight countries and explored new cities. I suffered from depression and anxiety. I successfully launched a blog and hosted my first event. I was robbed and had things stolen from me. I found a calling in volunteering. I changed jobs three times. And then I made more mistakes and continued to learn from them.
Throughout my life and especially in my 20s, there’s some key critical things I learned that have gotten me to where I am today. I thought it couldn’t be more fitting to jot down what they are as I celebrate my 30th birthday. Some of the below are things I’ve learned and really applied in my life these last 30 years, and others are some I’ve learned, but still need to constantly remind myself on a daily basis. So without further ado….
#1 – Never Give Up on Your Passions
I think everyone has something they are super passionate about. It’s the best feeling when you realize what that passion is and how much joy you get out of it. However, sometimes life takes over and we can’t find the time or don’t make the time to fulfill what we are most passionate about. Or, maybe it’s that we don’t really know how to start. Regardless of what it is, don’t push your passions to the side and definitely don’t let fear get in the way. Tackle what your passion is head on and do everything in your power to achieve your goals.
I’ve always had a passion for writing (clearly). In high school and college, I’d write Facebook notes and posts for various blogs I started and would often get poked fun of for it. I don’t fault those people; I just don’t think they really understood it or understood me. Their words sometimes stung, but I never let it bring me down. I continued writing over the years here and there and ultimately found my calling with Lipstick & Ink. I am so glad I kept following my passions because I feel so, so much more fulfilled today than I ever have before.
#2 – It Never Hurts to Ask
The worst answer you’re going to hear is no. Sometimes it can be hard to ask a question for fear of the outcome of the answer, but you never know if you never try. Just ask!
#3 – Be Smart About Your Money
Growing up, many of my family’s conversations revolved around money. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily good or bad, but I do think it helped me be smarter about money once I started making my own. My dad always drilled into my sister and I to have money in savings and to never spend more than our means. I was very, very poor throughout college and the first few years in the real world. I couldn’t afford to do all the things I wanted or live in a super nice apartment. I lived within and below my means so that I could pay off my student loan debt and begin saving for the future, like my wedding and a downpayment on a house.
I’ve learned over the years to set these financial goals and to budget my money so I don’t carry any credit card debt or dip into savings for purchases. I explain the exact ways Adam and I manage our finances in this post. As I move into my 30s, I’ve realized how critical my money management has been these last few years to ensure I’m financially stable.
#4 – Perfection is Not Reality
I still continually have to remind myself that perfection is completely unrealistic and ridiculous. It can be easy to forget that and get caught up in this idea of perfection, especially nowadays when scrolling through social media, where everyone portrays a pretty picture of their life. I’ve learned that I have to take it all with a grain of salt and remind myself that there’s more to a person and their life than just what they post. They make look to be perfect and have the perfect life, but that’s not reality.
#5 – See Others’ Success as Inspiration, Not Competition
The compare game is more real than ever, especially when comparing yourself to someone who seems ‘perfect’ on social media or someone you know personally who feels in step with you, but is seeing more success or happiness than you. There have been times where I’ve looked at people I knew, or even my friends, and asked myself, ‘why aren’t I there?’ But the thing is, I’ve tried to look at things more from a positive viewpoint than a negative one. I’ve learned to be happy for those people and celebrate their successes and happiness. I’ve learned instead of comparing myself to them and getting down on myself, that I can look to those people as a source of inspiration of ‘how can I get there?’ It then in a way motivates me further because I think that if they can do something, so can I.
#6 – Put in the Work
Nothing in life is handed to us on a silver platter. Majority of us have to work extremely hard to get to where we want and achieve our own version of success. Define what success looks like to you and don’t let anyone else’s definition of it define you. Work towards what you ultimately want and know that sometimes you have to do the uncomfortable to get there. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career or in my life if I hadn’t busted my ass and made sacrifices. I’m still striving and know that I have to put in the hard work to get there.
#7 – Never Apologize for Your Success
After you do put in the work, never, ever, ever apologize or feel guilty for your success. Be proud of your successes and don’t let the haters get in your way of happiness. Ignore them and keep moving forward. There’s unfortunately been many times in my life where I’ve actually felt bad about milestones I’ve hit. I’ve felt guilty and almost undeserving, but I immediately have to snap out of it and realize that I’ve put in the work and I am deserving.
#8 – Surround Yourself with Supportive People
We all go through difficult and trying experiences in our lifetime and having the support of loved ones or even gems we can turn to on the internet is a game changer. As you get older, you tend to realize who your real friends are and who you can count on in times of need. If you have unsupportive people in your life, it’s best to either ignore them, or wish them well and say goodbye.
#9 – Friends Will Come and Go
This one has been tough to swallow. When you’re a kid, you think the friends you have are going to be your friends for life. And sometimes they can be (I’m still friends with my best friend who I’ve known since I was three, as well as friends with three girls I’ve known since kindergarten). But, the reality is that friendships evolve and friends come and go, especially in your teens and 20s. Friends grow apart, move away, or find they have nothing really in common anymore. Some friendships just abruptly end for seemingly no reason. It can be confusing and sad as it’s happening, but it’s a part of a life, especially as we get older into adulthood. The bright side of it all though is that often times when we say goodbye to friendships, we say hello to new ones.
#10 – Spend Money on Travel vs. Material Items
I may be biased here, but I’ve found spending my money on travel fulfills me more than spending it on material items. While I can totally appreciate a luxury handbag, I would much rather travel somewhere new and have the opportunity to explore a different place and culture. It’s through traveling where I’ve learned more about myself in that I love varying types of architecture, trying new foods, and meeting and talking to new people. If you’re able, travel.
#11 – Be Honest
We live in a day and age now where people tend to be pretty sensitive. While I completely understand that, I know that I’d rather be honest than sugarcoat something to someone. I live by the fact that I tell it like it is and I’ve been told that I can sometimes be a little harsh. But if I’m being honest, I’d rather be a little harsh than be fake. Because really, what good are you doing if you’re not being honest? I expect the same from my family and friends, even if it hurts. Which leads me to #12…
#12 – Appreciate Constructive Criticism
I welcome honesty. Why? Because I want to consistently be improving myself. It’s because of that that I am always asking for feedback, even if I know I’m not going to receive positive feedback. I ask for feedback on the job, in my marriage, in my relationships with family and friends, and even from strangers. I personally believe that constructive criticism is a good thing because it ultimately helps you to learn and understand what you can improve and how you can continue bettering yourself.
#13 – Know When It’s Time to Walk Away
I have been in some pretty bad relationships and friendships. For six years of my life, I let a guy take advantage of situations with me and play with my feelings. For years, I stayed in a friendship that was hostile and constantly made me feel like I was walking on eggshells. There comes a time when you realize, enough is enough. If you’re in a relationship or friendship where you constantly feel disrespected or taken advantage of, learn to close that chapter of your life and walk away. You’ll be better for it.
#14 – People Can Be Really, Really Mean for No Reason
My freshman year in college, there was a website called ‘Juicy Campus’ where people could anonymously post things about other people. I read the most cruel things written about me during that time and to say it didn’t hurt me would be an understatement. I can take the things people say and the words people write very seriously and personally. I’m only human! I was devastated people said those things about me. I hear all about these stories of bullying in the media nowadays and it makes my heart hurt. People can be so mean for truly no reason at all.
What I’ve learned though is that in most cases, there’s something underlying with them that’s making them do and say those mean things. And that just makes me sad for them. While people’s words can hurt, I consciously tell myself that it likely has nothing to do with me. That definitely helps soften the blow for me.
#15 – Always Choose Kindness
So in response to #14, always choose kindness. Even if people are saying and doing horrible things to you, don’t stoop to their level. Rise above it and be the better person. Kill ‘em with kindness.
On the flip side of that, every person, and I repeat every person has their own set of issues and battles. You never know what a person is going through or has gone through in their life. I make it a point to choose kindness every day, whether that means giving a hug when someone needs it most or sincerely complimenting a stranger. You never know how much you can make someone’s day just by a simple gesture like that.
#16 – Show Gratitude
I’ve learned to show gratitude in all aspects of my life. I even thank the bus driver when I get off the bus! I don’t take anything for granted and recognize how fortunate I really am. I want the people around me to know how thankful and grateful I am especially when they do something nice for me. I always want others to know how special they made me feel and how appreciative I truly am.
#17 – It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
We’re human and we’re going to make mistakes. There have certainly been things in my past I wish I could have done differently. But in the end, those things have probably helped me learn a lesson and made me who I am today. We have to be okay with imperfection and making mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Treat it as a lesson and move on.
#18 – Fake it ‘till You Make it
I’ve learned the true meaning of this in my job the last four years. There’s been times where I have had no idea what I’m doing. Not only that, but I do much more public speaking in my current job than I’ve had to do in previous jobs. I’m terrified of giving presentations and talking in front of groups of people. I realized though that sometimes you just have to fake your confidence to feel and be more confident in what you do. Now that I’m a little older, I realize that most of us don’t have all the answers and are just faking it as we go 🙂
#19 – Giving Back is Good for the Soul
One thing I’ve always been passionate about is giving back and donating money to organizations I care about most. In high school, I volunteered at a horse stable where I helped young children with physical disabilities learn to be around and ride horses as a form of therapy. Over the next few years, I still felt this inherent need to give back, but the majority of volunteer opportunities I took part in just didn’t feel like a good fit for me. Then, I discovered Misericordia (a developmental home for those with physical and intellectual disabilities). I went for a tour there and absolutely fell in love with their mission and the residents there. I immediately signed up to be a volunteer and have been going there almost every Tuesday night to help with dinner and clean-up for the past two years.
I encourage you to find a volunteer passion project and to give back to your community. If you don’t have the time to dedicate, you can also donate money (even $5 can go a long way) here and there to charities you care most about. There’s just something so good and special about giving and expecting nothing in return.
#20 – There’s No Shame in Therapy
While I worked through some family issues earlier last year and also realized that my anxiety was getting more serious, I turned to therapy. Was I scared? Of course. Was I afraid of judgment? Yes. But in the end, going to therapy for as long as I did truly did help me work through my challenges and learn more about myself. Therapy should never, ever be overlooked for fear of judgment or shame. If you feel the need to go, please go. Your mental health is too important.
#21 – Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Before turning 30, I made it a point to put myself in uncomfortable situations because I knew it was ultimately going to help me grow more as a person. I ignored the fears I had and got out of my comfort zone when it came to giving presentations, starting Lipstick & Ink and then hosting my first event, joining a new team at work, among others. I always want to be striving to achieve my utmost potential and I know doing the things I’m scared to do is ultimately what is going to get me there.
#22 – Never Stop Learning
My motto, especially in the last year, has been if you’re not learning, you’re not growing. As children, we’re constantly curious about the things around us and why things are the way they are. I don’t know why we’d ever stop this curious behavior. Curiosity forces us to ask questions, which forces us to learn and understand, which helps us to grow. Stay curious, my friends.
#23 – Let God Take the Reigns
I am a control freak. There, I admitted it. I didn’t quite realize how much I had to be in control until I reached my 20s. When things are out of my control, I tend to get anxious. The missed train, the delayed flight, the unexpected storm – all times where I feel out of control. I’ve learned though that sometimes, God just has other plans. It’s hard for me to accept because I am such a planner and expect things to always go right. I still am learning to accept the things I cannot change and to take deep breaths to calm me down. I need to learn to let God just take the reigns in those moments and trust that everything will work out.
#24 – Don’t Be a Flake
There’s been many a times where I’ve been disappointed because I have plans with someone and they flake out. I’ve learned that I never want to make someone feel the way I’ve felt in those situations. So, when I have plans or say I’m going to do something, I really do my very best to follow through. I can sympathize that as we get older, we have more going on in our lives. Let’s face it, life can be exhausting and sometimes we’d rather just sit at home and watch Netflix. And that’s okay – as long as you’re honest about it or give enough advance notice. But if you have plans and you’ve committed to something, please don’t be a flake.
#25 – You Can’t Please Everyone
I am and always have been a people pleaser. I always want to be liked and I never want to be talked bad about behind my back. But being a people pleaser is quite the slippery slope. Because when you try to please everyone, you fail in pleasing the person that matters most — you. The thing is, no matter what you do or how hard you try, people are always going to have an opinion about you and what you do with your life. It’s quite impossible to please everyone. Instead, focus on yourself and your needs and know when it’s okay to say ‘no.’
#26 – Family is Everything
I think even at a young age, you learn how important your family is and how much love you have for them. But through the loss of loved ones, I’ve realized it even more. When my last grandparent died and I witnessed my grandma’s last breaths, I realized how much love I had for her in those last moments. Through loss, you realize just how much family means. Loss is a part of life and it’s only going to become more prevalent as I get older. So I take every opportunity to spend time with my parents and my family and maximize that time the most I can. Family is truly everything that is important in life.
#27 – Timelines Are Irrelevant
There is no specific timeline for landing your dream job, buying a house, getting married or having kids. Don’t get caught up in what the people around you are doing. Everyone is on their own journey and on their own time. Live your life without worry of timelines and let things happen as they may.
#28 – Love Shows Up When You Least Expect It
In every relationship where I’ve found love, it’s come out of nowhere. I truly believe it all comes down to timing. In college, when all my friends were dating seriously and finding love, I was being put in the friend-zone. Every guy I developed feelings for didn’t like me back. Every guy that did like me, I for some reason couldn’t develop feelings for. I graduated without a boyfriend and no guy in sight and decided to instead focus on my career. I was open to love, but I wasn’t outrightly looking for it.
It was then I met Adam at our alma mater for homecoming. We didn’t see each other again until months later at a bar in Chicago and realized then that there was a spark between us. Love blossomed naturally between us and it all happened when I least expected it! My point is, if you haven’t found your person yet, don’t fret. There’s a reason you haven’t yet and you will when the timing is right and when you least expect it!
#29 – Learn to Forgive
There’s going to be times where others make mistakes and do things that hurt us. Growing up as a Catholic, I’ve learned to not hold grudges and let anger fester. Instead, I’ve learned to forgive. I may not forget, but I can forgive and not let things get the best of me.
#30 – Everything Happens for a Reason
Enough said. Trust that everything will work out as it should.
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Success Manager at Salesforce and has over 10 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.