People say life gets better in your thirties.
I may only be one year into the age group, but I am all about this decade. The year I spent as a 30-year-old was the best year of my life. Yeah, there were the big things — getting married, going to Africa, adopting Ellie, moving out of Manhattan, being healthy for an entire year (!!!) — but there were also some valuable life lessons, theories, and changes that I picked up along the way.
So in true “It’s my birthday [tomorrow], and I’ll be cheesy if I want to” fashion, here’s a list of all the things I’ve loved about being in my thirties so far.
1. I made “I’m 30, I’m too old for this shit” my motto. And I stuck by it. When I didn’t want to deal with drama or things that felt petty, I dropped that line and moved on. New motto: “I’m 31. I’m way too old for this shit.”
2. I finally — finally — learned to be OK with my body. This was a big one for me. One day I just told myself I was done constantly criticizing myself in mirrors, photos, or real life. (Ah, the mindset of a former dancer…) As soon as I flipped that switch, my entire outlook changed. I had so much more free time to think about more important and meaningful things in life! Even at my fittest and strongest, I never gave my body enough credit for what it could do (like running marathons). Now, even though most of the clothes I’ve been wearing for the past few years no longer fit, I’m the most content I’ve ever been. Changing my outlook — not my body — did the trick.
3. I stopped apologizing so much. “Hey, sorry, just want to check in on those 12 emails I sent the other day that you’ve been ignoring.” “Sorry, I know you’re busy, can you give me a call when you have a sec?” “Sorry, can I have a sixth slice of pizza or do you want it?” Enough. Save those sorries for Justin Bieber.
4. I became less obsessed with my workouts. This was the year I finally — again, finally — gave into true lazy rest days and came to appreciate their values and benefits. There is nothing wrong with taking a day off of running and all other exercise. A lot of this happened after blowing up at the Brooklyn Half and realizing I was so over-trained and desperately needed to give my body a break. Then, when we got Ellie, I quickly realized I would so much rather take her on adventures than slog through junk miles I didn’t really want to run. I love running and I love working out, but I also have a better sense of balance these days. It took a while, but here we are.
5. I finally paid off my debt. I used to use my credit card very sparingly until I got super sick a few years ago. Then, onto the card went my hospital bills, my medications, and my cabs to and from work every single day. That stuff added up fast. On top of all that, I had to stop working temporarily, and going on disability meant abandoning my paycheck. Since then, I carried an ever-growing balance on my credit card. Last week, I finally paid it off in full. Again, it took a while, but it feels really good to finally be debt-free.
6. I learned how to care for another being. It’s a dog, not a human, but still. Learning to take care of Ellie has been life-altering. I know I’ll offend someone out there if I compare having a puppy to having a baby — particularly since, I know, I’ve never had a baby. But Ellie pretty much required round-the-clock attention when we first got her. Even now, at almost eight months, every day revolves around her schedule and her well-being. I care so little about my own needs because I am so invested in making sure she is safe, happy, and fed.
7. I stopped obsessing over dumb shit. Much of this happened when Brian and I moved to our current apartment. I was a demon roommate before the move. Our Manhattan apartment was so small and so crowded, and I would obsess over every single thing. If Brian didn’t make the bed perfectly, I would snap. If I had to ask him to take out the trash, I would snap. Everything about that living situation stressed me out, especially once I started working from home, and I just couldn’t let it go. I harped over such trivial things. Now that we have room to breathe (and more room for those dirty dishes), I just don’t care about the dishwasher or the laundry being put away anymore. I do still make the bed every morning, though.
8. I stopped spending so frivolously. This change came into play when I made the transition from an office job to freelance life. I’ve become smarter about spending and investing and saving, and finally set up an automatic weekly transfer from my checking to my savings account. It’s a small amount at a time, but every dollar counts. Plus, living in New Jersey means no more “I’m too lazy to cook so I’ll order Seamless,” and way fewer cabs or Ubers. I’m a little embarrassed it took me until my thirties to really take my finances seriously and to want to start investing smartly in my future, but hey, I got there eventually.
9. I stopped caring or thinking about the haters. I put parts of my life out on the internet. You can love it, you can like it, you can ignore it, you can hate it. The choice is yours, not mine. If you choose to hate it — and still follow along — that’s a reflection of you, not me. I’m not a perfect human, and despite all the over-sharing, what I put online isn’t my entire life. Years ago, negative comments or reactions would keep me up at night and make me cry. Now? No f*cks given. If my parents tell me I’m being a horrible person, or Brian or Ellie or any of my close friends feel that way, I’ll take it into consideration, because they’re probably right. But anonymous strangers on the internet? Boy bye. (TM Beyoncé.)
10. I’ve learned to be happy now, instead of waiting for “when” or “if.” I used to think I’d be happy if I were thinner, or when I had more money. I’ve stopped trying to have a perfect body (hi, I live next door to Ben & Jerry’s…) and as long as I live in the NYC area I don’t think I’ll ever see the kind of money I used to dream of. But my life is rich in experiences and relationships and a puppy who loves me even with cellulite and pimples along my jawline. She doesn’t care about the state of my bank account as long as we all have somewhere safe and warm to lay our heads at night.
11. Talk less. Smile more. I’m borrowing this one from Hamilton, but it’s a good one. Listening = learning.
If you’re a 20-something who thinks being in your thirties makes you “feel old” or you’re dreading it or any of that madness, give that up. Your thirties are going to be great. (Do I sound old and wise yet? Or just annoying? The goal is to be the former!)
As I wrote this post, I asked Brian whether he preferred his twenties or his thirties (he’s 2.5 years older than me), and he laughed at the notion that your twenties could even compete with your thirties. “Your twenties are a f*ckin’ struggle,” he told me. “You’re figuring out what you’re good at and what you’re supposed to do. In your thirties, stuff starts to fall into place. You get to execute on all that. It’s way f*cking better.”
Perhaps at some point both of us will learn the lesson that “swearing isn’t classy.”
Maybe in our forties.