My 30th birthday was earlier this year. While I can remember thinking 30 was old when I was a little girl, I’m kind of loving it now. To celebrate entering a new decade, I want to share 33 life lessons I learned in my 20’s.
First – In My 20’s…
To be fair, I never really thought I would love my 20’s like I did. I can remember being 20 and just feeling so awkward. Maybe it was just me, but I felt like it was like being 12 all over again.
There were so many growing pains. College classes, yearly moves, changing friendships, and new jobs happening all at once. And then there was dating. Oh my gosh, dating. It was horrible!
I believe if Sex and the City had been on when Charlotte was 20, there would have been a whole episode on how bachelor pads are disgusting and frankly – unacceptable. The bachelor pads weren’t even the worst of it though. I dated some real jerks between 19-21 – including one 1st date that took place at Hooters among frat brothers.
So – I was honestly very happy to settle down, skip the clubs and find (and later marry) me a nice 30-year old man when I was 21.
By My 30th Birthday…
I can’t say I’m super wise, but I’m definitely more comfortable in my own skin. I’m not as quick to get defensive, and I know my worth a lot more now than I did 10 years ago.
I can’t imagine learning as many life lessons as I learned in 20s in this decade, but I didn’t know how much I’d grow in the past 10 years either.
So now that you know a little bit about me – here are my bits of wisdom from the last decade.
33 Life Lessons I Learned Before My 30th Birthday
1. God directs us more than we know.
In 2010, I was living at home. Well, I was living with my parents – who were losing our home. I remember driving and just being in disbelief.
This story isn’t about the house though. The financial stress encouraged me to get a part-time job while going to school though.
I decided on the very ambiguous career of “Sun Tan Advisor” at a local tanning bed place. About 2 weeks in, a man started talking to me. While he was nice, all I could see was his wedding band glowing. Well, fast forward 24 hours, I had a message on Facebook from him.
Bless him. He’s actually a good guy – not a creep.
He asked to set me up with his best friend – described as a Christian, good guy and that had a house. I never in a million years would have done a semi-blind date, but as I looked at the friend’s Facebook, I thought why not?
That was the summer of 2010. We’ve now been married 4 years and counting.
2. Who God has in mind for you is better than you know.
As I mentioned above – I went out with that Christian guy, Jake, on a whim. I can’t say I ever really had a dream guy or that I fantasized about my wedding like other girls.
With that said, I never could have picked a better husband than Jake.
Right from our first date, I loved how authentic he was. He didn’t give a rip about what people thought, but he had the biggest heart for people at the same time. (Though he’ll deny it and probably pull out a Darth Vader gif on you.)
We also share so many values, but he’s my counterpart in that he is calm and able to go with the flow.
The surprising thing is, I love how he loves for me to just “be me”. I never knew how much I hid pieces of me before.
I like to set big goals, decide things quickly and do things my own way.
I can also pull every shenanigan from Shania Twain’s “Every Man of Mine.” I might burn dinner, but he says, “Mmm. I like it like that!” bless his heart.
I also can put down a cupcake like no bodies’ business and then turn around and workout. I want to keep a clean house and cook, but sometimes it’s messy, and he brings home takeout.
All of these little things, I never thought could be accepted – much less loved – by a man. He has taught me to “be me” and that is enough.
No one ever told me a husband could teach and love you so much.
3. Whoever says the 1st year of marriage is “just a slumber party with your best friend” lied to me.
While I have the best husband in the world, the first year of our marriage had to be the hardest of the 4 so far.
It wasn’t “Oh crap, what did we do?!” hard, but anyone that compares it a “slumber party with your best friend” is fool of bull.
With that said, we didn’t live together before getting married, and I know that’s uncommon nowadays. So we also had to learn to cohabitate which probably caused some stress.
With that said, that year was a year of growth.
And just like 7th grade, some of those memories are the sweetest and pure things you cherish, and other parts were just scary and I’m sure glad they’re over.
I guess what I’m trying to say is — I didn’t like going in with that “always-happy” expectation and comparing our marriage.
The first year is the first year of something new. It’s magical, but it’s just like the first year of anything – you’re learning and growing…which means, expect some mishaps.
4. Whatever you focus on, you attract more of.
This now sounds like “Duh” to me, but it wasn’t always the case. If we focus on worrying and stressful things – we bring on more of it.
For example, in 2010, I was broke! I focused on student loans and debt instead of income and how to build a business.
When I changed my perspective to being about generating income and helping people. So my thoughts got better and then my actions and circumstances followed! I paid off $31,000 in student loans the next year!
5. If someone shows you who they are, believe them.
Oh – this lesson. This one could have saved me the worst kind of broken heart. The kind that happens when your best friend disowns you.
I want to paint this picture well because when you get disowned, you can kind of risk coming off as a b-word.
In high school, I had a really close group of 3 friends — 1 girl and 2 guys.
I initially was friends with the 2 guys beforehand [I was always the girl that was the friend FYI], and she liked one of them.
I offered to set them up.
I still remember her sneaking to get me out of Astronomy class to tell me all about their first date.
Being friends through high school and living together for a year, she literally showed me who she was every day; I just refused to see it.
About 5 months before her wedding to my other best friend, she started to ignore me. Then, told me I was now a bridesmaid versus maid of honor.
By the time the wedding rolled around, I had Jake waiting with the car running outside – just in case I needed to make a quick getaway.
I don’t know what is worse – that I missed her true character, or that I lost the other best friend in the process (and consequently learned a little bit about that friendship, too).
6.Don’t live your life with someone else’s vision.
When I was in college, I was obsessed with figuring out who I wanted to be – where I’d live, who I would marry, what we would do for fun, and how many kids we’d have.
Now – I am just living in the present, setting big goals, and doing my best everyday to hit them. I don’t worry about what people think when I say “I blog full-time” or ask “when are you going to have kids?”
I have embraced Matthew McConaughey’s approach to life to just “keep livin”, and man – it feels freeing!
7. Get the dog.
To say getting a dog was a tense subject in my house is like saying it gets a little humid in the South.
While we did have a dog from the time I was 9 on, it never was a great subject for my parents either. It just caused issues and stress.
So I definitely didn’t want a dog when I got married. Nope. Nada.
Well, 6 months later, I changed my mind. I don’t know why except that God directs us more than we know – even when it comes to a dog.
I longed for a Shih Tzu. Within a few days, one of my good friends found one that someone wanted to get rid of.
Now was the moment — well, actually I agonized over it for a few hours – then it was the moment.
“Jake, I kind of want this dog. And I kind of already found her.”
He was quiet but not angry. Perplexed, but not angry.
I brought her home a few days later covered in leaves, gunk and in desperate need of a grooming.
One rule was that she wasn’t allowed in the bed – which was quickly okay’d by me since 1) I changed the rules (of no dogs) and 2) she resembled Oscar the Grouch more than a Shih Tzu at the time.
Now, I type this as she and Jake are cuddled up in our bed.
She has been such a great joy not only to me but to us. She has helped our marriage even when we didn’t know there was a place to be helped.
If you want a dog – just get the dog. (And remember – adopting is awesome!)
8. Parents are just people.
Along with the other lessons I learned, figuring out my parents weren’t Yodas of the universe took me awhile.
It’s not that my parents did or didn’t do something — it just took me growing up a little to see that everything isn’t always black or white. And no one (or two) people should have the responsibility of always being right.
9. You don’t HAVE to do anything.
This one I’m still mastering, but man – is it freeing!!
I didn’t come from a “We don’t quit!” household. God knew I couldn’t handle all that; I was giving myself ulcers by 8 trying to be perfect in everything I did.
I grew up in a supportive, “You don’t HAVE to do anything” home because my parents knew I was going to do most things anyways. If I didn’t, something was wrong.
With that said, I still felt guilt and agonized over whether or not I HAD to do something that really didn’t matter into my late 20’s.
Now, if it’s not going to hurt someone or myself OR if something else can be arranged, I allow myself the grace to say no.
I also now see others that struggle with this daily, and it breaks my heart.
You don’t HAVE to do anything. Yes, you have to do things, but I have faith – you can always find another way.
This also goes for anything! Live your truth, baby!
10. It’s tragic I know trinomial factoring, but I never knew how to apply for a mortgage or invest until my 30th birthday.
As a former math teacher, I feel like this is even more ironic since I taught trinomial factoring.
I really wish my high school classes had included things like mortgages and investing as a general life-skill class.
11. Forgiving others only frees yourself.
I held a grudge against the friend I mentioned above for a long time. Then, I started praying for her and her husband (my other best friend from high school). It sounds so stupid – so cheesy, but it worked.
I have no idea if the sound of my name would make them cringe, but the last time I saw one of them – I actually said HI!
I didn’t run. I didn’t say hi to say, “I’m doing so good!” or anything. Just hi.
I realize someone may have hurt you way more than this little scenario, and I imagine the hurt and anger you feel is larger. I believe that anger and hurt can be lifted even more for you if you can find forgiveness.
12. People aren’t thinking or talk about you.
This really goes for first impressions mostly, but I find it very reassuring as an introvert.
People are typically thinking about themselves and what you think of them versus judging you. So it’s time to stop analyzing the 10 minute conversation or your date last week. Let it go.
13. People will treat you how you allow them to.
As a third generation people-pleaser (maybe more), I know what it’s like to want to say yes to everything or to drop everything to do something for someone.
But people learn they can do that to you. Just like they can learn to treat you well or like you’re a pretty girl without a clue.
This isn’t on them – it’s on you. Every single one of us gets to decide how we will be treated by others. Set your boundaries. Speak up. Again – live that truth!
A great book to learn how to be treated and how you want to be treated is Boundaries.
14. Ask your spouse or partner what he/she needs and let them know what you need.
The biggest reason I think couples fight is because they don’t understand what or why their spouse needs something.
One mini-lesson I’ve learned is to study what you want- if you want a good marriage study what works and communicate with your spouse about the little and big stuff!
15. Setting boundaries isn’t selfish or being a bad ____.
This goes back to what I learned in Boundaries. As you start setting boundaries on how you want to be treated, you might feel guilty because you’re changing how a relationship works.
But – this is okay. It can even help your relationship long-term because you’ll both get what you need out of it.
16. Kids should read personal development in school.
They also helped me grow in my confidence – something kids need so much help with growing up!
17. Being Assertive isn’t being an asshole.
The first time I went to New York City, I felt like I had found “my people”. Living in the South, we tend to hold our tongues so long that when we finally decide to be assertive, we go way off the deep end.
New Yorkers were not mean – just assertive, and I loved it. Acting like a fool on the escalator? Someone will tell you to stop. Being rude to the cashier? Someone will tell you you’re being rude.
It was amazing.
The same goes for your relationships, boundaries and needs. You can be assertive when you are telling people what you need and want without being a jerk.
18. Don’t let your pride overshadow your dreams.
I studied finance in college because I thought it was the most impressive business major. *insert eye roll*
Fast forward 2 years after graduation, and I was far from finance. I hated the fast-pace and power required of it.
I went from that industry to multi-level marketing and blogging. I can only try to tell you of the eye rolls and “Oh reallys?” you get with that job title.
But I help people. I get to be creative. I make a good living. I work from home, and I set my own hours.
I’ll take that over a job title OTHER people think sounds impressive any day.
19. If you’re going to start a business, find a partner.
In 2011, my mom and I decided to start our online fitness business. Over the past 8 years, we’ve learned a lot about being self-employed, the online industry, and ourselves.
I can’t imagine starting a business without someone that I could lean on. We not only help share the workload, but we can brainstorm together and keep each other in check if we ever need.
20. When I grow up I want to be Jane Fonda, Lilly Tomlinson, or Dolly Parton.
All three of these women learned not to let someone else dictate how they live or act. I love their ambition, sweet hearts, sense of humor and how they live unapologetically.
Plus – they all look killer for their age and can keep up with 20-somethings!
21. Whatever you want, track it.
This is different from what you focus on, you attract more of. You can focus on being skinny all day long, but unless you track what you’re eating and how active you are – you can wish all day long.
So if you want to hit your goal weight, save $10,000, or make $1000 a month on your new blog – figure out what will help you get there and track it!
22. Taking care of yourself allows you to take care of others.
Short and sweet. One of my favorite quotes from Jim Rohn is, “I’ll take care of me for you, if you’ll take care of you for me.”
It’s hard to put yourself first sometimes, but if you’re not able to take care of your health (mentally and physically) how can you expect to take care of others.
You need to be at your best and encourage others to be at their best versus taking on the world.
23. Sometimes it’s okay to not know what you want to do in life.
You’re going to learn that I love Matthew McConaughey, but the dude has so much figured out. The idea of figuring out who we want to be or what we want in life can be daunting, and he really simplifies in the speech below.
He focuses on cutting back on what you don’t want to be in order to find out what you do want to be and have in life.
24. I can’t control other people’s opinions, thoughts, actions, happiness or mindset.
As a people pleaser and a bit of control freak, I tend to want to make sure others are happy and successful.
This is not my place though, and that’s finally sinking in.
25. No matter where you are, there you are.
You’re going to have to figure out a way to love yourself. We often look for a new city, new job, new relationship, or a new outfit to feel happy or confident. While I know there is power in a new dress, it’s only temporary just like the other outside things.
If you’re struggling with your happiness or confidence, you’re going to have to look inward and upward versus outside.
26. Take Action
I love when books include how-to’s and steps because action is what brings about change.
So many times, I waited to take action because I wanted to be able to do something perfectly or didn’t know how to start correctly.
Now – I’ve learned the best way to hit any goal is just to take action – even if you have no idea what you’re doing!
27. We can’t help every cause, but God puts in our heart one for a reason.
There are so many great charities out there to support. The idea of deciding who or where to donate to overwhelmed me.
Then one day I realized – God puts special causes in each one of our hearts.
For me – I love supporting charities that rescue and help dogs because Roxy has made such an impact on me. Others may feel the same way about feeding the homeless or finding a cure for cancer.
God gave us each a passion, and we should honor it.
28. Don’t Take Things Personally
If a salesperson gave me a snotty look or someone was rude to me, it used to really mess with my mood. When I decided to think about what they might have going on in their lives, it helped me not take things so personally.
Someone’s rude? Maybe they’re stressed about their sick kid. Someone quits one of our programs without telling us? Maybe they were just too nervous or scared to let us know.
While I never want to ASSUME what someone is thinking or feeling, I do like to leave room not to take things personally.
Because whatever is going on – it’s 99% of the time not you. It might be a little you, but mostly it’s whatever the other person has going on in their head.
29. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others (Including Your Past Self)
After getting married, I gained about 15 lbs and felt so embarrassed. I had ballooned up just like those men talk about, “Put a ring on her finger, and she’ll let herself go!”
I constantly compared myself to other girls my age and even me on my wedding day or me in high school
(because that’s healthy).
I lost zero weight and gained zero positive things from comparing myself to others or myself. I wasn’t comparing my situation now to my high school days or what other girls had going on in their lives either.
I only changed and lost the weight when I STOPPED comparing and took ACTION.
30. Take the Trips
In Four Christmases, Vince Vaughn spits out “We take the trips” during a scene where people are asking him and Reese Witherspoon, his long time girlfriend. It’s seriously one of the best Christmas movies out there. Stream it.
But I’ve learned to travel any chance I get – whether it’s to relax, explore or learn at a conference. Every time I travel, I learn something about myself and others.
It also creates such strong memories compared to something material. I sometimes will stress about going somewhere because it can be expensive to travel, but honestly – there isn’t one trip I regret taking! Each one was also at a time in my life that I needed to go there then versus putting it on a bucket list. (Though France, Spain, and Bora Bora – I still have you on my list to visit!)
31. No one is immediately successful – it’s the compound effect.
Well – maybe Prince William, but let’s be real. Most of the successful people we see now had to continue to grow and fail in order to get to where they are now.
Don’t be so hard on yourself that you don’t allow yourself to grow into who you can become.
32. Get your sleep; everything looks better in the morning.
Momma said it when I was 10, and it’s still true today.
33. Others People’s Opinions are None of Your Business
I feel like I’ve said this in a round about way in a few of my life lessons, but this is seriously one of the biggest takeaways from my 20s.
You have to live your life like Dolly would – unapologetically. Just be you and own it.
If someone is going to judge you, they are likely going to judge you no matter what you do. Remember, you can’t take that stuff personally!
What Life Lessons Did You Learn Before Your 30th Birthday?
If you’re under 30 – did this help you in any way?