30 Lessons Learned Before Turning 30

Thirty. How did that happen?

There are so many growing pains associated with living life as a twenty-something—building an identity outside of our childhood, entering the workforce, adjusting to the work-life balance (if there is one), finding love, and securing our financial footing for the future. If you’re a Millennial who has lived through two major financial crises—oh, and a global pandemic—then you know exactly the struggle of the juggle.

My life has been a whirlwind during my twenties. And that’s putting it politely.

In honor of turning 30, here are some things that I’ve learned over the years from post-grad to the present:

  1. Establishing Your Personal Style, Beauty, and Health Routines
  2. Figuring Out Your Financial Fitness
  3. Building Relationships with Others
  4. Building a Relationship with Yourself

Establishing Your Personal Style, Beauty, and Health Routines

Your presence is power. The way that you choose to show up for yourself impacts the way that others see you. Learning how to balance your personal style with what’s appropriate for the spaces you occupy will go a long way.

Your personal style will change as you change. What I wore in my early 20s is different than what I wear now. Why? The life I was living then is different than what I’m doing now. My body has also changed and I need to make peace with that fact. If you feel stuck finding your personal style, grab a trustworthy friend or—better yet—book an appointment with a stylist at a department store or specialty store.

Invest in high-quality pieces at a slower pace instead of buying cheaper items more often. Notice that I didn’t say “Splurge your money on luxury brands.” Luxury brands are more likely to be associated with higher quality and craftsmanship, but there are plenty of brands that sell excellent goods without the heavy price tag. If you have the ability to save for better clothing and accessories without compromising your daily needs, do it—it’s not only a good investment for your wallet, but it’s also more sustainable for the planet. Here are a few places to start:

  • Everlane
    • Known for its “radical transparency,” direct-to-consumer business model, Everlane’s apparel shoes, and accessories aim to be as sustainable as possible. I’ve been able to order pieces from the entire line with help from the product page reviews from other shoppers.
  • The RealReal
    • Use the search filters to your advantage. I search by brand, then filter by size, price range, and item condition. I have found some incredible pieces by Theory, Rag & Bone, and other brands for 80% less than the full retail price.
  • Fashionphile
    • The company specializes in luxury leather goods, jewelry, and accessories.
  • Cuyana
    • I bought The System Tote for work and it has been a year-round essential.
  • Modern Citizen
    • The brand prides itself on its “refined perspective and elevated aesthetic, paired back to a thoughtful price point balancing quality and accessibility.”

Take care of your clothing and shoes. Read the washing instructions on the clothing labels. Hand wash. Hang dry. Find a good local dry cleaner, tailor, and cobbler. Clean your sweaters and coats at the end of the season before putting them away. Replace the soles of your shoes once they’re worn. Buy a steamer to make your delicate clothing last between dry cleaning drop-offs. Taking the extra step to make your clothing and shoes last longer will help you build a better wardrobe (and help the planet!) in the long run.

Don’t buy cheap shoes. It’s not worth the pain and the impending future foot surgery that will happen in your 40s or 50s.

Get a skincare routine. We’re not talking about makeup and cosmetics—we’re talking about cleansers, toners, serums, moisturizers, oh my! Everyone’s skin type is different, so what works for someone else may not work for you. If you don’t know where to start, head to your local department store or specialty store or do your research for skincare recommendations at your go-to pharmacy.

Learn how to cook a few different dishes from scratch. I knew how to cook before I moved to Paris, but I flexed my culinary skills during that time. Cooking at home is also less expensive than eating at a restaurant or takeout.

Develop good habits—drink water, sleep, eat a balanced diet, and indulge occasionally. These bullets are listed on every aging listicle because you should really do these things!

Figuring Out Your Financial Fitness

As you build your career, it’s okay to be broke at the beginning—as long as you’re making plans to invest in your future. It can be overwhelming to see the success stories on LinkedIn or the news, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not a millionaire by your mid-20s—and if you are, cheers! I struggled to save early on in my career—low-paying jobs and not having a work visa while living abroad will do the trick—but if you can commit to making a low deposit into an account directly through a firm or Ellevest, an investing platform for women by women, then you’ll be better for it.

Is it worth it? FOMO and YOLO are very real. The next time when you feel compelled to do something that may stretch your budget, ask yourself:

  • If you don’t do this, will you regret it?
  • Will it matter 5/10/15 years from now?

Have the courage to believe in yourself—that will bring confidence to everything you do, personally and professionally.

Know your worth. When you’re looking for a new job or promotion, make sure to pay attention to the salary ranges, because they will differ based on factors such as industry, company size, and location. Figure out how your skill set and experience rank on the pay scale—consider the impact of your accomplishments, your level of education, your professional network, etc.—and adjust accordingly.

Building Relationships with Others

Learn how to have a conversation. Listen to others before speaking. Listen to their words, but also pay attention to their body language. Know when to circle back if you feel that the other person hasn’t truly said what they wanted to say—and know when to drop it if the other person feels uncomfortable. Paying attention to others is such an underrated life skill that may not be formally taught, but it is absolutely essential to navigate all types of relationships.

Know when to put your phone down. Most people scroll through their smartphones more often than they’d care to admit, especially at times when they probably shouldn’t be. (see above, Learn how to have a conversation)

Stay in touch with your friends. At no fault of our own, we get busy. We move. We change. Life happens. It’s harder to stay in touch with people we love as we have our own responsibilities, but it’s not an excuse. We make time for the things that matter to us.

Make new friends. In many ways, it’s even harder to make friends as we get older. It’s even more difficult if you move somewhere else entirely. It’s important to be open to making new connections as we move through life.

Spend time with your family. If you have a healthy relationship with your family members, do everything you can to stay in touch. Pick up the phone. Call your parents. Call your siblings. Reply to the family group text message. Show up at family gatherings. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Take pictures. Someone told me that pictures aren’t for the present moment that they’re captured, but for the future when those present moments become the past. The pictures don’t have to be perfectly posed or immaculate—the pictures are better for the fact that they exist when the people in the photos are no longer around.

Building a Relationship with Yourself

Read a book (or engage in some sort of learning activity). Talking about Instagram photos and TikTok videos can only take a conversation so far.

Travel. I have been fortunate enough to have lived and traveled to some incredible places—southern Italy; Oxford, UK; Valencia, Spain; Newport, Rhode Island; and, of course, Paris, France to name a few. However, travel does not have to be luxurious, costly, and at a far-flung destination from your home. Travel means having the willingness to explore somewhere different than where you would normally go in your day-to-day life. Staycations, quick weekend trips, a visit to the next town over—breaking away from your normal routine and being open to changing your perspective—that’s travel, too.

Write in a journal. I don’t write a daily entry—I probably should—but it’s helpful to write your feelings when you’re trying to figure things out. It’s also a good record to look back on to see how far you’ve come.

There are things that you’re good at. Everyone is good at something. If you haven’t found out whatever you’re good at, it only means that you have to try new things.

and it’s okay not to be good at everything. Read that again.

It’s okay not to go at a million miles per hour. There’s no reason to rush through life. The right opportunities will always be there whenever you’re ready for them.

There are going to be bumps in the road—what matters is how you get through. My 20s have been a whirlwind of endings and beginnings on repeat. The sooner that you come to that realization and build your level of resilience to conquer the hard things, the stronger your foundation will be to move forward through life.

Don’t run away from your feelings. Go through what you need to go through. It’s human to work through frustration over a long job search or deep grief over a loss of a loved one. What’s not human is pretending that everything is okay when it’s not.

You’re allowed to change your mind. I am someone who believes in commitment and standing by your decisions. With that being said, if you feel that your level of commitment is altered, don’t force yourself to stay in that situation. When we make decisions, we are doing the best with the information that we have at the time and our gut feeling that it feels right at the time.

Be mindful of what you consume. What—and who—you’re influenced by makes a difference. Make sure that whatever you speak, read, watch, and experience is adding something of value to your life by:

  • entertaining a healthy level of distraction (we need it sometimes)
  • challenging you to think differently
  • helping you learn
  • bringing beauty
  • encouraging imagination and a sense of wonder
  • connecting with others through experience

Don’t settle. As the saying goes, know when to leave the job, the party, and the relationship. Are you unhappy? Figure out how to leave and move on. Are you tired? Rest, figure out how to leave, and walk out. Are you getting hurt? Drop everything and run.

Aim to be the best version of you—you’ll attract the best version of your life. You’ll be surprised at what happens when you develop a positive and abundant mindset.

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A Francophile based in coastal New England

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