Advice to My 20-Year-Old Self From My (Almost)30-Year-Old Self

Friday is my 30th birthday, a milestone of sorts that I have been anticipating and dreading for some time. I don’t know why turning 30 weirds me out, but I guess it just feels strange to leave my twenties behind after spending a whole decade in them.

After looking back on what I’ve learned about myself and life over the years, I wrote a list of things I wish I knew when I was entering my twenties and leaving my teens behind. Granted, I might not have listened to the advice at that age, but I imagine I’d be more likely to listen to myself than anyone else.

– If you aren’t sure whether to leave an issue or task up to God or deal with it yourself—leave it to Him. He can handle it.

– Get stuff done, but take your time. Despite what other people may say or how they may make you feel, you are not in any hurry. You are not in a hurry to find your ideal career path, to cross stuff off your bucket list, to get married, to travel to that one destination you’ve always wanted to see, to have kids, to get a house. Forget what T.S. Eliot says: you have a lot more time than you think. Just don’t waste it.

– Spend birthdays and holidays the way you want. You need to take the initiative to plan and invite people to celebrate birthdays with you. Often the birthdays will suck, but it’s okay–there’s usually next year. At holidays, be an adult: if you can’t stand to be around bipolar Uncle Stuart or racist Aunt Bianca, or if the way your cousin eats her food makes you sick or you can’t stand someone’s kids, you can do something else. There’s a lot more you don’t need to put up with than you think.

– No one else cares. Or at least, not as much as you do. What about? Anything: your college graduation, your new apartment, your new job, the book you just published, that guy you’re interested in, your new pet, your last vacation. It’s a hard truth, but no one is more interested in your life than you are.

– Most things don’t matter. Things that seem terribly important, like a single bad paper grade, that nasty customer you had to wait on at your summer job, the number of honors you wear with your graduation robe, that one embarrassing moment that still makes your stomach tighten with dread when you think of it, that jerk who made fun of your hat or your music taste, or whether you graduate with some kind of “cum laude” in front of your name, won’t mean jack in 10 years. That being said: Get as much sleep as you can, get regular mild/moderate exercise, use sunscreen, and always take earplugs to concerts and movies. Those things are important.

– You won’t meet your future husband by now—if there even is such a person. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it, seriously.

– Once you’ve gotten past high school, 99% of the affronts you experience are unintentional. Be ready to forgive people and move on. If someone does something that really does bother you, tell them. If it was unintentional, they probably didn’t even know they offended you. If you have to choose between stewing in a silent huff over an offense, or telling the other person about it and talking it out, choose the latter.

– It’s true that you don’t look as good without makeup. You know who else doesn’t look as good without makeup (or Photoshop)? Everyone.

– People will come in and out of your life. Let them. Don’t be dismissive of someone, even if they are less than your ideal. If they’re toxic or otherwise dangerous to your health and safety (physical or mental) or threaten your principles, then you are not obligated to spend time and energy on them. If, however, they are just tiresome or annoying or make you roll your eyes or seem like too much work to be around, don’t write them off immediately. They may need you more than you know, or they may benefit you more than you realize. If you have people you were very close with or who were very important to you, and that relationship begins to dissolve, or at least become downgraded, let it happen. It’s a part of life. Trying to cling to an expired relationship can keep you from going on to the next, better stage.

– Ask questions. When you don’t know something, and you don’t trouble yourself to find out, it will just make things worse in the long run. Don’t be ashamed to speak up when you don’t understand something, or don’t know what a person is talking about. People might tease you about it—ignore them.

– You will change. You will learn new things, new stuff will happen to you, other people will influence you, and you will change your mind. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Stand by your convictions, but also remember when you are going “This is me now!!!” that things could change in the next five years, five months, or five hours.

– Be nice. Sometimes it will seem edgy or cool to be flippant or rude or antagonistic. It’s not. Don’t be a jerk.

– People won’t listen. By all means, offer advice and warnings when you strongly, sincerely believe it is warranted. But expect to be ignored 99.999% of the time. It’s not you; people are stubborn idiots.

– You will worry about the people in your life, because you care about them and you want them to make the right decisions. There is very little you can do for them, and you have zero control over their decisions. The best you can do is pray for them, serve them in practical ways if they become obvious, and leave them in God’s hands.

– Don’t say “I love you, too!” on the phone with your mom when cute guys are in earshot. They will think you are talking to your significant other and it will ruin your chances with them.

– You are smart, pretty, funny, and competent. You will doubt this. Don’t.

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4 thoughts on “Advice to My 20-Year-Old Self From My (Almost)30-Year-Old Self

  1. Happy belated birthday, Em. True and wise advice and most of it applies even for a 54 year old:)

    1. Thank you! My birthday is actually this coming Friday–so I’m technically not 30 yet, but I figured it was close enough for the sake of the post!

  2. Good job Emily!

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