My husband turned 40 this year, and he has been reflecting on his life so far. I have a few years to go until I reach 40, but his mood had me remembering my 30th birthday. I started making a list of all the life lessons I wished I had learned before that milestone birthday.
The theme of my list seemed centered on family, love, struggle, finances, and forgiveness. While all our stories and lessons are different, these lessons’ common themes can apply to each and everyone; whether you are already 30 or approaching The Big 3-0 soon.
The Zero Year Curse
My mom had this crazy theory about her ‘zero year’ birthdays being doomed. I laughed when she told it. However, when she died in a car accident less than two months after turning 40, I put a little more stock in her theory.
The year I turned 20 wasn’t bad, but it was stressful, life-altering, and a struggle. Then my father turned 50 and had a fatal heart attack exactly one month later.
When it came time for my 30th birthday, it scared me. My mother’s thoughts about this, the way I reacted, and the experience of losing both parents before turning 30 taught me the first of several life lessons.
1. Curses are not real. Maybe you don’t feel cursed, but have you wondered if the universe is stacked against you? Ever since I was a small abandoned child, I believed everything happened for a reason. The human mind seeks patterns and looks to associate meaning.
However, according to Ralph Lewis, M.D. “Despite our intuitions, science tells us that the universe is fundamentally random.” Learn to embrace the randomness.
2. Life guarantees no one a certain amount of time on this earth. Don’t take time with people for granted, you don’t know how long they will be here, and every day could be our last. Live every day in a way that brings you some joy and fulfillment.
3. Forgiveness is important to your well-being and should be done for yourself. There are many things I can think of that are unforgivable, and yet I have seen people forgive. This doesn’t mean that you have to associate with people or allow them into your life.
Karen Swartz, M. D., explains, “It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not.”
4. You can handle more than you think you can. As a child, I didn’t think I could survive the life I had been dealt. I could barely imagine a reality in which I was reunited with my parents. Yet, I connected with my mom at 18, and then she died less than 6 months later.
A few months after that, I found my father, and he died about 8 years later. I wasn’t sure I would survive that either. But I did. Therapy and perception help. Find something that helps you survive those moments, when you think you can’t.
5. Your origin story matters, but it doesn’t define who you are. While I don’t believe that things happen for a reason anymore, I believe that everything that happens has an impact.
I am the person I am because of every event that has happened in my past, but that is because of how I responded and wrote the next page of the chapter. Choose who you are and how you will go about living this life.
Life lessons on challenges and struggles
2020 has been a year of reflection for many people. Some of us lost our jobs and reflected on the work we had been doing and how many hours we devoted to working.
Other people lost members of their family and were reminded of how brief life can be. Still, some have gone hungry or been evicted from their homes.
6. Save a little more money. Having at least a few months of the bills’ worth of dollars in our savings account would have been helpful for many of us this year.
I know it is hard, especially when you might live paycheck to paycheck with kids, but even if you start with just $5 a paycheck, you will build up a little cushion.
7. Spend money a little smarter. Dosh and Ibotta are great ways to spend your money a little wiser. Both apps give you cashback for buying and spending money on things like groceries and restaurant trips.
8. Learn to invest your money. Stocks are not just for the rich and super-wealthy. Normal people like us can get in on that game with the help of apps like Robinhood. It may not help make you millions the first time you invest, but it will teach you valuable skills.
9. Make money doing something you enjoy. This doesn’t mean that every passion you have needs to be monetized, but if you can monetize something that you love doing, then do it!
10. Don’t stay in a job you hate. I stayed in a job I did not enjoy, much longer than I wanted to, because of my fears and insecurities. Before I had fully decided I was quitting, they furloughed me. They weren’t willing to bleed themselves dry to keep me employed, so don’t bleed yourself dry for a job.
Work is Not Everything
Clearly, money is an important part of being an adult. You don’t want to stay in a job you hate, but you should also be careful about always working.
11. Give the people you love your attention. When you are home with your family, spend time with them. Work things can wait, and it doesn’t make you a poor employee when you safeguard your time.
12. Unplug from work. You don’t need your work email on your phone. You don’t have to check-in when you are on vacation.
13. Actually, just unplug. Look at your phone and delete half the apps you have. Are there things you can check occasionally from a desktop? Do we really need Twitter buzzing at us all day?
14. Money won’t make you happy. Again, money is necessary, but it won’t buy happiness. Don’t be afraid to do some soul searching and figure out what will make you happy.
15. Don’t work more than you need to. Even if you love it, and it doesn’t feel like work, remember to devote some time to your other passions, too! Work is a tool, not a lifestyle.
Take Care of Yourself
With all the stress and turmoil that people have been under this year, it is important that we each practice self-care. This kind of care is good for our physical and mental well-being.
16. Breathe. Not breathing will kill you, but deep breathing is an essential tool that is often overlooked. The benefits of deep breathing include calming anxiety, improving digestion, and even sleep!
17. Stay active. Yoga, a simple walk, or a leisurely swim every day will do your body good. You don’t always have to take part in some high-intensity workout, although that can be great for you too.
18. Write in a journal. You will have a healthy outlet for your emotions. Not to mention, it improves your writing and communication skills, which is important in your 30s!
19. Connect with nature every day. Take a quick walk on your lunch break. Eat dinner outside. Cuddle up with a blanket and stare at the stars. Nature helps keep us calm and grounded.
20. Get more sleep. You don’t have to stay up and go out late. Sleep is crucial for resetting your brain and keeping you sharp. Take a quick nap if you need one!
Love is precious
I’ve been married since I was 19 and had my first child at 20. These events taught me a lot about love.
21. Listen to your partner. Relationships are a two-way street, and if someone feels strongly about something, then hear them out. If it doesn’t feel right to one half of the partnership, then don’t do it.
22. Do things without the kids. Of course, it is essential to do things as a family. However, do some things without the kids too. And not just run to the grocery store, go on dates. If you are lucky enough to have parents who want to keep the kids for a while, go on some overnight trips.
23. If you don’t have kids make some memories before you do. These will be the foundation your life is built on.
24. If you haven’t found love yet, don’t give up! Be yourself and take part in group activities you enjoy. Love is out there for everyone.
25. Don’t give up on love too soon. Sharing a life with someone is work, and there will be some hard times. Don’t give up if there is any chance of working through it.
You’re an actual adult
Your twenties is basically you looking around for an adultier, adult. When you hit 30, you realize people are looking at you to help them. You have become the adultier adult.
26. It will feel surreal to have a fresh perspective on things. You feel further removed from teenage adults and college kids.
27. These years are going to be outstanding. Enjoy the 30s and the years leading up to old age. You have the benefit of wisdom and can set the tone for the next couple of decades.
28. Don’t get too sad when you stop getting carded. It’s a good thing. It means you don’t look like a child, and someone feels you have moved toward responsibility.
29. You are about to learn so much more. I remember thinking that I had everything figured out by 30. It is a lie, and these years will be informative. Keep your mind open.
30. Make healthier food choices. It will hit you as your body malfunctions ever so slightly that this is the one you have, and should take better care of it!
Enjoy your 30s, document your achievements, and keep investing in yourself! It’s going to be great!
Do you have any other helpful life lessons to add to the above list? Tell us in the comment section below. We would love to hear all about it.