30 things learned in my 30s

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Yesterday I watched salmon attempting to swim upstream, launching their bodies out of the water and heaving themselves over the rapids, only to hit a boulder and be slapped back down.

It reminded me of being in my 30s.

Technically, I’m still in my 30s for a few more days. But staring down the big 4-0 has had me reflecting on the past decade in all its adventure and hardship. Given that ten years ago I shared a list of 20 things learned in my 20s, I figured my 30s deserved the same treatment.

  1. When it comes to romantic relationships, mixed signals are the equivalent of multiplying by zero. No matter how positive, times it by zero and you wind up with nothing.
  2. The more you read, the better you’ll write. The more you scroll, the worse you’ll feel.
  3. It’s good to use your vacation time to go visit loved ones. But also, sometimes you should use that vacation time to go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, not because you know someone there or have a free place to stay, but because it’s going to snap you alive like a rubber band.
  4. Garter snakes do not lay eggs. They give live birth to up to 40 babies at a time.
  5. When you hit a garter snake with your lawn mower, that sucker’s gone; instant mist. However, do check the grass for the occasional body chunk.
  6. Speaking of lawn mowers, that thin squeeze bar beneath the main handle? It activates self-propulsion. (Who knew? Not me.) If you have a hilly yard, give yourself a break with the e-bike of lawn tools.
  7. Do not exercise because you hate your body. Exercise because you value your body.
  8. Your furnace filter should be changed once every couple of months, not once every couple of years.
  9. Sometimes we get what we want. Sometimes we don’t. Most of the time, it isn’t up to us.
  10. Life is not a checklist. It’s not a series of boxes to be ticked. Life is a story that unfolds one day at a time, meant to be lived and experienced, from the deepest pain to the fullest joy. The plot of your life – the grand, sweeping, uncurated, stunningly beautiful mystery of it all – cannot nor should not be reduced to a mere sequence of achievements.
  11. Bangs, not Botox.
  12. It is impossible to be sad when you have a puppy. Stressed, yes. Frustrated, sure. But definitely not sad.
  13. I have tried them all and landed right back where I started: peanut remains the best nut butter.
  14. Just because a man has bible verses tattooed on his forearms does not make him honest or healthy.
  15. Other people will break your heart. You do not need to break your own.
  16. To that end, it is possible to live a nice, happy life without alcohol. Maybe not as exciting as you’d hoped. But nice and happy.
  17. The very best salad in the entire world is the Greko Salad with chicken at Greko in East Nashville, Tennessee.
  18. When it comes to work, being impressive will get you far. Being liked will get you farther.
  19. Politicians are corrupt, close to all of them. The political world prizes power over humanity just about every time, so it takes active engagement from all of us, not just the people “in charge” (purposely in quotes), to effect change.
  20. FIFA is pronounced “Feefa” not “FY fah.” Latinx is pronounced “Latin X” not “Lateenks.” (Yikes.)
  21. Slapping all your money down for the hope of a dream is an exhilarating terror everyone should experience at least once.
  22. That said, few things are more worth the money than therapy.
  23. Be honest, even if it goes against what someone else wants. Whether dating or job hunting or making major life decisions, a lot of angst can be avoided if you’re honest about what it is that you really want (and what you don’t).
  24. Yoga is just about the best thing you can do for your body.
  25. When selling a house, don’t let your realtor bring the buyer, too. One realtor cannot effectively advocate for both sides of a transaction, and you run the risk of not feeling great about the outcome.
  26. There’s a difference between solitude and isolation, and you know it when you feel it.
  27. Self-care is not a manicure. It’s not making a vision board. Self-care is a series of small and mostly unglamorous decisions only you can make, day after day, that build on one another and become your life – setting the coffee the night before, walking the dog first thing every morning, closing the computer as much as possible, drinking a lot of water, saving a few dollars instead of spending them, and taking your Lexapro every night even when it means getting back out of bed because you forgot.
  28. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve spent way too many years beating yourself up for things that don’t matter, or just aren’t true. Stop waiting for other people to be kind to you. YOU be kind to you.
  29. Despite all that has happened and all that’s been lost, broken, or botched, there is more life ahead.
  30. You have not missed what is meant for you.

There is nothing magical about turning a new age; simply leaving the 30s behind will not change my life. But I do look forward to what I hope will be more freedom and less striving, going with the flow instead of constantly swimming against it.

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9 Comments

  1. Lindsay on August 2, 2022 at 9:30 AM

    Happy (almost) 40th, Annie. I love your list.

  2. Dani on August 2, 2022 at 9:47 AM

    There’s a lot of hard-won wisdom in this list. The garter snakes and forearm tattoos made me snort, and that seems like an appropriate coupling.

    • Jules on August 2, 2022 at 1:21 PM

      Thissssssss. 🐍 thank you for sharing this excellent list AP. Excited for what your next decade will bring. 😘

  3. Jess Friedly on August 2, 2022 at 9:53 AM

    Love the list! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Kelly on August 2, 2022 at 1:47 PM

    As someone who is newly entering her 30s this list is both very encouraging and instructive for me. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  5. Jean Sunn on August 3, 2022 at 4:20 PM

    Annie,
    I love reading anything you write. So true. So honest. So good.
    I love #29 and 30!

  6. Jean Sunn on August 3, 2022 at 4:22 PM

    Annie,
    I love reading anything you write. So true. So honest. So good.
    #29 and 30 💯

  7. Jacque Ormsbee on August 6, 2022 at 8:50 AM

    Annie, I love your heart and your gift for putting experiences into words that strike so true. You are a gift to all of us who know you. Happy Birthday. 40 is good.

  8. Flavia Rousu on August 26, 2022 at 9:47 AM

    I love you, Annie.

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