When I turned 20, the start of a new decade didn’t really mean all that much to me. I was just cribbing a bit about how I’m “old” now and not a teen anymore and secretly looking forward to the 20’s – because let’s face it, that’s when you have the most fun, right? And now, 10 years later, standing at the brink of yet another new decade, all I can feel rising within me is a sigh of relief – thank god I’m done and dusted with the 20’s!
It’s not like this decade was full of traumas that would scar me for life or anything. But it HAS BEEN a trying one. Mostly, this has been the decade with the steepest learning and personal growth curve – and we all know how fun THAT can be. But looking back, I can see how all of it was crucial and unavoidable. It was confusing, guilt-ridden, at times shame-filled, and repeatedly hurtful – but it was necessary. It has helped me both unravel and come together. With fewer fucks to give to what doesn’t matter. So, here are a few notes that I have for myself and anyone who’s embarking on their 30’s journey. To keep reminding ourselves of how far we’ve come and how awesome it is about to be.
You know how every other motivational meme is about being your true self, not caring about what others think etc.? Well, finally you’ll get it. The biggest change that I have witnessed in myself is giving lesser and lesser fucks about what anyone else thinks of me. Paraphrasing something I read recently – in your 20’s you enter a room and hope people in there will like you. In your 30’s you enter a room and hope you’ll like the people in it. Truer words have not been spoken! This is the decade when you come into your own, get comfortable in your own skin and start being your unapologetic authentic self. And trust me, there’s no feeling like it in the world!
Get Comfortable with Change
You couldn’t have stepped into this decade without encountering at least a few life changes. Maybe you moved out of [or into] your home, or finally took the entrepreneurial leap, or got your heart majorly broken, or saw your best friend getting married or witnessed someone close to you die. 20’s are a rollercoaster time when you wittingly or unwittingly put yourself through numerous experiences. At that moment you don’t notice it. It’s only in hindsight that you realize how much has changed. One thing which I have made myself make peace with is the fact that change is unavoidable. It WILL happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. Start being more accepting of the unpredictability of life, people & circumstances. It’s freeing, and quite fun too. Forever is a fictional concept. Nothing lasts forever – and that is what makes it all the more precious!
Dream again (if you didn’t get it right the first time)
One of the persistent and annoying myths about the 30’s is that it’s a decade when it’s “too late” to do, well, anything! Thanks to the social media and the constant spotlight on ‘young’ [at times infantile] achievers slaying their lives, careers, relationships like a boss – it often seems like your only chance to make a mark in the world is in your 20’s. As if, if you’ve not “made it” by 30, you never will. Which is such horseshit. I’m not discounting the ones who achieve success/fame/money/life-purpose earlier on in life. More power to them. But they are the exceptions. Most of us were absolute idiots in our 20’s. We were too occupied with trying to impress others, doing what’s ‘expected’ of us, taking bad decisions, being pseudo-intellectuals, and desperately hiding our insecurities and confusions to take any concrete step towards figuring out what is it that we would like to give our 100% focus to.
It’s often only after you’ve burnt off some of that woo-hoo steam of the 20’s that you start to understand yourself, your likes and dislikes, your dreams and practical ways to achieve them. So, if you didn’t get it right in your 20’s, don’t fret – most of us don’t. In your 30’s you have the double-edged advantage of both maturity and confidence in yourself. So, go dream [again] and slay!
Stop dating assholes
This one is especially applicable to me because I know what I’ve dabbled with. But, I don’t believe I’m the only one out there who has picked people who were spectacularly bad for me and tried to make a functional relationship out of it. Being “blind” in love, putting up with emotional abuse & gas-lighting, putting too much trust into chronic cheaters, expecting emotional maturity from a man-child, reducing yourself to dust trying to get someone’s approval – these are often the hallmarks of terrible relationships in the 20’s. Again, I also know of people who have found healthy & nurturing loves of their lives in their 20’s – and I do both envy them and am happy for them. But, for the rest of us on the other side of the spectrum, it’s time to clean up our acts.
30’s are your time to put down the rose coloured glasses and see assholes for exactly what they are. As long as you do not buy into the myth of ‘30 & single = forever alone’ – you’ll do great. There’s no expiration date as to when you could meet the ONE. Settling for anyone who comes along because you’re afraid of being alone is what will continue the disasters you’ve had in your past years. You know better now. You’ll get it when someone is good for you – start trusting your instincts. And walk away from all the fuckboi’s, woke boi’s and broody emotionally dysfunctional boi’s. It’s not worth the head and heart-ache.
That being said, keep believing in love. With the right person, it still is quite the magical thing.
Never forget your worth
This is closely related to the above point. In your 20’s you’ve experienced enough insecurities, self-doubt and gaping voids where self-esteem should be. 30’s are your time to get up, dust off those nagging insecurities and start seeing your worth. Believe it or not, just by existing in this world, you’ve altered it – even if in a small way. You DO matter. In the lives of the ones who know you, the ones who are yet to know you and the ones who may never know you but whose life you may have affected in one way or another. Never ever forget your worth. Never let anyone disrespect you or consider you any less than what you are. When you know your worth, you will not put up with people or circumstances that are not worth your time. You will not back down from asking for what you deserve. And you will start investing your energies into things that matter to you. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Remember, the only person who’s going to walk your entire journey on earth with you is YOU. And that’s the only one whose opinion of you should matter.
Say what’s on your mind
This, for me at least, is one of the fun parts of being in my 30’s – though, the process had begun in my late 20’s. There’s a delicious sense of freedom in saying what’s on your mind without giving two hoots about societal expectations. Who knew honesty could be this enjoyable! After spending an entire decade walking on eggshells around certain people, repressing negative feelings and saying things which sound nice but aren’t true – it’s unbelievably liberating to just let the pretensions drop. I’m not talking about wilfully hurting anyone here – there’s a fine line between being authentic and rude. What I’m talking about is being honest about your thoughts, feelings, desires et al. If something is not working for you – love yourself enough to admit it. If someone has hurt you, love yourself enough to say it. If someone asks for your opinion, respect them enough, to tell the truth. And if someone has made you happy, appreciate them enough to let them know! Life is too short to be anything other than authentic. If it’s too much for anyone, bid them a cordial farewell. You’ll never be “too much” for anyone who’s meant to be in your life.
Spend more time with your parents
The further you move away from your childhood, the closer you see your parents getting towards their golden years. And as morbid as it sounds, suddenly you start realising that they’re not going to be around forever – at least I did. And I can’t really put to words exactly how that thought makes me feel – but I know that it makes me not take any moment I get with them now for granted. Perhaps, it also has a lot to do with the realisation of my own mortality. I mean, in our teens and twenties, with our raging hormones and often pointless angst, we feel like we’re invincible. But, as you mellow down over the years and reach your 30’s, you start realising that sooner or later our last day on this beautiful earth will arrive as well. We’re actually not invincible, and we will age, just like our parents. So, spend as much time you can with them. Now that your years of rebelling with or without a cause are over, take the time to get to know them for what they are – warts and all. Gently agree to disagree when their thoughts do not match yours; forgive them for all their foibles over the years, enjoy their little quirks and wry humour which you may not have noticed before and simply savour this only kind of unconditional love that you’ll ever get in your lifetime.
Let go of baggage
As I mentioned before, no one reaches their 30’s without going through some major change or experience. For some, it’s a good change. For others, it can be traumatic. Either way, each of us collects quite a bit of baggage over our journey through the teens and twenties, which eventually starts weighing us down. You may not even notice it if you’re not the self-reflecting kind. But, if you’re facing a consistent struggle in a particular area of your life, chances are there’s a solid piece of baggage blocking your way. That baggage can be past memories, long-held resentments, a wrong belief or even a person. It’s time to let it go.
I know it’s easier said than done – but you have to at least try. Look at your 30’s as a chance to start afresh. Just think how much easier it would be to walk down this beautiful new path, without a pointless and heavy baggage holding you back. It feels like baggage because it’s not useful for the future version of you. Of course, one can’t just wipe the board clean and pretend like nothing ever happened. Whatever happened, happened. But, it’s not happening anymore. The only thing keeping that hurt/guilt/shame/resentment alive is your own mind. You CAN make the conscious choice of not letting your past stories affect the new one you’re trying to write. And with a brand new decade in front of you, that is the choice I would urge you to make. Empty the bag of the past hurts & nuisance. And make space for the new experiences [and new nuisance]!
You’re not falling behind
Just one scroll through your Facebook timeline is enough to tell you how everyone from your school batch seems to be getting ahead in their lives, earning big promotions, moving abroad, getting married, popping out kids, throwing classy barbecue and wine parties. And here you are, in your sweatpants, wolfing down a bowl of Maggi, procrastinating on taking a bath. Looking at people your age adulting hard with their big apartments, marital lives and kids, it’s easy to feel like you’ve missed the train to proper adult-ville. But you know what – we all have our own pace.
Our lives unfold the way they are meant to, at the time they are meant to. For instance, right now I know I am not AT ALL ready for marriage [kids are not even up for consideration]. And then there’s my friend who’s ecstatically married and is raising her 6-month-old daughter with as much frustration as joy. Thing is, even though the society has set a certain blueprint of how life is supposed to be lead – that blueprint will not be applicable to EVERY life. People change. Mindsets change. Circumstances change. Just because your life looks different from your friend’s, that doesn’t mean you are falling behind. You’re simply on a different path. Enjoy it. Who knows, maybe someone is enviously looking at your path, wondering if they made the right choice!
Be kind to others [and yourself]
Close on the heels of the above point is this little piece of wisdom. 20’s are a time for being judgmental, stubborn, often close-minded and mostly a complete jerk [we have ALL been there]. 30’s are when you start accepting that no one is without fault [including – gasp! – ourselves] and everyone is entitled to making their own life choices. Thing is, we all are winging it in this life. We are learning, unlearning and re-learning stuff as we move along. And we ALL are having a hard time dealing with something or the other. Including other people into this whole ‘human experience’ helps open our heart and be kind and understanding of their choices, actions and beliefs. And that’s what the world needs more of – kindness towards one another. But perhaps, we have to begin by being kind to ourselves. We all are our own worst critics. We often treat ourselves the way we would NEVER treat another person. And that needs to stop. Love yourself fiercely. Also, understand that you do not know if it’s the last time you’re meeting a certain person. So, wherever possible, choose kindness over any other kind of pettiness. Your heart and conscience will thank you for it.
That being said, don’t waste your kindness on people who truly don’t deserve it. That doesn’t mean you have to be mean to them. Just, don’t go out of your way to be good to them if all they bring to your life is misery. In such cases, indifference is the way to go. Always know your heart’s worth.
Keep having fun [but your kind of fun]
Again, you’re NOT too old [or young] to do what you enjoy doing. By now you must have gained a good sense of what it is that makes you happy and keeps you happy. You must have recognized the people who light you up and the ones that darken your skies. You must have learned to prioritize what matters to you over what others expect you to do.
You have stormed through the 20’s where having fun was mostly about trying to look cool amidst socially approved ‘cool’ people, or escaping something by intoxicating yourself or simply hanging out even with people you can’t much stand just so you wouldn’t have to be alone. Now that you are in your 30’s, having fun can finally be about things you enjoy, people you adore, conversations you love and experiences that leave you with the best memories. So, keep having the kind of fun that keeps you in good spirits. There’s no such thing as 30’s appropriate fun. Age is truly just a number. If deep analysis of your favourite philosophical text over a pot of Darjeeling tea is what gets you going, so be it. If bouncing on a trampoline on a bright summer day is what gets you going, so be it.
You’re beautiful. You always were, you always will be
This last one is for the ladies because turning 30 seems to hit our psyche much more than the men – especially in the whole attractiveness department. This one time, a woman in her mid-twenties was telling me that she really wants to get married before hitting 30 because she wants to look ‘pretty and fresh’ in her wedding pictures. I kid you not. The problem again is with this youth-obsessed culture where youth can only last till you’re about 25 and after that, you’re in the anti-ageing cream category. Which is SO stupid. An entire industry feeds on our lack of self-love and abundance of insecurity – and it’s about time this stopped. Age doesn’t take away your beauty. It just takes away your shallow ideas of beauty. Personally, I have seen people get more attractive with age – because with age comes maturity, grace, knowledge, humility, a solid sense of style, self-confidence and comfort with one’s sexuality – and in which universe is all THAT not attractive? Look at yourself like someone you love – and you’ll only see your beauty growing richer with age. No matter which decade of your life you’re in, you’ll always be beautiful. Because your beauty is not enslaved to a number. It was born with you, and it will only extinguish the day you do – or maybe not even then!
And that wraps up my little notes of wisdom to me [and you] for this decade. May we all embrace our 30’s with a heart full of love, hands full of new experiences and eyes full of new possibilities! Cheers!