So This is 30...

I don't really remember my 20th birthday.  I know that I was about to start my sophomore year of college, and I was probably moving into my Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house for the first time during my birthday week.  I was starting a new school year at Illinois Wesleyan University with new friends, a determined Major, a work study job, a steady boyfriend, and a positive outlook on life.  I only owned one credit card, and I could probably count on my fingers the number of alcoholic drinks I had consumed.  I had never had a speeding ticket, or even been pulled over.  I had never seen drugs, I had never puked, and none of my friends had been arrested.  The President was terrible, but the economy was prosperous.  I had already figured out that bragging about high school was fruitless because everyone I went to college with was perfect in high school and nobody cares, but I still thought I was pretty awesome.  I was smart (almost as smart as I thought I was), responsible, and coming out of my introverted shell.  And I had a lot to learn about life and love.

I accomplished a lot in my 20s.  I graduated from college Summa Cum Laude and defended my Honors Research Thesis.  I marched in a Division I drum and bugle corp and was President of my sorority.  I traveled to dozens of new cities and states, and added two more continents to my list (bringing the total to five).  I became a half marathon-er, triathlete, and avid hiker.  I said goodbye to grandparents, and welcomed a niece and a future sister-in-law.  My family dynamics were transformed.  I graduated from physical therapy school and accepted my first job at an incredibly dynamic and remarkable community hospital, where patients are as diverse as their diagnoses.  I fell in love, moved across the country, got married and bought a house.  I discovered my love for wine!  I started to appreciate beer.  I adopted a cat and dog.

I firmly believe (with my naive and audacious thirty-year-old soul) that more transformation occurs in one's twenties than any other decade.  Okay, so of course a lot happens from zero to ten (walking, talking, eating, wearing real pants, writing in cursive, learning how to say swear words, it's a big decade), and a lot probably happens in midlife as well, but I'm talking about meaningful life events.  There is a DRAMATIC difference between a 19-year-old and a 29-year-old.  Between college, grad school, dealing with roommates, getting a credit card and managing a budget, moving out of state, living alone, finding love and loss and love and loss and love again, going through jobs, starting a career, getting engaged, adopting pets, getting married, buying homes, and for some people, having children, this is a drastic and dynamic period.  I have gone through five groups of friends in my twenties, all of whom were my BEST FRIENDS FOREVER at the time, not to mention the amazing individuals I've met in various places along the way.

What I've learned in my twenties...

We can always choose our friends.  This is challenging in high school when everyone seems intricately connected to the rest of their "clique," but as adults we can choose who we wish to spend time with and to whom to devote energy.  I am happier when I spend time with people who lift each other up, encourage each other to be better people, and make each other laugh versus the people with whom I feel obligated to stay in touch.  The most meaningful friends are the dependable ones, those who DO WHAT THEY SAY THEY'RE GOING TO DO.  And we will feel closest to those with whom we share our own secrets, stories and love, so open up and encourage others to do the same.

Keeping the above in mind, different friends serve different purposes, and I can't expect people to be the same type of friend that I am, so put the resentment aside and don't set unrealistic expectations for the people I call my friends.

LAUGH AT YOURSELF.  I can't think of very many extremely mortifying experiences in the past few years.  Yes I have mixed up words in conversations (sometimes at work), been confused about celebrity identities, and fallen flat on my face in heels (in the middle of the day, no alcohol involved), I vomited in the Bellagio Hotel (okay, alcohol involved), but I think of those things as FUNNY now!  And life is a lot easier and happier that way.

Not everything happens for a reason.  But something can be gained from every situation.  And change is always good.

Falling and failing are not only inevitable, but essential.  Just when we start to feel a little too sure of ourselves, we trip and fall on our face, and it's a good learning experience.  I got my first B+ in my college math, after being math student of the year in high school.  I struggled as sorority president, which was a huge blow since I had viewed myself as the best person for the job.  I didn't feel appreciated in grad school.  I wasn't the first (or even tenth) person in my class to get a job.  But maybe life isn't a competition after all.

Striving toward goals is more important than achieving them.  I think in middle school I had a goal of being Valedictorian.  I wasn't, and guess what, nobody cares.  I also set a goal at one point to run a marathon.  Right now I have no interest in ever running that far (EVER!), but it's a nice ambition in the back of my mind.  I remember wanting to be an astronaut.  Instead I'm in a job with very little recognition, but I'm quite content.  Some goals are just nice to write down but not really that meaningful.

Don't have regrets about offending people.  Honesty goes a long way, and close friends will understand that.  There are more important qualities than being nice all the time.

A lot of stupid and irresponsible people will make more money than me, and live in bigger houses, and be more successful.  And it can be frustrating if I choose to dwell on it.  Because (pouty face with arms crossed) I'm smarter and everyone loves me and I should get paid just for that!  But success is about finding your strengths and applying them to something worthwhile and effective.  Yes, a lot of unintelligent people are entrepreneurs and lawyers and business owners now, while I am in student loan debt for 25 years, but feeling resentful doesn't get anyone anywhere.  And, I think success just happens.  And I'm okay with being just an everyday person with a not-so-exciting job, making my own little difference every day to people in my own little community.  And maybe the less intelligent people can teach me a thing or two.  Any maybe AP European History exams and Advanced Calculus III doesn't make me any more successful and meaningful in the world.

Social media delivers an unrealistic view of the excitement of people's lives.  No, not everyone is getting married and having babies and saving the world.  (Maybe that's easy to say from someone who is married.)  But entities like Facebook will skew the truth because no one is posting about their everyday happiness (and if they are I probably blocked them).  With four people getting engaged on a given weekend, receiving 368 "likes" each, it's easy to feel like EVERYONE is getting engaged and married and pregnant.  But single people rock!  (Again, I'm not in this group, but I didn't get married just to get married, I got married because someone GREAT came along!)  It is incredibly cool and honorable to be single, and be cool, and travel, and work, and go to happy hours, and set goals, and not have to share a bank account with anyone, and be your own person.  I have tremendous respect for my friends who are discovering their own paths.

Ignore the "shoulds."  We are surrounded by pressures in life, most of which are well-meaning, but everyone needs to pave their own trail.

Don't burn bridges.  Especially in a small community.  (But if you insist on burning a few, just make sure you can swim across.)

People don't change.  (Cue the scene from "Bridesmaids" now...)  Maybe they will show different qualities, or adapt the habits of their significant others, or take on new hobbies, or start running and lose a bunch of weight, or discover things about themselves that were hidden from the world, or find that they're not happy after all, but everyone will ultimately remain the same PERSON deep down.  If someone is an arrogant ass hole, then they will probably ALWAYS be this way.  Or an abusive partner.  Or manipulative.  And if they are selfless and caring and dedicated, then they will probably remain this way.

Don't get fat.  I have a lot of friends in their 30s and 40s and 50s who can't lose weight.  Their metabolism caught up.  They're tired.  What's my weight loss advice?  Don't get fat in the first place.  It's much easier to maintain a healthy body weight than try to lose weight later.

Physical perseverance in athletic activities will translate into work ethic and determination in personal goals and achievements.

Work to live, not the other way around.  I don't think a dream job exists.  If I had gone to med school, or become an engineer, or a lawyer, I would be in the same place: a lot of really rewarding and fun days, with a few frustrating ones too.  But work is not my life.  I am lucky to have a job, and a salary, and a retirement plan, so that I have the resources to do what I really want to do.

In my twenties, I learned how to adjust to a role reversal with my parents and we all grow older.  When I only see them once or twice a year, I realize that a lot has changed since I moved away from home.  They are amazingly healthy and young people for their ages, but I find myself wanting to take care of them.  I remind my mom to wear a bike helmet, I give my dad tips on health, and I want to be able to support them more than I do.  I listen to their stories about work and friends because it's not all about me anymore.  I want to protect them to ensure many more decades with them.  And they're not perfect.  But I am the combination of them both, so the best I can do is try to achieve their strengths and learn from their mistakes.

Being a jack of all trades has its cost.  I have dabbled in music, dance, sports, running, skiing, yoga, pottery, piano, rock climbing, kayaking, the list goes on.  I will never be THE BEST at any one thing, but I can comfortably participate in a lot of activities, and maybe that's better after all.

Leaders don't always have the most friends.

Finally, a little bit of fashion sense goes a long way.

I enthusiastically embrace the next decade of my life!  I feel older, wiser, and ready to take on the challenges I will face in the next ten years.

30 Goals for My 30s...
1.  Keep a journal
2.  Work on my garden
3.  Complete a half marathon at least every other year
4.  Go back to Europe
5.  Go back to Asia
6.  Vacation in Hawaii
7.  Grow my family and become a mom
8.  Take on a leadership role in my career
9.  Pursue a clinical specialization in physical therapy
10.  Keep up with dental visits
11.  Admire the fall colors every year
12.  Climb a "14-er" in Colorado
13.  Pay off my credit card debt
14.  Pursue an artistic endeavor
15.  Celebrate every birthday and anniversary
16.  Collect memories, not things
17.  Volunteer at least 20 hours every year
18.  Say "no" to unrealistic demands when I have too much on my plate

19.  Don't get arrested (it's not cool anymore)
20.  Embrace change

21.  Keep in touch with the people who matter
22.  Improve the way I manage conflict at work
23.  Increase awareness of sweeteners and excessive sugar
24.  Define my Advance Directives
25.  Finish painting my house
26.  Contribute to my retirement every paycheck
27.  Make time for regular Date Nights
28.  Spend more time with my grandmother
29.  Write a lot
30.  And read even more

Cheers to the next decade!


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