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Today I turn 30! Here are 30 lessons I learned in my 20s

If I look around, I’ve really built the life that the 13-year-old me dreamed of. Living in a big city working at a cool big girl job. Traveling for work. Having much more ease and leisure than the adults I grew up around.

It’s a life that would momentarily shock what 21-year-old me had planned. I’m not a missionary or a minister.

It would probably even surprise 26-year-old me, who was planning on having more kids and maybe working part-time.

So, in no particular order, here are 30 lessons for work, relationships, mental health and everything in between from this newly minted 30-year-old.

  1. Your 20s are overrated.
  2. You can’t change people. But you can change how you relate to and interact with them.
  3. Question every “should” — there’s really no blueprint or rule book for a happy life.
  4. Stop waiting for the perfect body to live your life fully.
  5. Quit your job (i.e. job hop). This is the fastest, most effective way to increase your lifetime earnings and accelerate your career.
  6. Define career success for yourself. Don’t chase someone else’s ambition. Like my mom always told me, “Abby, you can be anything — but you can’t be everything.”
  7. Create a “minimum viable day.” In my lowest slumps, mine was this: wash face, drink coffee, breathe outside air, complete any 3 work-related tasks.
  8. Treat your weekends like vacations.
  9. Your life is *your life. Don’t let anyone pressure you into timelines or decisions like getting married, having children, going to grad school, etc.
  10. You can’t do it alone – you need mentors, peer support, etc.
  11. You are the expert on you. Not your spouse. Not your parents. Not your doctor. Not your church, friend group, etc.
  12. Notice your body — or it will force you to notice it. The body stores the stress and trauma we refuse to acknowledge.
  13. Get ahead of no. 12 by being kind to yourself. Meditate, observe your thoughts without judgment and with curiosity. You’ll learn so much about yourself.
  14. People hire and promote people they like. It’s not always fair, but it’s how the game is played.
  15. Keep in touch with old coworkers when you can. This was hard for me at first, but as I became more comfortable in my own skin at jobs, I formed meaningful connections with coworkers that made staying in contact feel natural.
  16. You will outgrow relationships.
  17. Moments > milestones.
  18. Career paths aren’t linear. Try to roll with the pivots and setbacks, and maintain this perspective.
  19. The ‘right job’ for you might not exist yet. Focus on what you enjoy doing and less on titles/industries.
  20. Negotiate. The. Job. Offer.
  21. Everyone is winging it, from CEOs to interns.
  22. Google is your friend. Make research and self-serving information a way of life and you’ll go far.
  23. Talk about equity and mental load early in your relationship. Keep talking about it after you have kids.
  24. See marriage and romantic relationships as completely optional instead of compulsory. Don’t lower your standards and instead pursue a life that serves *you — that way you can feel good and ready when/if an excellent partner presents themselves to you.
  25. Impact > intent.
  26. Tell the people you love how much you love them. Tell them often and with specificity.
  27. Talk about money. Dig into your relationship with it. Ditch the shame around the subject and have a little self-compassion.
  28. Many “successful” people likely have advantages you don’t (from generational wealth to fitting a certain racial/gender/neurotypical, etc. mold). Don’t compare and protect your energy.
  29. It’s OK to change your mind.
  30. If you’re a woman, and especially a woman of color, be prepared to work twice as hard as your white male counterparts. It’s not fair, but know that you’re not alone.

Thanks for reading if you’ve gotten to the end! Ultimately, there’s aging and then there’s growing/evolving.

How about you? What's surprising about your current life stage? What do you wish you could tell your younger self?

iynna's profile thumbnail
HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY Queen!! I am soon to be 30 too and I couldn't agree more with SO SO many of these :) #26 struck a chord hahah!Would love to hear more about your “minimum viable day" - how do you define one and how often do they occur for you in like any given month? Also I need your secret on how to treat weekend like vacay - when life gets so cray work-wise how do you stay away from work knowing Monday is about to get worse?
abbynitta's profile thumbnail
Thank you and here's to us 90s babies! And thanks for reading :)I created my own "minimum viable day" during an intense period of burnout where I didn't have the option of taking time away from work, and I needed a realistic bar to aim for in that state — something achievable I could check off my list and feel OK about reaching. Over the last year, I haven't had to lean against the MVD very much at all, but knowing it's still there helps me feel accomplished at the end of most days.And I actually got the idea to treat my weekends like a vacation from an episode of NPR's Life Kit. I basically try to avoid filling up my weekends with obligations and instead purposefully plan my time like I'm on vacation (doing enjoyable activities, exploring new parts of where I live, etc.). Plus, thankfully, I'm at a company right now that normalizes a pretty good work/life balance. Work or necessary non-enjoyable tasks inevitably creep into the weekend at times, but I try to have enough blank space and fun in my weekly calendar to represent a life I don't necessarily want to escape from. Those Sunday scaries are real and persistent though, so not a perfect solution 😅
hphant's profile thumbnail
Happy birthday! Thank you so much for posting this. It's a lovely reminder as to what to look forward to and to pause and appreciate what's happening now. I wish you the best success this year.
abbynitta's profile thumbnail
Thank you for reading and for the well wishes! And you're totally right about pausing to appreciate the present :)
melaniesaraj's profile thumbnail
Happy belated birthday! I love all of this. It really resonates with me and is so well-put.I'm 31 and I would definitely tell my past self about #20, negotiate!!! I didn't have the courage and I ended up totally low-balling myself.I would also tell her that confidence is beauty. I was always really self-conscious about my appearance but when I developed a style I liked (and didn't care if other people did) and started carrying myself with confidence, I hella glowed up! Still am!