In the weeks leading up to my 30th birthday last summer, I found myself wishing for an "aha" moment to take hold. Nothing big, necessarily, just some assurance that as I embarked on a new decade, I had a clearer sense of who I was and what I was doing.
Instead, I rang in my 30th year shaky and worn, trying not to cry into a bowl of ramen before passing out cold at 8:30 pm. I was three months pregnant and terrified that I was in no way adult enough to be someone's mom. The only clarity I felt was that I was utterly clueless, and that my growing family was profoundly screwed as a result.
But now that the fog of pregnancy hormones has cleared, I feel more confidence in my general life know-how. Though the last year was largely devoid of epiphanies -- aside from the near violent rush of love I felt when the midwife pressed my son up against me in the delivery room -- I absolutely know more than I did when I was, say, 25. I know, for example, that it's important to wash produce. I know the simple but profound thrill of clearly stating what I want, whether it's a promotion at work or tacos for dinner. I understand the power of compound interest -- a concept I so wish I'd grasped at 21.
In that vein, we asked some of HuffPost's smartest staffers what they'd tell their 20-something selves.
Here's the advice these 30-something women want to share with women in their 20s:
1. Get rid of your skinny jeans, they're an unnecessary struggle.
2. Do whatever you can to avoid judging other women. You don't know what kind of mother you will be, or what kind of daughter you will be to an aging parent, or a friend to someone who needs it, until you are. Be accepting to your fellow women who are all just trying to do their best.
3. Put money in your 401k. Even if it's just a little every paycheck -- and even if you feel broke right now -- you'll be glad you did.
4. But when you do spend money, keep in mind that you'll remember your 20s based on experiences you've had more than stuff you bought. Travel and spend time with family and friends.
5. Figure out the reproductive and birth control choices that are best for you. Don't spend years uninformed about IUDs or your own cycle.
6. It's okay to whittle down your friendships to the few core people you need. Don't feel badly about falling out of touch with everyone. Sometimes the few friends who stick around are who you'll really grow with and depend on for years to come.
7. Don't judge older women for spending money on eye cream and other expensive facial products. When you see your first under eye wrinkle... you'll get it.
8. Quit smoking -- and always wear sunblock.
9. Sheryl Sandberg was right: The person you choose to spend your life with is the most important career decision you will make. Your life will be significantly harder if you don't have someone who believes in your path as much as you do.
10. Say yes to as many new experiences you possibly can, but limit the amount of commitments in your life that don't work for you. If you're spending your time trying to please other people, you'll wind up with nothing to give yourself.
11. It's okay to be nice and pleasant and still be professional, but don't let people take advantage of you -- and STOP APOLOGIZING.
12. Don't worry so much. Ninety percent of the sh** you spend your time fretting about really, truly doesn't matter.
13. And just wear the damn bikini.
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