THE BLOG
01/17/2014 03:32 pm ET Updated Mar 19, 2014

5 Things to Learn By 30

Things to do, places to travel, life bench-markers to have attained (this one tends to be a short, but ambitious mental list). For my 30th birthday, I find myself searching for a different kind of "list." One perhaps a little more forgiving, and an acknowledgment that life is more than anything else, a work-in-progress.

Here are my (suggested) five things to learn to do by the age of 30:

1) Acquire lessons from home. Talk to your parents honestly about their experiences, their successes and failures. Accept that every choice they made was earnest, that they did the best they could for you at any particular moment. And if they did not, well, accept that too. When I was 17 and left home for the first time, I thought my parents were perfect, and that their marriage was too. When I returned home as an adult, the largest lesson I learned from them was that 40 years of marriage does not just happen; that enormous tolerance, forgiveness, and selflessness is required. That's easy to say or write, but seeing it on a daily basis is something else. My parents talked in the evenings with an ease that I watched with a near anthropological-lens. Discuss mutual interests, debrief your day, take a moment for yourself, and routinely choose kindness. That seems to be one way to make it work.

2) Take your spirit, leave your baggage. These days "millennials" are on the move a lot. New York to San Francisco, back home to hopefully, some glam spot abroad. Travel light. And please, don't travel as a niche group, for marketers' sake. Don't buy gear to travel. Don't travel for jealousy-inducing social media purposes. It's one of the last areas of contemporary life that requires no enhancements. Book a ticket and a place to stay. The wonder of new skies, scents, and smiles is enough every time.

3) Appreciate being in flux. Thirty is supposed to be the year when adulthood is magically thrust upon us, or for our most together friends, 30 is the culmination of the right choices and good luck; a solid career, a mate, and a kick-ass apartment. There is no problem with having all of those things at 30, but there is no problem with not having them either. Most people when seeking a husband (or wife) are marrying the promise of something; life-long companionship, financial security, a kind of in-tact and permanent destiny. But the truth is that there is no so such thing as security. Businesses fail, careers veer off track, people change, love transforms, money goes. For most of us, every aspect of our lives won't line up perfectly at the same time-not at 30 or 70. The best thing to do is appreciate being in flux and (in my mum's words): face the truth of each moment and find the joy in it.

4) Do good work and respect good workers. Have one thing you're proud of that you've accomplished and one thing you're excited for about the future. Approach your chosen work with care and gratitude. Contribute to your community and society in ways that are peaceful and meaningful. Admire world leaders, changemakers, and worthwhile public personalities, but cherish the people who make up your daily life and keep it all going. Parents and siblings, friends and colleagues, transportation workers, food servers, garbage collectors. Reserve your greatest respect for them.

5) Absorb and create. Sing. Dance. Write. Doodle. Read books. Watch movies. Listen to music. Making stuff is good for you. Nourish your mind and spirit with a rich cultural diet. As with real food, be discerning. If it makes you feel slightly sick, turn it off. You need to fiercely protect your mental and creative space. Never think of time spent absorbing good culture as a waste. This is the time that affirms and sustains us.

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