30 Things I've Learned for My 30th Birthday

06/06/2016 09:34 am ET Updated Jun 07, 2017
Birthday cake with candles and sparklers.
Birthday cake with candles and sparklers.

I'm turning 30 this week and while I mostly just feel like a child-woman running around pretending to be a grown-up, it turns out I might have actually learned a few things along the way.

That said, I'm probably still learning more of them.

The world has changed, and while things like "a penny saved is a penny earned" might still be true, there's much more to life than the black and white advice our parents and grandparents imparted to us. So, without further ado, below are 30 things I've learned in my 30 years of existence (and I hope some of them will help you, too):

30. Forget the lists. Including this one! These are my 30 things, but they might not be yours. All those Internet lists of "10 Things To Do Before You're 40," or "5 Places To See Before You Die," or "3 Types of Men To Avoid" don't matter. At all. Not everyone is meant to do those 10 things before 40 or see those 5 places -- your journey is your own. And you know what? Sometimes, not avoiding those men is the best part.

29. Curse. Screw the people who tell you cursing isn't ladylike. I'm 30, damn it, and I'll curse like a sailor if I want to! (And I do.)

28. Love sex. It's okay to be a woman and really, really, really like sex. We're constantly fed this bullshit story that men are supposed to be the ones who chase sex and women are supposed to be the ones who are hesitant to provide it. Screw that. Sex is supposed to get even better in your 30s, and if you're a woman who likes sex, own it!

27. Be you. Hate relationships and/or monogamy? Cool, me too. Until now, I've spent my time going in and out of relationships: I'd think I wanted one, then get in one, then feel immediately tied down and thrash to get out, then I'd be devastated, then I'd start the cycle over again. But here's the rub: I actually hate monogamy. With the burning fire of a thousand suns. I don't like only having sex with one person, I don't like feeling trapped and I really, really don't like commitment. So why did I keep doing this to myself? Chalk it up to youth and idiocy. Now I'm 30 and I know I can choose to have an open relationship, a closed relationship, or no relationship at all and still be happy.

26. Do no harm. You'll hurt people along the way of life, that's unavoidable, but what's most important is learning from those mistakes and minimizing the hurt you cause in the future.

25. Let him go. The men who forget you are meant to be forgotten, plain and simple.

24. Accept yourself. You can't please everyone, and sometimes, you have to be okay with pleasing no one. The best and brightest moments of self-discovery in life often happen after you've pissed someone off in the pursuit of your own happiness.

23. Embrace life. What your life looks like now is probably different than what you thought it would look like. This is okay. In fact, it's probably awesome.

22. Listen to people older and wiser than you. Sometimes. Other times, ignore them. Those who have lived longer than you will know a lot more than you. It's just the way it is. Listen to them when they give good advice. That doesn't mean, though, that they'll know what's best for you all the time. With age comes the ability to discern when something just isn't right for you.

21. Staying up late to make a new memory is worth skipping the gym in the morning... Don't be so singularly-focused on something that you forget to make memories along the way. I'm a self-admitted fitness fiend, but I should have gone out more, seen friends more, and stayed up late more, instead of worrying about working out.

20. ...just make sure you get to the gym in the afternoon. Yes, I believe in everything I just said. I also believe in taking care of yourself. Stay up late, drink, party -- just make sure you sleep it off, hydrate like a camel, and then drag your ass to the gym the next day. You only have one body. Take care of it.

19. Write thank-you notes. Seriously, just do it. It takes so little time and it's such a beautiful way to let someone know how much you appreciate them.

18. Remember birthdays, and anniversaries, and work projects, and graduations. And Tuesdays. It doesn't need to be a special event for it to be important enough to remember. That friend who had the worst Tuesday ever at work? She could probably use a call from you, right about now, letting her know that you remembered and were thinking of her.

17. Call your parents. Yes, they try to tell us what to do, they still treat us like children, and they won't let go. So what? These are your parents, the people who birthed you, and raised you, and loved you, and still love you. Call them. Go see them. Involve them in your life. You only get one set of parents, and you only get one shot.

16. Attend the events. A lesson I'm still working on: go to #allthethings. Go to the networking events. Go to the happy hours. Go to the birthday parties. Go to the dinners. Do it all, because if you don't, you'll lose connections with the most important people in your life.

15. Say what you mean. Stop beating around the bush -- we're too old for that shit. Spit it out, whatever it is.

14. Stop dwelling. No good ever came from thinking about the same thing over and over again. Make a decision -- then move on. Good or bad, you'll find out soon enough, so let it be and open your mind to other things.

13. Apologize. Mean it. Apologize if you were wrong. Apologize if you weren't wrong. In 20 years, nothing will matter except whether you maintained your connections and validated others' feelings. Hell, to me, the stuff that I fought with people about even one year ago doesn't matter anymore. Better to apologize than look back with regret.

12. Give it your all. Another lesson I still seem to be struggling with -- no good ever came from keeping your emotional walls up. Let them down. Let people in. Love. Get your heart broken. Do it all while you can, because we may or may not have tomorrow.

11. Say no. Set boundaries. If you don't want to do something, don't do it. You've lived enough life now that you should feel strong and confident putting limits in place that work for you.

10. Say yes. That being said, sometimes, you have to say yes. Does it scare you? Does it make you nervous? Is it outside your comfort zone? Then say yes. The only way to grow is to keep moving forward.

9. Keep in touch. Call. Text. Facebook message. Tweet. Have coffee. Meet for drinks. Whatever it takes, remember that the community you build for yourself will get you through this thing called life, so hold on to it as much as you can.

8. Stand up for yourself. Always. At 30, I've realized I'm just too old to be taking dumb shit from anyone. So are you. Stand up for yourself, without fail.

7. Let people help you. I'm not very good at this yet, but I'm trying to be. You can't do it all on your own, so you might as well stop trying. Ask for help. Then, let people help!

6. Help people. Take your friend to the doctor. Help your sister move. Pick up your co-worker's car. Stop to see if the lady on the train is okay. Do it all, because no one gets out of here alive, so you might as well do what you can to make other people's days, and years, and lives, better.

5. Put down your phone. Do it, or you might miss something.

4. Eat the ice cream. Kiss the guy. Send the text. Quit the job. Climb the mountain. Write the book. NOW. Stop dreaming about "the right time." Stop thinking "if only." Stop imagining "tomorrow." Create your destiny, this very moment.

3. Be kind. To everyone. All the time. All the time.

2. Make the world a better place with every decision you make. Recycle. Volunteer. Give. Be there. Support. There's no excuse not to.

1. The only way to live the life you actually want is to live the life you actually want. So go, start living the life you choose.

Follow Anjali’s journey on her two blogs The LITMO Life and Anjalism and her YouTube Channel.