Wednesday, October 5, 2016

3 Lessons at 30

Today I turn 30.

Me turning 21
I have anticipated today for years. Each birthday the past ten years, I have thought to myself, “I still have __ years in my 20s”. With each friend’s 30th birthday celebration I have thought, “Still __ months until I celebrate mine.”

Today is a milestone that I wasn’t ever sure how to feel about. Being the youngest of most of my friends, I watched them all turn 30 and recognized how youthful they still are. My perspective of what it means to be a 30-year-old has shifted dramatically since my early 20s. What used to seem old and out-of-touch to me now seems young and vibrant. My friend told me a couple days ago, “Your 30s are just like your 20s, but you’re smarter and have more money.” Both of those things are true so far, and I’m happy for it.
Me turning 24, Cam discovering bundt cakes.

At the same time, a subtle wave of grief hit me last night in the final hours of my 20s as I reflected on how fast 30 years of my life has gone by. If my next 30 years go by as quick as the first, I will need to slow down to truly experience what makes life good. I have countless trips, robust experiences, happy memories and milestones under my belt, but I can’t help to feel that life is painfully short.

I know the following decades will each bring their own wisdom, but here are the three most important lessons I learned in my 20s.


Health is so much more than just physical fitness
If you had asked me in my early-20s to describe what it means to be healthy, I would have answered with a dress size. While physical fitness is still very important to me, it used to be my sole indicator of health. It didn’t matter to me what I was putting into my body, how I felt physically and emotionally, or if there was balance in my life, as long as I was getting 4-5 workouts in a week and stayed the same size.

The past ten years have seen a trend (or hopefully a permanent way of thinking) regarding eating non-processed foods. Most nutritionists and dietitians have debunked the effectiveness of “dieting” and emphasized eating a reasonable amount of real, fresh food. It wasn’t until my metabolism began slowing down in my late-20s that I became mindful of my eating habits and noticed how much better I not only look, but feel, when I eat well and the right amount.

Wrecking my car on my 26th
I did not understand the importance of my emotional health until I began yoga teacher training at 25. My past had been plagued with insecurity, low self-esteem, and a tendency to attack people when my fight or flight response was triggered. One of the best pieces of advice I got in yoga teacher training is that you control your own happiness. Life inevitably brings hardship and bad days. It’s unreasonable to think that you will succeed at everything, that people will always treat you the way you want to be treated, or that you will feel secure in every aspect of your life. It is very reasonable, however, to take control of how you react to these situations. We can’t control what life brings. We can control how we react to it. We can also learn to love ourselves unconditionally, because if we don’t love and respect ourselves, how can we possibly project it on others?

Finally, I’ve learned that health is also about finding a balance in your life. Balance between work and play, family and friends, eating well and treating yourself. I will never reap the rewards of working hard at my job if I do not set aside time to enjoy my life, my loved ones, and obviously, my income. Besides fitting into my favorite skinny jeans, this is what it means for me to be “healthy” these days.


Your true friends will reveal themselves over time
Me turning 27
This one has been a tough one. It has always been important for me to have friends and to treat them well. Those close to me will describe me as a fiercely loyal friend. Inevitably and understandably, friends come and go. Friends who you bonded with and shared significant moments of your life with find new interests, develop values different from yours, and make new friends. Some friends physically move away. This happens to all of us, and isn’t something to be hurt over. Similarly, we shouldn’t feel guilty when we make new friends and bond with them “better” than our old ones.

However, time and physical distance spent apart are also excellent opportunities to gauge the depth of a friendship. A true friend isn’t one who is always available to meet you for a drink, or that you spend the most time with. A true friend isn’t the person you’re seen most with in pictures on social media, or that is willing to travel long distances to make it to a celebration. A true friend is the person who hurts when you hurt and who rejoices when you rejoice, whether physically or in spirit. A true friend is the person who understands who you are and what is important to you, and shows you that you are important to them. A true friend doesn’t necessarily change with you, but remembers why you were friends at one point in life, and seamlessly connects where you left off. These friends should not be taken for granted.
Turning 28 at ACL

On the contrary, the past decade has revealed that many people I considered good friends were merely there for convenience. I have painfully learned that when a friend sends a message, I should listen. I anticipate that the following decades will bring both strong new friendships to be cherished, as well as the disappointment of learning that a friendship may not have been as strong as it seemed.


We’re all on different paths to happiness, and no path is better than another
This is something I really struggled with in my early-20s, and is what Chick Lit authors write bestselling novels about. While I had much in common with my friends at the stage in life we met in, ultimately many of us took separate forks in the road as we discovered what was truly important to us. As I approached my mid-20s, I witnessed others around me making life decisions that were right for them, but terrified me at that point in life. Witnessing friends get married, have children, move to the suburbs, etc. perplexed me, and honestly alienated me from a few at the time. As much as I hate to admit, I was extremely judgmental towards people who chose to do things that I wasn’t on board with at the time. I imposed my own values system on them: “Why would you want to rush into that? You’re still young!”

What I’ve learned the past few years is that everyone’s definition of happiness is different and involves decisions that are irrelevant to where I’m at in my life. I learned to support people and wish the best for them, regardless of how their path may differ from mine. Perhaps they weren’t “rushing” into anything, but rather intentionally and purposefully doing what made them happy. No path is right or wrong, or better or worse; our paths to happiness are simply different. (By the way, this also applies to those who have told me and Cam “it’s time” to have babies.) ;)

30.


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