Last month I turned 31. I’m officially in my early thirties! A million people say that your thirties are the best decade of your life, and I’m going to choose to believe them. After three decades of mistake-making, I’ve learned a few things. Wanna know what I know?
1. Trust your gut. Really.
If you think he likes you, you’re probably right. If you think he’s cheating, you’re probably right. If you think she’s going to be your new BFF, (this time with feeling!) you’re probably right.
2. Sunscreen. Always.
SPF 15 indoors, SPF 30 outdoors. I’ve been wearing sunscreen every day since I was 19 and I still get carded. I think this actually has more to do with the bouncers hitting on me, but I’d like to share the credit with this sunscreen.
3. If you’re lying in bed worrying about it, get up and write it down.
If I don’t do this, my night will quickly devolve into cyclical thoughts of doom and anxiety. Just get out of bed, write down the thing that you’re worried about, write down a few ideas to deal with it and then go the eff back to sleep.
4. Processed carbohydrates and sugars are yucky.
It’s not hard to switch to whole wheat bread and noodles or substitute honey/maple syrup/raw sugar for the white stuff. It’s yummy and you’ll feel heaps better!
5. Maintaining friendships (and making new friends) is an active process.
Stop waiting for them to call you! Think of something fun to do, call your friends and go do it. Also, stop sitting in your apartment, devotedly wishing that you knew more cool people.
Surprisingly, this will not get you any closer to making new friends. Go places where like-minded people hang out, talk to new people at parties, initiate. Here’s how to make new friends as an adult.
6. Uncomfortable underwear can ruin your day.
At least they can ruin mine. So don’t wear your sexy times underwear on the day you have to walk ten blocks to work. (These live up to the hype!)
7. It really doesn’t matter what you major in.
What does matter? The internships you get, your work ethic, your interpersonal skills, who you know. So go ahead and get a BA in Studio Art! As long as you compliment that with work experience at a graphic design studio, a museum, and an ad agency.
8. Create an active lifestyle.
I don’t go to the gym every day. Or, um, ever in the summer. But I walk to work and to the market and just about everywhere within a 3 mile radius. If you make daily activity a habit, you won’t have nearly as many moments of “how did I inadvertently gain 30 pounds?!” or “why can’t I walk up a flight of stairs?!”
9. Learn to enjoy your own company.
There will be times in your life when you really want to see that movie, check out that new boutique, go to Thailand and no one wants to go with you. Bummer! But that doesn’t mean that you can’t go by yourself and have a good time. Take baby steps and work up to doing the big stuff on your own.
I’m still working on this one. But I think it’s important to realize that just about everything in life is relative – depending on your surroundings, you could be the hottest/smartest/highest paid girl in the room.
But if you walk next door? Maybe it’s a different story. It’s important to have faith in your abilities and strong suits – regardless of how they compare to others.
11. Find out what colors and styles work (and don’t work) on you. Style accordingly.
I look good in gold and browns and corals. I look good with long, wavy hair. I look good in boat neck, three-quarter length tops. It took many, many unflattering photos to figure this out.
12. When in doubt, make the effort.
You will never regret wearing that nice outfit, buying the thoughtful gift for the friend you haven’t heard from in a while, over-tipping. If it doesn’t work out, at least you’ll know you did your best.
13. Cook at home.
Seriously. You will save one million dollars. You will maintain a healthy weight. You will impress your friends.
14. There are 300 million people in America. And 6,000,000,000 in the world.
I promise you, you’ll love someone else. You’ll meet new friends. You’ll find co-workers and neighbors that are awesome. If it’s too hard (or if someone is making you feel bad) walk away. There are a million other people out there who won’t make you feel bad!
It’s true. Don’t take the extra shift at work and miss your friend’s awesome end-of-the-summer barbecue.
If all your friends are springing for a weekend at a cabin near the Canadian border, save up for a few weeks and make it happen. You won’t remember the two weeks of eating in and watching library DVDs, but you’ll remember 3 days of fun with your buddies.
16. You can find common ground with just about anyone, anywhere.
Regardless of a person’s gender, age, race or religion there are common denominators to the human experience – falling in love, being homesick, laughing at baby animals.
You don’t even need to speak the same language to share an appreciation for these things. You’d be amazed how far you can get with most people just by smiling and asking them questions.
17. Don’t buy the cheapest version. Buy the second cheapest.
This trick has saved me a lot of money. And many hangovers. Usually, the cheapest version of something (vodka, eye shadow, shoes) is noticeably dicey. But the second-cheapest? Not so bad!
18. Make an extra copy.
Of your keys, your lease, your birth certificate, your social security card. Then give said copy to someone trustworthy.
Really. It’s pretty gratifying in a slightly disgusting way. I keep these in my car and floss at stop lights – gross but incredibly effective!
20. Consider secondhand, for just about everything.
98% of everything I own is second hand. My blow dryer, my picture frames, my sheets (not as gross as you’re imagining). They cost a fraction of what I’d pay for them new, and no one’s the wiser. At least until I tell the internet that I sleep on used sheets.
With the exception of excuses like “my grandma died” most excuses are embarrassing for everyone involved – the person giving them and the person listening to them. ‘I just don’t know where to start,’ ‘I’m tired,’ ‘it’s too expensive’ really just translate to ‘I’m not making it a priority’. See? Embarrassing, right?
22. Don’t ask a question if you’re not prepared to hear the answer.
If you ask your friend “Do I look fat in this?” you best be prepared to hear that it’s not a super flattering look on you.
If you ask that guy you’ve been seeing for five months “Where do you see this going?” you need to know he might respond in stutters, back-pedaling and comments about “keeping it light.” Don’t ask if you don’t really, really want to know.
23. Engage in calculated risk taking.
Dancing on the table, taking a spontaneous road trip by yourself to a neighboring state, trying a new type of ethnic food – it is unlikely that any of these things will kill you. But they will probably make you more interesting.
24. Learn how to live well within your means.
Make a budget and stick to it. Pay off your credit cards every month. Learn to cook for yourself. Get a bike and use it (then you won’t need a gym membership or all that gas for you car!) Cancel the cable. Split internet with a neighbor. Consider second hand. You’d be amazed how painless saving money can be! Here’s how to stop buying shit you don’t need.
25. Learn some basic photo editing skills.
Because that photo from your vacation would make a great Facebook profile photo if you didn’t have that giant zit, right? Picnik and Gimp are all great options!
26. If you don’t know what you say, silence is always an option.
I learned this from my friend Ellie, who used this approach to deal with unruly patients during her years as a nurse in NYC. If someone says something you don’t like (and don’t know how to respond to) just stare at them and don’t say anything. Totally. terrifying. And totally effective!
27. If you don’t know, ask.
Because that thing that people say about assuming (it makes an ass out of you and me)? That’s true.
28. Do something different with your weekends.
After a week in the cubicle farm, I know it’s tempting to spend your weekend watching DVDs, running errands, going to house parties and nursing hangovers. But doing the same thing every weekend gets old. And you won’t return to work reinvigorated or inspired.
You don’t have to do anything earth shattering – have a sleepover with old friends, go camping in a State Park, rent bikes and ride through your city, try a new ethnic restaurant, look up the top tourist sights in your city and check them out. Milk those two days off for all they’re worth!
29. Stay in touch.
In the age of skype/facebook/texting there’s absolutely no reason that you can’t maintain regular contact with your childhood bestie or that cool girl from your freshman comp class. Maintaining and fostering friendships is super important. Also, you’ll have more couches to crash on when you go traveling!
30. Find a creative outlet.
Most of us aren’t 100% creatively fulfilled by our day jobs. Even those of us who work in creative fields! Engaging different parts of your brain (and different parts of your personality) is hugely, hugely gratifying.
Seriously, you cannot overestimate how having a good hobby can change your life. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that after I started blogging, I needed less sleep and was a much happier person. Truth.
31. Act like you know what you’re doing.
You can pretty much conquer the world with a confident walk, a well thought out outfit and confident demeanor. We teach people how to treat us and when you show people that you’re a force to be reckoned with, they’ll believe you.
But I want to know about you! What are your favorite, most-used pieces of wisdom?