Thirty Before You’re Thirty

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the last year, it’s that life is what you make of it. In the end, it’s you who is left with your thoughts, your conscious and your heart. You are who you are – don’t try and change. And certainly don’t run after anybody who isn’t running after you. As a twenty-something woman in today’s day and age, we try so hard to be perfect – perfect in our careers, for our family and for the person we love. Only to realize much later on that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being imperfect and learning to make peace with those imperfections. It’s about finding those people who will love you and stand by you through the most difficult times of your life. The older we get, the more life lessons we learn and sometimes, it’s pretty hard to deal with. We realize that friends will not always stand by your side and as much as you try, you will drift apart. You’ll learn that after years of guarding your heart, it can still be broken by someone you think the world of – and yes – it will certainly be more difficult to heal the second time around. You’ll learn that whilst the world can be a cruel place, sometimes the next person’s battle is just a little more difficult than your own. Take the time to listen. 

We’ve all been through it – the highs and lows of life and in the end when you’ve really hit rock bottom that is when you realize that you and only you can be responsible for your happiness. Sure, you may not act in the most graceful of ways at times but you’re a woman. It’s okay to feel intense emotions. So if people want to leave, let them. What means the world to you may not necessarily mean the world to the next person and hey, that’s okay too. Fair enough, you may change for the worse before you change for the better but as two wonderful women recently told me, realize and understand that this too shall pass. We are all on our own journey and regardless of what you want or may wish for, there is still some truth in saying what is meant to be, will be. It’s the greatest mystery of the universe – giving us what we need and not what we want. So stand tall and be awesome. That is all you can ever really be anyway. So as I walk this road to becoming thirty, I’ve realized that while I still have a multitude of things to achieve, I’ve also accomplished a lot too.

Here, I give you a list of thirty things for every twenty something woman to do before hitting the big 30. Time waits for no one. And neither should you.

#1. If you don’t already have a passport. Get one. There’s no better feeling than looking back at the endless stamps on your passport and realizing that you have seen the world.

#2. Ride a hot air balloon. Just because you can.

#3. Learn the art of packing light. Roll your jeans, stuff your shoes and leave behind that extra handbag. You don’t really need it.

#4. Defy gravity at least once – go paragliding, zip lining or bungee jumping. It will make you feel awesome.

#5. Start writing a book. We all have a story to tell – sure, it may not get published or become a New York Times best seller, but it’s not about that. It’s about the feeling of putting down your thoughts on paper and realizing how much you have grown.

#6. Learn to live healthier and take care of your body. Treat it like a temple.

#7. Meet up with your girlfriends, regularly. Be it coffee, cocktails or brunch. It doesn’t matter how busy life gets, the women in your life will always be there for you, so never forget them. They will support you, define you, guide you, advise you and shape you. They will be there through the endless tears; they will ease you through the painful thoughts in the early hours of the morning and selflessly hold your hand as you battle through any storm. Treasure them.

#8. Buy at least one expensive pair of heels – and if you buy a second and a third and maybe a fourth, that’s okay too. You only live once.

#9. Find the perfect little black dress.

#10. Study abroad, even if just for three months. You’ll never be the same.

#11. Make out with a stranger. Just once is enough. You don’t need to go from classy to trashy.

#12. Fall in love, have your heart broken and learn to love again. You’ll grow in more ways than you can imagine. But after that, learn to guard your heart. There’s only so much pain a girl can take.

#13. Learn to bake your favorite cake. Then sit down with a vanilla latte and smile as you realize that yes, you can have your cake and eat it too.

#14. Volunteer for a cause. See how it cleanses your soul.

#15. Find out more about your family history. Know your roots. It’ll ground you when figuring out where you want to be in life.

#16. Start doing something that makes you feel awesome – dancing, yoga, a blog, Pinterest or even a scrapbook.

#17. Learn to speak a new language. Or at least a few phrases.

#18. Write down your life goals. Of course they will change. But know what you want and where you’re going.

#19. Travel. Travel. Travel. And when you feel like you can’t do it anymore, travel again. But always know where your home is. Make sure you go there often.

#20. Learn to have meaningful relationships and leave behind the people who don’t treat you right – as hard as that may be. Your sanity is worth so much more than any friendship or lover – no matter how much it meant to you. You should NEVER have to fight for a place in a person’s life – if you’re fighting, leave. If you don’t, believe me when I say the day will come when they walk away – much sooner than you think – and it will break you in more ways than one. Say what you need too and stop. I’ve learnt that you don’t need to repeat yourself as much you think you do. Oh and think twice before saying anything hurtful. You don’t want to be left with a lifetime of regret. It’s not a nice feeling. Trust me.

#21. Read a classic novel. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt along the way, it’s that the mark of a sophisticated mind is being able to relate and draw on scenes and quotes from the greatest classics – The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist. It will rejuvenate your brain and make for much more interesting conversation anyway.

#22. Let go of the past and forgive someone. People will wrong you time and time again. It’s the mark of being human. You won’t always get that apology. Sometimes we have to just let it go, accept it and move on.

#23. Watch a theater production or Broadway show. It’s awesome.

#24. Start eating more exotic foods – caviar, haggis, octopus, kimchi – whatever it is, just be more adventurous.

#25. Learn to be alone. It will free your soul when you learn to be at peace with yourself.

#26. Discover your signature drink. It looks classy. Oh and don’t mix drinks.

#27. Start investing your money. You want to be classy and rich.

#28. Learn how to cook. Turn on The Food Network, channel your inner Julia Child and just cook. You don’t want to be that sad take out person forever.

#29. Keep up to date with current events. There is a far bigger world that extends beyond our daily lives. Know what’s going on in the rest of the world and read the newspaper regularly.

#30. Stop worrying. As a modern day woman we want and need to know what the future holds so maybe, just maybe, we can find a solution to a potential problem that hasn’t even happened yet and save ourselves from any hurt, pain, drama or chaos that the universe may throw at us. You know what, if the universe wants to throw you a curve ball, it’s going to happen – one way or another. So stop worrying because when it does happen, you can and will deal with it. Just live in the present and learn to breathe because yes, you are awesome.

So go on then. Carpe the hell out of this Diem.

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Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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