I was 16 years old when the Friends episode where they all turned 30 aired. I remember thinking, "Wow. 30. That’s old." Today I’m 30. I refuse to say that I am old.
It’s easy to feel ancient though, with constant reminders flashing before my eyes every single time I check social media. On weekdays, I browse past engagement announcements or baby photos and fight the urge to panic for my auspiciously empty uterus. You can call it the ticking clock or even societal pressure. But whatever it is that I’m feeling, I’m sure I’m not alone in this. YOU are not alone in this.
I remember reading somewhere that you feel stupider as you grow older. I’m sure that was put together more eloquently by Instagramers/Lao Tzu/whoever, but that phrasing seems about right to me. Moving past the volatile 20s into my 30s has made me keenly aware of what I do not know. Things like "What caused the Syrian crisis?" and "Who is Meghan Trainor?" confuse me now. There are too many things to learn and absolutely no patience for what doesn’t pique my interest.
On the other hand, the great thing about this phase is that I am also astutely aware of what I know. Certain truths come out of the ashes of your post-adolescence every so often–hard-earned teeny bits of wisdom that make you feel that you are actually an adult vis-à-vis a fresh-out-of-college foundling sleeping on a mattress on the floor for a year (I’ve done this. It ain’t pretty). Consider this a State of My Adulthood Address.
You have zero tolerance for bullsh*t.
You heard me. At this age, you know what is worth your time and what is not. Petty fights you would have picked are shrugged off, but incompetence is not to be tolerated at any cost. If in the past you spent hours neck-deep in nasty office gossip, chances are you’ve grown past that, too. The same principles apply to dates who aren’t right for you, overpriced "sale items," and fake concern about the mundane. Speaking of fake…
Your time is only for true friends.
You know how you perpetuated the I'm-too-busy myth at one point in your past? Chances are, you did that because you refused to acknowledge that not all relationships are meant to last. An important thing to remember: shared history is not a sure ticket to lifelong friendship. People evolve in different ways, and at some point, you will find that only those who hold similar values as yourself will make it to your dinner parties. As they say, the past is a nice place to visit. But you don’t necessarily have to live there.
Only good change does you good.
At this point in your life, you may have consciously or unconsciously created some semblance of a moral dipstick that is not based on what your squad thinks is good for you. You know which things are good for you and which are not. If in the past you have gone through radical changes to shake things up (e.g. My Year in a Beyonce Blonde Afro), this time the need to change comes from a need to improve your life. It may be as miniscule as giving up smoking or quitting a job that eats away at your soul. You know the type.
You CAN say no.
Too many things have been written about being the captain of your own ship, so I won’t discuss this. Instead I will tell you that you are your own Ambassador of No. Barring legal authorities who might ask you to testify, you CAN actually say no to things that you don’t want to do. No, you don’t want to stay in that relationship. No, you don’t have to decide on getting married now. No, you don’t have to go to that reunion dinner. You draw your own lines—with gusto.
Leave work on time.
Sometime in my early 20s, I braved flood and rain at 2:00 a.m. because I "had to do overtime." You work to live. You do not live to work. The formula is: go to work early, do the work efficiently, and know that closing time is closing time. The band Semisonic knows what we’re talking about.
Lastly, you can’t buy love.
It’s not just a song you sing in the shower, this is actually very true. Your time on earth is limited; you might as well spend it with love. The family that you create for yourself, the relationships that you build, the connections that you’ve kept, the respect that you give yourself: these are things no amount of money can buy. Know all this by the time you’re 30, and you’ll know what to do with your life after.