Y’all — it’s happening. I have officially entered into a new decade of life and I am feeling all kinds of ways about it. On one hand, turning thirty just can’t help but invoke the pressurizing feeling that I should have (much more of) my crap together, be settling down in life, and/or probably be spending some serious time carefully crafting my 5- or 10-year plan. LOL fam. Yes, it’s true that I may have started settling into a city — nice to call you home again, Nashville — but in most other ways I am still a wee wild heart who can’t help but long to wander . . . hence having four out-of-state trips already planned before the end of the year. And what about settling down into a relationship? Another big fat nope from ya girl — one that I am actually pretty dang happy with at the moment — but is the pressure there? As any single friends in their late twenties would attest, of course it is. So, keeping some of these (and other) cultural and societal expectations in mind, do I feel ready to be thirty? Not really.
On the other hand, I don’t know if I could actually be more excited to be thirty. When I first moved to Nashville six years ago (!!!), many of my friends were older than me, and as they all took their turns entering into their thirties, I heard over and over in the years that passed that “your thirties are SO much better than your twenties!” Their reasons included: you know yourself better and are way more confident in who you are, you’re able to view the world and those around you in new ways (aka. you’re hopefully less self-focused), and you care far less what others think of who you are, what you wear, what you do, etc. I also heard things like: you’ll dig deeper into community, you’ll have a better sense of the kind of job/career/path you want to pursue, and you’ll enter new spaces in your relationship with Jesus as you prioritize His presence. I might have literally just turned thirty, but I feel like I can attest to all of these things being more and more true the older I’ve gotten. Praise be, am I right?
Really, I think it’s the anticipation of thirty that’s been the hardest; situated in the in-between, knowing that it’s time to say goodbye to my twenties while having barely made my way into my thirties. But here we are, ya girl is officially the big 3-0!
Ever since this article from Taylor Swift came out back in March, I haven’t stopped thinking about the beauty and the heartache that accompany closing the book on one very beautiful, very hard, and very messy decade and opening the blank pages to another. I’ve also spent a lot of time this year considering some of the things that I myself have learned — namely throughout my twenties — and while our lives might look very different, Taylor do have one thing in common: we were both born in 1989, and are both entering our next decade before the year is over (also glitter, we both love glitter). And while our celebrations will likely be just as different, I can’t help but think that there is a special and hopefully very sparkly thread that bonds us together as women about to enter into the next chapter of our lives.
So, inspired by the legend herself, here are some of the best things that I have learned before turning thirty:
ONE // STOP PLAYING SMALL
For much of my life, I’ve often chosen to shrink to the back of a crowd or cling to the wall at an event. Front and center has never really been my jam, so to speak, but if I am honest, I let a fear of what others thought of me hold me back from stepping out. I’ve always known there was a spark inside of me, but was scared to let it shine, and after being forced to get out of some very tightly drawn comfort zones these last few years, I’ve learned to boldly and confidently put myself out there. Want to know what I realized in doing so? There is so much freedom that comes when you choose to live fully in the face of fear, and better yet, tell that fear to take a hike and go on with your bad self. Don’t apologize for being you, taking up space, or sharing your thoughts — be as big, as confident, and as radiant as you want to be.
TWO // BE KIND TO THE WOMAN IN THE MIRROR
A few years ago while in conversation with a sweet friend, I said something particularly negative about myself (likely about my appearance), and was caught off guard when said friend graciously took my face into her hands and sternly but kindly said, “Don’t talk about my friend like that.” You know that saying about how we’d never say to our friends what we say to ourselves, particularly when no one else is around to hear it? Take that to heart. Be kind to the person you see staring back at you in the mirror, remind her of all that you have overcome, thank her body for the ability to move and breathe and dance, and remember that the life you are living is a beautiful one worthy of celebration.
THREE // DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
Okay, but on the real, worrying about all of the what if’s and potential possibilities is a lot like a fool’s errand: a little bit absurd and almost always a waste of time and energy. Remember how things have basically pretty much always worked out alright, and often better than you could have hoped or imagined? And also how those things have often had very little to do with your planning and meddling? Exactly. Trust that God’s got you and that His Spirit will lead you, because — spoiler alert — He alway does. [Matthew 6:25-34]
FOUR // BE A SOURCE OF LIGHT
Listen up: the time and place we find ourselves in is a tough one, so look for opportunities to bring as much sunshine as we can muster into the spaces and places we enter. Choose kindness. Practice patience. Think of the others when we’re making decisions. And then watch — I'll bet that, in time, that little bit of light THAT we’re carrying becomes a spark for someone else to carry their own light, too. Choose light in the face of darkness. Bring kindness where it's hard to find. Be a source of sunshine on a cloudy day. [Proverbs 16:24]
FIVE // TRUST YOUR GUT
If something or someone feels off, it or they probably are. So here is our permission to trust our gut — to go on ahead and excuse ourselves from toxic environments, people, work places, churches, etc.
SIX // DO THINGS SCARED
They — whoever “they” are — say that it’s only when we do the things that scare us that we will be truly courageous. So we have to be brave: say yes to the move, the job opportunity, the relationship, the trip, and the adventure. Scary things are only scary until we do them, and once they are done, we realize that the only thing that was actually scary was the unknown. So even if — and especially when — it scares us, we need to do it anyway, and trust that the payoff is going to be so worth it (because it always is).
SEVEN // LESS REALLY IS MORE
This one goes so many ways, so here is a semi-exhaustive list of things I have learned we should all consider doing, having, or being less of: how much perfume we wear, the hours we sit in front of a screen, money we spend eating out, driving places we can easily walk to, crying over man-children, worrying about the future, super late nights, leaving things plugged in when they’re not being used, buying things we can make (i.e. coffee and cocktails), seeking the approval or validation of others, and settling for mediocrity.
EIGHT // EXPECT LESS FROM DIFFICULT PEOPLE
We all have our fair share of challenging people in our lives, but when I learned to start expecting a little less from them — particularly those who have chosen to live out of a victim mentality — my connections to those people have become a whole lot easier to manage as I’ve navigated ways of showing them love that don’t hurt or drain me. To sum it up in one word: boundaries.
NINE // KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO
Disclaimer: you don’t always have to say yes. If you’re worried about disappointing someone, remember to consider the impact of the choice on your life. If you have the time / resources / mental and/or emotional space to do the thing, great, but if you feel like you’re about to burn out, it’s okay to say no. I promise. Also, if you’re saying yes because you like that feeling of being needed, do a deep dive into your motivations. Codependency isn’t cute, trust me.
TEN // KNOW WHEN TO SAY YES
On the flip side, know that you can and should say yes to new opportunities that line up with: your passions, your gifts, and promptings from God. Also start saying yes to the the things that scare you; get comfortable with pushing yourself out of your comfort zone(s). Whether that means spending 4+ months living in Europe (hi!) or choosing to go on a zombie themed ride in London (true story), say yes to the things that require you to be a little more brave. Then watch as your comfort zone gets smaller and smaller and you find yourself living outside of it; it’s a beautiful place to be, says the girl who can barely see her comfort zone from the mountain she now finds herself summiting.
ELEVEN // MASTER A FEW SIGNATURE MEALS AND/OR DRINKS
Listen, my friends know that I am not a master chef (by any means), but I have chosen to add some simple options to my repertoire. How about a go-to guacamole that includes pomegranate seeds? Or my favorite chicken tikka masala I learned to make with one of my favorite people on the planet? And when the occasion calls for some classic libations, you best believe I can whip up a simple gin and tonic or berry gimlet. Look at me go!
TWELVE // GET SOME PLANTS
Looking back at my years of paying off debt, we should all be grateful that I didn’t have plants because — with 70+ hour weeks — they all would’ve died, and during my two years of traveling I obviously couldn’t have taken care of anything, either. But now that I’ve settled somewhere for a bit, I have found myself getting quite a bit of greenery — prayers for their livelihood much appreciated — and in turn I have become the most obsessive, adorable plant mom. Plants are just the best because they add color and depth to a space, they purify the air we breathe, and honest to God they just make people happy.
THIRTEEN // WE PRIORITIZE WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO US
Whether it’s what we choose do in our spare time, the things we pursue, or the people we spend time with, we are all constantly making decisions — both big and small — about the things that are important to us. As life gets busier and seasons change, so might our priorities, and with that I have learned not to take it personally when I realize that I might no longer be a priority to someone, as well as to know when to let go of things that are no longer important to me. It has also helped me to identify the things that I know will always be important, like writing, traveling, and spending time with Jesus. It’s natural for our priorities to ebb and flow with life, so take stock of the things that you want or need to prioritize in the season you’re in.
FOURTEEN // DO THINGS THAT BRING JOY
Personally, I’ve learned to do more of the following things simple because they bring me joy —
Go for a walk. Sleep in. Write for an audience or write for myself. Paint for fun. Buy more plants. Prioritize time in God’s presence. Invite friends over for coffee or drinks. Read all of the Harry Potter books and watch all of the movies as often as I am able, and visit Harry Potter world a few times. So what are the things that bring YOU joy? Great, do more of that, and then everything else that you do will flow out of a joy-filled life.
FIFTEEN // NEVER SETTLE
If there’s a message I will preach for the rest of my life, it is do not settle. There are a few reasons why I believe settling is the antithesis of truly living, but the biggest is this: God is bigger than the box we so easily want to put Him in, and what He offers outside of the confines of that space is the fullest, most abundant life. Don’t settle on a person, a job, into debt, on your dreams, or into complacency . . . and if your soul craves more, don’t settle for anything less. You get to decide the life you live. Regardless of your personal or family history, regardless of your current circumstances, regardless of your believed limitations, you have a choice as to how you want to spend your life. So hold your head high, go on the adventure, say hi to the cute guy, get after your dream career, be more generous with your time and money, prioritize what's important to you, get out of debt, say goodbye to the time wasters, dig deeper into your gifts, spend more time learning and even more time listening, and stop settling for anything less than the fullest life, whatever that looks like for you.
SIXTEEN // LOVE WELL
Having spent two years traveling, I realized just how important it is to show more love through our words and actions, particularly as someone who claims to know and follow Jesus. I also learned — as a result of not being consistent in one place for that long — how crucial community is for the well-being of both an individual’s life and human existence as a whole. I experienced first hand just how lonely it can be to not have a consistent or stable community, and now that I have settled into my new place here in Nashville, all I want to do is establish and invest in mine. That being said, there is also something beautiful in the ability to form community virtually. I now have the privilege of being able to say that I have friends all over the world — friends who mean a lot to me and who, in many ways, are often more intentional about staying in touch than those who might live close by — and I want to prioritize investing in those relationships, too. Basically, figure out who your people are, and them love them well.
SEVENTEEN // TRY AND FAIL AND TRY AGAIN
I’ve learned a big lesson about “failure” over the last bit of life, and it is that our ideas of failure are totally subjective. What one person views as a “fail” might be different than another person’s view, and if we’re all honest, I think it’s easy to admit that what we might perceive as failure is really just an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to dust ourselves off and try again. So do that: try! And if you fail? Figure out what you can learn from it, and then try, try again.
EIGHTEEN // MINIMALISM = FREEDOM
The saying “quality over quantity” might be cliche, but I have never believed it more than I do now. Whether it’s spending a little bit more — but much less often — on ethical, sustainable brands for bags, clothing, shoes, etc. or learning how to say no to cheap thrills (sorry, dollar section at Target), there are so many ways to adopt a more minimalistic mindset and lifestyle. There are plenty of reasons to love living with less, but the biggest for me is having more time, space, and resources to focus on what is truly important to me instead of being weighed down by things.
NINETEEN // CALL YOUR GRANDPARENTS
I have lost two grandparents over the last few years, both while I’ve been living out of state, with the most recent being my sweet, strong Grandpa John who passed away just a few weeks ago. In my grieving, I’ve realized that I have — and I am sure many of us would agree — not always made it a priority to reach out to my family, particularly my grandparents. And now I know that no excuse is good or valid enough to not take a few minutes per week to connect with them while I can. So here is a friendly PSA to call your grandparents.
TWENTY // TRAVEL OFTEN
This one is pretty self explanatory, but now that I have spent a good chunk of my adult life collecting stamps on my passport and miles on my car, I know how life-giving and life-changing travel can be. Not only does it mean visiting tons of beautiful places and landmarks around the world, but it also means making new friends, exploring new cultures, foods, and languages, and having our worldview expanded in tremendous ways. So travel as often as you can — you won’t regret it.
TWENTY-ONE // BE MORE GENEROUS
I know that I have been a pretty selfish person for quite a long time. I chose to blame my selfishness on a few things, such as having to take care of myself at a young age, not having the best examples of generosity growing up, and living out of a scarcity mindset (aka. not really trusting God as provider), but it all came to a head about a year ago when a friend lovingly called out something that highlighted my inability to think of things outside the context of money. That moment was a catalyst of growth for me, and through the process I remembered that: 1. I serve the most generous Jesus, and 2. I have had some of the greatest models of generosity bless me for over a decade, from the families that have treated me like their own to the friends (and friends of friends) who’ve hosted me in their homes all around the U.S. and Europe. I’ve realized that generosity is something that — no matter someone’s past — can be learned, cultivated, and thus demonstrated at any given moment. So yeah, I have been and hope to continue to be more intentional and generous with my time, resources, and gifts through my thirties.
TWENTY-TWO // MONEY IS JUST A TOOL
Remember how I said I’ve had a scarcity mindset in the past? Well because of that, I have almost always felt like there was never enough, and that if I didn’t take care of me, no one would. I’ve since learned that money, while valuable, is just a tool, and that the sole pursuit of it and what we may think it can provide (safety, security, or happiness) is a bit of a farce. I’ve also learned the importance of taking control of one’s finances — particularly how to get out of debt — and love to now share the things that I have learned with others so that they, too, can live in the freedom that comes with having a plan, paying off debt, and being more generous with our resources.
TWENTY-THREE // GROWING APART IS STILL GROWING
This has been a big one for me, particularly this last year. As I have spent time traveling and now find myself settling back into a city that I once called home for years, I have had to come to terms with the fact that my community looks different now. Many of the people I considered my close friends when I last lived here are still in this city, but our relationships look different. And this requires admitting a few things, but namely that sometimes friends are forever, and sometimes friends are just for a season . . . and that’s totally natural and okay. Growing apart isn’t a bad thing — after all, it’s still growing.
TWENTY-FOUR // ASK FOR HELP
I used to think that independence, stubbornness, and never admitting that I needed or wanted help was a strength and something to be admired. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I have realized the opposite to be true: there is beauty and strength in admitting when we need help. Whether it’s a simple task, a big life decision, or choosing to go to counseling, asking for help is not a weakness. It is powerful, and it takes a special kind of strength to know when to seek advice, guidance, or professional help, because when we do so we have opportunities to learn, grow, and be better humans.
TWENTY-FIVE // LISTEN MORE THAN YOU SPEAK
In an time and age where people’s attention spans are shortening and their need to be seen, heard, and approved of is on the rise — looking at you, toxic social media culture — I have found that people are getting a lot better at talking than they are at listening. Have you ever been in a conversation where you can clearly see that the person you are talking to is just itching for there to be a long enough pause between your words so that they can interject, showing that they probably aren’t fully listening to you? Yeah, it sucks. So slow your roll and keep your ears open, and let whatever you say be more intentional, compassionate, and kind.
TWENTY-SIX // ENJOY YOUR OWN COMPANY
Listen, I’ve spent more than half of my life kind of resenting myself, but something big switched over the last few years, namely as a result of my season spent traveling. There is something to be said about choosing to solo-travel a new continent for four+ months twice in two years, not to mention spending countless hours road-tripping solo across the United States, and I think it is this: if you don’t like yourself, you won’t survive spending that much time by yourself. I had to learn to really enjoy my own company, to let my thoughts wander, and to be okay with some junk coming up to the surface. I had to get comfortable with God revealing new things to me — because when it’s just you, it’s really you and Him and He loves to talk to and reveal Himself to us — and to lean into both the beautiful moments as well as the lonely ones. As it turns out, learning to love yourself and the prospect of being on your own has the potential to shape you into a more full and vibrant human, which then has the potential to attract new opportunities, relationships, and experiences, all of which is pretty rad.
TWENTY-SEVEN // WRITE IT ALL DOWN
The good, the bad, the heartbreaking, the life-changing — write all of it down. Whether it’s a pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard, write down all of the things that are happening in your life at any given moment. Write your revelations, write your prayers, write your observations, and write your dreams. Whether someone gets to see them is totally up to you, but I doubt any of us will regret taking the time to write it all down when we’re 85 and reminiscing on all of the things that we’ve done throughout our lifetime and all of the ways that God came through.
TWENTY-EIGHT // DANCE MORE
This one’s simple: just dance more. It gets us moving, it relieves stress, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
TWENTY-NINE // KEEP OPEN HANDS
Right now as you are reading these words, place your hands in front of you with palms up. Study this posture for a moment. Now make it your intention to keep this as the posture of your heart. Open hands means that we are always ready to freely receive, that we can then freely give, and also that when things are removed, we are not clinging so tightly that we are unable to receive new things that could take their place.
THIRTY! // TRUST JESUS WITH EVERYTHING
In grace, patience, and kindness He has led me this far — both into and through some pretty amazing and life-changing places — so there is no reason to doubt that He won’t continue to do soo. With every nudge of the Spirit, I will continue to lean in. I will say yes when he says, “let’s go,” believing that He knows the road ahead, and keeping my eyes on Him as we journey onward. And no matter the path, the exploration, or the wandering, I know that He is always right here, with me.