Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Manual for Turning 30

Dear younger generations,

This month, I turned 30. To you, I’m sure that makes me sound really old, an adult even. The truth is I still feel like a kid, and I’m not as mature as you think I am. I’m also not as boring as you think I am – I just hide my fun side from you so that you will think I’m an adult and listen to me. Given that one day you too will turn 30 I thought I’d write you a little manual for what it will be like. 

     1.  You will become obsessed with Time. 

As you start approaching 30, you will become obsessed with time and your own age. You will shift from being the kid who grew up too fast, to being the annoying adult who goes up to kids and says “Oh my gosh, you’re so big! I babysat you when you were in diapers and now you’re graduating from high school!!”  

You will begin undertaking all manner of strategies to try to slow time down. You will celebrate your 29th birthday for the second year in a row. You will try to feel superior to the younger generations by saying things like, “Well, when I started college we didn’t even have Facebook.” Or “I bet you don’t even know who MC Hammer is.” 

This obsession with your own age will continue as a pattern in your life until you are about 70. When you are 70 you will stop because you’ll start comparing yourself to the stroke victims in your retirement home and feel young again.

2.  You will experience real regret

When you reach 30 is also about the time when you will start having real life regrets. They may be as big as getting divorced or not spending enough time with a parent who passed away. You may regret not being more focused in school or never taking that opportunity to live abroad. You will compare yourself to your friends and begin to see the paths you could have taken, the doors that have closed and might not ever reopen. 

Learning how to deal with regrets will be your big task for this decade. Will you see regrets as being part of a bigger, better plan for your life? Will you see them as learning opportunities and as experiments? Or will you wallow in them and let them shape your whole life? The key to making your 30s great will be to wake up each morning and remember all the ways you are blessed.

3.  You will (hopefully) stop performing for the peanuts

One of the best pieces of advice I ever read was from an article in the Wall Street Journal called 10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You. In it the author said, “Don't model your life after a circus animal… Don't let your life decisions be distorted by the fact that your boss is the only one tossing you peanuts. If you leave a work task undone in order to meet a friend for dinner, then you are "shirking" your work. But it's also true that if you cancel dinner to finish your work, then you are shirking your friendship. That’s just not how we usually think of it.”  

When you reach your thirties it’s time to stop and think about what really matters to you and whether your time and behaviors reflect those values.  Are you letting your life be dictated by all the peanuts being tossed at you? Or are you motivated by more lasting values? If you don’t stop and reflect now, you may one day find that the ladder you’ve been climbing your whole life was leaning up against the wrong wall.

So teens and 20-somethings, I hope you look forward to turning 30. It’s really not all bad. You’ll still have your health and your energy, but also more confidence, a fatter resume, and a bigger bank account. You’ll also finally find clothes that look good on you. 

And as my math teacher once taught me, 30 is always greater than 29. So embrace it!

Good luck!!

Your (older) friend,


  1. Exactly what I've been thinking about lately as the big 3-0 comes. You really feel stuck between the past and the future and earning for a turning point. Keep blogging Lisa!