Happy New Year! I love a good January, when you feel like you have a fresh, clean slate to work from.
So, what’s in store for me in 2019? It’s too soon to tell, of course. But one undeniable milestone that is looming ahead of me is my 30th birthday (105 days, but who’s counting?). For some, the big 3-0 is an overwhelming number. We don’t want to reach it yet. Maybe we don’t feel ready because we’re not where we want to be yet, personally or professionally.
But let’s be honest for a second – our 20’s are rough. So I’ll choose to celebrate my 30th birthday, and welcome a new decade. Thirty, flirty and thriving.
In the spirit of the new year, I wanted to share 30 lessons I’ve learned by age 30. If I could go back in time and give myself any advice, this would be it:
Go to therapy.
This is a big one. I think therapy has been misunderstood for people who are broken or have gone through a crisis. You don’t need any of that to warrant therapy. For me, my early 20’s were some of the hardest years of my life. Thanks to the advice from friends and family, I finally went to therapy. There is so something so therapeutic about speaking to a third party, a stranger, about whatever you’re going through. Try it at least once.
Exercise every day.
Energy is not given to you, it has to be created. Move your body every day. Drink water. Many of us are chained to desks in front of screens every. single. day. Exercise doesn’t have to be grueling Crossfit class, it could be a quick walk with a roommate or a free yoga class on YouTube. By exercising, you’ll be releasing stress and tension from your body and clearing your head.
Stop eating crap.
Only eat food with ingredients you can pronounce. This was a major game changer for me in my wellness journey. We’re adults now. Read labels of everything you buy. Know what you’re putting in your body. Be aware of how certain foods make you feel. Food can be medicine – it should fuel you and heal you.
You’re not in college anymore. You have a full-time job, and you have to show up. You don’t get winter or spring break. Hell, you’re lucky to get Columbus or Martin Luther King Jr. Day off. Prioritize your sleep and go to bed at a reasonable hour. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep. Lay out your clothes the night before and don’t hit snooze. Wake up and conquer the day.
Wash your face.
No matter how tired you are or how late you stayed out, wash your face every night before you go to sleep. Gently remove your make-up, use a cleanser and moisturize. Wear SPF every day.
Get yourself a massage. Better yet, a facial.
Self care, self care. I know what you’re thinking – I can’t afford it. But how much money do you spend on Starbucks runs, Ubers or going out to eat? If you can, save up money once a month (or quarter) to treat yourself to a massage or facial. You are worth it.
Go to the doctor.
You’re an adult, after all. Make sure you stay on top of your dental cleanings and annual check-ups. See a specialist for conditions you’ve been putting off for years like acne or allergies. Use your health insurance and benefits, girl! You work hard for that.
Call your grandparents.
When we’re young, our grandparents are like heroes to us. They’re superhuman of some sorts, who provide us with so much love and attention and devotion and comfort. We can forget as we age ourselves, our grandparents age too. And they won’t be around forever. James calls his grandparents regularly, and almost always sends them postcards from our trips. I started doing this recently (and I’m still working on it, honestly), but when I do it makes me so happy.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Make sure you surround yourself with positive people who encourage, inspire and lift you up. People come in and out of our lives for different reasons, and sometimes friendships aren’t made to last a lifetime. And that’s okay. Consider this – you are the combination of the five people you spend the most time with.
Find your person when the time is right.
While others had serious relationships in high school, college and even our early 20’s, I remember feeling so lonely. I surrounded myself with plenty of friends, but I felt like I wasn’t good enough. James came into my life at just the right time. Looking back, I simply wasn’t ready for him all those years before. The universe works in mysterious ways. Keep doing what you’re doing. Love yourself, take care of yourself, and live your best life.
Stop comparing yourself.
Along those same lines – stop comparing yourself to others. High school was a million years ago. Snap out of whatever funk you’re in and own who you are. Your twenties can be so difficult because everyone is doing their own thing at their own time – job promotions, big moves, getting engaged or married or having kids. But that’s the thing – everyone is doing their own thing. Don’t worry if you’re not where someone else is.
Make time for others.
Prioritize your time and stay in touch with your friends and family. Life can move really quickly, and we certainly go through seasons that are busier than others. Don’t let your closest relationships fall by the wayside. Schedule a monthly happy hour, phone call or Skype date. Set reminders on your phone. Send them a birthday card.
When you first start out, sometimes it’s a matter of survival. In the PR world, that can mean staying on top of your email, managing agendas and press clips, and the constant flow of accounts. Whenever possible, be proactive. Do your research and bring ideas to every meeting. Think ahead and show your value.
Ask for feedback.
Not every job will offer a clear process for performance reviews or evaluations. Rather than wait until you’re told, ask for feedback throughout the year. Did you just lead a client call or meeting? Ask your manager how they thought it went. Ask him or her what you could do to improve for next time. Your career might be in baby steps, but focus on being better than yesterday.
Organization looks different for everyone. It took me years to nail down my style. For me, I work the best when something is mandatory. It has to get done, like a scheduled meeting or call. So I will block off my calendar and color code assignments. I treat these “to do’s” as meetings, something I can’t push off. I also plan the hardest task (or most grueling – whatever I’m not looking forward to) first thing in the morning, so I can knock it out.
Keep a “good girl” folder.
This was my favorite piece of career advice, very early on (you know who you are – SARAH). In all the stress and craziness of your job, do yourself a favor and keep a positive email folder in your inbox or desktop. Save positive or special emails you receive from your manager, co-workers or clients. When you have a rainy day, go back and read through the emails.
Meet problems with solutions.
When you need to bring a problem to your manager or director, always come with a solution. Did an interaction with a client go array? Did you miss a deadline? Get ahead of the problem and come to your manager with your recommended solution. Provide some positive with the negative, and your best suggestion of how to fix it. Then learn from it.
This sounds silly, but niceness is so underrated. No matter how hard or stressful your job can be, be friendly to those you work with. Smile, say hello, say goodbye. Make small talk in the kitchen.
Find a work wife.
Kelly, Robin, Niccolette. Work wife or work husband, you need an ally in the office. A “work wife” is a friend, a cohort, who knows exactly what you’re going through. You don’t want to get too codependent or constantly complain to each other, that doesn’t help anyone. But you do need to bond and laugh over the little things. Otherwise you will go crazy.
Have attention to detail.
This will always be something I need to work on – we never quite master “attention to detail” perfectly. But we can try to. There are moments when you feel overwhelmed and chaotic. When you feel spread thin, try as hard as you can to focus on one task at a time. You won’t be doing anyone any favors by completing work you’re not proud of. Always double check name spellings, email punctuation, dates, formatting, etc.
Give yourself some credit.
These days, we move too fast. We work through big projects, launches and initiatives and just move onto the next without skipping a beat. Stop and give yourself some damn credit. Celebrate your hard work and let yourself feel that for a moment. Even if the project didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to – you survived.
Maintain your professional relationships.
Follow colleagues on LinkedIn, or ask a manager in another department out for lunch. Make an effort to build friendships, and you’ll probably enjoy your job even more. Stay in touch with that reporter you worked with once. You never know down the road where that relationship will take you.
We are on screens every. single. day. Try to find time on the weekend to get outside – a hike, walk on the beach or trail. Breathe in fresh air, listen to wildlife, be present. Get away from all the noise, even if only for an hour or so.
Dress for your body.
Sometimes I look back at old photos from college and just cringe. There’s not enough of a grace period between high school and young adulthood. Simply put, dress for your body. Wear clothes that fit and flatter you. Invest in a good bra. Invest in good staples – like quality jeans, a good blazer, boots — stuff that won’t break after a few months. And good god, stop shopping at Forever 21.
Prioritize your student loan debt.
If you were like me, six months after graduating college you received that lovely letter from the Department of Education. It is so overwhelming to suddenly be sitting on a mountain of debt with an entry level salary, to boot. Do what you can and prioritize paying it off. The interest will only increase over time, and you’ll find yourself in an even worst position years down the road. I was in denial for years until I finally took control.
Register to vote (and care about local politics).
This one should be self-explanatory. You’re a tax-paying citizen now and you should care about your community. Not registered to vote? Stop reading my blog post and go here.
Volunteer somewhere. Anywhere.
When I worked in California, my employer offered a Paid Volunteer Time benefit. I loved participating in special events – stocking food bank shelves, cleaning up our local beaches and preparing kits for our local chapter of the American Red Cross. I wish I would have started volunteering a long time ago, with or without an employer benefit.
OK – I think I almost reached 30! What were some of your favorites from my list? Did anything resonate with you? I’d love to hear your best lessons.