On Thirty

Vaidehi Joshi
Dec 19, 2019 · 9 min read

I am fully aware that birthdays are just rituals. Functionally, they don’t really mean much at the end of the day; they just happen to be easy enough to use when we want to represent milestones and impactful events. And yet, I love these rituals. They are an opportunity to reflect and meditate on what has already passed — and in a way, they allow us to find some stillness in preparation for what is to come.

I’m turning thirty tomorrow, and I certainly don’t expect that I’ll feel much different tomorrow than I do today. But cumulatively, I feel like a much different person than I was when I started my twenties. I feel much more confident, sure-footed, firm, and grounded. It’s hard for me to pinpoint how this transformation came about; there was no single event that perpetuated this change. Instead, I have to believe that it is the sum of the experiences over the last decade and what I learned from them that incrementally changed who I am.

So, on the eve of a new decade — and in keeping with my love for self-reflection — here are thirty things that I’ve learned before turning thirty.

A woman stands on the side of the road with snow nearby, with the branches of an evergreen tree above her.
A woman stands on the side of the road with snow nearby, with the branches of an evergreen tree above her.
  1. If a relationship is important to you, carve out the time for it. I spent my twenties moving around the country and around the world. Along the way, I made a lot of very good, close friends, but also realized that maintaining those relationships as a moved took a lot of work. I had to work hard to keep the relationships that meant the most to me. I now have monthly calls with some of close friends on the other side of the country, and make an effort to see friends in the same city as me on a regular basis. My family and I have a group chat and we schedule group video calls often. Life happens to all of us, but we need to prioritize the people we care about the most.
  2. Say no. It’s okay to put your foot down when you aren’t comfortable with something, or when you’re not capable of meeting someone’s expectations or desires. It took me a long time to really learn this and practice it. But, whenever I say no to something, I always offer a counter option whenever in order to make it easier for someone to meet me halfway. As it turns out, everything in life is a negotiation!
  3. Buy the really good olive oil. Although I think that this applies to all food, really. I will always buy the high-quality ingredients, even if it means spending a bit more money. I can taste the difference, and I always read the ingredients list before buying something. I’ve noticed that the cheaper the item, usually the more processed and full of preservatives it is. And I’d rather spend a little extra money and know exactly what’s going into my body instead of saving a few dollars and consuming a multi-syllable chemical.
  4. Accept the fact that you can’t please everyone. If you spend your whole life trying to make other people happy, not only will you fail at that (because someone is always going to take issue with you), but you’ll also be miserable. It’s not worth it. Decide what is important to you and what choices make you happy, and ignore the rest of the noise and opinions.
  5. Don’t read the comments. I constantly struggle with this one because part of me still thinks of the comments as feedback. But people will always have opinions and an (anonymous) opinion is way easier to put out into the world than creative content.
  6. Advocate for yourself. No one else can advocate for you better than you can. And honestly, no one else probably will. Ask for what you want, and know your worth. It’s not arrogance to know your value and point it out to others. The sooner you become comfortable doing it, the better off you’ll be.
  7. Don’t carry around guilt. None of us are perfect and we do the best that we can. As long as you can look yourself in the mirror and know that you did all that you, could given what you knew at the time, then that’s really the best that anyone could hope for.
  8. Accept the scars you carry. I’ve learned that trauma doesn’t really go away, but it changes shapes and forms. I still get triggered sometimes, which can be a sharp reminder that I will carry painful experiences with me wherever I go. I’ve realized that this is ok, because the experience and your memory of it change over time, and they make you much stronger at the end of the day.
  9. Pay it forward. You will never be able to repay others for their kindness, support, or for helping you when you really needed it. All you can do is pay it forward to the next person.
  10. Go on self-dates. This is one of my favorite rituals, and I firmly believe that everyone should learn to spend time with themselves. I love to go to early Sunday morning movies when no one else is around. I think that this practice makes you more confident and self-aware.
  11. Use a calendar. My close friends know that I swear by a calendar. It’s the only way that I can manage order in my life without getting overwhelmed.
  12. Never compare yourself to others. This is something I’ve really started to master in the past few years, but until then, I really struggled with it. All of us are walking different paths, so it’s silly to look at someone else and their path and wonder why you’re not doing the same things that they are! Another thing worth mentioning is that even if you don’t compare yourself to others, other people will probably still compare themselves to you. And that’s something you just can’t control, so stay focused on the path that you’re walking on, even if they’re looking over at you.
  13. Be kind to yourself. You are your harshest critic. I used to be so unkind to myself and put myself through the wringer about my weight, my body, my accomplishments, and my failures. But the way that you talk about yourself is how you show and teach other people how to talk to you. If you are self-deprecating or unkind to yourself, then other people will learn to put you down and be unkind to you, too.
  14. Take risks. If you’re scared of trying something, remember that the worst thing that you think will happen is usually never that bad.
  15. Drink more tea. Herbal teas before bed are so calming and cleansing! I’ve also started switching out my afternoon coffee with tea instead, and my sleep is so much better and I am much less dehydrated.
  16. Say “I love you” more. Life is short. Even if you know it cerebrally, this reality becomes more and more real as you get older.
  17. Don’t take things personally. People around you can have bad days. I’ve had to deal with blunt, harsh, and insecure coworkers and bosses, and quickly realized that if I took everything that they said to me personally, I’d be crying in the office bathroom every other week (which I did do early on). I’ve since learned to let what others say bounce off me and back to them. Assume that people are having a bad day and, if necessary, stick up for yourself and speak back. But don’t carry their words around with you for hours or weeks on end; it will eat you alive and you’ll be the one to suffer, not them.
  18. Take your parents out to dinner. And if you can’t afford to, cook them a nice meal! We can’t ever repay the people who guided us early on in life, but we can at least show them our appreciation.
  19. Have boundaries (and stick to them). This is important when you’re working with other people, but also when it comes to doing things on your own. I have rules about how I want to conduct myself or handle situations, and I’m learning how to draw lines in the sand and not cross those boundaries with myself, or with others.
  20. Prioritize your financial health. I’m really proud of how much I’ve learned about financial stability and health in the last decade, and I honestly think that taking control of that aspect of your life is incredibly empowering. You should know where your money is, where it’s going, and how well its growing, actively and passively. We don’t talk about financial things that often, but I think we should be! There’s so much more I still have to learn but I feel like I’ve only gotten better at it over time.
  21. Vitamins are good. I take a few different vitamins, including probiotics, vitamin d, and magnesium! I always feel so much better when I take them consistently, and feel much worse when I skip a few days in a row.
  22. Let other people know that you are there for them. I have a few close people in my life that I know I could call, day or night, rain or shine. And for a handful of people, I am pretty sure that I am that person for them. The only reason I know that is because they have told me — and shown me with their actions — that I can always depend on them. Tell the people you care about that you are there because you never know when you both might need each other.
  23. Spend time away from your phone. I don’t check my phone during mealtimes anymore, and I try to spend long stretches of time (or a day) without looking at or checking it. I also think its valuable to take trips that force you to have no cell service so that you can truly unplug; I try to do this once a year.
  24. Drink more water. I’ve heard people give this advice all the time, but I actually feel so much better when I’m well hydrated (especially if I’ve been drinking dehydrating things like alcohol or coffee). I don’t usually drink enough water when I’m traveling though, and I’m trying to be better about that.
  25. Try not to waste anything, and try to reuse everything. I’ve learned so much about this from my partner. With a few rare exceptions, we eat everything that we buy, compost what we don’t, and mostly only buy things that can be reused or responsibly recycled. I know I could still do more, but it feels good to be heading in the right direction when it comes to sustainability.
  26. Stable relationships are more dependable than passionate ones. I learned this the hard way, but I’m really glad that I did. In the long run, a person that you can come home to, lean on, and build a strong foundation with is much healthier and will make you much happier than one that is volatile emotional rollercoaster.
  27. It’s okay to let people go. While I have some people who I know will be in my life for a long time, most of my friendships have quietly faded — and that’s ok. People are always changing, and we can grow in different directions. Those relationships are inevitably going to change as a result, and it’s totally normal.
  28. Never sacrifice your creative time or space. If you are someone who is artistic or creative, figure out what you need to be creative and make sure you sacrifice that for anything or anyone. For me, I need quiet, uninterrupted hours in the morning to write, and I don’t let anything get in the way of me finding those hours of creativity.
  29. Invest in your health. Take care of yourself early on, before your doctor tells you that you should; eat well, exercise often, and mitigate the stress and anxiety around you. The one thing that none of us can earn or buy or win our way into is more time.
  30. Take things as they come. It’s really easy to get caught up in planning for or daydreaming about the future. For me, sometimes that translates into panicking or having anxiety about a future that hasn’t happened yet — a complete hypothetical. I have to remind myself that so much of the world is not in my control; in fact all of it is out of my control except for myself. All any of us can do is control our own actions in the moment and our own perspective on things. I’m learning focus on what is happening now and teaching myself to bring my mind back to the present. And I’m trying to have faith that, when any situation arises, I’ll have the confidence and the ability to cross that bridge when I come to it.

Vaidehi Joshi

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Writing words, writing code. Sometimes doing both at once.

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