Turning 30 Changed My Life

It’s amusing for me to look back at turning 29 and the project I started halfway as a joke/social experiment. I didn’t think I would be panic stricken about turning the big 3–0 but thought it would be interesting to explore what other people thought about age and beauty as a woman. Below were my thoughts days before turning 29:

I have 14 more days till I turn 29. That’s one year away from the big 3–0. I know that as we go through life, we encounter obstacles that challenge who we are and will continue to do so till our dying days. I also love setting goals and resolutions and will be doing just that for a full year till I hit 30.

I set out to create a few guidelines on how I would start my year of exploration and document my current thoughts:

WHAT I PLAN TO DO

GOAL 1: Update with a social media post everyday (obviously did not happen as consistently as I wanted)

Why it’s a goal: I’ve never been the type to want to post much on social media. I always felt that it was so narcissistic and really goes against who I believe myself to be. Why I find it important is that it will give me a detailed timeline as I count down to my 30th birthday. But more importantly, I want to observe how this affects my social circle of family and friends and their perception of me.

GOAL 2: Presenting myself similar to what media says a girl should look like.

Why it’s a goal: Again, I want to see how this affects the people around me and their perception of me but also if my perception of beauty also changes.

GOAL 3: Start interviewing woman of different ages and get their advice/thoughts on turning 30 and onwards.

Why it’s a goal: You can learn so much from other people’s lives.

MY CURRENT THOUGHTS (days before turning 29)

I feel that it’ll be difficult for me to spend so much time on myself and molding how people see me. Although the whole world has already caught on, I feel like an old soul resisting the forces of technology and social media. Maybe it’s my Asian upbringing that whispers in my ear to “be humble” and to stop talking about myself but I also know the other American side of me pushes me to be heard.

I know that first impressions mean a lot to people and is what society runs on but I’ve also hated the idea of making myself up. To me, it goes against everything I was taught as a young girl. I was taught to be intelligent and independent and that outer beauty was the opposite of that. As I get older, I’ve started to realize that I may be wrong. Why can’t a woman have it all?

This project will highlight what I find to be beautiful. It may combat or it may support what media tells us. But in the end, I hope that I ultimately find the beauty in myself during all ages of life.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED THROUGHOUT THIS YEAR

I’ve had many people comment about how I look but these are the most notable ones:

“A woman loses value for every year she gets older.”
“It’s a shame we’re not together anymore because you were just getting hot.”
“You’re one of us now.”
“You’re beautiful, don’t let anyone say otherwise.”
“You’re not very pretty but you’re smart.”
“When I think of you, I think of someone who could win at a bar fight.”
“I see more of a confident, successful, business woman now than a sweet, cute girl then.”

I’ve realized that beauty is SO much in the eyes of the beholder. Everyone is beautiful in some way or another and regardless of how confident you are, sometimes that is not enough in people’s eyes. I will say that 90% of the time, confidence shines through. When you start to realize that each person will have their own biased opinion, it makes negative comments slide right off you and positive comments indicators of supportive people aligned with your perspective.

I was at a social event and found myself speaking to an older man who has had his rounds running a successful company and he told me a story that stuck with me. He mentioned that there was a receptionist who worked for him and she was completely against make up and making herself up. He said he had to have a talk with her about her appearance and how hard it was to convince her that it was not only for the company’s interest but her own. This story itself could seem quite sexist but it was his comments and reaction after this story that left an impression on me.

It’s powerful when a woman can command a room with her presence (how she dresses and carries herself) and back it up with the brains.

I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by strong women in my life and they’ve shaped my perspective on being a woman. My older cousin is an amazing individual who knows how to carry herself. I find a lot of my own personality in her (and I get to cheat and peer into my future) and get tips on how to navigate life as I approach 30. Not only does she give me practical advice on “how to act like a lady” hah, I’ve learned a greater lesson from her within this year of change.

Everyone already knows you’re strong, you don’t have to show it all the time. Being able to relax and not being so intense actually is a bigger sign of strength.

For me, these goals were all a joke, and at most, would become a story I tell friends and possibly poke fun at my attempts at being girly. The joke apparently was on me, as I’ve found I desperately needed the femininity side in my life. I’ve had to re-examine my beliefs of what being a woman really means . It’s easy to come fresh out of college — full of naivety and ambition — and preach equality before ever having a real career, a real marriage, a real life. This “joke” challenged all my core values and beliefs… and I’m happy it did.

Turning 30 changed my life. Those literal words, “turning” 30 really is what this has been. The process of becoming 30 years old. It’s been quite an adventure in so much joy, heartache, stress, sacrifice, you name it.

The startup world will devour you and spit you out either a better, stronger, smarter person OR a wreck. It’s up to you to decide how you want to end up.

This project allowed me to discover another side of myself that empowered me tremendously. I became confident in myself and a better version of myself. In this, it propelled me into the startup world. I accepted the challenge and grew immensely, but in doing so, inadvertently left people behind.

I’ve debated how public I want to be about my divorce and realize that life events such as these are only what we make of it. A family member gave me great advice. He said:

You can be angry and you can be sad. But then, let it go. Don’t let it make you bitter. Don’t let it take away your sweetness.

We have the decision on how we want it to affect us in the long run. Occasionally I’ll wonder, “if I didn’t do this project, would I have grown out of this relationship?” Then I realize that I should never neglect my own happiness and growth (and obviously no one is naive enough to believe that there is one sole reason for anything to end).

Great life lessons summed up in a cheesy postcard.

In the end, I know this project has changed my life in so many amazing and sometimes painful ways. I don’t regret any part of it and look forward to getting older each year and actively creating the person I want to be.

“To start telling people that you’re beautiful, or just feel beautiful, just start acting like you are the most beautiful woman in the world. And it really improves everything! Because your sort of psyche responds to it — like this is truthful!”
— MARGARET CHO
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