5 Things You Really Need to do Before You're Thirty

When I was in my early twenties, I remember feeling like my thirties were this looming deadline. Some of my friends wanted to be married before they turned thirty; some wanted children; I wanted to be a successful novelist and/or have a career which I loved. We all felt that not achieving those things by thirty would be the ultimate in failure.

Some of us met our targets and were happy about it. Some of us met our targets and realised they weren't what we wanted after all. Some of us flat out didn't meet them. Like me. I hit thirty single, in an insanely tedious job and without a novel to my name.

But I didn't feel like I had failed.

In fact, I spent about an hour of my thirtieth birthday on the phone, sorting out the mortgage for a flat I was buying alone. It wasn't my original goal but I was earning, I was independent and I was investing in a home. That felt to me like success.

And I was happy. I had good friends; I wore crazy vintage clothes; I hung out at the local dive bar so much that a wave across a crowded room was enough for the bartenders to pour me out my usual. I was still having fun.

When I see younger bloggers bemoaning turning thirty (or twenty-five or twenty-one or eighteen) because they'll be old and have to stop being fun and won't be able to dye their hair blue and they're running behind on their Life as a Grown Up schedule, I feel sad. Because here are the two big secrets of getting older:

  • The people who have everything figured out by X age are the exception, not the rule. 
  • If you stop having fun when you leave your twenties, you're doing something wrong.

There is no point in life by which you have to be married or have children or have a mortgage or own a car or revert to your natural hair colour or have travelled to five continents or stop wearing polka dots or start spending your weekends scrubbing the bathroom or give up clubbing or have reached the peak of your career.

You can do any or all of those things if you want and if those are the opportunities life brings you. But none of them are mandatory. There are no absolute deadlines. It is almost never too late to change course and you may be surprised by how often you decide that you want to.

However, there are certain things that I think should be achieved before thirty. And here they are:

  1. Own Your Hobbies and Interests
    Whether you love crochet, comics or cooking, by the time you leave your twenties you should have the self-confidence to say so. You don't have to like everything your friends like; your friends don't have to understand all of your interests; your hobbies don't have to be "age appropriate". The important thing is to have figured out some things which you do enjoy - and to have ditched most things you don't.
  2. Be Able to Budget
    So, okay, I've been unemployed and I've been on benefits and I know what it's like when money is incredibly tight - there may be times when your income does not cover your outgoings. But if you earn a wage and it is enough to pay your bills and put food on the (possibly imaginary) table, it's time to start living within your means. Debt should be for emergencies only, not for holidays or shiny new shoes.
  3. Know the Difference Between Banter and Bullying
    One makes a person feel valued; the other makes a person feel belittled. If your friends knowingly make you feel belittled, they are not your friends. If your friends unknowingly make you feel belittled, you should be able to tell them so - if they don't take it on board, they are not your friends. If you knowingly make somebody else feel belittled, just... stop. There were no excuses for the mean girls behaviour in high school and there are even fewer excuses as adults.
  4. Take Care of Yourself
    If you've spent the last fifteen years trying fad diet after fad diet and you still don't like your body, it's time to face facts: fad diets are not the answer. Eating smaller, healthier portions may be. Doing more exercise may be. Learning to change your opinion of your figure may be. Ditch the quick fixes and learn to treat your body with consistent care.
  5. Stop Judging Yourself by Past Mistakes
    The chances are that, by the time you hit thirty, you've taken a few wrong turns - dated the wrong person; taken the wrong job; run up debt; stacked up a few too many blank spaces on your CV. But, by the time they hit thirty, so have all of your friends. Are you still judging them for their twenty-two year old self's terrible haircut? No. You're concentrating on their recent successes. Start treating yourself the same way. Because we all get to screw up sometimes and we all deserve the chance to move on.

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