I remember back in my 20s I would read articles in Vogue and Cosmo written by women in their 30s, talking about how much better their lives were and how much confidence they had. I could never quite grasp that when I was younger, because back then I just assumed that everything gets worse as we age. Or maybe worse is too strong of a word, but definitely less exciting.
What I’m learning is that these past several years I have traded exciting and tumultuous events like dating, friendship drama, and early career ups and downs for a more stable and vastly more rich and substantial existence. Now that I’m halfway through my 30s, I feel so satisfied and grateful in all aspects in my life. I recognize how lucky I am to say that, and I also have the confidence to know I have worked hard to earn that, too.
In this decade of my life I am more willing to embrace and celebrate my talents and things that make me happy and to let go of the stuff that doesn’t. Here are some of the most important aspects of my life that I now reflect on with more gratitude and appreciation.
I appreciate my body more.
I know I’ll never squeeze back into my “going out” jeans, and quite frankly I don’t even have time to worry about that right now. Rather than focusing on my weight and size, I appreciate all that my body has been through and what it has done for me. I also have a daughter now, and I want to role model for her a healthy body image and how to appreciate our bodies’ strength and capabilities. And I find that with this mindset, I actually eat healthier and make smarter choices because I value my body and want to take care of it.
I view exercise and fitness differently.
Finding time to exercise is now a sacred luxury and a much needed mental health break rather than a begrudging need to work off last night’s drink or dessert. This perspective has made me very appreciative of that time and my workouts are much more effective, efficient and enjoyable.
I am a more patient driver.
With the kids in the car, I try to role model a calm driving persona, which is not my norm and has taken a lot of practice. But I find it actually has a very positive effect on my day, and the kids notice it too. I’ve recently embraced “red light meditations” which is taking a quick mindful moment at red lights rather than checking my phone or sighing in frustration. It really makes for a much more relaxed, enjoyable (and safer) drive, even in Bay area traffic.
I work harder on my marriage.
The honeymoon phase of our marriage is a distant memory at this point, and we actually have to work on our relationship. My husband and I both work, and between our crazy career demands and our kids’ extracurriculars, it’s way too easy for us to forget about the romantic aspect of our relationship. We are great partners and rarely fight, but sometimes we are too tired to show each other how much we mean to one another. When we find ourselves in this rut, we recognize the need to work to find each other again and remind ourselves that our relationship comes first. Adding kids makes any relationship both 100 times better but also equally more challenging since it’s no longer just about ourselves. The bright side is I admire our marriage so much more because we’ve faced several trials and come out stronger on the other side. We have learned so much about each other and ourselves this past decade of marriage, and I’m grateful to know and love my husband more than ever.
My friendships are fewer and much more significant.
I used to be so insecure in my friendships, worrying about whether people liked me, feeling left out if I wasn’t invited to everything (I had FOMO before FOMO was a thing!), wanting to be in the “right” group. But now, between my family and my career, there just isn’t much time for friendships. Which means when we do invite a family over or hire a babysitter, it better be worth it! I’ve also learned in my 30s that I make much stronger bonds with women when I am myself from the very beginning.
I take pride in my stuff.
My husband and I try not to have too much “stuff” as we are practicing a more minimalist mindset, but I’ve noticed the things we do have I value highly and take care of with pride. This can be as basic as washing and vacuuming my car regularly to cleaning up the house and dry cleaning my nice outfits. Yes, I know, this is “How to be an Adult 101” but I’m not ashamed to admit I did not pass that class until my mid-30s.
No time for negative.
In my thirties, I just don’t have time for negative people in my life. People who make me feel guilty or bad about myself, or who pressure me into doing things I don’t really want to do. I used to suffer from a lot of mom guilt, but once I realized all those extra tasks depleted my bandwidth and took me away from my family, I’ve stopped volunteering for them.
So, what things have changed for you in your 30s? Do you view life differently? What are your priorities?