Dear 20-something me,
I hope you’re well and not reading this through a haze of vodka and sleep deprivation, though I have a sneaking suspicion you probably are. I also hope you managed to turn in your dissertation on time and you didn’t kiss that cute European guy at the bar last night. Ah yes, those 20-something years…what a riot! I know you’re having a fantastic time as you work towards your aspirations and find your place in this world. The reason why I’m writing you is that I know – deep down – you have some reservations though about turning thirty and moving through that decade towards 40, 50, 60 and (let’s hope) beyond. I know it’s incredibly tricky to get from point A to B even when there’s a map to provide guidance, so I thought I’d offer ten tips that may be useful along the way and could assuage some of your fears. Yes, I know you have them.
But don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.
First off, try to manage your expectations because life will not work out how you planned and, sadly, there’s no way to circumnavigate this hard, cold fact. Be flexible with your timeline(s) and wily when it comes to overcoming obstacles. Be open to forging new paths and leaving behind the patterns and places that no longer work for you. Be prepared to deal with malicious people, envious people and people who feel that sabotage is the only way to get what they want.
Don’t stoop to their level, but don’t cower either; and whatever you do, don’t settle.
Secondly: You’ll be in amazing shape in your 30s and your brain will naturally start to override things like XXS, size 0 and over-photoshopped magazines. You will gradually find yourself adopting practices that allow you to balance your mental, physical and spiritual selves. You’ll figure out you don’t care for processed, sugar-laden and additive-filled foods along with all the other things that make you feel like you’re operating in a thick grey fog. You will learn that while a rich and boisterous Rioja still tastes divine, drinking a bottle of it in one sitting won’t do you any favours.
Do not panic. Reach for the corkscrew. Have a glass of Chardonnay and call it a night.
Third: You’re going find your personal style and damn well own it. You’ll raise your head and hold it high. You’re going to embark on travels and adventures you didn’t see coming, and though you’ll slip up now and then (because that’s what we do), you’ll have a better awareness of how to get back on track. You’ll take risks. You’ll hold fast.
Fourth: You will still get carded. Believe it. Enjoy it when it happens.
Fifth: Love will find you. It will leave you. It will find you, leave you and come running back again. This is its nature. This is what it does. Your job is to discern the difference between love worth fighting for and the kind of love you need to walk away from. You’ll start to figure out how to ask for what you want, demand what you need and forgive when the situation dictates there’s nothing left to do. You will also start building a rather formidable relationship with the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with (go on and take a look in the mirror, I’ve got time). It will be a lonely journey and a rather frustrating as well, but it’s going to be one of the best relationships you’ll ever have.
Sixth: Like love, friends will come and go…though many will never return once they walk out the door. This is how friendships work: the majority last for a specific season, others wax and wane until they fade into the blue and a select few stand strong just like a small forest of Californian redwoods. You’ll learn which friendships can be salvaged and those that are better left by the wayside. You’ll create a network of people who speak to your soul: people who listen and like to share. People who like to help and accept it in return. Friends who make you laugh until you cry and then provide a box of Kleenex when torrents of grief-filled tears tumble over the soft flesh of your cheeks.
Make sure to surround yourself with people who raise you up instead of pushing you down.
Seventh: Start each day by marching to the beat of the theme song in your head: maybe it’s a Mozart concerto, Justin Timberlake’s Sexyback, or that operatic paroxysm from the movie The Fifth Element. Whatever your tune is, never worry about what everyone else is doing as they have different music pirouetting in the space between their ears. Change professions if you want. Seek help when you’re at the crossroads. Get married. Live common-law. Get divorced. Remarry. Have children and raise a family. Be childless. Be childless and adopt a clowder of cats. Regardless of what you do, remember to follow your gut as it has an astounding knack for being right most of the time.
Eighth: If people comment on your deeply personal choices along the way smile first and tune out after.
Ninth: You’re never too old and it’s never too late. Never. Ever.
Lastly: Growing older is a gift, so muster some gratitude for the process even on the days when you’d rather not. I’m talking about those times when you feel like an army of wrinkles has invaded your face and your knees seem to be smiling at you, but from upside down. You’ve earned every laugh and frown line that marks your pretty face. Forget about the grey hairs that appear like weeds in a bed of roses because they’re a tribute to every lesson you’ve ever learned. As for the pull of gravity that tugs at the crest of your thighs and the rise of your breasts, think of it as a testament to every achievement accomplished and each time you’ve chosen to get up when you’ve been knocked down.
The times when you’ve kept fighting and learning. Laughing and living.
I suppose the best advice I can give you as you meander towards this milestone is to dance more. Give it up. Let go. Lean in.
And while I don’t care for promises, I will say this: it only gets better on this side of the river. I suggest you start walking…and know I’m behind you every step of the way.
Let’s cross over.
Canadian, expat, yogini, serial shopper and traveller JoAnna is an Intolerant, but the really nice kind. Walking the midline of her 30s, she’s always on the lookout for delicious intolerant-friendly food (sometimes vegetarian, often without gluten and always dairy-free) JoAnna also enjoys engaging in unconventional things on her travels and uncovering places to spend an afternoon, indulge in glass of wine and/or score a killer vintage handbag. You can follow up on her Intolerant-friendly ranting and all the goodness she comes across on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and her blog For the Intolerants.