During my 29th year, I quit my job and set out by myself to travel the world for four months. After I got back to the States I set out on a three month road trip across the USA with an Englishman I met in Australia. I’d always wanted and planned to take extended time off to travel at some point, and the timing was right. Time is the greatest luxury, and I am so grateful for the time and ability to go on this adventure. The fact that the timing also lined up with the last months of my 20s was a happy coincidence. Today I turn 30 with a grateful heart. I’m grateful for 30 wonderful years. I’m most grateful for all of my dear friends and family who have been in my life for some or all of these years. I’ve never felt the dread of turning a milestone age – we are lucky for each day we get to live our lives, and some people don’t get the pleasure of turning 30 (or 20, or 47, or 61).
So, in honor of my 30 trips around the sun, here are 30 things – big and small – that I know to be true.
Most of these things have been expressed before, and said better, by writers and philosophers that I admire greatly. (And a few are direct quotes.) These are just some of the things I’ve learned along the way and take to heart, from people smarter than me and then reinforced by my experiences. They are things I will try to keep in mind every day as I start my 30s.
1. Treat others the way they want to be treated. I learned this concept in management training at work, and again from reading Gretchen Rubin. If you don’t know how someone else wants to be treated (for example, strangers), treating them the way you’d like to be treated is generally a good starting point. But for the people in your life, it’s better to treat them the way they’d like to be treated. We all have different personalities and values, and figuring out how they’d like you to interact with them and then doing so is the ultimate kindness.
2. Do not let fear stop you from doing the things you want to do.
3. Smile often. Especially at strangers you encounter while going about your day, it can brighten up both of your days.
4. Always bring a book.
5. People like to have their life choices validated by other people choosing the same things they choose for themselves. But true acceptance of each other and our differences means understanding that other people decide to go in different directions, and choose different paths for their lives or different timing. We must all understand that we each choose the life that fulfills us. Something you chose might be the most fulfilling part of your life, but it doesn’t mean that it necessarily will fulfill someone else. We have to love each other and accept each other’s decisions without assuming that one day they will change their minds and want the same things we’ve chosen for ourselves.
6. When in doubt, do what you’ll wish you’d have done when you’re 80. (This is directly from one of my literary heroines, Anne Shirley.)
7. Simplify. Everything: communication, possessions, commitments. Weed out everything that’s not important, not a priority. This is something I have to work at every single day.
8. The only thing that is truly ours is our time, and it’s the most valuable thing we have.
9. As Kurt Vonnegut often reminded us, it’s important to stop what you’re doing every so often, look around, and think, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
10. Don’t be afraid to do things by yourself. Whether its going to the movies, out to dinner, or on a vacation, letting the fact that none of your friends or family can accompany you to something stop you from doing it is silly.
11. Walk more. It’s good for the body and mind, some of the best thinking is done while walking.
12. Audiobooks can make doing chores way more enjoyable.
13. Helping other people is the most reliable path to your own happiness.
14. I suspect that at the end of my life I might wish I spent less of my time mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, so I try to keep that in mind each day. I recognize the value it plays in keeping me connected to friends, family, and acquaintances, but it’s good to be mindful of how much time we spend checking it.
15. Tacos are the world’s best food.
16. We have no idea what’s going on in the day or week or lives of strangers that we meet, or what might be on their mind, so there is absolutely no reason or excuse to express anger at minor transgressions that we think they may have committed towards us.
17. Passion, enthusiasm and being a good listener are some of the qualities we value most in friends, family, co-workers, and people in our lives.
18. Reflect on what you’re grateful for every day and express your gratitude to others often.
19. When it comes to opportunities and possibilities: If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
20. We could do with being a little more like Bill Murray.
21. When you travel, if you can, it’s good to try to leave places a little nicer than you found them. Pick up a lone, ugly piece of litter and throw it away. Don’t carve your name into things. Smile, put positive energy out there and leave the place a little happier.
22. Drink more water.
23. Releasing our illusion of control over things we can’t impact is liberating.
24. Make time to read more poetry.
25. “For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
26. Practice mindfulness.
27. We get to choose the kind of person we want to be.
28. Sometimes you need to sit with your best friend and marathon watch episodes of Friends.
29. We shape our lives by the choices we make. Often the biggest arcs in our lives are from times we’ve said yes and taken a chance or leap. Many other people have said this better than me:
“We are all living in cages with the door wide open.”
“It is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it.”
-Hunter S. Thompson
“After all, we make ourselves according to the ideas we have of our possibilities.”
“Say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterwords.”
“They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
“The world lay before her – she could do whatever she chose.”
30. “Ancora Imparo” … I am still learning.