My twenties were a dry-clean only kind-of-mess. As much as I wish I could sit back and oogle over my accomplishments (from starting a business, writing two books, hosting a podcast) and look forward to high-fiving a new decade, I can’t help but sulk in all of the lessons I learned, over the past ten years, the really hard way.
I stayed at bad jobs too long, listening to the gobbledegook from horrible bosses. I fell in love too hard, for too long, when I should have just let go. And I forgot how true it is that while everything can change in a second, or two, everything will, eventually, find a way to be okay again. Your version of “normal” is constantly changing, as are you.
A couple of years ago, to prepare for the big 30th birthday, I started jotting down lessons that ruled my life, in the notes section of my phone, hoping to share them with you on my big day. Here it is, my list of 30 things you have to know before you turn 30.
1. When someone tells you they are going to make you a star, eyeball the nearest exit, and run. This happened twice in my twenties. A book agent and a powerful media influencer, both sat me down and told me that they are going to make me into something big, into someone well-known. The first time I heard that sentence, my body felt like something was stinging it. I couldn’t believe my luck, that age 24, someone thought that I, Jennifer Glantz, was going to be famous in just a few months! I almost walked into my 9-5 job, threw a letter of resignation on my boss’ desk and celebrated by buying a $500 dress, I couldn’t afford, to cheers to my newfound soon-to-be stardom. But it never happened. Not with that first person and not with the second, because the second time someone said that to me, I shook his hand, walked out of the meeting, and strategized how I, by myself, could make something big happen, for myself. You, you my friend, are the only person in the world who can make really incredible things happen for yourself. Don’t let anyone else fool you into thinking they can do that for you.
2. Never buy anything at full price. Everything will eventually go on sale, and it when it does, google until you find a coupon or two to use on top of the sale price. Spend money on adventures, not just on things.
3. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Just getting out of bed in the morning, brushing your teeth, putting on clothes (even if they are wrinkly or stained with chocolate), and doing something other than getting back into bed, is a giant, high-five worthy accomplishment, okay?
4. We don’t know the tiny invisible effects we have on each other, but they exist. So whenever there is a chance to smile at a stranger, turn frustration toward someone into forgiveness, or just text someone out of the blue to let them know you’re thinking about them and that they matter to you, big time, do it. It might seem like nothing, but to someone else, it could be every single thing they need at that very moment.
5. Life is entirely and surprisingly really unfair. But it’s not supposed to be any other way. You weren’t born into a world that makes any kind of sense. Bad things will happen to really good people and good things will happen to really bad people, and a big fat knot inside of your stomach will twist, like a wet rag, trying to squeeze water out of it, when it does. But eventually, you’ll take a deep breath, feel the untwisting start to unravel and realize, it’s not about good people or bad people, it’s about things, and they just happen. They happen by accident, or out of the blue, or behind your back when you are certain everything is OK. They just happen and it’s never fair but it’s always, somehow, eventually OK.
6. Nothing is permanent. Not your address, your friends, your job, your health, your mindset of feeling stuck or not good enough or sad, really sad. Nothing lasts forever, not even the cellulite that’s creeping up around your tush, that too, will eventually fade away.
7. Stop confusing love with Acid Reflux. Though at first, the feelings might seem the same, they aren’t. Love that makes your body parts feel like they are constantly on fire isn’t love, it’s the inner workings of your soul trying to tell you that the person you’re Salsa dancing around isn’t the right person for you.
8. Say ‘I love you’, or ‘I’m sorry’, as soon as you mean it. Those two phrases don’t just flow out of our pie hole’s so easily. But when you feel it, when you mean it, when you know you want to say it, fumble with your fingers, stumble with your words, let your body feel suffocated with nerves, and say it, please, please, please say it.
9. It only takes one second for everything to change. You think you know everything: who you are, where you want to live, what you want to do with your life and then one day, one ordinary day, you got a phone call, or a text message, or a monologue from someone you love, or about something you love, and everything changes. All of a sudden, you realize, you are not your 9-5 job, not your barely affordable apartment, not the on-sale outfit you bought, that you hope will make your attitude look expensive, not any of it. You realize, stripped of it all, you are just a person, and people make mistakes. And deep down, not you, not I, not the person we admire on the internet, has any clue what they are doing, what they want, what will become of them, what matters the most, except finding matter in the moment, right now.Which is why, sometimes, you have to walk away from it all. You have to book that one-way ticket. You have to promise yourself you’ll say yes to new things and no to old ways. And when you get lost, because you will get lost, you have to remind yourself that that is just part of the adventure. Remember everything changes in one second, because even if it’s happened to you before, even if you’ve gotten that phone call, that knock on your door, that speech at a doctor’s visit, and everything you knew about yourself, about your life, about your future, flew up and twirled in front of your face, like it was trapped inside of the cone of a tornado, it will, happen again. So until it does, hold on tight to the people, the places, and the things you absolutely adore and be thankful. Just be thankful for what you have right this second, even if it’s less than what you had before.
10.There will be days when you don’t think you’ll ever smile, trust a person you thought you knew dearly, or be able to fall in love again. But then there will be a moment, one single moment when you realize that you have to. That you don’t have any other choice. That the world always finds a way to forgive you and so, you will somehow find a way to forgive the world. Whatever happens to you, imagine it’s somehow a hidden blessing
11. Quit your job if you are miserable. You will find a new job or you will take on three part-time jobs to pay your bills. Quit if you’ve learned everything you possibly can at the company, there is no room for growth, or your boss makes doesn’t make you feel like the smart and badass employee that you are. I had a female boss tell me that I was worthless and not good enough to become a writer – yet I stayed working for her for far too long after that. I had a male boss make inappropriate comments to me and treat me with zero respect – yet I worked for him for a year and a half. I wish I could go back in time and stand up for myself. Quit my job and know that I would be okay, that I’d find a better one. Because your 20’s are about splatter painting your resume with experience and skills—not wasting time tapping away the keys at a job that’s making you cough up drool. Get out of there.
12. Stare at yourself naked. You’ll one day wish you looked this put together.
13. Your heart is meant to get broken, so don’t protect it. Date the wrong people, fall in love and wake up next to a person who looks you in the eyes and says they don’t love you anymore. Fall in love again with a person who lives across the country, let them tell you that you’re not the person they first fell in love with, brush the tears from your eyes, let them go, know you will fall in love again. The thing is, we’re meant to love so many people throughout our lives, but it doesn’t always mean those people are meant to be with us throughout our entire lives.
14. All the answers you need are hibernating in your gut. Listening to other people’s advice is often a waste of time.
15. Don’t mistake comfort for happiness. Comfort can sometimes just be a more pleasant word for fear.
16. Enjoy being single. You’ll hopefully, eventually, find that person you’ll spend years pinky swearing with. Until then, figure out how to enjoy spending quality time with yourself. Take yourself out to a movie and cover your popcorn with as much butter, bunch-a-crunch pieces, and Twizzlers as your heart craves. Find out exactly what you need in life to be content. This is will be your tour guide through the jungle of finding a soul-mate.
17. Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer aids you, develops you or makes you happy.
18. Enjoy your routine. . Everyone’s always telling you to be spontaneous to avoid routine but the thing is, enjoy a routine. Enjoy spending every Sunday going to get coffee and sitting at a cafe that overlooks a dumpster where birds play in the puddle outside. Because soon, that cafe will close and McDonald’s will open or you’ll move two states away or you’ll suddenly lose the urge to go. Enjoy the good parts of your life right now, even if it feels like the same old, same old thing.
19. It’s okay to be honest. Just like it’s okay to be miserable, it’s okay to be upset, and it’s okay to not be okay. Life shouldn’t be all about putting on a show. We struggle in private and work overtime as our hearts race and we pretend to be okay when we’re around other people. We are all humans living these lives while our hearts hang to the left like a baby tooth that’s wiggling to fall out of our mouths. Tell people you’re having a difficult time and tell people you’re not doing so well and don’t judge yourself for feeling that way, don’t judge yourself for feeling like you need to get some help.
20.The loneliest you will ever be is the same moment when everyone will assume you are the happiest, which is when you’ve achieved any sort of success. When your first book is published or when you get a giant promotion. People will tell you it’s never about crossing the finish line, and I will tell those people, yes you are right, because the second you do, it’s the loneliest and worst feeling, because you’re done and really nobody ever wants to be done, they want to be going, they want to be hunting and searching. Success is just another way of saying, great, what the heck am I supposed to do next, which is just another way of saying, start over, and it’s not always so pleasant to do.
21. Have an opinion and share it, even when you’re not asked to.
22. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems, or maybe it is but our minds are powerful and so we forget how bad things were and how sad we were. Heartbreak has an expiration date too, though it might be longer than the Chinese food rooting in your fridge, it too will go away and when it does, you realize you can go through it again. Bad things happen to us, very bad things, and we are never fully ready to deal with them but we do, we somehow do.
23. Give people chances. Two, maybe three, maybe seven chances. People want to change, they do. But it’s not always so easy to explain why they can’t.
24. The weirdest and wildest things will happen to you when you least expect them. So don’t give up so fast. You might be one rejection letter or moment of failure away from getting the exact thing you want. When you feel stuck, take that deep breath, look around, and do something, anything, to get you feeling like on top the world again, because you’ll get there, you will.
25. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you aren’t good enough. Because people will and you’ll want to believe them. You’ll want to hug onto their words, their opinions, but they are wrong. Shake their hand, thank them for their words, and prove them wrong. Prove them so completely wrong.
26. Wear the bizarre things in your wardrobe that you’re saving for some special occasion on a random Tuesday. That funky bow-tie with the polka dots, the dress made entirely out of glitter sequins, the shoes covered in spray paint.
27. Sometimes we do things and we don’t know how we do them. We don’t know if we have the courage or the knowledge or the energy to face them but we go. We walk downstairs we get into a cab and we hug someone hello we never thought we’d ever see again, we go on live TV, even though our armpits are leaking water, like a stubborn faucet, and tell our story, we stand up for ourselves, even as we hold onto the table, so that we don’t collapse from nerves on the floor of the conference room. You are strong enough, smart enough, confident enough, just plain old good enough, to do things you might not feel 100% ready to do.
28. Talk to everyone. The guy suited up in the elevator, the man ringing up your food at the bodega, the lady who is waiting in line in front of you for the bus. At this age, strangers are the most important people you can meet.
29. Give yourself permission to dream really outrageously big. Set outrageous goals and even more outrageous deadlines. Work really hard, for a really long time. Don’t give up. That, my friend, is the only secret to success.
30. Make a giant mistake: staying at your first job post-grad longer than you should, almost marrying a guy you know is absolutely not right for you. Maybe move across the country to Los Angeles and work at In-And-Out Burger while you’re trying to get some eyes on that screenplay you wrote. Mess up your entire life every couple of years. These will be the experiences that will remind you that even at 30, you are still worthy of getting slapped around a bit by life. That you still have so much more to learn.
Ps. I had one more thing to prove to myself before turning the big 3-0. Here it is!