Sometimes I come across articles written by bloggers that list things he or she wishes they could tell themselves, or other people, at 20. Lists that would explain how to be better prepared for the future, things to avoid, things to do, ways to be better people. Then I’d think about what I would tell my 20-year-old self that would have helped me make better choices than I did.
Realistically, if someone had given me advice at 20 that I can now acknowledge would have made a difference, it would have meant nothing to me. I’d remember it but it would make little difference in how I lived my life. One of the things I’ve learned is that learning comes with experience. Getting advice from someone else, or from my future self, would have been no different than learning from a textbook versus getting hands-on experience (which is another thing I learned: hands-on > textbook).
All of this comes to me now as I quickly approach my 30th birthday.
I used to fear growing old. The first time I felt it was my 24th birthday. I was no longer able to say that I was in my ‘early 20s’. The mid-20s had arrived. At 28, I reached my ‘late 20s’ without dispute and in less than a week, I’ll be out of my 20s for good.
While I feared the inevitable approach of turning 30 for most of the last year, I eventually realized that it’s not as bad as I envisioned. As a friend of mine put it, I’m going from being the oldest in my age group to being the youngest again.
What turning 30 has allowed me to do is reflect on the last decade of my life and the changes. The following are some of what I’ve learned through experiences over the last ten years that I believe have contributed to making me better at 30 than I could have been at 20.
- Attitude – There was a time when I knew people associated me with being moody and grouchy and I know they eventually stopped caring why. I realized that it was due to how I presented myself and that it effected how I was perceived and subsequently treated by others. Nothing was going to change until I did. It was a swift realization and a gradual shift but my attitude changed and helped me to become more confident in how I perceived myself physically, my intelligence and in turn, how I presented myself. Instead of focusing on my negative qualities, I embraced the good ones.
- Confidence – This change in attitude impacted my self-confidence. This is both cliche and cheesy but I think it’s the most important aspect of how I’ve changed: to go from feeling alone, self-conscious and self-pitying to being able to leave the house feeling proud. I had to own who I was.
- Outlook – I think I have an uncanny ability to find something positive in any situation. Sometimes I wonder if I’m deceiving myself at times but mostly, it helps me to stay calm, relaxed and relatively stress-free in potentially stressful situations. This is also where perspective is important. It’s helpful to be able to empathize or try to see things through the eyes of other people.
- Surroundings – I started to take an interest in the world around me, using newspapers and websites to help give me new perspectives I hadn’t cared about before. To be in-tune with surroundings is good for general conversation, and it also helps to display a level of intelligence. There is a clear difference between people who are at least aware of what’s happening outside their periphery and those who aren’t. Guess who is likely to be more interesting.
- Focus – Talk less about myself and listen more to others. I never really cared much for talking about myself (outside of blogging, of course) so this was never really an issue for me. The problem I am aware of and am putting effort into is to take an interest in other people and how they’re doing. Basically, I just need to improve my small-talk skills in general.
- Social awareness – One of my pet peeves is being in a group and being ignored, whether it’s me being ignored or someone else who is clearly there. I try to ensure that in group settings, everyone is included. This also means no private conversation and whispering that would result in people being pushed out.
- Age perception – While I don’t necessarily agree that age is *just* a number, I do believe that it becomes less important as you get older when it comes to things like personal achievements and social settings.
- Fun – One of the reasons that made me not want to age had to do with things I considered to be fun. Activities you can do in your 20s that aren’t quite as acceptable in your 30s and beyond, but as I realized, it’s a natural shift anyway. For example, I have fond memories of house parties and clubbing in my 20s, but it isn’t the same when I do them now. It doesn’t mean I no longer think they’re fun or I think of all those weekends as being wasted, it’s that my idea of a fun night out has different; perhaps in a way I wouldn’t have considered five or six years ago. Basically, the idea of ‘fun’ evolves and it’s a change to embrace as it happens.
- Opportunity – This has become my favourite word. I don’t mean that in a pointless inspirational sense. It’s my favourite word because it’s become my most commonly-used word in writing for school and work, and it’s a word I apply to my personal life a lot. It might sound like a buzzword now but it’s still a positive one that implies improvement.
Here’s to being 30! It’s a lot less scary than I imagined.