Things I Learned By 30

What a wonderful weekend. I have been looking forward to turning 30 for a while now. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my twenties, but I was ready to leave that decade of growth, uncertainty, and figuring things out behind. That being said, here are twenty lessons I have learned in the past thirty years, mostly by stumbling and finding my way.

1) 99% of what you worry about will never come to fruition. This could not be more true. I used to have this intense anxiety, the kind where I was sure if I didn’t worry about a situation, the worst was bound to happen. I don’t know how much of my twenties was spent thinking up worst case scenarios, but I know that every minute spent in a terrible fantasy, was one less minute I was living my life.

2) There are 3 things you can do when you’re in a situation that makes you unhappy. When I was going through a rough time a couple of years back, my friend Josh suggested I read Eckhart Tolle. At that point in time I was open to trying anything, so I downloaded “The Power of Now” on my Kobo and spent eight straight hours glued to that tablet. Besides realizing the importance of the present moment, the biggest lesson I took away was the choices a person has when they’re in a situation that makes them unhappy. You can either change it, accept it, or leave it. I always try to change it first, accept it if I can’t change it, and then, if I am truly unhappy with it, sometimes leaving is necessary.

3) People will show you exactly who they are, all you have to do is pay attention. This lesson was learned early in my twenties. I was in a relationship where I was constantly making excuses for my partner, and the version I had of him in my head was nowhere close to reality. It was partly my fault, as I held onto the sweetness of the start of the relationship, and was blind to the changes that took place. When I left, I was angry, and told him I felt he had taken advantage of me. He replied, “I might have, but you let me.”

4) Talk is cheap. This one my father instilled in me when I was very young. I remember being a teenager, and talking with him about a friend. “Never listen to what people say, Missy, just listen to what they do. People can make all the promises in the world, but it is their actions that show their true intent.” There is a huge difference between someone telling you they love you, and showing you they do.

5) It is okay to make mistakes. Over, and over again. I follow my heart. I stumble sometimes. I make choices that have me banging my head against the wall, wondering why on earth I thought it was a smart idea. I used to beat myself up for this, and then I realized, this is how life works. There’s no instruction manual, and it doesn’t matter how many times someone older and wiser gives you advice. For most things in life, you simply need to see and figure things out for yourself, even if it leaves you a little bruised in the end.

6) Don’t keep up with the Joneses. We live in a society that is in constant competition with itself. Everywhere you turn, someone else has something better, or newer, or different from what you have. This can create jealousy, envy, and the fatigue of trying to keep up with it all. So, relax. You don’t need everything that everyone has, nor should you want it. Which brings me to my next point…

7) Money truly doesn’t buy happiness. I know what you’re going to say. “No, it doesn’t buy happiness, but it certainly makes things easier.” Yes, I won’t argue with you there. It’s a lot easier getting in my car to go to school or work than it is to add an hour to my commute and hop on a bus. But, does that make me happier? Am I smiling that entire car ride to work? Or am I adding up the cost of my car, insurance, and gas that I spend every month. Yes, money puts food on the table, a roof over my head, and gets me from point A to B, but I’d call that comfort rather than happiness.

8) Soak up every minute you have with family and friends. When I was 23 years old, I once again packed up everything I owned and headed to Alberta. Back then, the thought of a new life somewhere else was an adventure I couldn’t pass up, and I remained in Alberta for the next seven years. While I don’t regret my decision, I do feel as though I missed out on a lot here in Winnipeg. Visits home felt like the city had frozen in time, and soon it became harder and harder to say goodbye to everyone. I am always up for adventure, but it sure is nice to have Sunday brunches with the family, and go for dinner with old friends more than twice a year.

10) You need to be happy with yourself before anyone can be happy with you. Ah, the insecurities of my early twenties. Does he like me? Do I talk too much? Am I not interesting enough? Should I laugh quieter? Do they want to be my friends? I have finally reached an age where I can confidently say “this is me.” What you see is what you get, and if it’s not your cup of tea, that’s okay. Don’t get me wrong, I still get hung up sometimes, but at the end of the day, I am who I am. And if you don’t like it, well, that’s just fine.

11) Not everyone is going to like you. This used to be a huge struggle for me. I like people. I like meeting people. And I like when people like me back. So you’ll imagine my dismay when I meet someone who, for whatever reason, simply doesn’t like me. This usually results in me trying harder to gain their adoration, which, as we all know, works the opposite way we want it to. It was only once I was confident with myself that I realized if someone didn’t like me, it simply wasn’t my problem, or my business.

12) If someone wants to be with you, they’ll be with you. This is more of a dating lesson. I remember teenage Diane, staring at the clock in my bedroom, wondering why ol’ what’s-his-face hadn’t called when he said he would. Listen, if someone is into you, they’ll make time for you. When I’m smitten with someone, I could be rock climbing in the Himalayas and I’d still figure out a way to reach them. Simply put, if they like you, they’re thinking about you, and if they’re thinking about you, you’ll know.

13) Those flaws you see aren’t visible to anyone else. I know this is known advice, but I look back on photos of me from ten years ago and would pay good money to be able to look like that while frequenting McDonald’s. That cellulite that’s on your thighs, or the rolls on your tummy, I cannot express just how much no one else cares. You are your own worst critic, so go easy on yourself.

14) Apologize more, but say sorry less. What? I know, this one’s confusing. I decided to count how many times a day the word “sorry” came out of my mouth, and by the end of it, I was in disbelief. An astounding 84 times, I said sorry for the oddest things. Waitress comes by to take my order, “sorry, but could I have……” Guy holds the door for me, “Oh, thank you, sorry.” Jesus, I need to cut that word out of my vocabulary. Apologizing though, when I’ve truly messed up, is something I am now quick to do. Life goes a lot smoother when you own up to your mistakes and take responsibility for them.

15) Friendships come and go. In high school, it’s almost impossible to imagine not being in contact with those who you’re closest to. Moving a couple provinces away probably expedited this for me, but I have perhaps one friend left from that period of my life that I keep in touch with. People are going to come and go out of your life, just as you come and go out of theirs. As we grow, it’s okay to grow apart from other people, and sometimes wishing them the best and moving on is a better choice than keeping a friendship for appearances sake.

16) Figure out what you like. I have been a relationship person for as long as I can remember. I got my first “serious” boyfriend at 15, and pretty much leapt from one longterm relationship to another. The influence that my partners had in the hobbies or interests I took part in was huge, so you can imagine the wonder that I experienced when I was truly single for the first time a while back. All of a sudden, I was doing things solely for my own pleasure, without the judgement or influence of anyone else. While my last partner was nothing but supportive in whatever I did, this was the first time I was truly on my own. I took up yoga. I grabbed a book and read for hours by the water. I wandered around the city, tirelessly. I jumped out of a plane. I went horseback riding. I started writing. I tried new food. Some stuff I liked, some stuff I didn’t, but it taught me the importance of figuring it out.

17) A little humility goes a long way. Confidence is important, but so is a little humility. I know people who have become successful and let it change them, not for the better. No matter what we have, we are never better than anyone else, and it might be easy to forget that as we reach goals we set for ourselves. It is wonderful when we achieve what we work so hard for, but remember that at the end of the day, we all leave this world with the same things we came in with.

18) Pick up the phone. Texts, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat……are most of the ways people communicate nowadays. With a click of a button you can see pictures of how your friends are doing, or get invited to an event next weekend. Social media has done a lot for us, but it will never replace an old fashioned phone call, or better yet, some good old face-to-face interaction.

19) Tell them how you feel. I have never been one to bite my tongue. I’m not sure if this has helped or hurt me, but I feel it’s important to let other people know what I’m thinking. Maybe I’ve watched enough cheesy romance movies to experience the frustration of two people not being together simply because one of them didn’t pipe up, but I figure it’s better to go out on a limb and tell someone you care than it is to keep it locked up.

20) Do whatever you want. As long as it doesn’t hurt or negatively influence anyone else, just go for it. Live however you want. Love whomever you want. Feel however you want. Know that time goes by so quickly, and to live with regret, is simply not living at all.

 

When is it a success?

We strolled along the riverbank, squinting from the bright afternoon sun. Only one of us had the forethought to bring sunglasses, the other (me) cast my gaze downwards as we navigated rocky terrain.

As was usual when we got together, the subject of dating made its way into our conversation. I was with a friend, he in his thirties, me about to be turning thirty, and we often shared laughs over the first date experiences we shared with one another, sometimes frightening.

This conversation was a little different, however, as it shifted to what we thought constituted a successful relationship.

“If you get married and it lasts,” he said, quite confidently.

I shook my head.

“No, no. It doesn’t have to last forever to be a success. I’ve known couples that have stayed together, although miserable, just to appease others. I wouldn’t call that a success.”

After debating for a while, we agreed to disagree, as we normally did, and parted ways for the evening. But the question of the successful relationship stuck in my head.

On my way home, I stopped at a park to have a little stroll, while I pondered some of my past relationships. “Failure, failure, success, failure.” I wasn’t exactly sure how I was grading them, but I seemed quite sure that I had it right.

Then it dawned on me.

A relationship isn’t a failure if it doesn’t last forever. If there is love; if there is laughter; if there is the feeling of a true partner in the other, I consider that a success. It is only once the relationship turns hostile, when you are so sure the other person is not on your team, that I would ever deem it a failure.

It is not in how long it lasts, but rather the quality of the relationship as it went through its stages. Sure, I realize every couple has their ups and downs. I know that at times you have to fight for it. I know that putting in the effort can at sometimes seem like a chore, only to have the payoff appear when you least expect it.

But I also know when to call it. I know when you have given so much of yourself, that if you gave anymore, you would lose every part of you.

But to walk away from it when you know it’s time, after three, eight, or even twenty years, that is not a failure. It is knowing when the relationship no longer serves the both of you, that you can move on and continue to grow on your own.

 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend,

D