It’s my 39th birthday this week, which has prompted me to do some reflecting on my thirties. Whenever people in their twenties ask me about turning thirty, I tell them that the thirties are so much better than the twenties, and I mean it. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the past almost-decade:
1. It’s not up to you to make people like you.
As a recovering people-pleaser, I’ve spent chunks of decades worrying what other people think of me. Not only is this exhausting, it also makes it hard to tell who likes you for who you really are. Here’s my advice to my fellow people pleasers out there: Aim for pleasing God and being authentic to who he made you to be, and let everything else fall as it may.
2. Wear clothes that make you feel good.
How did it take me until I was thirtysomething to realize that I find dress pants soul-sucking? Take it from someone who wishes she’d had a sartorial epiphany sooner: Find your style. Embrace it. Then jettison the clothes you don’t like.
3. Find a groove that works for you.
In your twenties, you can get by on haphazard sleep and a slapdash schedule. But in my thirties, I’ve found that I need to identify the things that recharge me and then make them a priority. For me that includes things like going to bed by ten, taking walks to the library, carving out time to write, and having regular coffee dates with friends; otherwise I get wonky fast. What are the things that recharge you? Set aside time for those things, and don’t apologize for making them sacred.
4. Get out of your rut.
Okay, I realize I just said “find a groove,” but the flip side is that it’s also important to try new things every once in a while. I’m a creature of habit, so this takes intentionality for me, but I’ve come to realize that some of my most meaningful experiences have come from times I did something out of my comfort zone.
5. Be grateful for the present.
For most of my twenties, I found myself always looking ahead to what was next, whether out of worry or anticipation. Almost as soon as one prayer request was answered, I’d be on to the next one. But how much life do we miss out on when we’re constantly fast-forwarding into the next phase? I hope in my thirties I’ve been able to savor more, to be grateful for the right-now.
6. Love is worth the risk.
Love feels scary sometimes, and I’m not going to promise that love will never hurt. As C. S. Lewis says, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” But I will vouch for the fact that even though love means opening yourself up to pain, the pain is worth it. And sometimes the pain itself increases your capacity for love.
7. Dream big and fail big.
I’m an INFJ by Meyers-Briggs personality type, meaning I’m not a natural-born risk taker. I’d rather play it safe and think something through from every possible angle to make sure I don’t fail or make a mistake. But here’s the truth: sometimes you just have to jump. You have to go all in, not having all the facts, not knowing how it’s going to end. And sometimes you will fail. But you know what? It’s okay. That’s not the end of the story; it just makes for an interesting side plot.
8. Embrace the little people in your life.
One of the best things about my thirties has been being an aunt to seven amazing nieces and nephews. Kids remind you how to laugh, how to ask big questions, and how to wonder again. Whether or not you have children or small relatives of your own, I highly recommend that you find some little people to invest in. I can’t guarantee if the kids will benefit, but you will definitely be the richer for it.
9. Call your mom.
When we’re young, I think most of us have a certain sense of invincibility—not only about ourselves but about those we love. We have this unchecked idea that our people will always be there for us in the same way they are now. But as I get older, I am becoming more aware of mortality—my own and other people’s. So I want to seize the little moments with the people I love—the ordinary phone calls with my mom, the discussions about life and the news with my dad, the trips to the zoo with my nieces and nephews, the Sunday visits with my grandma, the weekly crossword puzzles with my sister.
10. God is bigger and smarter than I am.
I have come up with plenty of scripts for my life over the years—plans for what I’d do and when I’d do it and how it would all unfold along the way. But it turns out that God has much better ideas than I could come up with—and he knows me better than I know myself. It’s usually not until retrospect that I can trace what he was doing, but I’ve been through enough with him by now to know that he’s doing something good, whether I can see it yet or not.
Bonus: Say yes to ice cream.
I’m already at #10 on my list, but Daniel made me coffee ice cream for my birthday, which reminded me of one more thing I need to add: leave a little room in your life for the sweet things.
How about you? What are you learning in this decade of your life?
Oh, yes! These are the years when thinking of yourself less, not less of yourself, allow thinking of others more. And that’s a sweet thing indeed.
Good word, Cheryl! You demonstrate selfless love all the time, and I admire you!
I love this ( and you) so much!! Happy birthday- you are a gift to everyone who gets to know you in person or through your words!
Aww, thanks, Aimee. You have been a true gift to me in my 30s!
Denise Kohkmeyer says
Wait until your 40s and 50s! It gets even better!!
Thanks, Denise! That’s encouraging to hear. 🙂
Well said Stephanie – It is nice to know we always have the capacity to learn more – even about ourselves and we can appreciate all the phases of our lives and enter each new decade with adventure instead of fear. I remember after my 38th birthday l started thinking how close I was to the 40th. By the time I came close to 39, for some odd reason, I thought it was my 40th until about a month before when I realized I still had another year. I love how you find our “touchpoints” and write with such encouragement for us!
Donna, that’s so funny! I will say that I’m much more prone to forgetting my age this decade than the last!
Kristen Joy Wilks says
A wonderful list, Stephanie. I will be turning 39 in May and so this definitely resonates. I remember when I discovered #3–the things that recharge you. I’d been spending any free time I had watching shows with my Hubby and realized I’d quit reading. Reading recharges me in a way that nothing else in the world does. Finally, after years of my husband asking “Don’t you want to get out and watch a movie with girlfriends?” after coming back from something with the guys, I realized that no, I just wanted 2 hours at a coffee shop with a new ebook. Knowing that the peace and solitude was exactly what I needed is so freeing. Took awhile to figure out though.
Kindred spirits, not only in age but also in recharging modes! Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned!
Kathy Bostrom says
Happy birthday, Stephanie! Thanks for this post – holds true for those of us a few years older, too. Never too old to learn new things, take chances, embrace the present. Too late for me to call my Mom, but I will pass the advice along to my daughter! I called mine when I could.
Wishing you an abundance of future birthdays!
Thanks for the wise words, Kathy. And even if you can no longer call your mom, you honor her in the way you live your life.
Simonne Braden says
As a fellow INFJ, I can relate 🙂
Stephanie Rische says
Thanks, Simonne! So nice to meet another INFJ! 🙂
Diane, thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I’m responding in more length to you in a private message. I’m so glad you found me here!
Hi Diane, for some reason my private message to you didn’t go through. I admire you for having the courage and openness to share some of your story here…your faith in the midst of adversity is an inspiration to me. Would you be willing to write a guest post about your experiences with being single? Please send me a message through the “get in touch” tab and we can chat more. May the Lord bless you and keep you today.