A Year in a Minute
December 9, 2009 12:55 PM   Subscribe

What are your 30s like?

I really wish someone would have sat me down when I was 20 and told me some of the things to expect during that long, winding decade. I probably wouldn’t have listened, but I am all ears now. Most developmental advice is to teenagers, it seems, e.g., you will fall in love, but it probably won’t be forever. That sort of jazz.

What I am looking for is advice or wisdom that you wish the 40 year old you could tell the 30 year old you. What sort of challenges to expect, what sort of changes to anticipate, etc.
posted by cuban link flooded jesus to Grab Bag (73 answers total) 325 users marked this as a favorite
posted by tristeza at 1:03 PM on December 9, 2009 [115 favorites]

I'm not sure it applies this time around, but my time travel savior would have said "The economy is going to be in the fucking toilet, stop spending money NOW."
posted by rokusan at 1:05 PM on December 9, 2009 [7 favorites]

33 right now. Your 30s are epic. 20s are for learning; 30s are for earning. Better still the chase/chased relationship starts to invert, if you're a professional. Enjoy dating.

Make sure you're paying as much as you can into (and maximising tax relief to) a pension fund to get the most out of compounded interest.

Realise that you're a far less risky proposition for car insurance companies - especially with a few years no claims bonus and buy the bad boy you've always wanted without being stung for the privilege. I've got my eye on an Impreza.

Enjoy the fact that you're taken seriously at work but put the hours in so you go the distance. It's now that the decisions about who's tomorrow's CEO are being taken.

Enjoy what life has to offer but give something back. Circumstances permitting, now you have both real skills and means you should be making regular contributions to charity (esp. in the US where I understand that they're deductible for tax) and doing pro bono. For not for profits, a regular income stream is worth exponentially more than 20 bucks tossed in a bucket every so often - they can budget.

Finally, you've slogged your guts out for the last ten years since leaving college. Give yourself a pat on the bat for your achievements.
posted by dmt at 1:06 PM on December 9, 2009 [7 favorites]

They're like your 20s which in turn are much like your teens, with all the confusion and uncertainty that implies. In fact, being almost 40 is as much like being a teen again as I could imagine: being uncertain what happens next, how will I cope with being a grown-up, did I make the right decisions as I commit to the rest of my life? I didn't enjoy approaching 40 but being 40+ is just fine. (Hint: relax and try not to worry about it.)

If you have something excellent and amazing you want to achieve, and don't feel you have done it already, it's time to get cracking. Not because you're running out of time, but because you (hopefully) have plenty of time left and you still have the energy and ambition to do it. Don't believe there is any virtue in waiting until you're a bit older and more likely to be taken seriously. Just get on with it.
posted by BrokenEnglish at 1:08 PM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

Take a look at Gail Sheehy's Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life.

In this 1976 interview she gave she talks about the 'Catch-30s.'
posted by ericb at 1:08 PM on December 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

You can start to hear the clock ticking.
posted by smackfu at 1:10 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm almost 39, which makes me almost 90% capable of answering your question.
  • If you play basketball, you will be retiring from the sport in the next 10 years.
  • You will feel a little less interested in socializing than in your 20s. Not a good or bad thing, just a thing.
  • NPR gets way more interesting
  • Recovering from drinking too much takes 2 days not one morning

posted by mcstayinskool at 1:10 PM on December 9, 2009 [14 favorites]

Once you turn thirty, you have fewer and fewer excuses for not acting like an adult. Some people can still get away with acting like a teenager in their 30s, because they are brilliant or passionate enough that people will put up with it, or they are rich or beautiful or charismatic enough that people don't care. But the rest of us have to actually start acting our age.
posted by googly at 1:11 PM on December 9, 2009 [11 favorites]

Your knees will start to go first.

The fiber you put inside your body is more important than the fiber you wear on the outside of your body.

Ennui is no longer charming.

You're still really young.
posted by scody at 1:14 PM on December 9, 2009 [20 favorites]

Invest in a good facial moisturizer because even if you never finished a bottle of lotion in your life, you will suddenly discover the joys of dry skin.

You used to leave the house to go out at 10:00 pm, but you are going to find yourself going to bed by 10:00 pm, even on weekends. This is totally okay.
posted by jennyb at 1:16 PM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

If you haven't figured out who you are yet, you better start soon because it is a lot more work to make changes from here on out.
posted by procrastination at 1:29 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sunscreen. Savings. Exercise.

And, yes, you are still really young. Really young.
posted by jgirl at 1:29 PM on December 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

Wisdom for your 30s? Same as it was for your 20s:

Take care of your teeth. Everything else is overrated.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:31 PM on December 9, 2009 [10 favorites]

I am annoyed by the return of fashions from my teens. For me, the 80s, for you, the 90s.
Many of your friends will be married and have kids - your social life will change accordingly - these people will also move to the suburbs, talk about home decorating and schools. Be prepared.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:31 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm 36, so over half way through...

Things I've been surprised about:

The days of eating anything you want anytime you want are over. Late dinner, expect to be up at night.

Going to bed at midnight (or later) and up at 6 a.m. is no longer an option on school nights.

Naps are absolutely, hands down my most anticipated weekend activity.

Deep realization that the things you were avidly passionate about in your 20's, are still important. But you'll listen to the counter-arguments.

As said further up... Hangovers hurt more.
posted by Benway at 1:32 PM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

I'm 34..and while I'm not done with my thirties, what I would have tried to communicate to my twenty year old self is the following: Concentrate more on focusing on your career, choose a degree that will translate to dollars and something you enjoy. The mile markers you had about where you would be and by what age are not set in stone. Relax. Pay off your credit cards and keep a good credit score, your 30 year old self will thank you. Most of all I learn so much and every year just gets better and better, I wouldn't go back for anything, so don't buy into the negativity about aging.
posted by heatherly at 1:32 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Save money for retirement and house. Exercise regularly. Take chances. Try new things. Get laid.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:32 PM on December 9, 2009

My son was born when I was 27, my daughter at 29. My 30's have kind of gone by in a haze. If your'e going to have kids, so it soon because seriously, it'll just be a drag when you're older. As it stands my kids are finally less of a demand on my life at the same time I'm at a point in my career when I may be able to make a big move. Win-win.
posted by GuyZero at 1:32 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

Mostly depressing stuff so far. I will answer the question in an indirect yet maybe more sustainable way and suggest reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (if you haven't). Age is, in fact, largely a state of mind. Some physical and behavioral changes are natural, and one would look foolish by acting contrary to them. Otherwise, what society implicitly says one should be doesn't mean one ought to be this.
posted by cotesdurhone at 1:35 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

48, that makes me old. Brush and floss. Exercise. Save money, invest.
posted by fixedgear at 1:36 PM on December 9, 2009

I'm turning 40 in February!
the 30's were great - people think that you're getting old after 30, but that's a crock - you are totally in charge of your own aging at this point

take joy in cooking and eating fresh healthy foods
exercise - even a little - will make you feel great - situps are your friend
if you follow those, keeping to a decent weight is no problem

give your career some focus - making sure that you excel in your early thirties will pay off before the decade is out in better pay and work hours

same goes for relationships - they take hard work, you have to really look at yourself, and be sure that you have as much to offer to as you expect from your mate.

have fun - friendships also get better as the people you hang around with get more mature - less drama!

and watch out for computer-use-related pain - make sure your desk is set up properly so you don't end up with wrists and back of fire - it will creep up on you! (and glucosamine chondroitinn helps whan it does)
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:37 PM on December 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

I am 59 now, although I try not to act my age.

Life is long. Don't blow off stuff that you know you should do, because you'll need to do it later and it'll be much harder.

You'll lose some physical prowess, sexually, but if you want, you'll more than make up for it with knowledge and appreciation.

Take care of your teeth and gums. Now. Floss today.

If you are out in the sun and are fair-skinned, wear sunscreen every time. Seriously. Melanoma is not a fun thing to have happen. Take it from me.

As Dan Savage says, every relationship you get in will fail until one doesn't. There is no time clock for this.

Learn to cook and eat at home most of the time.

Learn to apologize, even if you do not feel you did anything to apologize for.

You'll get fat, then hate yourself and lose weight, then get fat again. Most people do this a number of times, in multi year cycles. Does not seem to be anything for it. But try as much as possible to get or stay in shape.

This may be just me, but I much more regret those times I could have gotten laid, but was too hesitant or dense, than the times I DID get laid. Protect yourself but go for it, in other words.

I should shut up now.
posted by Danf at 1:41 PM on December 9, 2009 [17 favorites]

You can finish crossword puzzles in one sitting.
posted by greenland at 1:46 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you have little kids, you'll quickly learn that they cost an arm and a leg... and are worth every penny. You'll begin to understand why your parents are the way they are, because you'll have to balance work and family life, on what always seems like too little income, just the way they did.

Exercise begins to take on a preventive maintenance theme. The gains I've realized in endurance from running are offset by a loss of strength and flexibility. The 30s are the decade in which you cease to take your body and health for granted.

I seem to be a little more rational and better able to juggle the various things going on in my life than I was in my 20s. That's probably due primarily to parenthood, but an emergent maturity might also have something to do with it.
posted by cheapskatebay at 1:48 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Enjoy your older relatives while you can. At 40, I have lost all my grandparents, aunts & uncles, and father. A few friends, too.
posted by magicbus at 1:51 PM on December 9, 2009 [7 favorites]

Your capacity to purchase alcohol exceeds your capacity to drink it.
posted by Fiery Jack at 1:52 PM on December 9, 2009 [18 favorites]

I'm 42

- Exercise like mad. Get in shape and stay in shape.
- Nurture your best most close relationships. Get married and have kids at some point because they are the joy of life as you get older.
- Make all the career mistakes you need to make now because in your 40's you'll want to be somewhere where you can stay for a while, and you'll want to like where you are.

Thirties rule. They were a total blast. Forties are good too, so far. Have fun.
posted by crapples at 1:52 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

What I wish someone had told me:

You're entering the prime of your life. This decade has the potential to be the best you've ever experienced: youth and health are likely on your side, and you still have a very wide range of personal choices available to make. You aren't locked into anything, but you are powerful, a true adult, and able to make things happen in ways that you can't when younger. Take advantage of that energy and possibility.

The personal and professional qualities you cultivate in this decade will be those that remain with you for much of the rest of your life, even if you change careers. Work on yourself. Stretch yourself. Develop your abilities.

You will be taken much more seriously and make a lot more progress than you did in your 20s.

If you want to have children, do it before the end of this decade. It gets a lot harder after that. (Especially true for women, but true also, energy-level-wise, for men).

Get things in order gradually over the course of this decade. For instance, your health: quit smoking (if you , and make sure you are in the habit of exercise. Your money: retire any debt and start saving for retirement now. The dollars you can put away now are worth a lot more on those you would put away at 40. If you come up short on funds all the time, work a second job while you have the energy and while it won't kill you - at 40+ you won't want to do that if you don't have to, but it may give you a leg up now.

Plan to live within your means and don't be embarrassed about it. You'll see other people your age spending a lot of money. Don't assume that means that they have that money. They might, but they might be leveraged to the hilt. Don't try to keep up with them. Be honest about your means and comfortable with yourself.

If you want to go to graduate school, that's another thing to do while you have lots of energy and fewer family responsibilities.

Relax - you are going to realize how profoundly your life is your own and doesn't need to adhere to someone else's plan. This is both a good thing and sometimes a grave responsibility, but in any case, you can stop worrying about what other people think of your choices a lot more.
posted by Miko at 1:55 PM on December 9, 2009 [23 favorites]

You know why they say 40 is the new 30? Because turning 30 used to really suck. Now it doesn't. You have an extra ten years before it's some sort of not-always-true maxim that you are settled/stuck/slowing down physically.

Sunscreen, exercise, adventure. Whatever kind of adventure it is, why say no? Because you think you aren't supposed to? Opportunities might not come along again. As Danf says "Protect yourself but go for it." Applies in all realms, not just the getting laid.

I'm ah, nearly perfectly positioned in time to answer this question.
posted by rainbaby at 1:56 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I fathered a child when I was 37 and another when I was 41. The second was much, much harder on me physically than the first and the first wasn't easy.

Learn to substitute efficiency for energy when possible. Though my thirties I kept thinking, "this year can't be any more busy than last" and was proven wrong every year. I am at saturation. I can do no more, so I try to be efficient at what I need to do.

Depending on your career and your consistency in it, you will probably start down the road of mastery. Reflect on your mastery, especially if you are an innovator and teach others.

I found it harder to be forgiving in my 20's than my 30's.

If you don't need glasses yet, enjoy your vision now.

I wished I'd worn sunglasses more often. The wrinkles around my eyes from squinting are profound.
posted by plinth at 2:04 PM on December 9, 2009

I'm 39, so over the next year or so I'll be finishing up my 30s. I've got to say that my 30s were for the most part a nicer ride than my 20s - my finances are in better shape, and I was still young enough to enjoy the extra cash. I also became immune to the drama that seems to pervade 20-something life. Some things won't change - you'll still be figuring out a lot of things as you go (this will probably be true for the rest of your life), but you'll care a hell of a lot less about how you are perceived, and that'll make doing what you need/want easier. It's been a good decade for me - next year, when I turn 40, I think I'll be able to wistfully look back on a golden time for me. If I were to tell my life story many years from now, I can't say that my 30s would be a better narrative than my 20s - but they'd be a critical chapter because a lot of things just came together for me - and I don't know if serenity is the right word for it, but I hope this feeling of being at peace with where I am in life lasts for the rest of mine.

I guess my advice is just don't sweat it, you'll be fine.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 2:14 PM on December 9, 2009

Time flies when you hit your 30s. You're working, maybe doing the family thing, entire years go by in what feels like a 20s month. It goes so fast that some days, you'll have to remind yourself that you're not in your 20s anymore, lest your friends/loved ones gleefully do it for you.

Your body's warranty expires in your 30s, and stuff starts to go wrong.

You start feeling old and devalued, because so much popular culture panders specifically to youth. You have to find other means of validation, or you end up pathetically chasing your 20s for as long as you can fight nature.

What magicbus said, in spades. You see extended family a lot at weddings in your 20s; in your 30s, you'll see them more often at funerals.
posted by Pufferish at 2:18 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

You will now become fat and loose your eyesight. Some of the things you used to be really passionate about will now really puzzle you, and some will fill you with inexplicable sadness. The amount of time you spend pondering the inevitability of death will incrementally increase.
posted by Artw at 2:26 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you haven't been taking care of yourself up to now, it's time to start. Lose weight, exercise, eat right. Diabetes and heart disease can sneak up on you much earlier than you might think.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:32 PM on December 9, 2009

When I turned 30, a 40-something friend told me, "The best thing is that you don't have to try to be cool anymore.". Now that I'm 43, I interpret that as meaning that a lot more of your self-worth comes from what kind of person you are, not what groups you associate with.
posted by matildaben at 2:47 PM on December 9, 2009 [7 favorites]

30 years olds that do spend time and effort trying to be cool will rapidly become laughable to you.
posted by Artw at 2:50 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you are single and looking for a long term relationship, kids, etc. it is easy to feel a little desperate by your 30s. But beware that this feeling of desperation could be a background by which you could find somebody, settle down and rapidly end up with kids, mortgage, marriage and other ties lasting 25 years to life. You might be blissfully happy but exciting doors, which are open now, might be closed this time next year.

So, if you are in this situation make a list of all the activities you would love to do now while you are single; with luck you will have health, energy and a little more cash than in your youth on your side. Then see if you happen to find a kindred spirit as you work through the list. Try not to bemoan your current status.
posted by rongorongo at 2:55 PM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm 34. My 30s, and my friends 30s, have been weird. In some cases, they're effectively still 25. In some cases, they're effectively 45. We're all on our own trajectories now, and those trajectories don't necessarily track in parallel. Hanging out with someone whose path has REALLY diverged from mine makes me look back and see how long ago high school or college or grad school was - especially if they were a former classmate.

Having my own trajectory is probably the biggest thing. It's not my parents'. It's not my classmates'. Sometimes it's not even the same as my wife's, and it's definitely not the same as my child. You can't jump online and immediately find thousands of people who've had the same crappy job or same awesome concert experience or whatever as you, because your mix of concerns is really your own at this point. Some people react to this w/horror, others relief.

If your parent's aren't in the best health, try to get to know them better. As an adult this time. My Dad died when I was 27, and I feel like I never got the chance to do this. Strangely, and in contrast, I feel like I hit my 30s right after he was gone.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 3:03 PM on December 9, 2009 [11 favorites]

Your thirties vary a lot depending on your situation-

Some people get married, buy a house, get a dog, and/or have a kid.

Some people stay single and avoid making big-time financial commitments (i.e. house-buying).

I can't say what it's like for those in the first category, and I'm only 32, but for those of us in the second category, life is a lot like a Seinfeld episode. You spend a lot of time with friends (mostly with other single ones), date ridiculous people, laugh a lot, go to a lot of weddings and baby showers, and travel. Sometimes you hang around by yourself in your apartment and watch movies and read metafilter. Dinner parties replace keg parties, but they do have lots of wine. Some of us go to graduate school, which makes us broke and depressed but can still be rewarding in the end. The only advice I can give is to make the best of what you have- everyone's situations have their ups and downs.
posted by emd3737 at 3:25 PM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

Please spend more time with aging friends and relatives... working late isn't as necessary for your career, and you'll feel horrible when those people are dead and gone.

Buy only very nice coats, they are investment pieces.

Find a really good tailor, an excellent body shop and hairdresser/barber. These are services that are both expensive and somewhat everlasting, so it's good to have reliable ones.

Take more photos of your friends, family and children. Print them out and put them in albums, don't leave them on the computer.

Travel alone. Travel often. Write about it.

If an argument goes on for more than 20 minutes with ANYONE and it's not life-threatening or damn near... just acquiesce to the other person and walk away. Who gives a fuck if you're actually right; can't you use that time more productively?

Get regular physicals and dental visits. Confront your prejudices and fears.

If you don't currently need a therapist, get a list of recommendations from a friend in case you ever need one. That goes DOUBLE for a lawyer. The things you need the most in crisis should be handily available; searching them out only causes more stress.

Tell someone that you love them every day. Even if it's just yourself in the mirror. Life is happy and joyful; don't forget to savor every full moon and tiny achievement, even if you're alone at the time!

Stretch when you can. Sedentary lifestyles are a BITCH on the joints.

Remember your childhood. Share the best anecdotes from your life with others; they will last long after you are gone.

Drink only expensive alcohol of your preferred variety, and in small quantities. Same for chocolate and meat.

Always carry uninsured motorist insurance if you own a car.

NEVER lend money to a friend, even with a contract.

posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:31 PM on December 9, 2009 [32 favorites]

One more thing: if you're a guy and you've had kids already or don't want them, get a vasectomy. It's easier, faster and less painful than you think and gives peace of mind that doesn't come with a price.

Plus they can be reversed if something crazy happens, so you've got pretty much nothing to lose.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:41 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm misquoting an unknown source:

'Your thirties are to your 20's what Sunday afternoon is to Friday evening.'
posted by mrdaneri at 3:56 PM on December 9, 2009 [15 favorites]

Have lots of sex and look in the mirror with an appreciative eye. Can't believe I ever complained about two wrinkles in my early 30s.

Also: when I turned 30 I got a financial adviser - even on the smallest of salaries, it's vital. I would never have known to take out income protection insurance without the financial advice - and that has totally saved my butt recently. So, get income protection insurance.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:05 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

My early-to-mid thirties really sucked. It's a period in your life where differences in lifestyle between you and your age cohort start becoming really apparent (income, career success, relationships etc.), and your body starts to fail, or at least becomes harder to keep up.

My key piece of advice, which is probably sensible anytime but would have really made a difference to me in my early thirties: Budget according to the income you have now, not the income you expect to have 'in a few years'.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 4:08 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your 30's are kind of special because you can afford to coast a bit and really breath in the fantasticality of life. Your not a punk-ass kid anymore but your not decrepit either (hopefully).

In your 30's, the dating scene feel like less of a game. Open up to your sex partner, drop any facade or insecurity that is keeping you from feeling really relaxed and joyful while in bed. If, in your 20's, you had any anxiety about achieving something great by the time you turned 30, that magically disappears. Life suddenly seem less like a climbing a ladder and more like climbing a tree.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:10 PM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Spoken from the vantage point of late 40s: My 30s were absolutely the time of the most tumultuous emotional, geographic, intellectual and social change in my life so far. My 45-yr-old self might have recognised my 25-yr-old self -- but not the other way 'round.

(But I didn't hear a baby clock ticking -- and still don't)

(To echo others: I did start seriously (regularly) working out when I was 32 and I'm glad I did.)
posted by mmw at 4:32 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

For some people, the 30s are much harder socially than the 20s. They were WAY easier for me, because I got married when I was 29. But my single friends in their 30s were less happy, because one by one their friends got married and had kids. These spouses and parents spent much more time at home than they used to, so the single folks were lonely and felt abandoned.

It's also suddenly harder to make friends. In your teens and 20s, you're in school, which basically pushes you together with other people. After that, you don't have as much of a social scaffolding. You have to work to make friends and people are a bit less approachable.

Devote yourself to the friendships you have or learn to be self-sufficient.

For me, the 30s were exciting because all sorts of things started coming together and solidifying in my brain. It was like I'd spent the first third of my life learning a random bunch of facts and now they were all slotting into place and creating a coherent picture of the world and my place in it. This has continued and strengthened into my 40s. It's exhilarating.

MANY people I know quit intellectual growth in their early-to-mid 30s. They quit reading (except maybe newspapers) and quit pushing their boundaries. That's not necessarily bad. If they're happy that way, good for them. But note that if you want to continue stretching your mind, you have to work harder at it in your 30s. That's not because you're losing your mental powers. It's because you're on your own. You no longer have teachers giving you assignments.

The first post here stated, in all caps, that you should start exercising and make workouts a daily part of your life. I agree, and I'd extend that to mental workouts.
posted by grumblebee at 5:34 PM on December 9, 2009 [9 favorites]

Don't let old friendships fade away.
posted by bunji at 5:39 PM on December 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

'Your thirties are to your 20's what Sunday afternoon is to Friday evening.'

So much this. I made some pretty big mistakes in my twenties and now, at 36, I feel the full gravity of the consequences of those mistakes. I feel like my thirties are a time of clarification, and of second-chances. I appreciate things a lot more, because I know that time goes by really fast, and when it's gone it is GONE. I think more carefully now before I act and speak. But I also know it's okay to make mistakes, I'll be able to recover. My thirties have been kinda bittersweet.

All that said, I think the best advice is to floss your teeth and otherwise start taking care of your body if you weren't already. If you have your health, the rest can be managed.
posted by cottonswab at 6:47 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

41. I drink 64-80 ounces of water daily, wear sunglasses/sunscreen, and don't smoke cigarettes or use drugs. People sometimes tell me I don't even look 30. Those things really work.

If you take a desk job you will have to exercise or else by the time you are 40, a day's yard work will wreck you for at least a couple days. Either be an athlete or do not have kids after you turn 40.

A lot of respondents in the right age group (like myself) for whatever cosmic strangeness have had a generally chaotic decade, OP, or at least a markedly unpredictable one, with changes too personal and specific to be of any use to you, I think. People 41 now were 31 when Y2K oozed in, I mean.
posted by rahnefan at 6:49 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't wear the same makeup you wore in your teens and 20's. Really, times change.
posted by gillianr at 7:20 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

i love my 30s, way more than my 20s. things to do: save money, exercise and eat well, and shake off the hangups you had when you were younger. i used to feel really obligated to be cool. i would police my tastes at all times. now i'm just like, you know, i like this cheesy pop song, and i'm going to listen to it and like it and let it inspire me. so be it. dress like a grownup. go to the doctor for checkups. see a dentist regularly. take care of your things. become more comfortable in your skin, be okay with being alone or missing that fun night out because you just feel like snuggling on the couch with a move. conversely, try to make more friends. once you're out of the college bubble, it gets harder. your college connections will take you to about 30, but then things peter out and only a few very close friends remain. develop other interests--join a sports team, volunteer, whatever.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:30 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

One piece of advice for someone heading into their 30s:

Do not, DO NOT, any longer put off coming out if you're gay and still in the closet. You will be wasting a fantastic decade of self-realization and wonderful relationships.

As Nigel Hawthorne said in The Object of My Affection, "Do not so arrange your life such that you are all alone just when you come to the middle of it."
posted by darkstar at 8:02 PM on December 9, 2009 [12 favorites]

If you've never been in therapy, get into it for a couple years. Most of us need a bit of help figuring out who we are and what makes us tick. Don't put that off.

If you don't speak a second language, make the effort now. Take night classes. Go abroad for immersion courses. Even if it takes a couple years, you'll benefit for the rest of your life.

Change your wardrobe. Trendy and hip is for the young, which you still are, but not for all that much longer; from now on, evolve your wardrobe towards classics, emphasizing quality. Buy fewer but better garments.

If you aren't in a relationship and you can save up some money, then you need to think about what you want to experience in the limited remaining time you have such freedom and finances. If you've dreamed about living in Paris for a year, this is the time. A serious relationship, marriage and children will limit your choices.

Speaking of relationships, ask yourself if you've had enough experience in terms of the variety and number of partners to feel satisfied to settle down with one person. If not, then get out and play the field.
posted by conrad53 at 8:37 PM on December 9, 2009

First of all: you are way YOUNGER than you think.

For some resaon no one tells you this when you are in your thirties. You only realize this, later, when you are already in your forties (where you are also still somewhat young - but obviously not nearly as flexible/healthy as in your thirties).

You have the best of both worlds in your thirties: you are physically at your peak while being mentally more sophisticated than ever before in your youth.

Go ahead and address all of those things that seem like they are light years away NOW, while you have an advantage (things like a retirement plan, change of career, etc).

And, this is the time to go back to school. You'll never be a better student than at this point in your life.
posted by marimeko at 8:53 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

Younger people, which didnt exist before, suddenly become a nuisance and it ashames you that you have been one of them. Older people become 10x the nuisance they were before. You get invited to more funerals than parties; old friends might become liabilities as opposed to assets. But hey, you're at your peak -- or so they say..
posted by 3mendo at 8:58 PM on December 9, 2009

Best advice I got on turning 30 (and it's stood the test of time since I just turned 40) was this: if you take care of yourself, your 30's can be like your 20's with money.
posted by sapere aude at 9:19 PM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Maximize your income and save as much as you can. (I have a late-40's friend who is living her dream on a boat in the Caribbean, because she was smart with her money.)

Exercise, take care of your teeth, appreciate your health, and appreciate the fact that you aren't invisible yet. It's very weird and disconcerting to have people in their 20's and 30's look right past you.

This all comes down to maximizing your options.
posted by Gusaroo at 10:23 PM on December 9, 2009

The day I turned 30, I felt pretty liberated, really. I finally felt like I was really an adult.

I had kids while in my very late 20s. After my oldest child was born, I went from having a potential career (with 60-hour work weeks) to being a stay-at-home mom with additional step-kids for a few years. And that was ok. I think I was ready for a change. I still had the energy for all of the life changes that happened and the experience to be able to handle becoming a single mom during my early 30s.

I met my now husband while in my mid-30s. I knew enough to make sure I wanted to get married again, that I was ready, and that he was the right one. We were together for 5 years before we married.

My most fun year had been when I was 26 and still pretty carefree. I had my job, my own place, and 3 cats. There were a lot of inexpensive but fun road trips with friends to music festivals and visiting other friends. That was a lot of fun.

But, my third decade was when I started distilling my life to the things that are most important to me. Getting my children ready to be good, independent people; good, healthy friendships; a strong and healthy relationship with my spouse; my art projects and getting to show them in public; and learning how to make a variety of healthy and tasty foods that help to nurture my friends and family while staying in a reasonable budget (I enjoy cooking a lot). I read books I enjoy regardless of genre or other people's opinions and dancing in my kitchen after everyone else has gone to bed.

I like my job and it's relatively satisfying, even if it doesn't include a big paycheck. I work 20-24 hours a week and that's really all I can give it while doing it well at it and my other priorities.

I gave up sodas on a whim almost 2 years ago, lost 40 pounds that I needed to lose, and take care of my teeth. I wear makeup only on special occasions and only if it's a fun thing to do.

Now that I'm 41, I look back on my 30s and realize just how much I was still learning. I figured out that I truly enjoy learning new things about life, my kids, work, hobbies, etc., at every chance I can, and that's important to me.
posted by lilywing13 at 10:34 PM on December 9, 2009

Not much to add, other than welcome to the best time of your life (so far). That's how it has been for this 36 year old.
posted by vbfg at 4:29 AM on December 10, 2009

Honestly, it's sort of like all the bullshit has passed, finally. You become a great deal more comfortable with yourself. My advice is to dive in to work, marriage, house, kids, etc. Don't put any of that off.

Here's a strange thing. 20 year olds literally look like kids to me now. I would swear they are teenagers.
posted by xammerboy at 6:53 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

My 30's (and i'm still hanging in them at 39!) were glorious years framed by raising children and really coming into my own. My skin really fit me for the first time in my life. Now, as I'm easing into my 40's, I look back 10 years and see that time as really beautiful, maybe even a little wistfully so. New chapters to come!
posted by kiwi-epitome at 7:04 AM on December 10, 2009

You know that line, "Be the change you want to see in the world"? Well, all those windy pronouncements you made in the previous ten years should now either be acted on or set aside. If you have been sitting on the sidelines being snarky, now is the time to start really doing something. (Mind you, you can keep on trying out new things, but just please knock off the bloviating.)

I am 37. My kids arrived between the years that I was 27 and 36, and I must encourage you to get started on this if you haven't already: as has been stated, kids take a lot of energy, and it would be lame for you to miss out on some of it, or be unhappy, just because you can't keep up. :7)

I have been thinking about all the things that people expected of me when I was younger. Some of them I avoided because I was afraid to fail at them and disappoint everyone, and now I am trying some of them out. Who knows, maybe the people who know me well were right all along!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:11 AM on December 10, 2009

I am thirty one... heading towards thirty two.

The past four years of my life have me seriously considering not bothering with the next one.

I try not to think about it too much.

It had better get better.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 8:48 AM on December 10, 2009

You get invited to more funerals than parties

It (stupidly) came as a total shock to me when my icons started dying. I was actually more prepared for older relatives dying than authors, musicians, actors and filmmakers. People told me to expect that my grandparents would die. No one told me that Stanley Kubrick was going to die!

I think losing these icons is more depressing and profound than expected, and I'm surprised people don't talk about it more.

It's likely that, as you grow up, various public figures will become important to you. There will be authors whose books you always read -- and in-between reading -- you'll be waiting for those authors' new books to come out. Those authors (actors, etc.) will likely be older than you, maybe by a couple of decades or more. By the time you reach your 30s, the "young" artists you grew up with won't be young anymore, and they will start dying.

How many more Scorsese films are going to come out in my lifetime? How many new Woody Allen films? How many Stephen Sondheim musicals? Jack Nicholson movies? Dustin Hoffman movies? John Updike b... Oh, shit.

Most of us don't acquire new icons as quickly when we're older than we did when we were younger, so when the icons of our youth start dying, it feels like a world is dying.

Had I known this -- had I known how much it would impact me -- I would have paid more attention to younger artists. I now do that. I don't want to reach 80 and never have anything new to watch, read or listen to.
posted by grumblebee at 8:59 AM on December 10, 2009 [11 favorites]

A few more things, wish I'd posted them yesterday:

If you are contemplating changing careers or finishing a degree you left off pursuing for a great job in your 20s... do that now. It's only going to get harder and more expensive. Night classes are no big deal until you have a spouse and a kid or are on call 24 hours a day.

NEVER loudly complain about your work, boss or industry in public, especially while drunk. Not online, and not in a crowd. You never know who will hear or see it and remember.

Occasionally apply for jobs you are not qualified for and go on interviews at companies in which you have no interest so you will stay mentally sharp and have a current resume/samples. I've interviewed a lot of people who were shaking, sweating, stuttering and late to an interview, all of which made a bad impression on me, because it was obvious they were desperate. Practice makes perfect, so "audition" yourself periodically so you shine like a pro when you DO NEED that job.

Stop using the cheap blinds that come with every apartment, condo and rental house. Buy curtains or other wall coverings. Frame your art and posters and hang them. Where you live can be a home, no matter how humble, and these things do matter. You're in your 30s; realize you can stop living like it's your dorm room without morphing into Martha Stewart.

Learn how to cook one really good casserole or dish for potluck parties. Learn how to cook one impressive meat-based dish (cornish game hens are my thing) and one vegetarian dish for dates or dinner parties at home; find a signature baked good or candy you create yourself for cheap gifts and to send to families after a death or illness.

Finally: Be a visible part in your community, if you can. In whatever way that matters to you. When you are at your lowest points, having an identity crisis or upset over a death or breakup, your community will be there for you. Having some community IN REAL LIFE is important, whether it's church, volunteering, a sport, some kind of craft group or other activity. It will keep you from isolating yourself during rough patches and you'll have a reason to get out of your own head space when everything around you seems to crash. Community life helps you network, and that's an essential part of staying one step ahead in the job market.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:31 AM on December 10, 2009 [15 favorites]

Thanks everyone, I too just turned 30, and really needed the advice.
posted by krieghund at 10:37 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. This gave me a lot to think about.
posted by cuban link flooded jesus at 3:16 PM on December 10, 2009

I'm 29 now, but this is some damn good advice, especially on the health bit. I'm still coasting on the fast metabolism - but that can't last forever. Now i just need to get my lazy ass away from a computer and go for a run.
posted by aggienfo at 11:08 PM on December 11, 2009

Thanks for this thread. I'm 27 and by the looks of it, I've been in my thirties for a while now - I'm less interested in socializing, getting very interested in retirement plans, I'm losing my eyesight and feeling hangovers more, taking the occasional nap, maximising my earning, and trying to eat better and learn to cook.. And still, every single year that passes is better than the previous one.

Compared to now, being 17 sucked balls (and I know what a juvenile expression that is, but I reserve the right to use it just a few more times before I turn 30), and when I turn 37 I'm sure my life now will look equally crappy (hectic, ridiculous, irresponsible, naive, vain, childish, messy, selfish, etc.).

There's a lot of really great advice in this thread, and I'm going to try to follow a bunch of it. Thanks everyone - another MeFi thread that deserves to become a book.
posted by JensR at 1:14 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

It (stupidly) came as a total shock to me when my icons started dying.

Well put, and me too. Another thing I took from this was to make sure that you prioritize the opportunity to see some of those icons speak or perform while you still can. I never saw Cab Calloway or Jerry Garcia because I thought there would be endless opportunities. And I still need to catch Willie Nelson and Ralph Stanley.
posted by Miko at 7:48 PM on December 13, 2009

And I still need to catch Willie Nelson and Ralph Stanley.

Heh, this is precisely why I finally saw Willie Nelson the other night! I will never get over the regret of having blown off the chance to see Johnny Cash not once but twice over the years. I always thought I'd have another chance. And then I didn't.

So yeah, don't put off seeing your icons perform or speak! They're mortal too, and it really does come as a total shock when they start dying -- not just the young and doomed ones (Kurt Cobain, I'm looking at you), but all of them, even the ones you vaguely assume will live forever (hello, Joe Strummer, PLEASE COME BACK, just for one day).
posted by scody at 11:14 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

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