Give me your wisdom, let me see through time!
February 15, 2012 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Calling all 40 year olds... what do you wish you had done when you were 30?

I am around 30 years old now, and thinking back to when I was 20. So many things I wish I knew, wish I had done. To avoid wasting opportunities I'll never get back, please tell me as a 40 (or over) person, what do you wish you'd done while you were 30?
posted by dougrayrankin to Grab Bag (68 answers total) 210 users marked this as a favorite
Stay in shape. Work hard. Because in a few years your energy level will go down. I can no longer compete with younger folks at work, because I'm just too tired by the end of the day.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:03 PM on February 15, 2012 [21 favorites]

Had more sex.
posted by Rob Rockets at 4:03 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Being 40, I wish I had married the incredible woman I broke up with when I was 33.

She was awesome, and I feel like I am never going to feel that way about another person again.
posted by Sphinx at 4:04 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

More than anything I wish I would have made a serious effort to develop good exercise and eating habits voluntarily at thirty, instead of out of necessity at forty.
posted by Balonious Assault at 4:05 PM on February 15, 2012 [27 favorites]

I wish I had done more adventure travel when I was younger and more physically resilient. I also wish that I had gone to more loud music concerts before my hearing became so hypersensitive.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:05 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Lost weight, developed a fitness routine. It doesn't get easier to do either. Other than that, no regrets.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:05 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

I wish I had chosen a better father for my children.
posted by headnsouth at 4:07 PM on February 15, 2012 [15 favorites]

More weight-lifting. More kinky/varied sex life. More travel and less TV.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:08 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

When I look back to my 20s/30s the main thing I think "I wish I'd done differently" about (other than randomly individual things) is to have started saving seriously with a view towards retirement. The amount of money I just threw away back then on things that really didn't bring me any lasting pleasure and which I could have easily done without staggers me if I start adding it up in my head. I'm not saying that you should live like a monk or that you should be a miserly cheeseparer--by all means blow money on experiences that will actually stay with you. But if you can get into the habit of setting aside some portion of your income and leaving that absolutely sacrosanct you'll move into your late 40s/early 50s really congratulating your younger self for setting you up well for the future.
posted by yoink at 4:10 PM on February 15, 2012 [26 favorites]

I wish I'd been worried less about the passage of time and felt less rushed about things, because it made me stay in a really awful relationship and do some stupid stuff that I'm ashamed about now. I wish I'd listened less to the siren song of OMGTHIRTY. I'm forty-two now, for what it's worth. Things turned out okay but looking back the stupidity of that time is embarrassingly clear.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:13 PM on February 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

Be physically active. It really is true, your energy level goes after 35.

If you are mentally/emotionally ready, don't wait to have kids. If you don't have a partner that you want to have kids with, but having kids is a priority in your life, sort that issue out. Seriously, the world and other people make sense in a way they never did before when you have a kid. Puts a lot in perspective.

If there are lingering issues in your life (parents, past girlfriends, fear of failure, etc etc etc) go to counseling and sort those issues out once and for all. You cannot imagine how much lighter you feel and how easily you can move forward in your life when you finally drop those weights from your shoulders.

Learn how to handle money. Contribute to your retirement. Learn how to achieve financial goals, rather than saying "someday I'm going to (buy a boat, vacation in the Galapagos, go back to school)" without having a realistic plan as to how to get there from here.
posted by vignettist at 4:16 PM on February 15, 2012 [12 favorites]

Taken advantage of more one time opportunities instead of always thinking it might happen again or I didn't have enough time or money. If you think about it and the likelihood is that it won't happen again in 3 years, then do it regardless of the money or time!
posted by bmorrison at 4:16 PM on February 15, 2012

I'm only mid-30s, but I wish I'd gone back to grad school at 30; instead, I'm looking at doing it next year, with that much less career on the other side.
posted by gurple at 4:17 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Gotten in good physical shape.

Spent more time outdoors.


Avoided owning too many things. Especially books. (I don't regret reading them, but I wish I had borrowed them from the library more and bought them less. Or at the very least gotten rid of them quickly after I finished them. When you get to be 40 you realize your life is half over, more or less, and you look at a book you read once and say to yourself, "I'm never going to read that book again. Not because I didn't like it, but because life is short.")
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:21 PM on February 15, 2012 [12 favorites]

A little context first-At 30 I was just graduating college and starting a (so far successful) civil engineering career. My father had just passed away from fighting colon cancer for a year and my sister was getting divorced from a deadbeat.

Spent more time with my niece and nephew and stopped throwing myself into non productive, emotionally draining, doomed romantic relationships.

Had a better financial plan and literacy. Meaning living on an actual budget with a real eye to planning for my financial future and security.

The BEST decision I made at that time was switching career paths from a workholic, disfunctional, but highly paid, construction company that was my first job out of college to a lesser paid but more rewarding consultancy based career (as an employee and I actually got to do the work i got into engineering to do).
posted by bartonlong at 4:22 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in my 40's now and this is what I should have done the year I turned 30, and all the years after:
Stuck to my guns when I dumped the guy whose vision of life was incompatible with mine.
Picked a professional mentor.
Called my grandmother more often.
Gone to more weddings of old friends I had not stayed close enough to.
Made larger automatic deposits/buys into my savings/mutual funds/retirement accounts.
Kept my paid off credit card paid off.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Handled my money better, and never acquired any debt.
posted by jbickers at 4:32 PM on February 15, 2012

Looking back to 30 from 44, I wish I'd exercised more, paid more attention to my health in general, and put more money away for retirement.

Things I'm glad I did in my 30s: got over my aversion to remarrying, followed a spouse's job chase across the country, and kept generally free of credit card debt.
posted by immlass at 4:34 PM on February 15, 2012

I'm just gonna quote myself here from another, similar thread:

posted by tristeza at 4:36 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Lived on as little money as I could, and socked as much of it away as possible.
posted by xingcat at 4:39 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wish I hadn't thought of myself as pretty old and stuck with choices I'd already made.

And the exercise thing.
posted by Occula at 4:42 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


That being said, I could have done it a little better. Looking back, I wish I'd:

• swam more

• stretched a little more regularly, though glad I did a lot of yoga, but still, wish I'd woken up EVERY morning and went right to touching my toes

• quit smoking (duh, if you somehow smoke, you already knew that)

• broken up with some people faster, instead of hanging around, trying to convince myself it was right for forever

• done a few more dudes that I accidentally forgot to do

• probably I should have saved some money? IDK.

But overall, my 30s were pretty much completely perfect and AWESOME. Oh I probably should have paid taxes for, uh, four or five of those ten years right away, but turns out you can fix anything if you try hard enough. Relatedly, IDEALLY I would have built my credit score instead of destroying it, but who gives a fig. (Answer: some people!)

The only thing that's really useful that I can say is this: at 40, you will actually be thinking about HOW MANY MORE YEARS YOU MUST WORK. It is a big topic that becomes very real, very fast. So if you can do things in your 30s to prepare yourself for 1. no longer working and 2. growing old with dignity and comfort, GET ON THAT SHIT, YO. Or you'll be doing some fast catch-up so you don't do your 70s in a gutter somewhere.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 4:44 PM on February 15, 2012 [23 favorites]

We had our first baby when we were 36, and we kind of wish we'd done that sooner. My husband so he'd have a little more energy to chase a toddler, and me because it would be nice to have a bit more time in which to decide whether or not I'd like to try for another kid.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:50 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Ditto the above on the timing for baby making. I got pregnant at 36 and while I understand why I did it that way, I would love to have the extra energy of being a younger first time mum. Plus it's wreaked havoc on my body.
posted by Jubey at 5:16 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Told my Dad how much I loved him (he died when I was 32). Developed an exercise routine and stuck with it. Learned to play the guitar. Took voice lessons.

But mostly the dad thing.
posted by blurker at 5:18 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not 40, but like making lists of Elder Advice.

30 – 40
• Save money.
• Go to the gym.
• Drink less, drink better.
• Focus on six friends.
• When you are traveling, buy that piece of art.
• Tell only your good stories
• Get up early.
• Stop worrying about who you were. Focus on who you want to be.
• Learn to be kind regardless of the situation.
posted by nickrussell at 5:19 PM on February 15, 2012 [81 favorites]

(43 now) I wish I hadn't stopped drawing for so many years. There is category of skills that have no upper limit in how much you can improve with sustained effort, and the loss of those years makes me pretty sad. I gave up too easily at other things, too.
posted by Glinn at 5:45 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I wish I'd got it through my head at thirty that my diagnosis really did mean that, yes, I have to take the pills every day for the rest of my life -- before I blasted my marriage to smithereens, made my kids lives' harder than they needed to be, lost friends, broke my credit, and stalled my career.

When I am fifty, I will regret having still been in love with the man I drove away, for all those years from age 30 to tomorrow.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 6:00 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Had a baby. Like the poster above, I was in my late 30's when my child was born, and we just should have done it sooner. Then, perhaps my kid could have a sibling, and we'd have more energy to chase him, and I'd have known him for longer by now.
posted by anastasiav at 6:20 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty happy with how my thirties went. I wish I hadn't been such a penny pincher and had been able to maybe set up a few things like an IRA and a decent savings account and then just chilled out and enjoyed the rest. I wish I had tried more drugs I'm a little less excited about experimenting with now. I wish I'd talked to my grandparents a little more. I wish I'd gotten more of a grip on the damage that having an alcoholic parent can bring but I thought I'd solved that all by moving away. I wish I'd gotten used to flossing. I wish maybe I hadn't jumped so early into home ownership when I wasn't quite sure where I wanted to live yet.
posted by jessamyn at 6:20 PM on February 15, 2012

I had the tendency to put up with toxic friendships (and like others above, the toxic, drama-filled romantic relationships); spent too long in some, making excuses for keeping those relationships going. I've become pretty good at not putting up with bullshit drama and all that these days. No problem at all breaking up with a friend if it's toxic.

Don't make excuses for staying in bad friendships or relationships.

That and definitely the "saving more money" thing.
posted by foxhat10 at 6:34 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

To avoid wasting opportunities I'll never get back

You're about 30 now? If you're thinking there are things you really wanted to do and now never can, you're probably thinking wrong. But do get started sooner rather than later.

As for your actual question...

I didn't get into playing sport til I was over forty, and had a few years of loving playing tennis before my knees started going. The earlier I'd gotten over my thinking I'm no good at sports and that they're not for me, the more fun I'd have had, the more all-round self-confidence I'd have had, and the healthier I'd have been. It was possible to start at 40+, and late was way better than never, but I wish I'd discovered it much younger.
posted by philipy at 6:41 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, I'm not 40 quite yet, but here's a bit of advice anyway.

Since you're asking for advice, I'm guessing you might be feeling like there's something holding you back, some kind of fear or anxiety or lack of confidence. Maybe not, but if that's the case, find a good therapist that is also a good fit for you, and work that shit out NOW. I'm doing that now, and it is great to be more relaxed, content, carefree, and active. I'm more productive, dynamic, creative & able to do much more now than I used to because I much more rarely (almost never) experience the inner criticism & other issues that haunted me since childhood. I believe I'm reducing my future looking-back-with-regret by doing this.

I'm kind of okay with the fact I didn't do this sooner, but I think it would have been a net gain for me if I had dealt with things sooner. So if this seems like it might apply, try to find someone who knows what they're doing (there are low-cost options and sliding scales available, at least in metropolitan areas), dig it up and deal with it.
posted by univac at 6:52 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Focused more on finding a partner and having a baby at a time it would've fit much better in my life.
posted by Miko at 7:09 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had the opportunity to change careers at about age 30 but I passed because it was a short term income hit. I would be better off today had I done it. Also, save more. Lots more.
posted by COD at 7:09 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Next month I'll be 39 and a half.
  • Moisturize! The earlier the better.
  • If you're carrying around extra weight and you want to lose it, lose it now. My energy level tanked after I hit 35.
  • If you're in a position to have a kid and are able to support it, have the kid. I waited too long and while there's still technically time for me, being a 40+ year old new mom was never in my life plan.
  • If you want to learn something new, either a language or a skill, do it. Things I used to be able to glance over and retain when I was 30 takes me a while to learn now. As in, I need to take notes. And reread my notes. I can still learn, mind you. But it's harder.
  • I wish I had rocked more awesome shoes. Awesome shoes hurt my feet now. I see high heeled knee length boots now and I whimper, because I just can't make them work anymore.

posted by ladygypsy at 7:27 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Keep in touch with your friends.

There are very few wasted opportunities that you can never get back. More often than you realize, you get a second chance or a chance to make things right.
posted by feelinggood at 7:30 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I basically have no regrets. The only thing I wish I did was get my ADHD adequately diagnosed and treated with the perfect drug before last year, at age 41. Because with a working brain? That can actually retain info and pay attention now? OH MY the world is interesting!
posted by spinifex23 at 7:30 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, also: see a financial planner. I saw one when I was 30 and his advice about taking out income insurance has saved my ass.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:37 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wish I had done the following: worn sunblock, washed my face every night, exercised regularly, avoided debt, had a LOT sex with a LOT of partners (of both sexes) in varied combinations, traveled, and quit grad school when my department head told me I should have. As a serial monogamist, I regret the sex thing the most.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:38 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not 40 (50) here, but:
what do you wish you'd done while you were 30?
Everything. I've said it before - as you get older, you regret the things you didn't do much much more than the things you did.

Youth (30 might not seem young now, but just you wait) is a one-time chance to do all the selfish shit that everyone tells you you'll regret later. Travel, love, play, eat, go wild. But look after yourself physically, because that's hard to come back from if you don't. Items 3-6 in OrangeDisk's list above should be at the top of your list right now. When you get to 50, you'll see that you have to do all the sensible stuff just to get through the day and if, like me, you did all that stuff when you were younger instead well, you're a long time doing to same crap every day.

What are you still doing here? Get the fuck out in the world, take it by the throat and make it yours.
posted by dg at 7:50 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another reason it's better to lose weight at 30 than 40 can be summed up in one word: Sagging.

Plenty I wouldn't change, but: I wish I had figured out then that "what appears to be the best option" and "what works best for me" are not always the same thing.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:52 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Bury a few more time capsules to dig up when I am 50. I love preserving time to look back at frozen moments of my past. My journal does a pretty good job; start writing your days down as if you were telling a story for someone in your future... it is probably you that will enjoy it the most when you look back at times gone by.

Regardless, you will do the things your heart leads you towards. No one can really tell you what your future holds except you- so, close your eyes tight in a dark room and try to talk to the you at 40- that person is somewhere up the time-line screaming to you with advice... you just have to listen closely.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:03 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

• I should've dumped the dream of being a writer sooner
• Had kids earlier
• Exercise more
• Drink less
posted by slogger at 8:04 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know what I really wish I had done more of when I was 30 (and 20, for that matter) ?

Worn ear plugs at concerts. I can't hear a fucking thing at a noisy restaurant anymore. My hearing is pretty much totally destroyed with a certain level of background noise.

And yeah - I'm gonna be 40 and my kid is gonna be 17. I totally have no envy at all for my co-workers who are now having kids and will be attending graduation in their late 50s.

I'm Free! F R E E !!!!!!!!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:14 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Great question and answers. I find these counterfactuals pretty difficult to answer, though. I mean, all of us spend time thinking about what we wish we would have done differently. But having listened sympathetically to a fair amount of heartfelt reflections in this vein, I tend to impose the following limits on my own nominations:

1. I can't wish that I had done something differently that -- if I had really done it differently -- might have upset something that I really like actually having done.

2. I can't wish I'd done things that are in serious tension with one another. E.g., bought before the housing market went up, while traveling the world.

3. I can't wish that I'd done things that I just know, knowing me, that I'd never ever do even if I had another chance.

This is going to seem like an attack on the question, but I don't mean it to be. What I really wish I'd done was to stop worrying about optimizing my life path and just live in the moment, except this probably violates rule #3.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:27 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Travel travel travel travel
posted by The ____ of Justice at 9:50 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have more sex. Waaaay more sex. By your 30s, it's easier to be shamelessly comfortable with what makes you tick in bed, and it's when most of us finally understand that generosity of spirit is waaaay more important than head-turning looks as a predictor of ZOMG best sex ever.
posted by desuetude at 10:05 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

I wish I'd bought gold instead of shares.
posted by dydecker at 10:32 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am pretty happy with the decisions I made back then - I do wish I had kept a little better track of my weight, but aside from that, no regrets. Things I am really happy I did back then: Ended a relationship with a great guy that just wasn't right for me (nor I for him) hard to do because we are great friends, but had to be done. I also bought a small house when prices were good, and now that I've sold it 11 years later, it has been very good for me financially. Don't ever decide it's time to slow down or "grow up" keep doing the fun things you love - throw parties, go dancing, even if you're 10 years older than everyone else there.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:44 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Assume that you will be fairly pathetic physically compared to your current self. Half the stamina, half the strength. It probably won't be that drastic, but plan for the worst.

Do all of the physically demanding things now and assume you will not be able to do them at 40 or 50. If your list of things to eventually do includes things like climbing a mountain, running a marathon, or bicycling to Cape Horn, slide them to the top of the list and do them now. Save your 40s and 50s for easier walks, easier bike rides, rowing a canoe on a calm lake. Your 40s and 50s are more for cerebral adventures, for learning a language or visiting Paris, not for risking broken bones and avalanches.

Other than that, just stay trim and fit and alert. Don't eat like a pig (teach yourself portion control), don't smoke (unless it's a cigar in honor of a birth), don't drink (unless it's a celebration), don't watch television (unless you can keep it to no more than one show a night), don't drive (instead, walk or bike or take public transportation), and don't live where you cannot easily walk or bike or take public transportation to get you everywhere. Your older self will thank you. Your mate and any kids will thank you.
posted by pracowity at 1:01 AM on February 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm fit, but I wish I'd been fitter when I was 30. It's a struggle now!

I wish I truly grokked personal finances and learned to manage my own effectively. Seriously, this is dull as ditchwater but it will save you major headaches later.

Living in a foreign country for longer than 6 months would probably have been an eye-opener. I still intend to do this.

Learning more musical instruments never goes amiss.

I've done a few dance classes, but never stuck with it. Being able to actually dance like an enthusiastic amateur would be great, instead of the random wiggling everybody else does.

Regular mindfulness meditation.

Hmm.... and to make time for all this "do more" stuff, I'd probably do less of this: being a dick; working late; struggling to get a pay rise; working for someone else; drinking alcohol; watching (crappy) TV; living in a hectic city at a hectic pace; fucking about on the internet.

And finally: tell the people who count that you love them. When you hit 40, family and friends start dying. Brutal but true.
posted by ajp at 6:10 AM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I wish I had had children sooner.

If not that, I wish I had gone to grad school.
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:29 AM on February 16, 2012

Throw out the TV.

Ten years of time watching TV spend doing almost anything else *will* make you a better you. You don't fondly remember watching the 2003 NFL season. You don't remember the 2007 run of General Hospital. Except for that one awesome day in 2009, the Price is Right isn't doing it for you, and season 3 of NCIS might have been fun at the time, but isn't a lasting memory or a lasting skill.

Throw out the TV.
posted by talldean at 8:00 AM on February 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

There are things you can still do at 30 that, when you do them in your 40s, are just kind of sad. Things like binge drinking, recreational drugs, casual sex, and road trips involving binge drinking, recreational drugs, and casual sex. I would get all that out of my system before 40, and then you can spend your older years going on at tedious length about the crazy shit you did in your youth. Try to think of everything that embarrasses you when you imagine yourself doing it at 45, and do it now.

Also: if your credit sucks, start getting it in repaired now, because things you might not care about when you're 30 (or at least, I didn't) that you need good credit for, you might want later on.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:46 AM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm very close to 40. My regret is not taking more chances. I have the talent to run my own business, but I didn't have the drive or courage to do it in my 30s. Looking back, the risk was quite manageable but today I have a family to support. Your options get narrower as you grow older.

That said, I am pleased that I saved for the future, didn't wait too long to have kids and maintained an exercise regimen. I can attest that these are all deeply satisfying to have done well.
posted by dgran at 8:50 AM on February 16, 2012

One of my overarching regrets (I'm 41) is that I didn't stop caring about what other people thought when I was 30, instead of about 39. I stayed in law school because I didn't want people to think I was a quitter or couldn't hack it. I put up with a lot of crap from family members and ostensible friends because I was "supposed to" and couldn't bear to think of people considering me not nice or selfish or anything bad. I eventually got it, but wow, I'd like to have had this feeling of loving myself first for the past 10 years.

I wish I'd made more choices for me, not for other people. I wish I'd let people take more pictures of me (I know, that one is weird, but it is true). I wish I'd gone to therapy more.

I am happy that I stuck out the hard stuff that mattered, that I had three kids, that I traveled, and that I (we) are financially secure thanks to decisions we made in our 30s. I grew up a LOT in my 30s.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:04 AM on February 16, 2012

I am very happy that my wife and I had our daughter--she is the apple of my eye--but I was 37 years old, am now 40, and it can be a little exhausting. That said, I have ten more years of wisdom I can give her.

Mostly I think back to 30-year old me and would probably have said the same thing as to my 20-year old self: It is ok, you idiot. It is ok.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:26 AM on February 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

So many good answers in this thread, varied experiences, MetaFilter as it so often is.

Children. Someone upthread wrote about not really getting the whole fabric of life without children and I think they've got something. Most of my old friends and siblings have not only children but grandchildren, and I bet you're thinking "Jesus, who wants to be Grandpaw?!?" Answer: you do.

I know you can't afford children. So what? No one can. If it's something that you're at all interested* in, this is the time.
*And you sometimes can't even know if you're interested, really, until you hold the child in your arms, and your life revolves, and you would fight grizzly bears over her.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:47 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, please direct answers towards the OP and don't get into "everyone should have kids" debates. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:30 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I found 30-40 to go twice as fast as 20-30. I'm halfway to 50 and sometimes it feels like I am looking out the front window of the Millenium Falcon as the stars blur by. I'd say 30 is a good time to set the foundation to the habits you haven't fully integrated into your life yet. Don't beat yourself up - just start now and don't stop. Keep in mind that work success doesn't equal true happiness, buy all you want but ask yourself if the next time you look at it will be when you stuff it in a moving box, be effusive and foolish in love, and remember that you can still love your family members without having to repeat their same mistakes. (That last one will save you a lot in therapy, which is another thing many do once 30 rolls around.)

But the best thing I can say is to take a hard look at how your divvy your attention. Time is both wide open and very tight. Making (seemingly) hard choices about how you choose, as best you can, to spend your time now on this mortal coil will really make a lot of decisions much easier later in your life. Think of it as moisturizing lotion for your soul....
posted by TomSophieIvy at 4:11 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you smoke, quit now.
posted by Miko at 7:14 PM on February 16, 2012

Definitely the biggest regret I have is that I didn't have child. I completely didn't expect my thirties to rush by as quickly as they did, nor my early forties, and the opportunity to have children is very much a time-limited opportunity. If that's not something you want, then this won't matter to you. But if it's something you know you want, or think you might or probably want, then don't simply assume that there's plenty of time like I did.

And, in general, that's the real bottom line about one's thirties. It really is true that for most people time goes by more quickly as one gets older and one's thirties will almost certainly pass by more quickly for you than did your twenties. The sense of having an entire life ahead of you, that most of us have in our twenties, can still prevail during one's first half of one's thirties, or so, but by the second half, you're likely to notice that the whole decade went by a lot more quickly than you anticipated. So, the main thing is not to assume that you have plenty of time for everything the way you probably have been, because you'll likely feel differently in not-too-many-years.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:51 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Less planning what to do and more getting it done.

"For, as our physical path on earth is always a line and not a surface, we must in life, if we wish to grasp and possess one thing, renounce and leave aside innumerable others that lie to the right and to the left.

If we cannot decide to do this, but, like children at a fair, snatch at everything that fascinates us in passing, this is the perverted attempt to change the line of our path into a surface. We then run a zigzag path, wander like a will-o'-the-wisp, and arrive at nothing."

Arthur Schopenhauer

(thx to edguardo for posting this quote earlier)
posted by brappi at 11:58 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

My favorite list of lessons is from 27 year old Amy Hoy. 21 Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Hustling.

As one who is nearing 40, I think her lessons are pretty spot on and impressive to figure out at 27.
posted by vivzan at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2012 [10 favorites]

Taken better care of my teeth, especially during and after pregnancy. Floss AND proxibrush!
posted by Cuke at 5:39 PM on February 17, 2012

Not look back and regret that I didn't do it differently when I was thirty.
posted by squeak at 5:50 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll be 40 in a few months.

Things I wish I'd done:

1. Found a good therapist and stuck with her and worked on my self esteem.

2. Closely connected with 1 - I wish I hadn't stayed in bad relationships. I was in two in my thirties - one with a guy who just wasn't that into me even though I was madly in love with him and another with a guy who was abusive. I wasted a lot of time and energy on both of them.

3. Finished that novel I started in my late twenties and kept writing.

Things I'm really glad I did:

1. Went back to school and changed careers.

2. Traveled, lived in different countries, and learned to speak a foreign language fluently.

3. Not give into societal pressure and have children when I'm interested and not cut out to be a mother.
posted by hazyjane at 6:27 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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