what do you wish you did in your thirties?
February 18, 2014 1:46 PM   Subscribe

MeFi-ites in your late thirties, forties and fifties - what do you wish you had done in your thirties? I'm at the beginning of my thirties and have hit most of the milestones - a decent career trajectory, more self-aware, better balance. I am not yet married but in a relationship. In short, things are stable and pretty well but I know that . Looking back at my twenties, there are a lot of things I wish I did or wish I knew that got harder with age, life changes, or less career mobility (harder to move industries and not take a salary cut). What do you wish you had done or wish you had known about your thirties? I'm less looking for ideas for ME and more for inspiration in what others have done to make the most of that decade.
posted by waylaid to Human Relations (59 answers total) 191 users marked this as a favorite
Travel. A lot of travel.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:48 PM on February 18, 2014 [13 favorites]

posted by dfriedman at 1:49 PM on February 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Not get any - ANY - credit card debt.

Exercise more often. It's harder to start, the longer you wait to start.

Written every day. Even if your goal is not to become a writer, keep a journal. I've done so intermittently all my life, and it's one of the things that has brought me the most joy.
posted by jbickers at 1:51 PM on February 18, 2014 [24 favorites]

If you haven't done it already, make sure you get on top of your retirement savings (getting any matching funds you're entitled to in your 401k, maxing out a Roth IRA, etc). It's hard to make up for the loss of compound interest the longer you wait to get your accounts in order.
posted by bcwinters at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

I wish I would have gotten married and had kids. I feel like it's probably not going to happen at this point, and if it does, I'm going to be hella tired.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 1:55 PM on February 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

If you have the ability to be athletic, make the most of it. Run like the wind. Enjoy your physical self. It won't last forever. Not that you'll turn into a pumpkin at 40, but little things will start to accumulate and you'll realize the general trend and wish you had really appreciated your body when it was still fully functional.
posted by HotToddy at 1:57 PM on February 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

Thirties is the prime age for NOT ignoring your biological clock.
posted by Melismata at 2:00 PM on February 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Travel & exercise for sure. Make friendships that can last a lifetime. Get your emotional shit together, improve your relationship with yourself. Don't enter your forties hating yourself. Therapy if you need it.
posted by matildaben at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Had kids earlier.
posted by dpx.mfx at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

I wish I had spent less time being a low self-esteem having slut and actually valued myself enough to seek out a deserving partner. Also, I wish I had paid more attention to the future job market instead of just chasing a childhood dream career which hasn't worked out so well for me so far.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Taken more chances on people. My twenties made me cynical and it took until I turned 45 to realize that's not a good thing, I wish I had been less cynical in my thirties, I misses so much because of it.

I wish I'd taken better care of my knees. Seriously be nice to your joints, all of them.

I wish I'd stopped looking for excitement and realized the contentment is better. Crazy drama does not mean that your life is exciting. Contentment is highly underrated. Happiness and excitement and always doing something are not the same thing.

I wish I'd worn more sunblock and a hat and taken better care of my skin including my cleavage area and the back of my hands, if you are a woman (or a man who likes nice skin) start a good retinol/vit C antioxidant program now.

When it doubt go to the doctor, it might not be indigestion it might be gallstones, it won't be a mole it might be cancerous. Then again that breast cancer scare might just turn out to be a cyst, these all happened to me go see your doctor get answers sooner rather than later.
posted by wwax at 2:07 PM on February 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

I wish I would have realized how fast the first flush of aging comes on and prepared more for it.
I swear I went to bed one night at about 37 and woke up unable to look in a mirror. It was really that distinct for me. If I could go back to 30, I would have taken better care of my face and maybe done just a little more mental/therapy work to be OK with myself physically getting older.
posted by Tchad at 2:09 PM on February 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Travel. But not bullshit like spending a month on a beach in Thailand. Do something that has some meaning to you. Something that you'll remember doing in 10 years, 20 years. Volunteer. Bike from Paris to Rome. 10 years is a long time, but let me tell you: you can look back at a 10 year stretch of your life and not have much to say about it. 2500 days at the office? Don't do that.
posted by GuyZero at 2:09 PM on February 18, 2014 [18 favorites]

My son was born when I was 37. I wish I'd had him much earlier (which would have given us the time to give him a sibling) because he's awesome and I would have known him longer.
posted by anastasiav at 2:11 PM on February 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Learn something new. You never know when your ability to be flexible and learn new things might deteriorate. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in my mid 30s (probably been there since my late teens though) and my ability to synthesize new information is shot. Take a class for fun. Indulge in a new hobby. I've really gotten into cooking in my late 30s and it's really one of the few things that brings me joy.
posted by kathrynm at 2:14 PM on February 18, 2014

I'm still in my 30s but what I wish I'd done in my very early 30s is pay more attention to little health problems. Like been very aggressive at finding Drs to treat them instead of thinking "Hmm, that will go away." After your 20s, stuff doesn't really just go away. And knees, omg. Do everything in your power to protect them now. Someone in their 20s posted a cutesy thing about "2 words of advice for my younger self" and they were all like "Let go" or "love freely" and I was just thinking "METABOLISM. KNEES."
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:15 PM on February 18, 2014 [21 favorites]

The thirties were a great decade for me - I had children, travelled a lot - for both work and pleasure, pursued my dreams, studied, worked, went to clubs, met new friends and spent good times with those I knew already. I laughed a lot.
I met a person I knew from college who told me he was envious of me, because he was spending all his time conforming to what he thought others thought was right for him, so that might be my advice: don't be that guy I knew from college. Don't make yourself older than you are.
One thing I regret: at some point (at 37) I was too skinny, and I took a break from exercise. Then I lost control of my weight, and it hasn't been good since. It happened to more than one of my friends as well - either that, or they remained too skinny and had problems with that. If I'd known the risk, I'd have discussed how to put on weight safely with my doctor.
posted by mumimor at 2:15 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you smoke, quit today. Quit all the other recreational drugs. Realize how short life is. Do the things you have been dreaming of, but putting off. Cherish your family and friends. If you have delayed having children for career reasons, you might want to rethink that. Your corporation will not take care of you in your old age. Neither will your peers who will be too aged to care for themselves, much less you.
posted by Cranberry at 2:17 PM on February 18, 2014

Best answer: I'm still in my 30s so these are things I'm doing and planning to do, rather than things I regret not doing.
  • Play with my kids.
  • Pick hobbies that make me proud to spend my time on (i.e., for me, not based around TV and drinking, etc).
  • Stay physically active. Be good at something physically challenging (i.e., finish a marathon in the top 25%. Be able to bike from San Francisco to L.A. Some doable but real, personal goal).
  • Fill up my 401k.
  • See things I've always wanted to see (this could mean "travel" or it could mean "go scuba diving", I want to sail from California to Hawaii, but I don't really think of it as "travel").
  • Don't be afraid to live life on your on terms. Make the world bend to suit you rather than the other way around. I.e., ask for a raise, move to the place you want to be, buy the sports car you've always wanted, you're a real adult now. Take charge.

posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:18 PM on February 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I would have divorced my first husband sooner, because I would have somehow woken up to how I was riding a wave of denial through my own life.

I would have stopped eating my feelings instead of talking about them.

I would have put my search for my birth family into overdrive; I found them last year and wish I'd known them longer because they are wonderful.

I would have spent way more time creating stuff (writing, acting, making art), because even if it had been shit, I'd have been that much more practiced now in my 40s.

I would have spent more time seeking out new and maintaining my existing female friendships (I'm a woman), because that kind of bond is crucial to my well being.

I would have spent those 10 years exercising, instead of taking up weightlifting at age 39 and finally honing and actually feeling my own strength.

I would have cut the few truly toxic people out of my life sooner, including my own mother.

Having said all this, I don't have any regrets. I only look forward.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:22 PM on February 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Thanks for all the great thoughts so far, folks! Keep them coming. One other question - how did you nurture and continue to grow your peer relationships as you got older? Especially as people get married and have kids (this is one reason I don't like moving very much - it takes longer and longer to build networks and true friends up)
posted by waylaid at 2:22 PM on February 18, 2014

Maintained my friendships. I spent last week editing video that I had converted from old camcorder tapes to DVD. It's mostly video of holidays and our kids birthday parties from their births to about 10 for our oldest, when the camcorder broke and was replaced by a digital camera with video capabilities.

The number of people that were important enough to be invited to our home in the 90s, and that I couldn't ID in the videos, was sort of depressing.
posted by COD at 2:25 PM on February 18, 2014

Still in my 30s but the biggest adjustment I've made was only in the past year and the result of moving into a smaller apartment: Stop focusing on the acquisition of things and start focusing on the acquisition of new experiences, because the new experiences are more rewarding than buying something that's going to sit around the apartment for a year then get tossed when we move.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:27 PM on February 18, 2014 [11 favorites]

Therapy for sure.
posted by thatone at 2:34 PM on February 18, 2014

In all honesty, OP, the biggest thing I wish I would have done in my thirties was stop beating the shit out of myself for the regrets I had (or thought I had) from my twenties.

My hope for the rest of my forties and upcoming fifties? To stop worrying about regrets I'll have (or think I'll have) from my thirties and early forties.

In other words, live my life as best I can one moment at a time.
posted by strelitzia at 2:36 PM on February 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

Stop worrying about stupid sh!t. Not kidding. 43 here.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:41 PM on February 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Stop being so goddamn sedentary. Lose that 30-50 pounds. It only gets harder. (Those are obviously related)

I'm going to 2nd the credit card debt thing, but I'm not sure I'd have made many of the choices I made differently.

Call mom more often.

Remind myself, over and over and over and over. It's more important to be kind than to be right. (I was better in my 30s than my 20s. but still spent a lot of the decade with my head pretty far up my patoot.)
posted by DigDoug at 2:43 PM on February 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Have kids.
posted by Miko at 2:43 PM on February 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Grow up.

Seriously, when I look at people in their 30s, I see two camps: Those who are embracing adulthood, and those who are trying desperately to hold on to what they were when they were in their teens and early 20s. Almost universally, the people who are happy and successful and thriving in their lives are the ones who have embraced being an adult.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:44 PM on February 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Things i did:
tons of safe NSA sex
got and stayed fit
ate right

Things i didn't do:
have kids until I was 40
get married til i was 40
save enough money to withstand 2 recessions and a divorce
burn bridges

regrets i have:
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:55 PM on February 18, 2014 [11 favorites]

Get married and have kids. I got married at 38 to a wonderful woman a year younger than me. We traveled all around the world--Europe, Kilimanjaro, Fiji, South America, Australia. We met in Iraq.

Having kids was not in the cards for us partially because of our age. So we adopted a little girl.

I always new I wanted kids but I had no idea how much. It hit us like a ton of bricks. I've never felt love like when we brought her home and I sang, "You are my Sunshine," to her. I cried my eyes out. Getting choked up now.

She's two years old now and my wife and I just love her to pieces. If you look at our age now (45 and 44) you know the window of opportunity is really closing fast considering our age when she will graduate from high school. We won't be having a large family.

If I were in my early thirties I'd get started on having a larger family. Job, travel, hobbies--they don't mean anything compared to kids.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 3:40 PM on February 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Just as a teensy counterpoint to all the people saying you should have kids, I never wanted kids but sometimes struggled with the decision not to have them. People kept telling me I would regret it if I didn't . I'm 47 now and consider my choice not to have children to be one of my greatest accomplishments.

Things i wish I would have done? Stopped being such a perfectionist , worn sunsreen on my hands and arms not just my face, stopped trying to get my parents approval (if you don't have it at thirty its not going to happen so move on!), been proud of my sex drive and my sexuality.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:10 PM on February 18, 2014 [20 favorites]

I wish I had DTMF a lot sooner. Like, a LOT sooner.

I'll tell you the best thing I did in my thirties: Got a tubal ligation. One of the smartest decisions I ever made. Details upon request but I won't bore you with them unless you're actually interested.
posted by janey47 at 4:20 PM on February 18, 2014

Best answer: There are two things I would focus on if I could go back in time a few years:

1. Build my social network (as opposed to my career network). Seriously, every year (and every time I need to clean out a cluttered closet) I realize how little material things matter, and how much richer I would feel if I'd worked more on my relationships with people, instead of merely trying to impress those people.

2. Buy the very worst house in the very best neighborhood (before I got priced out!). This will make such a big difference to you later when you do have kids.
posted by vignettist at 4:24 PM on February 18, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Here's another example of what I DID in my thirties, not what I didn't do. (I'm in my 60s now.)

I had a decent job at a bank and was advancing. But I had a feeling of deficiency because I had only a high school diploma. This feeling had nothing to do with career advancement and everything to do with having been raised in an environment that under-valued education. I knew I'd led a sheltered life, and I wanted to expand my horizons.

I started taking university classes at night. At first, I took business subjects. Later, when I began to think that I could actually get a degree, I added required courses, like English 101, which blew my socks off. I really loved the learning, both the commerce and the literature courses, and at one point was taking two in the winter, one in the summer, and two more in the Fall.

That's a lot, and my social life suffered, but I made learning my top priority, because it scratched an itch deep inside me.

In what seemed like no time at all, I had completed three years. To make a long story short, with the bank's blessing I went part time and finished my fourth year full time, and then went on to get a Masters, working part-time for the university administration to keep my student debt level manageable.

Funny thing, my next career had nothing to do with my studies. I didn't care. I only did all that because I loved learning. But having an MA opened doors that wouldn't have been available to me otherwise. And, twenty-three years later, I'm ready to retire early, because, as someone advised up-thread, I lived within my means and have been socking it away in my 401K all that time.

Sure, I have some native gifts that translate well into my current business world. But did I know that 35 years ago? No.

I realize that the world is different now. But, because of my experience, I have a deep, abiding sense that there IS a payoff if you follow sensible dreams with one eye on practicality. Life is a negotiation. You're not a loser if you only get part of what you want.

Well, and one more thing. If my experience is any guide, you will never have more energy than you do right now. Don't squander that. Make it count.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:44 PM on February 18, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'm 33 so consider the source, but quit drinking. No seriously, do it. It's the best thing ever.
posted by floweredfish at 4:52 PM on February 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Save more for retirement.
posted by cnc at 4:54 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Choose the happier choice instead of the, seemingly, right choice.
posted by jennstra at 4:59 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

All the suggestions here are good. Mostly I would say, work on not being afraid of 40. I was! And 40th birthday was super depressing.

Then I got over it and now I'm fine. But I avoided thinking about it and that let it blindside me.

Also, 30s is a busy decade for most people. Develop healthy forms of relaxation now so you won't have to do it after you burn out. I'm having a hard time with it, personally.

Don't think of your 30s as OMG MUST DO THINGS NOW because that sucks all the fun out of it. Enjoy not being in your 20s. Decide to have some confidence in yourself, along with humility. Be happy in your work. If your friends start to drift away, don't cling like a leech but don't be passive; try to float with them, like you're going with the tide not against it. The drama of early childraising will subside, and they'll need you (and vice versa) again when they can breathe and look around. Just stay close enough so you can be there for that.
posted by emjaybee at 6:37 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Develop a habit of living on less than you earn. Not having sufficient savings is...not good.

Nthing those above who said to take care of your body. It's the only one you've got and you need it. Specifically, get enough sleep, see a doctor/dentist regularly and/or when needed (assuming you're fortunate enough to have insurance), floss your teeth!!, drink enough water, find exercise that you like enough to continue doing it. This is all dull advice, and not terribly sexy, but there you have it.

Also, don't fall into the trap of being busybusybusy. Your thirties will whoosh by in no time flat.

I'm forty and seeing the error of my ways.

Lastly, if you have a good relationship with your parents, call them often.
posted by heathergirl at 7:40 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

A life without regrets is an unreflected life. Embrace your mistakes. Never deny them. Learn from them so that you can pass that wisdom on to other people.

Kinda like we're doing now.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 7:48 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

All good advice above. Save, Floss, protect your joints and enjoy your physical self in all ways.

The only thing I'd add is if you have a good relationship with your parents, older relatives, etc. take the time now to set up a video recorder and sit down and talk with them about their lives.

If you have old family albums that aren't labelled well, find a day to sit with your parents and figure out who everyone is.

I didn't care a whole lot about the family stories in my 30s. In fact, it is just now as I am in my 50's that I find myself really digging into family history. I have a wonderful old album from pre-1900's from my mother's side of the family and there are great pictures with labels like, Father's Sweetheart and "Black school teacher of Elizabeth Blind" (my great-grandmother). I wish I'd asked Mom about them to see if she'd heard any stories or a name.
posted by agatha_magatha at 8:40 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:54 PM on February 18, 2014

Less struggling against emotional reality, less loss-aversion, less selflessness, more acceptance of change, more active defence of my own needs and well-being.

Mostly I'm happy with my 30s though. Because of: travel, learning and reading, close social ties, daily meditation and exercise, sleeping around a lot, getting enough sleep, retirement savings, therapy.
posted by ead at 12:50 AM on February 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Drop relationships that put a drag on your life. Embrace the relationships that empower and enrich your life. Enjoy the time you have with your family, because your parents wont live forever. I'm 35 and still trying to live by my own advice. Learn how to say no and cherish your free time. Make sure you're happy and finished being alone before you decide to spend the rest of your life with someone. Don't just have kids because you want someone to take care of you when you're old. That's an extremely selfish reason to bring a life in to this world.
posted by dep at 4:03 AM on February 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm in my mid-50s, and the four things that make my life worthwhile now are:
I am healthy.
I do good.
I have everything I need.
I am surrounded by love.

The choices I made to get to those four things:
Being active, not sedentary, with a gentle, sustainable exercise program that I enjoy, made up of walking, Pilates, and easy bike riding.
Giving: donating blood, volunteering to organize the neighborhood picnic, being generous with time and energy for others.
Being a thoughtful consumer; making intelligent choices to avoid accumulating tons of crap and debt.
Being part of communities - family, neighbors, Metafilterians, that I enjoy, and smiling at people - even the "incidental" people, like the checkout people at the grocery store and the mail carrier. Now, when I need a smile, they have one for me.
posted by tizzie at 6:14 AM on February 19, 2014 [8 favorites]

If you want children, now is the time. I am 51 and my friends have kids and MAN are they tired!

Travel. I've never regretted a dime I spent on travel.

I wish I had lost weight, but I am glad that I was physically active. I have great muscles under my fat!

Don't do fad dieting though. I'm pretty sure Optifast screwed up my metabolism.

Contribute to your 401(k) like a fiend, but don't put it all into company stock. Enron, MCI, there are examples out there of what NOT to do!

Get your MBA. If your job will pay for it, you might as well. I had no burning desire, but it has opened doors for me (or at least ticked a box for me.) I met some lifelong friends and business contacts in my program, and what I learned has proven to be WAY more useful than I thought it would be.

Only do what you want to do. Start saying no to things you don't want.

Appreciate your body. Even the imperfections are great. Be comfortable in your skin and stop striving for some artificial kind of perfection.

Get out of bad situations quickly. This includes relationships and jobs.

Enjoy every minute!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:27 AM on February 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

Nthing exercise.
Nthing getting rid of ALL credit card debt

As for me, I wish I had started therapy earlier, I wish I had changed my name when it was reasonable and wouldn't f up my career, I wish I had learned what made me tick and stopped being a dilettante earlier. I'd be much better at the things I love to do.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:01 AM on February 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am in my 30s, turning 32 in a couple weeks. My husband is 39, turning 40 this year, so the fact that he is at the end of his 30s gives me a unique perspective. I am benefiting and learning from what he did in his 30s and the different choices he would have made.

- Living in a very small, but very comfortable house. Our small house with our small mortgage and our small electrical bills etc. is one big pile of YAY!
- Getting rid of as many "things" in my life as possible. Life isn't made better by things (except for a dishwasher. That is a god damned important. My life is infinitely better for having a dishwasher.), life is made better by people and experiences and time spent in the company of others. Things just clutter up your life, both in terms of your personal space, but also your attention and focus.
- Not watching any cable TV. All we watch is the Sprint Cup NASCAR race once a week. Untethering ourselves from tv and which of our shows is on that night and having our life revolve around the tv... yeah, fuck that. If there is something we really want to watch we can download it and watch it later. We spend our evenings on our own schedule and interacting. My relationship with my husband is better for it, as is my relationship with my step son.
- Working incredibly hard to clear the debt that I have and I am hell bent on avoiding adding to my debt load. I am doing my damnest to make sure I will be debt free (hopefully including our house) before I turn 40s.
- Spend as much time outdoors as possible. Even if it is just sitting outside on the deck in the summertime, that time has much greater value doing that compared to time spent indoors, on the couch, etc. Chores can wait until after the sun goes down. I am enjoying the sunshine and fresh air as much as possible.
- Focusing on quality not quantity. This applies to relationships, articles of clothing, food, bedding... everything. QUALITY not QUANTITY.
- Investing a fair amount of time and effort educating myself on personal finance and investing strategies and the current world financial situation. I am oh so painfully aware of our personal financial situation, I am intensely aware of our debts and our bills and our budget, and I am very aware of the importance of it. I am very aware of the risks that most people are facing (whether they know it or not) and we are able to shield ourselves as best we can from them.
- Loving and appreciating and enjoying my relationship with my husband and with my step son. These are two hugely important people to me and I want to spend as much quality time with them as possible, and do what I can to keep those relationships healthy and honest.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:29 AM on February 19, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: One other thing, something I learned in my 20s that I think is hugely important and something that a lot of people would benefit from...

Stop being so god damned grown up and "cool" all the time. Life is too short to expend any effort on trying to do what I think people expect me to do. I play, I act foolish, I laugh loudly, and joke around with my friends and family. I do things that some people think "grown-ups" aren't supposed to do, and I do things that are totally "uncool". If they bring me joy and if they aren't hurting anyone else, then I'm doing it.

For example:
- I have glow in the dark flannel pillow cases.
- I get WAY too excited about oven roasted brussel sprouts.
- I relish going to bed at 9pm.
- I crochet. Badly.
- I instigate water fights with my step son.
- I have glow baths (Lights off, glow sticks in the water, BLISS!).
- I am openly affectionate and lovey dovey with my husband.
- I snort laugh.
- I wear neon tie-dye mismatched socks (which irritates my husband, making me love my neon tie-dyed mismatched socks all the more).
- I spend a huge amount of time doing my hair and flouncing it about because I LOOOOOOVE my hair and I am unabashedly proud of how long and shiny and soft and wonderful my hair is. I have fucking awesome hair.

Basically, fuck convention and social expectations. Enjoy your god damned life. Stop living as though everyone was watching you and judging you. They aren't. No one cares what you are doing, so just do what makes you happy.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:43 AM on February 19, 2014 [23 favorites]

One other thing: Investing in quality bed sheets. Life is too short to sleep on scratchy wrinkly pilled crap bedsheets. When I told Mr.McSockerson that his bedsheets sucked and that he needed to buy better bedsheeds he thought I was being silly. Then when I got new quality bedsheets and he slept on them he was all "For Christ's sake, why the hell didn't I get good bedsheets years ago! This is miraculous!" Then I we got a set of sheet suspenders so that the fitted sheet stays nice and tight and wrinkle free. He has described all of this as life changing. Not having better bedding is definitely a "I wish I had done this a decade ago" for him.

Not only do quality bedsheets last longer, and not only are they more comfortable, there is a real feeling of luxury and relaxation and specialness every night, climbing in to our awesome bedsheeted bed. It is a small bit of decadence every single day that makes a huge difference.

No joke.
Invest in good bedsheets now. Like, today.

You're welcome.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:59 AM on February 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think it's covered above but my 2 biggest regrets from my thirties (I'm 45) were not taking control of my spending habits / debt sooner and not investing effort into continuing education or taking courses to supplement my career. I would have also dumped my ex way sooner because it was always obvious to me we weren't going to stay together but it was a relationship of convenience and inertia and that's no way to live.

I agree with PuppetMcSockerson, too. Fuck matched socks, that shit gets lost in the dryer anyhow. I have a whole collection of perfectly good mismatched brightly colored patterned knee socks that I wear at bike races because it's cooler than buying more socks just because they have to match. What kind of arbitrary social convention is wearing matched socks? This is me sneering at the sock bourgeois :P

oh right and I still race bikes in the mud and fall off of skateboards and skis and generally enjoy being outdoors and active, and buy impractical rear-wheel drive cars to race at the track with my husband because why the hell ever not?
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:40 PM on February 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Good stuff here. I turn 40 in about a month and was recently thinking about this very thing:

1) Save more for retirement. Seriously - the next ten years can have a major effect on that.
2) I would go back and do the things that I thought I "couldn't" do or "shouldn't" do.

There is so much shit I DIDN'T do in my 20s and 30s because I simply didn't realize that I COULD - some of those were emotional shackles, some were based in being a grown-up and not being silly enough.

Seriously. Do the silly things.
posted by Thistledown at 2:33 PM on February 19, 2014

1. Gotten married (sooner) and tried to have kids (sooner). Declining fertility is a bitch if you want kids.
2. Started writing a novel sooner.
3. Read more.
4. Travelled internationally even more.
posted by bananafish at 3:16 PM on February 19, 2014

I thought about this a bit last night, and I will go against the grain a little bit. I thought that I was in a comfortable steady spot in my career at 30, and then at 32 I decided to take a big jump to a much smaller company with a senior role, and I feel that I've been able to open doors I would never have imagined possible in those 2 years. It depends on the person you want to be, but I'm happy that I pushed myself to take my career to the next level. I'm also happy that I got married and had a baby while pushing myself, as it has given me perspective on what is possible. You've just started to really get mastery over your area in your early 30s in most careers, so it's a great time to jump into bigger roles, more leadership, bigger challenges.
I'd also say that doing that jump before I had kids was critical. Even though I had a baby in the midst of a busy busy time, I was established enough in my new job that the brain drain from baby having (which affects both members of the couple) wasn't suicide.
Don't lose track of your friends, no matter what you do.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:11 PM on February 19, 2014

1. Exercise every day and eat right every day to keep your heart strong and your weight down. Stay (or get) thin and strong. That's the most important thing you can do. More important than money and career and romance and friends. If you aren't healthy, you can't enjoy all the rest of that stuff or even do all the rest of that stuff properly.

2. No matter how much you exercise and how carefully you eat (unless you're a maniac about it), you are still going to decline in your forties and fifties, so do all the strenuous things before you get too old to enjoy them. Take all the serious hikes, make all the serious climbs, get the backpacking across Asia thing out of your system. Anything that involves climbing to the top of something (towers, hills, cliffs, mountains)? Do that now. You won't be up for that shit when you're older.
posted by pracowity at 3:01 AM on February 20, 2014

One other question - how did you nurture and continue to grow your peer relationships as you got older?

Recognize you only have so much time, and accept the maxim that the things you spend time on are the things you prioritize. I'm cutting back on other activities* so I can socialize more and I am happy about that. VALUE THE FRIENDS YOU HAVE, but let the ones you don't connect as much with drift away. It's OK.

*This also ties into the good advice to try new things as soon as possible, instead of "oh, someday." I'm in my late-ish 30s now, and the difference in my energy level between now and a year ago--when I was (a) training for my first/only Ironman and (b) starting a long-distance relationship (both very energy-intensive pursuits)--is already palpable. I'm glad I did both of those (the LDBF and I are still together), but I'm especially glad I have more time for simpler pleasures.
posted by psoas at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2014

Best answer: In my early 50's here.

When I was in my early 30's, having already taken care of the financial piece (living below my means, saving for retirement from my first full-time job out of college and even through graduate school, no debt etc.) I took the chance to live abroad for two years.

Not only did it change my perspective, it set my life off into a new direction. There was little chance I could have done what I did (take a massive 'pay cut', move to a completely different environment, live differently, learn a new language and culture) with spouse and perhaps children in tow. These 15 years later sometimes I reflect on what would have happened if I didn't take that chance, and shudder to think about it.

When I was in my late 30's (married but no kids), the health piece (flossing every day since college days, exercising regularly, regular checkups) really started paying dividends as the list of people I knew who had chronic health problems or had passed away due to disease starts to grow. The financial piece made me glad that I plowed 'the max' into whatever tax-advantaged plan I was qualified for. And what we had left we spent on travel, which we were able to do a fair amount of even with a modest budget. There are so many ways to see amazing things in your own backyard or in foreign places that don't cost a lot of money, it just takes some additional effort. Now I look back at that phase (married without kids) and am glad we took the time and energy to see some of these places.

Now there is little chance career-trajectory-wise that I'll be that high-potential executive that gets an overseas assignment, but it doesn't matter - I've experienced expatriate life already.

You mentioned career mobility - one can say that I've had four careers to-date but have all been basically around the same topics that I'm still daily engaged with and passionate about. The 'transferable skills' piece is all about re-assembling what you've learned for one career path and putting it to use in another one. But those skills have to be built up and honed over the course of decades; working through the exercises in the classic 'What Color is Your Parachute' by Richard Bolles when I was in graduate school (I was in my late-20's then) put a very useful focus on the kinds of skills I enjoyed using, and have kept them in mind over the course of decades as the situation changed (i.e. working overseas, then repatriating and finding my footing again etc.)

And recently the Large Corporation that I have worked at for some 4 years got acquired by Even Larger Corporation, and a day after the acquisition closed I was given new responsibilities by the manager's manager - to do more of what I was doing as a hobby as part of my new responsibilities. So you never know what your hobbies can turn into, even ones that you pick up as you get older.

And of course the hobby is related to the core expertise, the core topics I've been engaged with throughout my adult life, and they've built upon each other over the years as I've pushed to continue learning like crazy. I view daily learning just like that IRA I started as an undergraduate - after the years the daily compounding starts to work its magic, and soon enough you reach critical mass.

Not to say that I'm ready to retire (not yet at least!) nor that I'm some kind of genius, but the accumulative and accretive effect of a daily discipline pays great rewards that's just basically hard work, and doesn't take some special gift.
posted by scooterdog at 7:32 PM on February 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Echoing all the above. I wish I had started barbell training earlier. I wish I had not got into credit card/store card debt (again). I wish I had gone to the dentist more. I wish I had quit smoking earlier. I wish I had done a little more due diligence on my personal relationships. My "career" has never bothered me, though I can see how it would be a concern for some.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2014

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