30 for 30
For some reason I never published this last year when i actually turned 30 (whooooops 🤣🤣🤣) so in honour of my 31st birthday I thought I would actually finish it and share it with you.
Someone recently asked me if I "felt" like I was 30, and I said no - but I want to amend that answer now. I very much feel and love being in my 30s. It got me thinking, it's a curious thing to tie emotions to the number of years. Once you go past a certain age (different for everyone), everyone matures at different stages, some slower and some faster. I started to think about other 30 year olds I know; and they’re all at different stages of life. What should a person who is 30 be doing? Where should I be? Should I be married? Should I have children already?
The thing I’ve come to accept the most is that none of us have any idea what we are doing, and there’s no wrong or right answer. It’s just life, and we all do it our own way.
A lot of us don’t own that though, and spent waaaay too much time checking everyone elses lane. But guys, here’s the thing. The only finish line is death. And we will ALL cross that finish line at some point - but we will all do it in our own way, in our own time.
So a few years ago I made the decision to stop comparing my life to everyone else, and just focus on my lane. And a lot of really cool things happened.
I quit a job I hated, and found something I’m so passionate about that it doesn’t feel like work.
I learned to cut toxic people out of my life, without feeling guilty (okay, so the guilt is something that rears it’s ugly head every now and then like it’s cousin Anxiety).
And I became a person I love, someone who embraces life and all that comes with it - wrinkles and grey hairs and a body that starts to fall apart when I sit at a desk for too long. Because this life also comes with a wonderful husband, the bestest of friends, a body that walks and runs and moves, a job that lets me cross paths with incredible people, the CUTEST gawddamn dog in the world, the freedom to travel, to support myself, to LIVE!
In honour of all that, I thought I’d share 30 of some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last 30 years.
Hopefully this doesn’t make me sound like a pretentious twat - please know that I’m not perfect and don’t get it right all the time, despite of all these “lessons” I’ve learned.
Age is just a number. 30 is still young guys!! It's all about mindset, and the language you use. If you tell yourself you are old, then you are old. But for me? I've always embraced my age, and I've never been one of those people who gets afraid of or hates the idea of growing old. My age isn't a factor on how I live my life, and I don't let this number tell me what I can or can't do, or what I should or shouldn't have. I'm absolutely a big kid at heart, but I'm also pretty mature and wise. I could happily play in the playground with the kids and sit drinking tea with the grandmas, and that's got nothing to do with my age.
The power of NO. As a classic people pleaser, this one has been a hard lesson to learn. But if my twenties taught me anything, it's that I can't do everything, I can't please everyone, and that is okay. When you say yes to everything, you teach people that you have no boundaries. The problem? You do have boundaries. And when people inevitably cross them, you end up frustrated, angry and burnt out. Most likely, you'll lash out and potentially cause long-lasting damage to relationships with people; which sucks because the damage would have been negligible or ten times smaller if you had just said no in the beginning. You also run the risk of losing yourself, which can be much harder to fix in the long tun. Boundaries are such a necessary part of life, if you don’t have them you’ll be a doormat and people will walk all over you. Not because they are all awful people, but people can be lazy, they might not be aware it’s a boundary for you, they might not be aware they’ve crossed a line.
You are never gonna please everyone. STOP TRYING! You can’t make everyone be your bestie or your chum. Some people just won’t like you…the same way you don’t like some other people. If you don’t like each other then there’s no problem at all, it’s a mutual understanding.
Learn to love failure. Look, I’m a nerd, so I kind of loved school (except the bullying, that bit sucked). But the one thing I hate about our education system is the way that it punishes failure. School legitimately teaches us to be afraid of failure - especially in the later years. While there are a whole lot of levels between pass and fail, it comes down to this. You have an exam, you can pass or fail. You have an assignment; you can pass or fail. And when you fail there are really strict consequences - you are given very limited opportuinities (if any) to learn from your failure by trying again, limited support to help you understand why you failed, and ultimately if you fail too many times you run the risk of being expelled, kicked out, isolated and ostracized for your failures. And it kills our desire to create new things and put them out into the world, because we don’t want to be criticised, ostracised, isolated, or punished. But here’s a newsflas for you - there is no creativity without failure. How did you learn to walk? You stood up, and fell over, and stood back up again but maybe this time you held onto something. And then you fell over, but you got back up and tried again. And you “failed” again, and every time after that, until one time you didn’t, because you learned from all the things you did wrong before. One day, I decided that I had spent way too many years of my life being afraid of failing, of things not working out; and that failing to try was actually damaging me more than trying and failing. Because when you fail you can learn from it, and try again. But when you never try at all, you never learn anything, and you stagnate.
Looking after yourself doesn’t make you selfish. Speaking of losing yourself - let's talk about self care. When your cup runneth dry, how do you keep giving to others? Take care of yourself first, because it will make taking care of others much more pleasurable, enjoyable and fun - for you and for them. What's the point of running around like a headless chicken caring for others if you are tired, bitter and unhappy? The people you are caring for pick up on those emotions, and it's just not an enjoyable experience for either of you. Look after yourself, so that you can look after others.
Stay HYRDRATED. Water cures all. The end.
Moisturise MEEEEEE. I get told a lot that I don't look thirty. While I'm sure that's partly due to the fact I don't have kids and all the associated wrinkles yet; I attribute that to my daily moisturising routine. I've moisturised my face every day, since I was a teenager and my body since I was 20 - and my skin loves me for it.
Friends will come and go, and that's okay. It has taken me a long time to be okay with this one, because I am a classic people pleaser. The last decade has taught me that friends come in lots of different shapes and sizes, and what you get from one friend, you won't get from the other. Some friends you will talk to every day, and some friends you will talk to once a month, and some friends you will talk to once a year - and it won't matter how long it's been, the sign of a true friend is that you pick right back where you left off. And sometimes, you will go from talking to a friend every day, to talking once a month and then once a year - and that's okay too. Most importantly, some friends you will need to let go. Some friends will let go of you. Both can be hard. Ending a friendship isn't easy, and being dumped is even harder. But the person I am is so different to the person I was at 20, so I consider it a bloody miracle that I've been able to hold onto as many friends as I have.
Travel, travel, travel. To as many places, to as many different cultures as you can. It’s the only way to understand how big the world is, and your place in it. Next time you feel trapped in your problems - travel to someplace new, wherever you can afford, do it. Experiencing new things is scientifically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, and challenges your perspective of the world. One of the best things my parents did for me and my brother was take us travelling. The first proper holiday I can remember was a trip to the snow when I was 12, and my mind was blown at how long it took us to get there, and at how big Australia was (let alone the world). And I think having that perspective has enormously helped me to stay grounded.
Disney never gets old. I feel so lucky to have grown up with Disney, and my husband and I (and our friends and siblings, and even our parents) are the first to head to the cinemas when a new Disney/Pixar movie comes out (and no, none of us have kids, we’re goin’ for ourselves). Big kids at heart! Disney has taught me so much, and it still brings me so much joy and I never wanna let that go.
Have courage, and be kind. Yes, it's from the 2015 Cinderella remake, but honestly - kindness never goes out of style. And sometimes it takes courage to be kind. SEE! Disney bringin’ the life lessons.
Worry is a waste of your imagination. I actually think this is a quote by Walt Disney (SEEEEE!! #DISNEY4LYFE) and my sweet husband shared it with me when I was in a state of epic anxiety, and it did a lot to calm me down. Something my mum used to tell me when I was a kid was to ‘think happy thoughts’ (not great advice to someone experiencing anxiety who literally can’t think happy thoughts) but now when I’m worrying or anxious about things out of my control (and imagining the worst) I try to stop, and imagine the best instead. I imagine what it would be like to fly. Or have superpowers like my new fave superhero Captain Marvel. It’s hard to kick yourself out of a negative mindset, but I also believe that what you put out into the universe will come back to you. So I’d much rather put happy thoughts out there.
You’ll regret the things you don’t do, rather than the things you did. The things you are afraid of doing, are the things most worth doing, and the things you’ll regret not doing later on once you’ve realised how silly it was to be afraid of leaping into it. Looking back, I can 100% say that if I had never decided to pursue this photography thing it would be on my list of regrets on my deathbed. Leaping was terrifying, and exhilierating, but once I landed I realised it wasn’t really all that scary after all.
Life does not happen in a straight line. While our age is determined by a series of numbers that go in one direction, the rest of life ain't like that. It's complicated, and messy. It's possible to feel sadness and happiness at the same time. It's full of highs and lows that are intertwined, come out of nowhere, full of roadblocks and detours and accidents that make everyone stop and gawk. No matter what though, it's YOUR path, and that's what makes it beautiful (and as unique as your fingerprint).
Love makes the world go round. So does kindness, and our time. These are some of the most valuable things we can give to others - one of my favourite quotes is "Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble, and there is always time." But see point number 2 above about learning how to say no and the importance of setting boundaries - everything in moderation people!
Vulnerability is the key. To everything - connecting with others, fostering intimacy, being authentic. All of it comes from a place of vulnerability, from sharing your fears with people who you trust. All praise Brene Brown for shining a light on vulnerability and how it is the birthplace of authenticity and connection. A burden shared is a burden halved and this applies especially to things that make you feel vulnerable. Sharing the things that make you feel scared, sharing the things that awful voice inside of you is saying to you is so powerful. Because once that voice inside of you becomes a voice that is outside of you, it’s power over you diminishes.
Money. Money can buy you things, and to some extent, it can byu you freedom - but it cannot buy you happiness - true happiness, the kind of happiness that sticks around even if the things you bought with money were no longer there. Being greedy with money will not bring you happiness. I've watched so many people chase money, and watched it ruin their life when it disappears. When they are flush with cash, life is GREAT. But when it all disappears - life is not so great. It makes people stressed, and spend their life working to make more and more and more. And because they know what its like to have no money, they just never stop wanting more and more and more. And one day, they wake up and life isn't exactly how they thought it was. What's the point of being flush with cash if your relationships with the people you love and who love you are shit and non-existent (because you've been so busy working to make all that money)? I've come to learn that money is a fluid concept, and is always changing and flowing in and out of your life. Sometimes you will have a lot, sometimes you will have not much. My success is not defined by how much money I have, it never has been and it never will be.
Define what success means to you. Speaking of money and sucess - define what it means and looks like to you. If the amount of money you have or don't have no longer defines what success means, then what does? For me, being successful looks like this - a happy, and wholesome and fulfilled relationship with my husband, where we can talk about the good things and the scary things and where he is my best friend and my lover and my team mate in everything. It's about doing something that I love for work, waking up excited to get to work and not wanting to stop. It's about having friends who I can have fun with, hard conversations with, water fights with, go to bouncy castles with, and cry with when I need to. It's about being comfortable financially - I have specific goals and I work hard to meet them, and when I do I create new, specific goals to work towards (it’s not about having a certain number of 00’s in the bank account, or making as much as my husband or other photographers - it’s about making enough money to meet my goals). And you have to enjoy the journey to reach those goals, because the finish line is a moving target. It’s not a static goal, where once you get a certain thing you’ll be happy (spoiler alert - you won’t). Once you reach the goal/finish line - make a new one, and enjoy the journey to get there.
Comparison is the thief of joy. Speaking of writing your own definition of success - I think a key ingredient is to immediately stop comparing yourself and measure your success against another person. Their definition of success is going to be completely different to yours!! When I see people compare themselves to others, it really breaks my heart. We are all so complicated and different, the person I am will make different decisions to you because of my life and the lessons and experiences I have had, which means I'm in a different position to pretty much everyone I know because of all those things. To wish I had what someone else had, would mean that I would need to go back and live my life differently (the way they did) and I love my life and would never want to change it!
Life-long education matters. Everyone knows something you don’t. It could be something small, it could be a lot. Be insatiably curious about all.the.things and listen to the stories people share with you, because you can learn from other people. More importantly, you can also learn from their failures. Often knowing what not to do is just as powerful as knowing what to do.
The art of gratitude. This might sound morbid, but I actively think about death. My death, and the death of my loved ones; because it terrifies me. It makes me feel vulnerable, and sad, and worried that I haven't fully appreciated them and made the most of my time with them. It pulls me out of the daily grind, and into the moment and makes me appreciate being with my loved ones so much more.
Communication is an art form. People will always forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel (a favourite quote by Maya Angelou). And often learning how to communicate with other people also requires you to know that it’s not all about you. Often, the way people communicate externally with other people, is a reflection of the way they communicate with themselves on the inside. And remember that we are all afraid to show our vulnerable side, for fear of rejection and punishment (and we often hide our vulnerability by going on the attack). Really listening to someone, observing their body language, and trying to understand what they might be feeling/worried about (and too scared to share) is a good place to start.
Forgiveness has nothing to do with trust. You can learn to forgive someone for the wrongs they have done, but it doesn’t mean you need to trust them, or let them back into your life. Holding onto anger against another person will only poison you in the long run, so forgive, but never forget. Forgiveness isn’t for them ultimately, it’s for you.
If someone makes you feel crazy, get a second, third and fourth opinion. Look, I’ve spent a lot of my life dealing with narcisissts (full-blown, intense narcissists). I feel like I have earned a PHD from my life experience in understanding narcisissts, and gaslighting. Bottom line, if you have someone who always focuses on themselves and their needs, someone twists your words around, always needs praise and recognition but never returns the favour, who makes you feel like everything is your fault, that nothing you do is ever good enough, you might be dealing with a narcissist. And it’s SO SUBTLE, so please don’t ever accept someone’s behaviour, or the things they say about you as gospel. Ask someone else, and another person, and balance out their opinions. Here is an article you can read about narcissits.
It’s okay to have a bad day. But when the bad days are blurring together in an endless loop, and the voices in your head are saying you are unworthy, unloveable and that everyone would be better off without you - please seek help.
Love is a verb. It’s an action. A choice. If you aren’t actively speaking their love language, then it doesn’t matter how much you love someone. Actively loving someone is a form of vulnerability (because you fear being rejected), but if you aren’t putting yourself out there, you aren’t truly connecting, or being truly intimate.
Meditate! And if you can’t meditate, just be bored! Where do you get all your great ideas? For me, it’s while sitting on the loo, having a shower, or driving (or being a passenger in a car). If this is you too, have you ever wondered why? It’s because your brain has time to process, to wander and wonder. There are so many different ways to meditate, you can meditate on a word, try to empty your brain and think of nothing, meditation through movement - but really at the end of the day, meditation is about giving your brain time to actively rest. And if you were ever bored as a kid, what did you do? When going “Muuuuuum I’m booooooored” got boring, you probably went off and entertained yourself. Maybe did some colouring in? Played a game of imaginary play with some toys? Built something? In other words, you got creative.
Don’t make decisions for people, based on an assumption you have made about what they need. Something that irritates me all the time is when my friends and family tell me they didn’t reach out to me because they assumed I was too busy, and they wanted to give me space. Um, guys - I’m the only person who knows whats going on in my life and in my calendar! Just don’t make assumptions, period. ASK.
Be the difference. You are one small drop in the ocean. But even the smallest drop causes ripples, and those ripples touch other ripples and your one tiny act can have long lasting consequences that you are not aware of. You can choose to be the difference. Don’t do what everyone else is doing, if you think you can do it better, or different, DO IT. Be friendly in a world full of assholes. Be kind in a world full of anger. Be the difference, whenever you can; because your vibe attracts your tribe.
Be silly and a little playful, always. Being silly and playful can go a long way towards brining joy back into your life. Playfulness is a skill that you can learn, and it brings joy to peoples lives (and to yours). And it’s not about having ‘grown up’ like that. It’s about looking at something and asking yourself how you can make it fun, what can you do to like being here. For example I don’t suuuper love cooking or cleaning, but it’s something that has to be done (even though there are a hundred things I’d rather be doing). So I turn on some music and sing and dance, or I’ll talk to someone on the phone - because why hate doing something when you can make it fun? AND - it’s not about being an introvert or an extrovert. I’m an extrovert, but my husband is an introvert, and he’s always the first to roll down the hill, climb a tree, jump off a building, do a flip, play on the swings or the child size bulldozer at the playground, and I love that about him. At a family session, I’ll be the first to play chasey with the kids, because it’s fun (and because I’m choosing to be different to hopefully show other adults that it’s okay to have fun too).
BONUS point because now I’m 31. LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY. This one is huge, and it’s hard, but the most important thing you’ll ever do. Love YOURSELF unconditionally. Look at yourself in the mirror, your warts and pimpled and chubby bits and cellulite and your anxiety and your silly laugh and all the other things you nitpick over, and know that none of it matters. You are enough. You are enough. YOU ARE ENOUGH. Please treat yourself with the same level of kindness that you would give to your best friend.
It’s taken me forever to write this, and even though I’ve learned all these things and sound like a super rad human being - I’m not perfect. I still get things wrong, I still “fail” (but it’s not really failure, it’s just learning how to be human).
And most of all know that you probably won’t change your life by reading a blog post full of one person’s thoughts on life. What works for me may not work for you. Sometimes it doesn’t even work for me! All that matters is that YOU DO YOU. Decide who you are, and who you are not, and live intentionally as that person. You are as unique as your fingerprint, after all.