“Thirty, Flirty, and Thriving,” that was the mantra of the main character in 13 Going on 30. She declared the 30s the best years of a woman’s life. This month, I turned 30. Like the main character, I’ve found that actual 30 is very different from the fantasy 30 that I imagined at age 15, 20, and even 25. So to our young readers, I offer the following advice.
When You’re 15
Go hug you parents. Even though they’ve gone from superhero to evil villain status in your mind, you’ll realize one day that they are just normal people with the hearts of super heroes. When you’re 30, you’ll wish that you could hug them so easily, again.
Don’t worry so much about what you want to do with your life, focus on finding the skills you excel at, and the subjects that matter most to you. If you build on your natural abilities, instead of forcing yourself to fit a mold, you will love your career. But remember, financial stability matters, healthcare is not free and you don’t want to work forever. Analytical careers (such as consulting, law, or medicine) are high in financial reward but low in creative expression. Careers that allow for creative expression (advertising, writing, entertainment), only provide financial reward if you work 100% harder than everyone else.
Don’t put popularity ahead of your dreams. Short term, being invited to the right parties and having the right friends might seem really important, but in the long term, challenging yourself intellectually and building your work ethic, will make you successful. No one is going to remember you were on Prom court in 12 years, nor will they care. They’ll be too busy posting pics of their babies on Facebook.
When You’re 20
College freedom, it feels good, doesn’t it? No parents, no rules, no wonder your smile is bigger now. The debates and discussions you have in college are going to stretch what you know about life and the world. Be friends with people who challenge your beliefs; it will either make you re-evaluate your values or draw your closer to them. But not until you question your beliefs, do they really belong to you. By 30, they should belong to you.
It might feel like you’re making the final decision regarding your career by picking a major. But, important job skills, such as analytical thinking, setting goals, writing, and presentation skills, can be learned within a diverse range of majors. Truth be told, the internships you attain make a bigger impression than your coursework. Spend your summers interning with interesting companies; spend your vacations shadowing interesting people and building your network. Get to know all your professors, they are some of the best contacts you can make in college. If you take the time to know their research and show respect for their field, they will open doors for you.
On the other hand, there will be plenty of opportunities to build not-so valuable relationships. Hello, college guys. True story, you can’t take most men under the age of 25 seriously. Sure, some people say every relationship, good or bad, is valuable. You could listen to that person and apply to the school of hard knocks, or you could live by my golden rules of love: give your love, time, and attention to someone that fills your world with so much love that you have no choice but to trust him, respect him, and never, ever worry about how he feels. Also, if you want to attract someone like that, kick some of your old superficial habits, such as writing off a guy due to his height or education. That being said, don’t settle when it comes to chemistry or sense of humor. That’s what differentiates a best friend from a soul mate.
When You’re 25
You’ve probably just put down your copy of Quarter Life Crisis. College didn’t thoroughly prepare you for what comes after it: a lot of jobs that don’t utilize your full-potential. By the way, that’s your Generation Y entitlement talking. It’s OK to be at the bottom, it’s OK to struggle, as long as it’s within an industry you love, and for a company that gives you opportunities to learn and move up. No husband, no kids, no commitments, this is the time in your life to take risks. It only gets more complicated from here.
Worry less about your weight, and more about your health. It’s OK to be 10 lbs over your “ideal weight.” Exercise and put good things in your body and whatever the scale says at the end of the day is your ideal weight. What makes you worthy of love is not the way you look, rather, because you give love selflessly. You are wonderful just the way you are, and only surround yourself with people that make you feel that way. You’ll be much happier for it.
Don’t even think about marriage until you’ve truly enjoyed being single, and done everything on the “Before Marriage Checklist“. It seems most of your female peers are more in love with the idea of marriage than the person they are actually with. Who you marry is one of your most life impacting decisions. Make sure the ball is always in your court, and every step you take is a step you want and believe in.
Leading up to 30, I had a giant list of life goals that needed to be accomplished. On my 30th birthday, I decided to tear up the list and start over. Now, the only thing on my “30 To Do” list is: enjoy it.
— NATASHA KHAN KAZI