In just a few days, I turn the big 3-0. And it’s got me thinking about what I’ve learned over the last thirty years… if anything.
Your twenties are universally accepted to be the time for making mistakes — but even the biggest disasters contain a lesson somewhere, right? I asked a number of people in their thirties what advice they would give to somebody in their twenties. Some of their answers made it onto this list. So buckle up and get ready for some five-star wisdom, folks.
1. Travel somewhere on your own. You don’t have to go backpacking solo for six months or anything, but experiencing a new place by yourself can feel pretty great. Plus, being comfortable in your own company is important.
2. Figure out your own hangover cure. (Hint: Drinking water before bed is more effective than any volume of coffee the next morning.)
3. Work behind a bar, or in a restaurant, or a shop. Doing any kind of service job will mean you’re never rude to a waitress or sales assistant ever again.
4. Learn to cook. Food literally keeps you alive, being able to prepare a meal is an essential life skill and it can be so, so much fun.
5. Go to gigs, raves, nightclubs, concerts, festivals. Because chances are, in your thirties you will not want to go anywhere near things that involve noise or crowds or staying out after midnight.
6. Enjoy something even if other people say it’s uncool. Your taste in music is yours. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for digging Backstreet Boys.
7. Spend time with your grandparents, aunts and uncles. They won’t be around forever.
8. Learn when to speak up for yourself.
9. Also, learn when to keep your mouth shut and listen to other people.
10. Come to terms with the fact that New Year’s Eve is a giant waste of everybody’s time and money. The sooner you realise this, the happier and more fulfilled you will be.
11. Deal with an ending. A breakup, ending a friendship, being fired, quitting a job… Work through those feelings and learn from the experience.
12. Live with a housemate you don’t like. This is inevitability for most young people now, and it will be hellish at the time, but you’ll learn to truly appreciate having your own space.
13. Go on a march or protest. (There’s one pretty much every week these days. Pick one.)
14. Sleep with as many or as few people as you want! Judging people for having sex is so medieval.
15. But when it comes to dating, only give your time to people who make the time for you.
16. Use protection, and get tested. Regularly. Never be too embarrassed to talk about sexual health.
17. Talk openly about your mental health, too. Sharing our feelings is something many Brits feel deeply uncomfortable with, but suffering in silence is dangerous. If you don’t want to open up to a friend or family member, no worries — that’s what counselling is for.
18. Set boundaries, both personally and professionally.
19. Keep a plant alive. Make sure you can do this before progressing to getting a kitten or a puppy. (I am still struggling with this one. Plants hate me.)
20. Find your own style, and own the poor fashion choices you make. We all wore boot-cut jeans at some point.
21. Speak in public, whether that’s a work presentation or a corny joke-filled best man’s speech. It takes guts and does wonders for your confidence.
22. Register to vote and ACTUALLY VOTE.
23. Nurture your friendships.
24. Make something. It could be a painting, a piece of music, a knitted scarf or a papier-mâché model of the Taj Mahal … it could be utterly terrible and you might never show it to anybody, but exploring your own creativity is something that should be encouraged at any age.
25. Ask for help. It might hurt your pride, but that’s kind of the point. Nobody is an island, and fierce independence is only admirable as long as you’re not crumbling under the stress of it all.
26. Live within your means, and ideally figure out how to budget. And don’t feel like a loser if you’re not putting a grand a month into a savings account like all those financial articles insist you should be doing.
27. Listen to your parents’ advice. They are occasionally right.
28. Learn to like your own body. You’re stuck with it, after all.
29. MOISTURISE. You don’t have to look thirty.
30. Finally, and most importantly… ignore arbitrary lists telling you what you should have achieved by a certain age. Instead, use birthdays and other milestones as an opportunity to take stock of everything you have to be grateful for. Don’t worry — you’re doing great!