Move over 20s – the flirty 30s are when life kicks into gear. Here are just a few revelations to expect when you head past the big 3-0 milestone
On the eve of my 30s, I didn’t anticipate the delights that lay ahead. I just knew I was getting older – ergo craggier, and less able to hold my beer.
But here are just six amazing things that came into focus as I raced into life’s finest decade to date:
Running is the best
In my 20s, running was a vague and very distant concept, a bit like a dream you can’t quite recall. Years before, I’d written myself off as someone who “didn’t do” sport, and that label stuck. On sunny park evenings, I was happy knocking back rosé and watching the joggers from afar – secure in my place at the bottom of the fitness hierarchy.
Once I hit my 30s, however, everything changed. Suddenly, I realised that you don’t have to buy into the uber-competitive, lycra-toting cliché to “be” a runner. Anyone with a shoddy pair of trainers can manage it.
What’s more, running feels amazing. For me, it’s not really about keeping in shape or losing weight (goals I’d previously dismissed as not worth the sweat); instead, I covet its mystical ability to clear your head. When I have a problem or feel overloaded now, I go running – and by the end, I always feel better. Who knew?
A great career is about freedom
In my 20s, I got my head down and stuck to the script of what I was expected to do in any given job. Sometimes, I complained to my friends about the way things were being run, and I often felt frustrated by a lack of control. But it never occurred to be that I was the only person who could change things.
As I headed into my 30s, I slowly realised that a brilliant career is not about money, promotions or good reviews from other people (although all of these land in the nice-to-have file).
Read more: Want a career break? Don’t overthink it
Instead, it’s about having agency over your own career arc.
A job is a two-way process, so rather than becoming deeply invested in a role – working all hours and agreeing to everything without even really knowing why – I started to take ownership of my path. Which companies speak to me, and why? If I’m unhappy, what can I do?
By putting myself in the driving seat, I’ve opened up my horizons in a way I never considered possible before.
Life milestones don’t matter
Like many people, I had a keen idea of exactly when and how my life would pan out in my 20s. I wanted to race ahead on a timeline that saw marriage, house, babies and career promotion all slot neatly into place. I didn’t even question why I wanted these things, they just seemed to be evidence of a life done right (not even good or fun, merely correct).
Fast-forward to my 30s, and I’ve achieved some of these things – but also wildly sidetracked on others. I’ve come to realise that life goals don’t matter: everyone does things at their own pace. But more importantly, when you cut loose from the imaginary pressure of these milestones, the freedom is WOW.
Instead of feeling like you “have” to do certain things (and beating yourself up when you don’t), you can focus more closely on what you want to do. Step back, reassess, gain perspective: you have all the time in the world.
Facebook and Instagram really don’t matter
I was never someone who was hugely engaged in Facebook, even in my 20s. But I did feel more of a sense that I “had” to keep an eye on things there, like I was my own social media secretary. After a long day at work, I would have it in my mind that I needed to scroll through, comment and reply; as though doing so was a mark of my worth.
Read more: Risk-taking lessons from entrepreneurs
Now in my 30s, I use and love social media a lot – as part of my job. It’s a fantastic, free marketing tool, with so much potential for creative storytelling.
On a personal level, however, my attitude is a lot more un-bothered. I’m still on Facebook and Instagram; I like to see people’s photos now and again, especially far-flung loved ones. But I no longer feel the pull to update or engage.
Call me a kid of the 80s, but I can take it or leave it.
Your “family” is everything
By family, I mean whoever your crew is: your mates, your partner, your actual family and beyond.
In my 20s, my attitude to new people was, “please like me and if you like me, I’ll like you”. Yup, really playing it cool. In my 30s, I’ve still got that people-pleasing tic, but I’m learning to pay less attention to it.
Some people you click with in life, some you don’t. But instead of trying to keep everyone happy, I’ve come to realise that it’s “my people” who count.
Nowadays, I pour time and attention (of what little I have) into the relationships that mean something. These are the people that see me, get me and I can be totally unfiltered with – and vice versa. There’s nothing more grounding.
How you spend your time is how you live your life
My 20s were marked by a boom-or-bust approach to life. I was either grafting really hard in a job, or planning far-flung adventures that somehow never quite happened. There were grand ambitions, but lots of things were put off to tomorrow/next week/some unknown point in the future.
Time has taken on a different dimension in my 30s. It’s not that I feel like it’s running out. Rather, I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for it.
How you spend your hours is how you spend your life. I realised that if I am forever working and planning to escape “at some point” – that’s it, I will always be working. I have to be proactive to get out of that rut: do stuff, act on instinct, make it happen.
Equally, I now know that not everything “fun” has to be locked down into a major statement. Big adventures are brilliant, but so are the smaller details in-between.
Pub lunches in the sunshine, long walks, farmer’s markets on a Saturday morning. This is life, here and now – it’s happening right in front of you. So enjoy it.
Embrace your 30s and 40s with these three terrific trips
Celebrate life’s golden era with a group of like-minded solo travellers
Wonder at wildlife in Costa Rica
This sunny Central American nation is one of the bio-diverse places on the planet, and the potential for wildlife-spotting is unlimited. Join us as we kayak between the mangroves of Tortuguero National Park, a protected area of wilderness that’s home to green turtles, sloths, colourful parrots and more. Then, come tubing down the turquoise Rio Celeste river, and hike amid the lava fields of the iconic Arenal volcano.
Escape to smashing Sicily
From long lazy beach days to moreish aperitivo in the late afternoon sunshine, Italians sure know the secrets to a sweet life. Clamber aboard as we learn the art of Sicilian cooking in a chef’s home in Palermo, before body-rafting the Alcantara Gorges and hanging loose in hillside vineyards; not to mention a thrilling 4×4 cruise over the slopes of Mount Etna.
Stretch your limits in Jordan
Dive headfirst into the fascinating culture of this Middle Eastern kingdom, as we canyon through the Wadi Mujib and float effortlessly in the mineral-rich Dead Sea. Then it’s onward and upwards for a day-long hike through the Dana Biosphere Reserve (complete with star-gazing and a glimpse of Bedouin life), and a secret back route to the Rose Red City of Petra. All this, with a stunning finale of glamping and camel rides in the Wadi Rum.
Images: Flash Pack, Shutterstock, Movie Stills DB