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I turn 30 this year.
30 used to be the biggest milestone; I remember being 16, and about to leave school. Everything I wanted to do seemed so possible. I teach 16-year-old's now, and I do give them that withered, age-old advice "It goes too quickly," and "You'll look back and wish you had tried harder." I'm already picturing myself in a rocking chair, slippers on, with an old fat cat on my lap, and they are the picture of youth! It's so unfair! Yet, here it is, coming up around the bend. I WILL ACTUALLY BE 30... very soon.
Turning 29 was my worst birthday. I cried, which was daft, but I really looked at my life and realized that I'd better hurry up if I want to achieve what I thought I would before the big 3-0. I started to think about how much time I had left, which jobs I regretted and wasted time on; opportunities I was too scared to take, things I wish I had done differently. It was a very real fear and it still is, to some extent—the thought that we might not actually get to do everything we want to in life, and that it would all be a waste.
What actually happened through this list-writing process was that I realized that some my dreams I had when I was 16 had not vanished, and were still very possible.
When I was 24, I made a list of all the things I wanted to do before I was 25. It started off a tradition that I haven't been able to stop doing since. Lists are calming; lists are anxiety-reducing, stress-relieving, cathartic outpourings of your feelings and wishes and hopes. Each year I try to achieve just ONE of those things on that list. This year, for "The Big One," I am going to attempt every single one on my list.
1. Experience a sunset from somewhere new.
Travelling is good for the soul. Even if you can't get away abroad, get looking at trains and planes and cars or even just use your own two feet and go off on an adventure somewhere new. Travelling is like putting on a brand new pair of glasses; everything is bigger, brighter, and more colourful when you are experiencing culture, sand beneath your toes, lush jungle, busy, foggy cities, and it WILL change you for the better.
(I use STA Travel. They have great deals for students and teachers (I am both) and they also have a deposit scheme which starts from £50, so you can pay flights off bit by bit! It's certainly helped me a lot.)
2. Make music.
My band is like air to me; singing with my favourite boys is like therapy, and I'm going to finish our album this year if it kills me. If you play music, keep at it! Don't let your dreams slip away. If you've always wanted to play music, now's the time! Go and hit that open mic night, or find a karaoke bar with your mates. Make Youtube videos and show your skills. Don't put it off; just do it. It's good to express yourself and be creative.
3. Learn to cook 'that' dish.
Whether it's how not to overcook rice, how to make those delicious vegan banana muffins, how not to burn the toast, or how to make your mum's best-loved family dish, all 30-year-old's should be able to cook at least something. For me, it was updating my spice rack to create more flavourful curries. Ditch the takeaways, look up some recipes, and don't be scared. Cooking can be so much fun. It can be a way of being social with your friends, and there's nothing better than cooking for people you love.
4. See your friends (no, really!).
At this golden age of 29 my biggest regret this year is being so bogged down in my day job that I barely resurface to find time for my friends. My aim this year is to reconnect with those lovely folk I am so lucky to have in my life. People don't wait for you forever; lives change and people grow. Go show them how much they mean to you now, because life is short.
5. Conquer your fears.
What is your biggest phobia? Is it heights? Me too. That, and polystyrene (so weird!) That's why, this year, I'm going up the top of the Empire State Building. (Gulp!) You can't let these fears rule your life, and if we face them, we get stronger. Be that little bit stronger and whatever your fear; be it spiders, learning to drive, stage-fright, whatever... don't let it control you. You're nearly 30! Just face that fear head on.
6. Pick up that old hobby again.
Did you ever have something you loved so much as a child, or even a year back, that you just don't make time for any more? Do you regret it? When we are kids we make time for the things we love, and as adults, we tend not to. Dig out those old guitars, tool kits, baking tins, roller skates, karaoke machine, and just enjoy feeling like you have an extra skill again. It's going to make you feel ace.
7. Take a risk.
What's risky, to you? For me, it would be hauling my whole life to somewhere new, and not looking back. "I can't... I have commitments" I hear you say (because I am saying it too!) However, if we don't take risks, we never know where we could have gone in life. If you have an opportunity to be your best self and you don't know if it will come round again—TAKE IT. Believe me. You don't want to be 40 wishing you had asked the bank for that business loan ten years ago, or not asked that beautiful man/woman out just because you were too shy to. Go for your dreams.
8. STOP holding grudges.
Look back at people who have wronged you... and let it GO. We don't have time for this any more. Who has time to hate? Focusing on toxic, old relationships and people who don't deserve you will get you precisely nowhere. Hanging onto hatred is SO exhausting! Smile... think about what they taught you about life... and let it go. Be Elsa.
9. Wear more colour.
How many jobs have you had by now where you just had to wear boring clothes? You were at school, in uniform, for years. I don't know about you, but I need a little colour in my day. Inject your personality into the way you dress and your whole life will get a lift. I LOVE charity shops. You can take a risk without breaking your bank balance, and you give something back. If you're nervous, start with just one pop of colour, like a red shoe, or a pair of coloured earrings. Find your style, find your uniqueness, and live your truth. Be the best version of you on the outside and others will see it too. Of course, if you like black, wear black! It's you.
10. Find your own 'home.'
Do you still live with parents? Oh, honey, no. You're nearly 30. Grab that independence and know what it feels like to be truly responsible for yourself. It will help you grow. It's scary at first, but how can you know yourself if you've never found your own space? It doesn't have to be expensive, look around. If, like me, you've lived on your own since you were 17, then finding a space you actually like is equally important, so do it up! Don't put up with rubbish neighbours. Find out what you're able to do in a rented home in terms of DIY (I'm putting a tent in my living room soon) or maybe you've got the funds to get a mortgage. If so, make sure you've got all the facts about where you live, crime rates, etc before you commit. It doesn't matter if you've got a beautiful bathroom if the neighbours are taking crack at 3 AM. Make your home your SANCTUARY, and love where you live.
11. Treat yourself to something you've always wanted.
I've always wanted to travel the world, so my treat to myself this year is a solo trip to India. Believe me, I cannot afford it, but I'm saving. It could be that you want to start photography, or that you want a new wardrobe, a car, a radical haircut, a dog, or your ears pierced. Maybe it's a huge bouquet delivered at work. Saying "thank you" and "well done" to yourself will always feel good and it's something we always tend to neglect. You deserve it.
12. Give something back to charity.
We live in a world of hurt, pain, and suffering. Giving your money is one thing, but giving time and human effort is another. Have a look at some volunteering opportunities or maybe donate your time on Christmas day to look after the homeless or less fortunate. If you have a load of canned food in your cupboard that's been there six months, go give it to the nearest foodbank. If you have too many clothes, make room in that wardrobe and give them to someone who really needs a lift. Buy from charity shops. If you're going abroad, see if you can help out at sanctuaries and schools. It really DOES make a difference and you will feel completely amazing. It's never too late to start habits that help humanity.
13. Start looking after your body.
If you find yourself huffing and puffing up a flight of stairs, it might be time to change. How is your nearly-30-year-old body going to make it to 100 if you're on the couch most nights? The simple answer is, it won't. Move, run, walk, stretch, work out, lift weights (just choose something—you don't need a gym membership!) and your body will thank you. If your metabolism hasn't started slowing down yet and you can still manage two huge Domino's pizzas every night, when it does hit, you're going to be very, very stuck, my friend. Keep active.
I started with this simple in-bed yoga routine every morning. Five minutes of sleepy stretches from the very talented Boho Beautiful team.
This is one yoga routine you can do IN BED!
14. Start looking after your diet.
"You are what you eat" is not true, otherwise I would be an avocado. That said, I went veggie two years ago and it's the best decision I ever made. I won't pedal you veggie/vegan info, but what I will say is "Enjoy your food, but only eat what makes you feel good."
For me, it's too much bread or dairy. It makes me tired and anxious. Cut them out. If that burger tastes great but ten minutes after eating you're bloated and feeling nauseous, listen to your body. It knows what you can handle and what you can't. It took me three weeks to break a lifetime of habits and I've never looked back. Watch some documentaries on Netflix about food, and see where it comes from. Make INFORMED decisions about what you're eating and then you can choose what you munch on :)
15. Find something you're really GOOD at.
Have you ever thought "I'm not talented at anything"? I'm willing to bet that you have at least one very special skill that no-one you know can do better. It makes you feel GREAT when your skills are acknowledged and gives you confidence and VALUE. No one is going to find that special thing but you. It's part of your soul. Now go be excellent at it, and own it!
16. Take care of your mental health.
This is probably the most important point on this list for me, and for you, too. One tiny bit of advice; know yourself. If you feel off, run-down, anxious, depressed, if you are hurting and you don't know why, now is the time to take action. People hang on, suffering for years before they finally decide to do something and get some help. This year I attended counselling sessions and it has changed my life, giving me coping mechanisms I need to function. Like BT used to say in that advert: It's good to talk. REALLY GOOD. Open up to someone and let that bad stuff out. Be the best you can be at 30 and take control of your mental health before it takes control of you. It's okay not to be okay.
17. Get educated.
Take a course, pass those exams, learn to teach, learn to sew, learn a new skill, read those classic books you never got round to reading. Be INFORMED on politics and the environment, and educate others on those things, too. Pass those gems of knowledge on. Tolerance is ok but acceptance is better. Let's make our world the best kind of world it can be, and to do that, we need informed, educated people. Not people who say "I don't know what to do about it" but people who say "What can we do about it." Let's bring about change in the world.
18. Get a tattoo (or use stickers or henna).
Create something beautiful and uniquely you, and put it on your person. Henna is great for imagining what a tattoo could look like, and there's great online shops now who print those wash-off ones, too! Tattoos don't have to be huge, anywhere visible, or unsightly. They can be beautiful tributes to those we love, and daily reminders of who we are.
19. Learn to drive.
At the ripe old age of 29, I can't drive. Memories of learning involve a ditch, a tree, and my mum screaming. Now that I'm wanting to live in the countryside, it is impossible for me to do so unless I learn. The time is NOW! If you want kids, you might need a vehicle one day. Also—why not? It's a great skill! Get your helicopter license while you're at it! Your pilot's license! Your moped license! Or just learn to ride a bicycle, if you haven't before. You'll see more of the world this way.
20. Appreciate your naked body!
You are NEVER going to look this young again. Appreciate it, and do something silly like skinny-dipping, modelling for an art class, or maybe take a naked pic for you to hold onto when you're 80 and your lumps and bumps are much lower down! Aging is beautiful, yes, but you're going to want a reminder of "that bod" that you work so hard on, or maybe just to give yourself something to laugh at later down the line. DO IT! It's freeing! I've asked a photographer friend to take one for me and I'm TERRIFIED, but hey, if ANTM can do it....
21. Learn to speak the basics in another language.
Let's face it, how many times have we desperately tried to recall our secondary-school French, or a greeting in Spanish? The world is beautiful and multi-cultural, and English just isn't enough any more. It's respectful to know some basics if you are travelling to another country, and it might just get you out of a tight spot! I know it has for me. There's loads of apps that can help; just give it a go!
22. Learn to meditate.
Taking five minutes out of our busy day can seem daunting. Try this breathing technique:
Hold one finger over one nostril and breathe in slowly through the open one. Now switch and hold another finger over the other nostril. Breathe out slowly. Switch again and breathe in. Repeat. This is all you need to do to find some balance. As you breathe, try to breathe out the bad thoughts and breathe in something good which has happened that day. It's calming.
23. Manage your money a bit better.
Sit down. Have a cup of coffee. Look at your debts. Do you still want these when you are 50? No? Then contact people, arrange payments, or admit you need help if you do. Don't hide letters, ignore things (though I admit it's easy to do.) You want a clean slate, and a good idea of where you'll be in the future. It's very freeing. Imagine coming out the other side of 30 as a clear-headed person about your finances. Sounds ace! So do it. Look online for debt services in your area but do NOT turn to loan sharks or payday loans; they won't solve it.
How much can you afford to save per week/ day? My outgoings are more than my incomings, but I'm aware I'm going to need some savings at some point. (Honestly, I'm useless.) There are various apps such as Chip, which save for you. They calculate, using an algorithm, how much you usually spend, and then take a tiny bit of that and pop it into the chip account for you, which you can then withdraw as and when you need. If you're better with pennies, get a jar and empty your pockets of change when you come home at night. It comes in REALLY handy for the bus if you're ever stuck, and it's rewarding seeing it full up. Now treat yourself to something or save even further for a long-term goal. Being nearly 30 is hard and your cash goes fast. Try to save some for some lovely things. I'll try it with you!
'chip' - Which Saves Money for You
24. Ask for a payrise/ go for that new job.
Don't stay stuck. You've worked hard, you deserve the best. Be bold, be brave, and ask for what you want. If they don't see the best in you, someone else will. Always look for more.
25. Find someone to rely on.
Do you have one person in your life you can run to when things get bad? Maybe you have multiple people who give you good advice. Know who to moan to, who to lean on, and who to get advice from. Sometimes those people aren't your nearest and dearest, but could be a work colleague, an old school friend, or your manager. Just be careful to reciprocate, and make these people your mentors in life. Appreciate them. Don't be caught in a situation where you don't know who to turn to. We need people. If you don't have those people in your life, it might be time to make some changes.
26. Know what you want from your relationship.
This is a tough one. We're all guilty of "settling," "not-committing" or just coasting along. But you're nearly 30, and although that doesn't mean you should be in a relationship (you independent thing, you!) you should know how you want to be treated and let people treat you well, not badly. Don't stay in a toxic relationship and move on if it's not serving you well. Know your worth. You've also still got all the time in the world to have fun, so don't think you have to just try one flavour of ice cream!
27. Get a pet.
You always wanted one; just make sure you get the right one! A pet can completely enrich your life. My rescue cat "Sauce" is this little purring ball of comfort when I get home from work, and he's the first one I miss if I go away. He's a pain in the bum, but my goodness, he makes me laugh. I don't know what I would do without him. So if it's a dog, a parrot, a snake, a cat, a horse, a rabbit or a badger... have something which will love you unconditionally and it will make you much happier. Studies show that stroking animals reduces stress, so visit some shelters (always try to adopt rescue animals first please. They all need homes!) and see if they can make you smile every day.
'Sauce' - My Rescue Cat
28. Learn some DIY.
Do you know how to: put up a shelf, bleed a radiator, fix a fuse in a plug, mend a lightbulb, wallpaper a wall, paint, put a lock on a door, plumb in a washing machine, or make a piece of furniture? Well, get you! These are all things that we might like to be able to do but just have never had the opportunity or the knowledge. NOW is the time to learn, you're nearly 30! Get googling "how to fix a lightbulb" and be your best independent self. Your parents/other half/ landlord can't do it forever and it gives you a real sense of achievement to be able to fix things. Plus it's much cheaper than an engineer if something goes down.
29. Take your holidays.
Take your holidays from work. Use them well. Use them for things that make you HAPPY. Don't forget them or take the money instead; use that time to focus on you and stop, for goodness sake, taking your work home. Having a good work-life-balance is the key to having low stress. I used to take the pay for my holidays and work all the way through the year. Don't let your employers bully you into taking time off when you don't want it; they are yours to take and you need to use them when you want to. Be brave. Take a few weeks at a time and have a REAL holiday for once! The time is now!
30. The final and most important one.
It's almost here, and you might be panicking. You might have done none of the above, or you might be on 26 and you've run out of money/time/patience. My final item on this sort-of "bucket-list" is... BREATHE. Look for the little achievements, the small things that have happened this year which have made you smile, made you happy, given you fantastic memories, or have made you glad, made you cry, made you stronger... cherish them. This is all we get, this is all we have, and all we are. LITTLE VICTORIES are so important in your nearly-30 life. The big goals can be daunting. The search for happiness is never-ending. But if you try to focus on those small things which you have achieved, they soon turn into big things and big achievements and before you know it, 29 wasn't such a waste, after all.