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30 Things I Have Learned At 30

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30 Things I Have Learned At 30 |

I did it — I turned 30 today!!!

Since decade markers tend to invite a fair share of introspection, I decided to make a list (whoo!) of 30 things I have learned in the past ten years to celebrate. It’s far from exhaustive, and I’ll warn you that it’s super random coming at the end of a long day. But as cheesy as it may be, making these sort of lists have always been helpful for me in gaining perspective and drawing a line in the sand to help see where I’ve been and where I’m going. (And of course, I’m sure this will be plenty amusing to read over in another ten years.)  :)

So here is my 30 at 30!

30 Things I Have Learned At 30 |

30 Things I Have Learned At 30

1. Invest in experiences, not stuff.

The temptation will always be there to buy more stuff — for your home, your wardrobe, your transportation, you name it. But I firmly believe that the best investments I’ve made in my twenties were in experiences I could share with friends. From nights out, to trips, to cups of coffee, to giving and more. Invest in people and memories.

2. Homeownership is a part-time job.

Buying a home is awesome, but way more work than renting. Only dive in if you’re ready to commit lots of extra time (and money) into home repairs and maintenance. It’s a fantastic experience if you love it. Otherwise, there’s noooo shame in renting. :)

3. Puppies are super-cute, but a super-lot of work.

As much as I’ve loved raising my little guy from the time he was 6 weeks old, my next dog will definitely be an older housebroken dog who needs a home…who I’m sure will be just as cute!

4. Your college major doesn’t matter.

I majored in vocal music performance (opera), and am now a full-time food blogger. And have about 10 close friends who have ended up in equally surprising career fields. Granted, if you want to become a nurse, it’s probably wise to get a B.A. in nursing. But for most professions, an undergraduate degree is now just a prerequisite. So don’t stress if you don’t have your career 100% figured out at age 20.

5. Travel NOW.

We live in a remarkable time in history when travel is accessible and inexpensive. So if you have vacation days, don’t hoard them — use them!  Even if it’s just to take a day or two off for a “staycation” to explore your city, do it now. The longer you wait, the more excuses you’ll have to keep waiting. So wherever and whenever you can afford to go, travel now!

6. Give therapy a try.

My pastor once said that going to therapy should be considered a spiritual discipline. I think there’s definitely some truth to that. For all of the time and attention we give to our physical health and wellness, the same attention is needed to keep our minds and hearts on track. So whether you think you “need” it or not, find a therapist you trust and at least once or twice a year — just go. Think of it like going to get an annual “physical” for your mind. It will be a gift to those around you, and most importantly, to yourself.

7. Online dating is not for everyone.

Been there. Tried it (many times). Could probably write a book on some of the amusing dates I have been on, and an even better book on how not to write your dating profile. (Guys, we girls don’t want to see a pic of your car, you with your shirt off, your party pic with half of a girlfriend cropped out, a scenic pic where you are 1-cm tall, or a bio line about how you “love a night out, but can also enjoy a quiet night in”.)  Ha, ok, back to a more serious note. While I love that online dating is a modern option, and I know many people now who have loved and even met their spouce on EHarm or Match, I’ve came to the conclusion years ago and finally let myself recently accept that online dating is just not my thing. I’d much rather meet someone through a friend, or my favorite coffee shop. So if it takes awhile longer, so be it. :)

8. Comparison sucks.

And as a zillion Pinterest images will tell you, comparison will rob you of your joy, and so many other good things in life. I know it full well. So when you’re tempted to try and compare your life to someone else’s, encourage your friends to help you to stop. Your story is uniquely and wonderfully yours, so live it out to the fullest, and trust that it is good and enough. This world needs you to be Y-O-U. :-)

9. A gallon of paint = the best $30 you’ll ever spend on decorating.

If you’re feeling the redecorating itch, hop over to Home Depot and pick up a gallon of paint. It’s way cheaper than buying new furnishings or accessories, only takes an afternoon to complete, and will completely transform the space into something new. As someone who has maybe a little too much experience painting and re-painting a house, I would highly recommend (1) Behr Premium Plus (2) always testing with the $3 mini sample (3) having a paint party and inviting friends to help.

10. Introversion is a beautiful thing.

One third of the population now identifies themselves as introverts – myself included. And while there are still many misconceptions about introverts, it seems like introverts are getting more press lately, and are being appreciated and respected for the strengths they offer. Whether it’s in schools, in the workplace, or in social settings, they are being given more freedom to be who they are. And I think that’s a fabulous, beautiful thing. So if you love being around people but draw your energy from time alone, do it with pride! :)

11. Often the best mentors are those just one step ahead of you.

When I was 20, there was a lot of talk (especially in Christian circles) about gleaning wisdom from our grandparents and those nearing the end of their lives. But while I adore spending time with that generation and have much to learn from them, I’ve noticed that some of the best mentors in life seem to be those just one or two steps ahead. If you’re in high school, it’s the twenty-something’s who you will probably most admire. If you’re a recent college grad, it’s those who are 5-10 years into their careers and can show you the ropes. If you’re ready to get engaged, it’s the couple who has celebrated a few wedding anniversaries. And on and on. So if you’re looking for some advice and inspiration, look to those a few steps ahead. And do the same for those following behind.

12. My parents are cool.

I always grew up thinking my parents did cool stuff. They are entrepreneurs, they volunteer selflessly (and often long-term) with a wide range of projects, they became serious bike-riders upon empty nesting, they travel to interesting places, they give generously, they are avid learners, they are big entertainers, and they have stayed with their same church for nearly 40 years. But the best part is that they don’t do any of this because it’s “cool”. I know many people who have to convince themselves to do these sort of good things because it’s what they “should” do, or it’s what’s hip or popular. But with my parents, it seems like nearly all of this comes naturally to them, as if giving up your summer vacation to go volunteer on a reservation in New Mexico is just what normal people do. I think that’s pretty cool. And more importantly, I think that they’re pretty cool. :-)

13. Book clubs rock.

Mine is the absolute highlight of my month, for about a million reasons. If you love to read, find one or start one.

14. Friendships can be seasonal, and that’s ok.

This is one thing that has been hard for me to learn. My friendships tend to run deep. And when jobs, homes, marriages, babies, or life changes, and individual friendships or social groups begin to shift, my tendency is always to cling to how things have been and work to maintain the same level of depth or social rhythms. But seasons change, and that’s a good thing. And friendships can have their seasons, and that’s a good thing too. The true friendships will always find a way to sustain during the times when you are extra close, and then times when Facebook or occasional coffee dates or phone calls will help you stay in touch. It all works out. :)

15. I like the Church.

After having spent the last decade belonging to various churches, and even working for 7 years at a megachurch, I have been involved in more than my share of conversations about how people “do church” (an oxymoron of a catchphrase in itself, since the church is the people, right?). Thanks to the church, I have come to know Christ and have my life completely changed for the better. And thanks to the church, I’ve been hurt and seen many of its flaws and failures way too close-up. But at the end of the day, I still like the church. And I give it props. Any organizational expert would tell you that a church is one of the hardest organizations to organize and lead well, but year after year people keep with it, and do so with lots of selflessness, mistakes, hope, doubt, and love. And the world is overall better for it.

16. Nerds turn out to be the cool kids.

So bookworms, be encouraged. You may not be the most popular kids on the block in high school, but your time will come. Most of the coolest, most artistic, most interesting, most thoughtful people I know would probably classify themselves as nerds or intellectuals. And they are often the ones setting the trends, paving new paths, and pretty much changing the world.

17. Try to break a sweat every day.

Even if you can’t fit in a full workout, do something to get your heart rate up at least once a day. It will really make a difference.

18. Never make big decisions (or write important emails) after 9pm.

Just don’t. Sleeping on it is always a good idea.

19. Soak up the sun (with sunscreen).

I believe now more than ever that we were created for sunlight. The more of it I have in a day, the better I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally! Science confirms it. My body confirms it. And I’m pretty sure creation confirms it. So soak it up! However, since we live in the enlightened age of 2013, be sure to enjoy it under the protection of the highest SPF numbers you can find. :)

20. I love a good glass of wine.

In my twenties, I have found this to be true. Especially a dry red. Especially with some good cheese. And especially with good friends. Mmm.

21. Chronic pain is exhausting.

Complications from a failed back surgery have left me riding a roller coaster of different levels of chronic pain over the past decade. And although my situation is so minor in comparison to so many, it has brought a new admiration for those who press on through significant pain day after day. In a million little ways, chronic pain just makes living the daily life you want to live, and being the person you want to be harder. So for those in your life who struggle, give them extra support and grace.

22. You can’t be anything you want.

Encouraging parents around the world often tell their kids that they can be anything they want when they grow up. And while in some ways that’s true, in many ways it’s not. Not everyone is given the same opportunities to chase after their dreams. And even for those who have much, you cannot achieve everything through sheer effort. We are all born with different callings, so if something’s not going as you had hoped or planned, give yourself the freedom to reassess. And look to your friends and the Lord for input. And then keep recalculating until you find where you need to be.

23. Give thanks…lots and lots of thanks…for good friends.

They are one of the best gifts in this life, and are meant to be treasured. I am so, so grateful for those I am privileged to call friends. :)

24. The Enneagram GETS it.

I have taken SO many personality tests over the last decade. And while all have been informative, none have challenged, encouraged and inspired me like the Enneagram. I am very clearly a “3”, and learning more about that has been like a year’s worth of therapy bottled into a few books. For those who have not studied it, I highly recommend this book, and for a Christian perspective on the subject, this book.

25. Snobbery is overrated.

I’m all for people developing thoughtful and even strong opinions on a host of topics. But it makes me a little sad to keep hearing the trend of people proudly identifying themselves as a “music snob” or a “literature snob” or whatever their interests may be. I know it may be an issue of semantics, but any kind of snobbery implies judgement and negativity and looking down on others, which closes the door on genuine learning and conversation. So if you’re passionate about something, don’t be snob. Be a fan!

26. Gummy vitamins are brilliant.

I have purchased an embarrassing amount of vitamins in the last decade. And fallen off the vitamin “wagon” an equally embarrassing amount of times. But whoever invented gummy vitamins is freaking brilliant. Thanks to them, I happily look forward to eating my little bears and getting extra nutrients every day.

27. One person really can make a difference…for better and worse.

I know it sounds cliche, but every little decision you make during the day has the potential to make the world a better or worse place. From the vendors to where you buy food and clothing, to the way you drive down the road, to the people with whom you spend your time, to how you vote, to the words you speak. But especially in terms of social justice, one person’s individual efforts can make a tremendous difference in someone’s quality of life halfway around the world. And thanks to modern technology and travel, you can now witness that with your own eyes and build a relationship with that person. So take the opportunity to make a good difference, and give generously.

28. Nooch + Popcorn = Heaven

Ten years ago, I would have given you a serious raise of the eyebrow if you had told me that “nutritional yeast” would replace butter as my favorite popcorn topping. But now I know. And now I happily eat it all the time.

29. “My faith is like shifting sand…

…changed by every wave, my faith is like shifting sand, so I’ll stand on grace.”

Little did I know when I learned this line from a Caedmon’s Call song in college how true it would ring. In my twenties, I somehow went on an unintentional tour of Christian tradition and theology — from praying in the Spirit with charismatics, to observing the daily office with the Anglicans, to revering the Lord’s sovereignty with the Reformed, to feeling the truth of free will deep in my bones with the Methodists, to worshiping with thoughtful Christians in the inner-city, to serving alongside remarkably selfless believers in the ‘burbs, to times of despairing doubt, to relieving certainty, and everything in between. At the time, every season seemed like the natural next step, but looking back I recognize it has been quite the wild ride.

But throughout the subtle and larger changes in tradition or theology along the way, the Lord has remained steadfast. And strong. And exceedingly gracious to me. So although I’m sure my life likely has more shifting sand to come, I am so grateful to at least always know I can stand on the Lord’s grace.

He really is faithful.

30. I am ready for my thirties!!

I’ve loved most of my 20’s, but am really looking forward to this new decade. So bring it on, 30’s!

Your turn! What would you add to this list?

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52 comments on “30 Things I Have Learned At 30”

  1. HB Ali !
    I read your post with a lot of pleasure ! Your 30 things are really making sense to me, even if I just turned 35 !
    You’ll see there is more too come, to learn and experiment during the 30’s.
    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I love looking back at the end of a year, especially when able to pinpoint so many ways that the Lord has been at work, even when you didn’t realize. You have wonderful things ahead of you, I have no doubt! Thank YOU for being a blessing to all your readers!

  3. When I turned 30, one of my good friends made a similar check list and wrote them all down in a little notebook and gave it to me as a present. It’s one of my most sentimental possessions. I love your list, and its certainly pertinent no matter what age any of us are. I would just add that sometimes you just need to be impulsive and put the plan to the side. That’s when the most memorable things happen. Hopefully all for the good :) Happy birthday wise woman of 30.

  4. Welcome to your 30’s Ali!! Best years ever :) So fun meeting you last weekend, looking forward to more chit chat time in Austin. xoxo

  5. Wonderful list Ali. Happy Birthday.

  6. Number 7 is TRUE. And I wish more people would talk about it instead of assuming that it should work for everyone – especially if it worked for them!

  7. What an incredible list, Ali! I kept saying, “yep…yep…yep…” I read down the page. You’re a wise and thoughtful woman, and I’m so proud to call you my friend! I want to take credit for 28, but I think someone else may have told you first. When I was in my twenties, my friend Heidi ( told me that being in your 30s was incredible because you finally started to figure out who you are and actually stop caring what other people think about it (number 8, kind of). I’ve found that to be true. As well as advice from my Aunt Michelle, who’s just a little more than a decade in front of me, who told me not to worry about mythical golden days (college, being in your 20s, etc.) being over forever: “It just keeps getting better and better.” I know that will be true for you, too!

  8. 30 reasons why I simply adore you. This is an amazing, thoughtful list. You are amazing!

  9. Happy Birthday! This is a great list, I feel like so many of these things are things I have loved discovering so far in my 20s.

  10. Love this! My favorite is #1 – invest time in experiences, not stuff. Well said! :)

  11. Hope your birthday was fantastic! Great list. Welcome to the 30s.

  12. Ali, you are the best! This list reflects how beautiful you are inside and out. I think turning 30 is the best thing in the world! Cheers girlfriend!

  13. At 58, I’ve learned that you can learn a lot from your 30 year old daughter. I love you. I feel lucky to be a part of your life. I look forward to learning much more from you and count each day and each year as a blessing.

  14. You, sweet Ali, are wise beyond your years!

  15. Now that I am over 50 I agree with so much of what you said, especially about things. A few years ago I sold my house and put almost everything I owned on the curb. It was an amazing cleansing. The best part is a lot of people got a lot of cool free stuff and I started over with less stuff.

  16. Woah. LOVED this list. Such wonderful insight into the process of turning thirty as well as into your own lovely personality. For myself I would simply add that it is important to laugh every single day, and often at yourself. I have learned so much about the power of comedy and self-deprecation in the face of pain and difficulty…

  17. This is a great list. Thanks for sharing, Ali! And welcome to a great decade.

  18. LOVE this list, Ali! As someone who is about to pass the halfway mark on her 20s, I’m so encouraged by your wisdom and what you’ve gathered based on your experiences. Definitely taking these to heart!

  19. Love this post! My college major and grad school major does not matter at all! Glad I found food blogging though. I couldn’t be happier! And dude, puppies are so cute but Jason and I are so hesitant to get one because of all the work that has to be put in. And yes on the travel! Jason and I need to do major traveling before the babies come!

  20. Girl, Happy Birthday! I’m so proud of you and your blog and the way you live your life. You are an amazing person. So glad we got to meet. I’m working on my “50” list, too. I wonder how many of our things will cross over? hugs!

  21. Wonderful post, Ali! You’re a beautiful lady inside and out! Thanks for sharing this with us! :)

  22. This just gave me 30 more reasons to absolutely adore you! As if I needed more!
    Ali, I honestly loved reading this post. It made me excited for growing into myself and my blog. Thank you!

  23. Hope you had a wonderful birthday! Love this list, it so encouraged my heart, and the gummy vitamins made me laugh :).

  24. Happy Birthday, Ali! This is a great list! I’m hitting 30 this September myself.

  25. Ahh! Ali, I so freaking adore this post! Even though I’m half your age, I’m totally agreeing with all of it! I found this so encouraging too. I’ve been struggling with friend issues and find them to jut be coming and going even when I think it’s a true close friendship. I’m learning a lot through it and am becoming dependent on God for my happiness. Thanks so much for sharing!

  26. This is beautiful!! Happy Birthday! I have 6 months till I’m 30. haha What I would add: “Make peace with your past”. I was a failed Nursing School student and thought I HAD to be a nurse because everyone was relying on me to be one. Now, I am still in Health but MUCH happier..and even though I still get the “Oh, you should’ve been a nurse”, I need to know it wasn’t my path! :)

  27. So glad you shared this list with all of us. Definitely hit the spot with many of them.

  28. Thank you for writing that. I am midway to 30, and I found it helpful–especially #22.

  29. I thoroughly enjoyed your list. I plan on sharing it with my daughter. You have grown into a remarkable young lady. I wish you the best.

  30. Thanks for sharing this, Ali! Wonderful list. Happy birthday!

  31. Soooo confused and intrigued by this nooch stuff…. ha. Off to google I go.

  32. What a beautiful person you are inside and out! So inspiring!

  33. I’m so glad to have got to known you Ali, this post is just so full of wise words and lessons. I’m turning 30 later this year and, like you, I’m excited about what my thirties might bring and I’m ready to embrace it.

  34. 18!! You should add or before 7am lol I make my worst email mistakes early and late. My brain just isn’t functioning right. Love your list! Can’t wait to see what you learn in the coming years :)

  35. What a great post Ali. First thing – Happy belated birthday! #1 – so true, there’s so much more to life than Miss Me Jeans or a fancy car. #7 – how I met my husband – and could co-write the book with you on the freaky-deekies out there in cyber dating land. #12 – I can’t wait for the day my daughter says that about me. The end. :) Again – Happy Birthday!! xo

  36. I just stumbled upon your page and I love this! I am 29 and have been thinking these same things lately. One thing I would add is that it is ok if your life goes “out of order”. I had a baby at 22, went to school to get my degree, then bought a house, then got married and then went back to school again. You should never stop learning or trying to better yourself no matter what. :)

  37. Ali, cannot believe you are 30 years old. Where has that time gone? Loved your list!! You do have cool parents. Have known them and you and Sarah since your mom and dad came to the first Needlework Market. So glad you have found an occupation that you love. It seems to suit you. Happy birthday and here’s to many, many more!!

  38. Found you through your tweet of your airplane seat next to Kristin from IGE, and 20 minutes later, I’m hooked on 5 new blogs! You’ve got a great team of girls. And amen to the enneagram, sister! Understanding it has done wonders for me (a 31-yr old “4”) and my “8” husband. Such good stuff.

  39. Ali, I so enjoyed reading this. So far I’ve really only gotten to know your food (which is INCREDIBLE, by the way), but I love seeing this more personal piece about you too. I identify with so much in this list, especially the part of loving the church. I’ve been hurt, challenged, encouraged, broken, and loved by the church. I struggled for awhile (and still do occasionally) about whether it all really matters. But deep down, I know it does. I know all the messed up broken people in the church are shaping me. Doing life with them–the highs and lows, the beautiful and the ugly, is making me better. And all of our rough edges are rubbing away at each other, making us softer, gentler, more gracious people. That’s why I love the church. St. Augustine has an amazing quote that I think of often, “The church is a whore, but she’s my mother.” Indeed. I hope to keep getting to know you better through your blog–we share a lot in common. :)

  40. Happy birthday Ali! What a great list. I completely agree with your take on online dating (it’s so not for me either), and I just learned about the enneagram in the last year – so fascinating!

  41. I loved the feeling of the 30’s. I had all 3 kids, our 2nd home and the beginning of security. I felt grown up and knew myself. But the 40’s, although they come with things I could do without, have been freeing. I learned to say NO! and Bite Me! at 40. You stop caring what other people think and start living for what makes you happy, no approval. It’s freeing!

  42. Wow. Not sure if I will add anything particularly meaningful to this but- just so much yes.

    So many people jump into things like home ownership or pet ownership (or even, sadly parenthood) unaware or willfully ignorant of all the work involved. It is great so long as you realize it! Also loved all your thoughts on your spiritual journey and on your career. That is true that you don’t always end up where you thought and that’s okay (better than okay sometimes!)

  43. These are great! Sounds like you’ve learned a whole lot :)

  44. Wow! Love this article so much! Kinda disagree with #22, but I totally see where you are coming from. I am so looking forward to researching Enneagram. Never heard of it? Thanks!!

  45. What a great list! So many people try with all their might to fight aging, without realizing what a blessing it truly is. I enjoyed turning 30 and then last year I enjoyed turning 40 (although I won’t lie…it did sting a little the first couple of times I said it out loud, but I quickly got used to it). It’s all in the attitude and you’ve got a great one…Wishing you all the best! :)

  46. I enjoyed reading your list, and based on my limited exposure to you I can agree that you are a 3 (Enneagram)! The way you have embraced your life’s experiences shine through in your wise words. My favorites were 1, 5, 8, and 23. :)

  47. I turn 30 in 11 days… Life has brought me so much more before this milestone than I could ever imagine (good and not-as-good)! And, I must say, “AMEN!” to 1, 8, 10, and 29! Hooray for our thirties!!

  48. I love this list! I turn 30 in, oh 21 days or so… so the timing is perfect. (Even though this post is old, but whatevs.) Also? I kind of think we are the same person in a lot of ways. (And that “my faith is like shifting sand” song TOTALLY takes me back to college! Caedmon’s call was a huge part of my “college soundtrack.” I guess that makes sense because we would’ve been in college around the same time?) My husband is your ad manager, Andy (AdThrive), and he occasionally sends me posts of his bloggers that he thinks I’ll love. He was totally right. Digging your blog hard, lady! :)

  49. I feel like I’ve read a million of these types of lists, but yours rang true with me in so many ways. Maybe it’s because I turned 30 this year as well or maybe we just have a similar outlook on life! I really appreciate it and agree with everything you’ve included, except #28 which I just need to research as I’ve never heard of it!