Dreading your 30s is common, even natural, but it's entirely unnecessary. I'm speaking from a place of experience here because full disclosure: I'll be 32 my next birthday (which somehow sounds younger than 31; odd numbers are just so ugly). Besides that, my darling Better Half just had her 30th birthday (although she looks about 20 and we should all hate her for that). During the run up to my own 3-0, I went through some hardcore depression – but here's the thing, it's because I thought dreading your 30s was a rite of passage, a must, and not necessarily because I was at all disappointed in my life. If you're approaching your 30th year, don't fret, don't feel old, and don't fall prey to any misconceptions. When you stop and think about it, you don't have anything to dread.
1. You Have Perspective
If you're really dreading your 30s, I want you to think about the perspective you have now. Stop and think about it. Isn't it easier to throw off past hurts now, and new ones? Don't you have a tendency to view things from the other person's point of view? Don't you try to pay it forward more often, because you know how blessed you are? That perspective will serve you well during your entire decade – and beyond.
2. You Appreciate Time
I wasted so much time in my 20s, time I'll never get back. It would be all too easy to mourn that time so much that I waste what I have now, but eff that. My time management skills are like super powers now. I value the time that I have to work, to have fun, to spend with my family, to read to my heart's content, to play the hell out of some Grand Theft Auto, and to sleep – of course. Your 30s help you appreciate the time you have, and you'll learn how to spend it better all through your life.
3. Your Life Doesn't End
You woke up on your 30th birthday, right? And if you haven't reached it yet, I promise, you'll wake up. I secretly believed that 30 wouldn't really happen to me, that I'd be stuck in arrested development, and that life as I knew it would end. It didn't. It won't for you either. You won't wake up with sags, wrinkles, grey hair, and crow's feet. You'll wake up radiant, and you'll stay that way.
4. You Enter the University of Life
To be fair, I know lots of strong young women are already firmly enrolled in the University of Life. My point here is that by the time you enter your 30s, you're there whether you wanted to be or not. You're living life, not gearing up or preparing for it. It's here, it's now, it's yours – and it's thrilling. You get hold of yourself in your 30s – that perspective thing, see.
5. You've Experienced Things
You experience things all your life. You may have gone through experiences both good and bad all throughout your 20s. The thing is that once you hit your 30s, the lessons those experiences taught you really come into play, and you can use them. Even if you suffered untold tragedies and losses, you can now turn them to your advantage. You have the tools you need.
6. You Have Less Stress
Okay, maybe I shouldn't say “less stress,” maybe I should say “different stress.” Because now you have stress about your life, you may still stress about your relationships, and you probably stress about bills occasionally. The thing is, however, you're not worrying about why you didn't get invited to your classmate or coworker's birthday party now, because you know it doesn't matter. Furthermore, the things that do cause you stress? You have a better handle on them – thanks to the added experience and perspective.
7. You Please Yourself
How much of your 20s did you spend trying to fit in or please other people? Even if you only suffered through that during your college years or your first years in the job market, it's too much time. You don't need to please anyone but yourself. You know that in your mind and your heart, but it's difficult in practice – until you hit your 30s. It might even take you until 32 or 34, but at some point you'll stop giving into the urge to please other people and you'll start pleasing yourself. If there's something you really want to do, you'll find a way to do it, even if the court of peer opinion doesn't think it's cool.
8. You Know What You Want
Similarly, you have a better idea of what you want in your 30s. By now you probably know if you want to get married and have children, if you want to be child-free, if you want to be single, and so on. You know what you want to do with your life, or you at least have an idea. You know if you want to fall in with the latest trends or splash out in something all your own. You know it, and you're fully equipped to rock it because your 30s also bring more self confidence.
9. You Have More Security
Even if you're not in your dream job yet, you probably have more financial security than you had in your 20s. If you are in a relationship, whether you're married or not, you have security in that aspect of your life. Most importantly, you're secure in yourself.
10. You Know Who You Are
Why? Because you know who you are. Maybe you've come to terms with your religion, your sexuality, your life choices, your job, and even your political affiliations. You spent your 20s learning what made you happy, and hopefully now you know. More than that, now you're ready to own it.
11. You're Really Grown up
You have your own place, you might have a partner and some kids, and you hopefully have a great job. Even if you're still single or in school, you're a grown up now. That's not to say you can't be a kid at heart, but your 20s prepared you for this. Let me paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw here, because this might be one of the smartest things she ever said: your 20s are for having fun; your 30s are for learning lessons; and your 40s are for buying the drinks. You're learning your lessons now, there's nothing more grown up than that.
See? Who says you need to dread your 30s? Why would you, even? This is just a brand new stage of your life, largely free of many of the things which may have caused anxiety in your 20s. If you're about to hit 30, or already have, how are you feeling? Is it as bad as you feared?