Everyone has their running lists of what to do before 30, or at least it seems that way when they continually popup on Facebook or Buzzfeed. For most people, 30 seems to be an end to one way of living and a beginning to another.
Thirty is when you become a true adult, or so they say. Even when you are in your late 20’s you still feel mildly secure in the fact that you don’t have to have everything figured out yet. Then 30 comes and society instantly decides you must have all your shit together.
Everyone is different, though. Some people start their adult lives right out of college. As soon as they graduate, they are getting married, starting a family, and settling into a career. For others, their 20’s is a time to be immature, try millions of different things until you find the right one, to fuck up over and over, to find yourself more than once, and to generally just live out the last years of your freedom. I was the latter. Most of my friends were the former.
While my friends back home (suburban Philadelphia) graduated and married their serious boyfriends, I dated a new guy every three months. While my friends started having children, I started panicking at the sight of kids and telling my uterus, “no, you will have to wait!” While they settled into serious careers, I flitted around Europe, got my Masters in Anthropology, and then joined AmeriCorps.
Now as I inch my way closer to 30, I am starting to catalog all the things I did before my 30’s that I don’t regret and I hope make me even more ready for that huge step into true adulthood. For those of you out there who also spent your 20’s avoiding adulthood, this list is for you. If you figured it out way sooner than I did, I applaud you and am sure your 30’s won’t be as intimidating. Thank god, I still have a year and half left!
- Party until the sun comes up!- Once you are in your 30’s, partying until sunrise becomes way less acceptable. So you owe it to yourself to get in as much partying (but be safe) before your 20’s end. Even if you aren’t drinking like crazy, at least stay out late with your friends and watch the sun come up. One of the most epic nights for me was staying up dancing on the beach in Thailand at the Full Moon Party and watching the sun rise over the water.
- Experiment with at least one psychedelic drug- Getting hooked on drugs isn’t good, but before you get too old you should try mushrooms or acid at least once. These drugs can open up a whole new portal in your mind. Don’t be excessive, but these experiences can be life altering. Always do it with a friend and in a safe place. I once ate a chocolate bar of mushrooms while living in a castle in the Netherlands. I spent 8 hours exploring the grounds and hugging trees.
- Attend a music festival- there is no way I could go without sleeping or showering for 4 days now, but I sure am glad that I attended Bonnaroo twice and Gathering of the Vibes twice and the Philadelphia Folk Festival, etc. etc. Those were some of the most enjoyable weekends of my life. Do it while you have the energy and take in all the music and scenery.
- Quit at least one job that makes you unhappy– Life is too short to work somewhere that makes you feel miserable. While you’re in your 20’s and no one else depends on you for support, you have the ability to quit if you are unhappy. I left cashiering at Whole Foods, in order to get a more fulfilling job as an after school teacher with the YMCA and I was so much happier for it. Never let a paycheck rule your life.
- Travel abroad (do it alone for an extra bonus)- Study abroad in college, if possible. Quit your job and take a year off to travel around the globe. Plan a fun adventure with a friend or sibling. Teach English abroad. Volunteer abroad. Get a job abroad. Just leave this goddamn country and see what the world has to offer. I guarantee you won’t regret it. You will learn so much about yourself and other cultures. It will open your mind up to new things. Go alone, for an added bonus of life altering change. I have visited 25 countries in my 28 years of life starting when I was 12. In my 20’s, I’ve backpacked Europe alone, gone to Israel, lived in Ecuador, moved to Australia and SE Asia with my sister, and I’m planning one more adventure with my boyfriend before I turn 30. It seriously changed my life forever. I’m a much better person for it and it has made me more prepared for adulthood. Of course, you can travel past your 30’s and you should, but there is something about hitting the road in your 20’s when you are carefree and lack major responsibilities, that just makes it extra special.
- Go on a road trip- Just like traveling abroad, a road trip across your country can really open your mind up to new things. People tend to be different all over the U.S. I drove out to Oregon from Philadelphia and witnessed the hospitality of Americans. People really are different from state to state. Also the U.S. is actually quite beautiful and there is just something about the open road that really introduces you to life.
- Kiss some frogs- Of course we all want to meet our soulmates instead of dating losers, but it is those losers that teach you more about what you want and don’t want out of a partner. If you met your soulmate in high school or college, congrats!! You are lucky it happened so fast. For the rest of us who had to go on endless first dates with weird dudes who live with their moms at age 30, the path to marriage appears very grim. This isn’t a horrible thing, though. The more you date, the more you learn about yourself. The more you shape the person you want to be. You figure out that you don’t like guys who are slobs, or have quirky habits, or snore loudly, or say they are coming over in an hour and never show up. I, for one, am glad I took my time to settle down with any one guy. I sure kissed some warty frogs, but I also had wild foreign romances. These make me even more ready to decide to spend the rest of my life with one guy. I had my fun. I will not have any regrets when I say, “I do!” because he is perfect compared to every guy I’ve ever been with and I know from experience.
- Do something you’re afraid of- Jump out of an airplane, sing karaoke, bungee jump, dance in front of strangers, make a speech, just face your fear and do it! You won’t regret letting that fear fuel you towards excellence. It will change your life. Facing your fears will teach you that there really is nothing to be afraid of, except maybe snakes, they are terrifying. I used to hate public speaking and then I found myself teaching 75 students about Anthropology. The more I did it, the less scary it got.
- Move at least once- Move away from your hometown, even if you eventually move back, just leave. Get out of your comfort zone. Explore a new city or town to live in. Make completely new friends. Moving will teach you a lot about yourself. It forces you out of your comfort zone, and challenges you to put yourself out there and try new things. Even if you move back, it is worth moving somewhere new at least once. I’ve moved 4 times since high school. I moved to Boston for college, to the Netherlands to study abroad, to Oregon for grad school and to Australia for work and travel. I definitely don’t regret any of those moves.
- Lastly, learn to love yourself and live without regrets– The most important thing on your journey through your 20’s is to figure out who you are and to love yourself. You may change many times over the course of those 10 years, but the one thing that will never change is that you are still always going to be YOU! No one else can be you and you cannot be anyone else. So, if we are stuck being us, we better love ourselves. Part of loving yourself is not regretting our past. We are who we are, because of the choices we have made. They shape us and so whether good or bad, we shouldn’t regret them. They are everything that makes up who we are. We have to live with them for the rest of our lives, so we should learn to love them. We all choose our own battles and hopefully survive them and become stronger people because of them. I’ve done some things that I’m not particularly proud of, but I’ve come to love all of myself and all of my choices, because they have made me. So start loving yourself now before you have a husband or wife and possibly children to also love.