20 Non-BS Life Lessons I Learned By Age 30

Spend most of your money on travel. Image: Andrew Phillips/Unsplash.

Spend most of your money on travel. Image: Andrew Phillips/Unsplash.

Never, ever stop learning.

Content notice: emetophobia.

I’m so tired of articles like this.

Give me one more list ranking “love yourself” and “keep a gratefulness journal” as the Top 10 Things You Should Learn in Your 20s, and I’ll hork all over my cat-lady caftan.

Now that I’ve turned 30 (and wear caftans) I’m done reading vapid click-bait offering prosaic advice.

This is not one of those articles.

Here is a bullshit-free list of actual lessons I’ve learned by trial and error over 30 years of bad sex, hapless wandering, and great therapists.

Read on if you dare:

1. Sex is good for you.

Your neurological reward systems are wired for pleasure.

You’re evolutionarily adapted for sex to feel good. It makes you happier, feel more confident, and more deeply connected to your body.

It’s not dirty. It’s not shameful.

If it's something you want, stop denying yourself.

2. Spend most of your money on travel.

You won’t remember the cashmere sweaters — you will remember ocean kayaking.

3. Do the shit that scares you.

For me it’s public speaking, jumping off high things, standardized tests, karaoke, and pitching articles to the New York Times.

I do these things despite the fear — it’s fucking terrifying and unendingly gratifying.

4. Buy the guided tour.

…at the museum, the zoo, the nature reserve…

Spring for the $5 headphones, because you know you’ll love it, and learn tons of rad shit. Never, ever stop learning.

5. Have the hard conversations.

Don’t put them off.

Assumptions, unmet expectations, miscommunications…

You don’t have time for that bullshit anymore.

6. Stop hating your body.

Do things that empower you and make you stronger. Stop giving fucks about the flatness of your stomach.

This one is hard. Keep working on it. It’ll get easier. Read this in the meantime.

7. Eat food that makes you feel good.

Eat beautiful food to whatever extent you can afford it. Nourish your cells.

Being an adult means taking care of yourself, so seek out nutrients.

That said — eat the massive chocolate chip cookie sometimes, and don’t feel guilty about it.

8. Marriage is overrated. Singlehood isn’t pathetic.

You don’t have to get married to feel committed. And choosing to be single doesn’t condemn you to mothball-eating spinsterhood.

Chances are you’ll find some kind of middle ground, because you’re a goddamn modern woman.

Now listen to this rad podcast on single-by-choice sociology.

9. Not wanting kids is OK.

Changing your mind and wanting them later is OK, too.

You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.

10. You probably need a therapist.

Oh wait, you thought you were well-adjusted?


11. Negotiate your salary.

Women and transgender/nonbinary people are paid less: mostly because the patriarchy is a dick, but also because we just don’t ask.

Stop working for free; fire the shitty client; insist on pay re-negotiations every quarter.

12. Learn to get yourself off.

Seriously. Touch yourself more often.

Learn what you like and be able to ask for it.

Take a mirror and look between your legs. There's nothing to be ashamed of there, and a lot to love.

13. Don’t date people who don’t give head.

At least for me, this one's non-fucking-negotiable.

14. Reach out when you feel lonely.

Being independent doesn’t have to mean isolated.

15. Be dwarfed by nature. Often.

Your ego needs a mothafukin’ CHECK, human speck.

Get out of the city.

Be silent. Bathe in a stream. Contemplate your insignificance and divinity.

16. Fall in love. A lot.

Break hearts, get your heart broken, cry, cry, cry.

Nothing will teach you more about what you need than being with someone who’s not enough.

Recognize you need more. Then go fall in love again.

17. Ask if they’ve been tested.

You’re both wondering, so be the one who brings it up, for fuck’s sake.

18. Ask for affirmation.

For me, I need to hear, “You’re beautiful,” “That was well-written,” “You’re a firecracker in the sack” — and I need to hear it a lot. Over and over.

I’ve stopped seeing this as a weakness (see #10).

Stop apologizing for your needs. Needs are human.

Having needs does not make you needy.

19. Stop making fake porn noises.

No more weird faces and high-pitched clucking.

Stop feeling pressure to put stuff up your butthole (unless you’re into that! If so, get it guuuurl). Real-life sex is not like pornography. It’s way better, actually.

Stop taking cues from contrived, choreographed scene constructed by the male gaze.

Let the “ooo”s “ahh”s (or silence) come naturally — in response to actual pleasure, not expectation.

20. Prioritize play.

Let yourself be silly, uninhibited, flirtatious, frivolous.

Save money for more vacations. Sing into your hairbrush. Jump on the bed.

You don’t have to move to Alaska in a camper van to feel alive and free. It’s the small things.

Stop being boring. You’re just 30; you’re not dead.

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