A recent photoshoot by a self-taught, explorative photographer allows me to see to myself and delightedly say that I’m in my 30s. In honor of my self-reflection practice, it feels fitting to write something to this 30s milestone.
Truth be told, I hit 30s some years ago… Don’t get me wrong that I was in denial of 30s. I just didn’t feel special about it like many would do. Certainly, I’ve been blessed to share early 30s celebration with my loved ones.
Thirties! You did not come quickly. You’ve waited patiently as I maneuvered through the valleys and mountaintops of my 20s. With all wisdom and grounding, you waited kindly for the woman I’m meant to emerge.
#1 - Listen to my body
It took me a while to finally internalize the concept that working out and eating healthy are the rewards, not the punishments. My body is different than what it was in my 20s. I’ve realized how much my metabolism has slowed down in addition to not holding my liquor well like I once could, or how easily exhausted I am when doing intensive workout. The way I treat my body has a cumulative effect, my body wouldn’t suddenly break down in one year, it’s been breaking down all along subtly and quietly over the years. When my priority is clear, I definitely know how to make time for exercise and self-care.
#2 - Babies and marriage aren’t the only way forwards
There is always a huge pressure for women in our 30s to be settled down, to have this “ideal life” that must include marriage and babies. But the fact is there are a growing number of us who are bucking that trend and still enjoying life, despite not having all the answers. Babies and marriage aren’t the only way forwards. We are, after all, living longer than ever before and the world is overpopulated anyway. It makes sense that we tread different paths to those followed by our parents and grandparents.
All of this doesn’t mean I prefer to be alone. I have a long term partner who is amazingly supportive and understanding. We do still aspire toward marriage one day, but god knows whenever that is. I say somewhat often: “You can leave anytime.” And I mean it. It definitely would be devastating if one of us walked out, but at the same time, we both agree that we want the other person to be there because they want to be there, not because they signed a piece of paper that’s complicated to get out of.
#3 - Having more open and honest conversations with myself and others
Communication is needed in any relationship, whether it’s with a friend, partner, parent, or co-worker. Open and honest communication allows me to state my feelings, set healthy boundaries, listen with intent, and bypass assumptions.
I’ve always been open and vulnerable, it’s not that hard. More than that I’ve also learned to create a safe space for those around me to be vulnerable, where they are comfortable to let hard truths come out of the woodwork, to open up about their struggles; and generally talk about things that matter.
#4 - Not afraid to admit I’m wrong
Life is going to constantly teach me lessons, and embracing my failures and errors is a part of it. I have flaws and I have to stop letting my pride get in the way of admitting them so that I can grow out of it.
#5 - Treat myself
Life is too hard to never reward myself. Buy that new device, sign up for that course, take that trip, indulge in the finest experiences — whatever it is, treat myself because I deserve it. In the process, be mindful to never live above my means, but also don’t be cheap to myself ever!
#6 - Stand up for myself
I still find it super hard to take confrontation. However, I’m a firm believer that people should speak their minds, have their say and stand up for what’s right. I’ve been practicing the 4F’s active reviewing to have a no-mess and no-nonsense approach when it comes to stating my peace.
Facts: what happened? Observe without judgment what others are doing that I like or do not like.
Feelings: how did it make me feel? Share how I feel when I observe the action.
Findings: what does it mean to me? State the important needs that are connected to those feelings I observe.
Future: what is going to be different next time? Make a specific and sincere request that might help attend to those needs.
#7 - Sometimes I have to create my own closure (applicable to all kind of relationships)
Life can throw unexpected curve balls at me any time. It’s okay that thing didn’t go my way, people changed and I also changed. I don’t have to be strong all the time and there’s no shame in crying to get my feelings out, or asking for help. I have to accept the closure that I seek will need to come from within me. Sometimes I will never get closure from the other person who, whether unintentionally or intentionally, hurt me. I recently learned from a dear friend that my habit of writing about what happened, about what emotions I observed, about the lessons I learned, is a healing process. Through reflection, through journaling and rewriting my narrative, it brings closure and even hope so that I am able to move forward.
#8 - Be okay with circles getting smaller
When I look at how my circle of friends isn’t as big as it once was, I take it as an inherent process that certain friends drifting away. The circles shift from quantity to quality. For those that stay, it’s important to cherish every moment with them. It’s equally important to tell them how they make me feel, let them know that they are appreciated.
#9 - I've been everything I needed
I have to be comfortable alone first before I can be comfortable with someone else. Many of us want to have a companion for all the wrong reasons. It's not always about what we can receive from the other person but what we can give. I can't give someone the best version of myself if I feel horrible on the inside. I can't give someone the highest level of care and attention that they deserve from me if I don’t even know how to give it to myself first and foremost. All kind of relationship magnify who I am on the inside while bringing both flaws and best features to the surface. I can't give others happiness from an unhappy place. Loving myself and empowering myself is what I need because otherwise I’m always gonna feel that emptiness that I think only having people around can fill, but that's wrong. I’ve always been everything I needed.
Thirties!!! I’m ready for whatever you bring - with optimism, a bigger heart to love, a clearer head on my shoulders, and a stronger belief in myself.
My sincere thanks go to the friend who shot these photos. I was a bad model who was clumsy and didn’t know how to pose but you were able to capture me and my spirit. These photos inspire this piece of writing.