This Is What I’d Like You To Know Before You Turn 30

before you turn 30
Photo by Mango Moon Photography for Shani Jay

Today I turn 30.

I’ve been excited to turn 30 for the past few months, and now I’m finally here, and it feels surreal. Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed; all over the space of one night.

I’ve left my twenties behind, to welcome in a new decade.

And when I think about it, my twenties were a period of huge growth: 

  • I graduated from university
  • I got my first real job
  • Then I switched careers, and started all over again.
  • I had my first relationship
  • I travelled the world and lived abroad
  • At 26, I wrote and published my first book
  • And at 28, I started my first real business

For some people, 30 marks the end of youth, and the beginning of getting old. But for me, it marks the end of an amazing decade, and the beginning of an even better one.

Because if my twenties were that abundant and transformational, who knows the ways in which I’ll evolve in my thirties.

Maybe I’ll get married, and become a mother. I’ll probably write several more books. And I can’t wait to see how my business grows as I do.

But the journey to the woman I am today as I write this was a challenging one. It was filled with many doubts, moments of insecurity, and failures. A constant feeling of not knowing who I was, or where I should be going.

So I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned about life and love over the past decade. I’m hoping these will comfort and guide you before you turn 30.

Here’s what I’d like you to know before you turn 30

1. Define what success means to you, or you’ll spend your life trying to meet somebody else’s definition of success.

I grew up thinking that climbing the career ladder, buying a house, and getting married were things that successful people do. That’s how you know you’ve made it.

But in my mid-twenties, I started to realise I didn’t want any of those things.

I didn’t want to work hard for a promotion – I wanted to do my own thing. I didn’t want to buy a house, because I wanted to go and see the world, and I knew a house would only tie me down. And I wasn’t ready to get married yet, even though the teenage me wanted nothing more than to have a family by 25.

Success for me is having the freedom to design my own schedule, and work from anywhere. It means making my own decisions, and being completely in control of how much money I make. It means doing work each day that fulfils me. And it means spending plenty of quality time with the people I love.

I realised that how I define success is very different to how my parents define success. It may be different to how you define success, too. And that’s okay.

The important thing is that you figure out what success means to you. Otherwise you’ll spend your life trying to meet someone else’s idea of success, and then you’ll get there, and realise you’re no happier than you were before.

2. Relationships are fucking hard work, but they’re worth it.

I met my now partner four years ago, and this was my first ever relationship. I came into it with many expectations, but no practical experience. And I’ve learned a tonne – about myself, and about love.

I learned that although I’m a strong writer, I’m not the best communicator. I struggle to voice how I feel, and not allow my emotions to control me. And I’ve realised that sometimes I hold people to impossibly high expectations, and can be quite judgemental – of both others, and myself.

Throw two people together who are simultaneously learning about themselves, and each other, and there’s guaranteed to be fireworks.

Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. But sometimes, I think people give up too easily – on themselves, and on each other. We expect joy and love from a romantic relationship, but often we don’t expect or embrace the friction and challenge that comes with it.

There will be moments when you don’t understand one another. Moments when you feel angry or hurt or taken for granted. Moments when you question everything about yourself, and your relationship. And moments when you wonder if you’ve chosen the right person.

We’ve shared many ups and downs, and twists and turns. We’ve both grown so much, but we’ve made a conscious choice to grow together, instead of growing apart. But it has required commitment, trust, and deep patience to get here. At times, it’s really testing. But I’ve realised our relationship is worth it.

You just have to figure out whether yours is worth it.

3. You are on your own journey here. And what everyone else is doing is none of your business.

The logical, rational part of me understands that I am on my own journey here. But there are still days when I find myself slipping into playing the comparison game. A game that you can never win.

Because our world is full of amazing, talented souls, who are creating and building an array of beautiful things.

But here’s the thing: none of them are you.

Some people will already be where you want to be. Some people will find their way to their definition of success earlier in life than you. And sometimes, you will look around at all these people, and start to feel small.

And when you do, please remember this: What everyone else is doing, or not doing, is completely irrelevant. They are not you. Your soul is here to have a wildly different experience. Embrace that. Learn to love that.

As long as you stay true to yourself, and do what you want to do each day, that’s all that matters.

4. It’s not your job to get people to like you. But it is your job to get you to like you.

I spent the first half of my twenties struggling to fully love and accept myself.

I used alcohol to give me a false sense of confidence. And I couldn’t look in the mirror without seeing something I wanted to fix. I’d learned to hate my brown skin, my round nose, and my flat chest. I wished I wasn’t so shy and softly spoken and nervous in social situations. And I worried so much about people’s opinions of me.

What if they don’t like me?

I don’t think they like me. 

If only I was prettier/sexier/smarter (insert word of choice here)…

It took years to re-wire my thoughts and beliefs, let go of my past, and finally make peace with myself. That’s what they don’t usually tell you – there’s no quick fix when it comes to anything. You have to show up every day and do the inner work, even when you’re having a bad day. Even when it feels like it’s not making a damn difference.

But doing that work showed me that my real problem wasn’t what other people thought of me. My problem was what I thought of me. I didn’t even like myself, let alone love myself.

And I know the phrase self-love has become an icky cliche, but I think we could all do with a little more of it in our hearts.

So before you turn 30, I invite you to learn to love yourself. I mean really love yourself. Be kinder to yourself. Be good to yourself. Take care of your heart.

You’ll know you’re there when you stop caring about what other people think of you.

5. Even when you think what you’re doing doesn’t matter, I promise you it does.

I’ve achieved a lot of things in my twenties; more than some people will do in a lifetime. But when you’re born with an achiever gene like me, you’re often quick to dismiss all you’ve done, and focus on what you haven’t done.

And sometimes, the grand ideas of what you want to create or build won’t materialise the way you’d hoped.

I wrote and published my first book, and was disappointed that it didn’t become an instant bestseller.

I organised and led my first women’s retreat in Sri Lanka, and was gutted that only three people turned up instead of 10.

And I’ve been creating and sharing posts on Instagram for the past three years, and I still only have 2,600 followers instead of a million.

Those are just some of the things I’ve found difficult to accept. But I realised that even when I feel like what I’m doing isn’t having the impact I want it to have, it still matters. It always matters.

And the proof of that is in the emails and messages I receive all the time from women who have bought a book, and felt empowered to change their lives.

The proof is in the women who attended my retreat, courageously faced their demons, then went home and had the confidence to start their own businesses.

The proof is that even when there’s no fucking proof, I know I’ve poured my heart and soul into everything I’ve done, and stayed true to myself. And that’s all any of us can do.

Even when you think what you’re doing doesn’t matter, I promise you it does.

6. “Success” requires years of deep work, commitment, and patience. There is no such thing as “overnight success”.

All we see through the media are a bunch of people who seem to be a nobody one day, and then instantly famous the next. As if they have somehow super-accelerated their learning curve, and manifested all their dreams overnight.

This is bullshit.

Not only is it totally inaccurate, but it’s also incredibly harmful, too. Because it leaves us feeling inferior, since we’re unable to click our fingers and enjoy the same levels of success.

We spend three months singing and playing local bars and clubs, and we wonder why we’re not Ed Sheeran yet.

We spend six months building and growing our business, and we wonder why we haven’t made a million dollars yet.

Or we spend a year writing, then publish our first book, and wonder why we haven’t topped the New York Times Bestseller list yet.

I’ve been writing for close to four years now, I’ve written and published four books, and I know I’ve not even started yet. This is merely the beginning, and every day I show up, and I raise the bar a little higher.

Before you turn 30, I want you to realise that anything you want that is worth having, will require years of deep work, dedication, and patience. Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

And the journey to get to wherever it is you want to be, has been designed specifically for you. It will teach you exactly what you need to know, and help you grow into the person you need to be so you’re ready to welcome in the thing you really want.

7. If you want to grow, you have to get used to consistently doing things that scare you.

Pretty much everything I’ve done in my life that I’m proud of, used to scare me.

I was scared of quitting my job, switching careers, travelling the world, putting my writing out there for people to read, writing and publishing a book, leading a retreat, being someone’s mentor, being vulnerable with someone, finding my voice and using it, and showing people who I really am.

Four years ago, I was afraid to try online dating, but I had reached the point in my life where I was ready to meet someone. And I wasn’t meeting anyone doing what I was already doing. So I put myself out there, even though I felt uncomfortable. And crazily, the first ever date I went on was with the man who I’m still with, four years later. But if I had resisted trying something new, and pushing my self-imposed limitations, I may never have met him.

It’s normal to be afraid of the unknown. It’s scary thinking about doing something you’ve never done before, and potentially failing. But failure is a huge part of growth.

If you stick to what you know and what you’re good at, you’ll stay in the same place you’ve always been in. But when you step out of all that’s cosy and familiar, and embrace discomfort, you grow.

So if you want to evolve, you have to find the courage to confront your fears and shadows.

8. Do your best to forgive people, even if you’re still hurt, because grudges will only weigh you down.

I’ve always been someone who holds grudges. If I feel like I’ve been wronged in some way by someone, I would always carry it around with me forever; refusing to let go.

And it could be something small like someone not sending me a birthday card, or something as big as someone telling me my book is crap and how they felt compelled to throw it in the bin.

But when I refuse to let these things go, I end up carrying them around with me. And they do nothing but bring me down. The person I’m angry with or upset by is none the wiser. I’m the one who ends up suffering – not them.

What I’ve learned is that even when you don’t feel ready to forget, try your best to forgive. Not for them, but for you. Forgive people, selfishly, for your own peace of mind.

9. Only take advice from people you would happily trade places with.

I love my dad, but I’ve realised he’s terrible at managing his money, and has a really toxic relationship with it. Yet I always used to ask for, and follow, his advice when it came to money.

I would carefully listen to and study my managers at work, and ask them what I had to do to get a promotion. But I saw them devoting all their time and energy to a company that could replace them in a heartbeat. I saw them checking their emails on vacation, and missing their kids birthdays. And I knew in my heart that wasn’t what I wanted.

I began to realise that just because people are older than you, or in positions of power, it doesn’t mean you should automatically ask for or listen to their advice. Age and titles mean nothing, and we give both of them far too much credit.

Only take advice from people you would happily trade places with. People who don’t just talk the talk, but are matching it with their actions.

10. How people respond to your art is not your responsibility. You just have to keep showing up and making art.

I like to make things. I’m an artist. A writer, and a creatrix.

When you create anything, you automatically open yourself up to external criticism. From people who know you, and people who don’t. And nothing prepares you for what this feels like, or how to deal with it.

But what I’ve realised after years of building and creating things is this: how people respond to your art is nothing to do with you. Your only job is to keep showing up and making art. And the rest is completely out of your hands.

Sometimes you’ll write a book that gets picked up by Oprah. Other times, you’ll be a chef at a restaurant that gets slated by critics. You’ll paint something that isn’t worth a dime until after you’ve left this earth. You’ll write a song that tops the charts and becomes an instant classic. Or you’ll be doing your stand-up comedy set in a pub, and have to watch as people walk out.

All of those things – the good, the bad, and the ugly – are out of your control. The only thing you can do is make the art you came here to make.

11. You haven’t failed if you’re not coupled up, you’re not a parent, and you don’t have a mortgage before you turn 30.

I’m in a strong and healthy relationship with my partner. But my life is so far from being picture perfect.

I don’t have a mortgage. The money I make each month is unpredictable, and fluctuates all the time. I haven’t even thought about getting married yet. And the idea of being a mum terrifies me.

If those are the things that define a successful thirty year old, then I’m not one of them. But the truth is, I couldn’t be happier.

I’m done with trying to tick things off a checklist that I didn’t write. And I’m done with allowing myself to feel pressured to be at a certain place in my life by a certain age.

Please, don’t feel like a failure if you haven’t managed to check these things off yet either. You might not be ready for them yet. You might not even want them at all. There is no right or wrong way to live your life.

12. Be appreciative of the little things in life. Because you’ll quickly realise they’re actually the big things.

Over the last few years of my twenties, I’ve started to practice gratitude in a big way. And gratitude is funny, because the more thankful you are for all the amazing things in your life, the more amazing things seem to happen to you.

What I appreciate most about my life are the little things. Like waking up with my partner, and going to sleep next to him each night. A hug, or an “I love you.” Having a deeply restful sleep. Going for a lovely walk by the ocean. Seeing a blue sky. A glass of wine at the end of a long day. Having a blissful bath with candles, salts, and flower petals. Being able to read and write. And this healthy body that allows me to enjoy all of these things, and more.

Turning 30 is by no means old, but it’s old enough to start becoming more aware of the impermanence of life. And nothing makes you more appreciative of all you have quite like this does.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive for more, and for bigger and better things. You should, and I’ll be right there with you. But don’t forget to appreciate all the little things you have today. Because when you stop and look for them, you’ll probably find your life is already beautifully abundant in so many ways.

13. Don’t be afraid to invest money in anything that helps you grow.

I wasted a lot of money in my teens and twenties on junk; like clothes, CDs, DVDs, and getting drunk. Part of me regrets it, but the other part of me knows I just didn’t know any better yet.

It took me a while to get on board with spending money on other things; like online courses, workshops, travel, and coaching. The kind of things that help you learn and grow.

But over the past four years, I’ve invested thousands of dollars on things that help me grow. And this has helped me continually take myself, and my business, to the next level.

It’s easy to spot people who are still in resistance to investing their money in themselves. They’ll happily blow $100 on a Friday night in a bar, but they’ll laugh at the idea of spending $50 on a self-development program or workshop.

Before you turn 30, make a conscious effort to overcome your fear of spending money on anything that helps you grow. Whatever it might be. A retreat, a personal trainer, a coach, or a new website for your business. Stop thinking of it as spending, and start seeing it for what it really is, which is investing.

You’re investing money in yourself. There is no better investment that that.

You might not receive something you can physically hold in your hands, but chances are, you’ll receive something so much more than that. Something that you can’t really put a price on.

14. Listen to and trust your intuition above all else. It knows what you want before you realise it.

Have you ever stayed in a job you hated, even though deep down you wanted to quit?

Have you ever stayed in a relationship that you knew didn’t feel right?

Or have you ever thought about someone, and then received a text or a call from them out of the blue?

Have you ever moved in with someone after a month of knowing them, because you knew in your heart it was right?

And have you ever packed up your life, and bought a one way plane ticket half-way across the world, just because you wanted to?

These are all examples of times we chose to follow our intuition, and other times we chose to ignore it. But regardless, it’s always there.

While working as a fashion designer, I started to become bored and unhappy with the work I was doing. Something inside me was telling this wasn’t where I belonged; that I was meant for more. I knew the right move was to quit, but I was terrified of not being able to support myself. So even though it took about 15 months longer than I wanted, eventually I took a leap of faith and quit. And it changed my life.

I had a dream, totally out of the blue one day, of moving to Bali. So I followed my heart, and ended up staying for a year. And it was one of the most transformational years of my life.

Whether you choose to listen to it or not, your intuition is always there, and it is always right. But we don’t give it enough credit, or we choose to listen to other people’s opinions and ignore what our inner voice is trying to tell us.

But you can only ignore that inner voice for so long, before it becomes unbearable. It grows louder and louder until it’s all-consuming. So you’re better off just listening and trusting it the first time around.

15. You are loved – so much more than you know

I’m the opposite of a social butterfly. My circle has always been small, and I prefer it to be that way. I’m an introvert, and much prefer spending time with one or two people than a big group of people.

But this also means I’m not the best at being social. The hermit in me will often pass on invitations, and prefer to stay safe in the familiarity of my shell. And I feel guilty that I’m not making enough effort to create or nourish the relationships in my life.

Yet I am overwhelmed by how much love I feel today on my birthday.

As I write this, two bouquets of flowers have been delivered at my door for me. I received another one yesterday, and another one this morning. Along with many cards, wonderful gifts, and thoughtful text messages and phone calls.

So if you’re ever in any doubt that you’re not cared for or love, I hope you remember that you are. Someone somewhere is thinking of you in this moment. And they are sending you love.

16. Thirty is not the end. It’s merely the beginning of a beautiful new chapter.

Ten years is a long time. And if you look back on all you’ve learnt, experienced, and grown through in your twenties, you’ll probably be in awe of the person you’ve become in the process.

And why should turning 30 mark the end of that?

Entering your thirties means you get ten more years to learn, and experience, and grow. Just think of all the amazing things you’ll see and do in this decade.

Just think of the person you’ll become.

Bloom book

Praise for Bloom

I read Bloom in one night. I started feeling hopeless and pushed down. Shani picked me up, dusted me off, and guided me to self-love in a few short hours with only print. Truly inspiring - Rebecca Barnoff

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