I turned thirty this week. I know, I know, some of you may be shaking your head and thinking, “You’re still a baby.” Others of you may be wide-eyed and dropped mouth, thinking, “Whoa dude, you’re old!”
Thirty feels like a big deal, bigger than when I said goodbye to my teen years. Bigger than when I jumped out of a plane on my twenty-first birthday. Bigger than when I turned twenty-eight and began what astrologers call “true adulthood” and my first Saturn return.
Many people speak to the hardship of the teen years and they are absolutely right. Our teen years are painful in the most beautiful way. There is an innocence to the loneliness we feel as teens, navigating our social and familial worlds while clinging wildly to different things, personal to each of us, to help us figure out who we are. Like Pi on his raft, we float in a strange ocean of the unknown, waves of insecurity and doubt crashing over us as we desperately search for the next island to call home.
From my own experience, these qualities do not magically disappear once we enter our twenties. Even though I had more confidence, more love, and frankly, more fun in my twenties, they too were stormy years in their own right.
Whatever it is that I am feeling as I leave my twenties behind –– reflection, sadness, fear –– I am relieved that they are over and that the sea has become solid ground. Of course there remains so much territory to cross. Yet, as I venture forth into the mountains, through the forests, and across the deserts, I am more equipped to carry on than ever before.
What advice would I give to myself as a teen and twenty-something? Well, how much time do I have? (Probably not a lot, as the teenage me needs to study and then get ready to go to a party!)
In all seriousness, I only have one major piece of advice: care less about what other people think.
If I hadn’t cared so much about what other people thought, I would not have spent so much time and energy worrying about my wardrobe. I also would not have gone to more than one Bikram Yoga class. I would definitely not have spent an entire year undergoing humiliating tasks while pledging a sorority. I would not have spent time with guys when I didn’t want to, had drinks when I didn’t want to, or dismissed my gut feeling again and again because I worried what others would think of me.
So, I dare you. Heck, I double dare you to care just a little less about what other people think. Of course we may always care on some level about what others think of us and that’s okay. Caring about other people’s opinions can help us to be better students, better workers, better friends, and better partners. Unfortunately, it also has the ability to take us far, far away from who we really are and what we really want.
Take a chance. Listen to your gut at least one out of ten times and see what happens. I bet you won’t regret it.
Let your heart be your guide,