30 things I realised from turning thirty

Life lessons extracted from my twenties.

Karen E Chin

I turned 30 very recently.

Since my birthday was year-end, I spent about 11 months watching my peers turn 30; the guys mostly nonchalantly like it’s no big deal, and the girls with some level of difficulty (“If anyone asks, I have been celebrating my 26th birthday for the past 4 years!”) or some such ceremony.

In my case, I was dreading the inevitable goodbye to my 20s. That decade of my life, although riddled with a handful of things that shouldn’t have happened, were still the best years of my life. They taught me valuable lessons that hopefully can prepare me for my 30s with an improved perspective on life.

Australian blogger Krissy of www.tooaskew.com worded my thoughts perfectly and beautifully, “My 20s were all about exploration, self-indulgence, risks, bonding, getting away and finding love. My 30s will be about nurturing love and watching it grow, building foundations, self-expression, discoveries and personal victories.”

Here are some life lessons from my 20s:

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Not everyone will like you and you don’t have to care about the people who don’t. Just wish them well and be on your way. Forgo the pettiness.

2. Don’t invest your time in useless things. Instead, chase your dreams, nurture relationships with your family and real friends and make every second count with those who count.

3. All problems are solvable. Some may be exceedingly difficult but there is always a way. It is never the end of the world.

4. Cut the drama. Stay cool. Do not enable others to make mountains out of molehills either. Avoid emotional vampires. Try to worry less by brushing unnecessary stuff off your plate.

5. Work, make money and SAVE! Don’t ever be completely broke. Enough said.

6. Learn to control your anger and speech. I fail at this numerous times and sometimes epically. Trust me, it is not worth it to lose your cool. You almost always regret it less than a minute later.

7. Road rage is not worth it! Instead, don cool shades, pop in some awesome tunes and leave for your destination with ample time for easy driving. Have you heard about the guy who survived an accident but got murdered instead because of the road rage? Not an urban legend, friends.

8. Plan your schedule according to what you want. Say no even when you feel obliged to say yes. Maybe you want a busier social life, go get it!

9. It is impossible to love unconditionally, but try to get as close as possible to the concept. Learn to understand and accept people as different as they might be from you. Give it all you’ve got to love your family unconditionally. As the lovely Katy Perry sings “Acceptance is the key to be truly free.”

10. Forgiveness is powerful. It benefits not only the wrongdoer, but the victim too. Forgives has the power to inspire and to change people. Try to forgive as much as you can. Learn to truly let go and move on.

11. Stop being jealous of your partner’s past lovers. It is like digging through their rubbish bin. Learn to think highly of yourself. If they are scumbags, it will be revealed and that reflects badly on them, not you. Don’t be with a great guy expecting him to cheat on you (that reflects badly on you) or you will waste your years not cherishing a beautiful relationship.

12. Recurring heartaches and disappointments taught me to remove my head from the clouds and to be realistic about relationships.

13. Husband-hunting is a turn-off.

14. Do not settle in a relationship just because it is convenient.

15. Marriage has been romanticized far too much. The only day you will get a bed of roses is the wedding day. Then after that it is all effort until death do you part. It is hard enough with the right person, imagine how it would be if you married the wrong person.

16. Go against the current. Sometimes you have to be selfish and do what is best for yourself although everyone says otherwise. This happened a lot in my career path, but that is a story for another day. My point is that it is worth it to do what your gut feeling tells you to do. There are huge risks, but calculate them.

17. Once bitten, twice shy. Learn from your mistakes and be a better person for it, not a serial offender.

18. Everybody has hopes and dreams. Do not forget yours. I wrote a few songs in my 20s that I told myself to have them recorded and shared with the public before I turned 30. So far I am only in the process of the second one. I would die a happy person if even only one other person can relate to my songs.

19. Remember your bucket list, or if you don’t have one, start writing! I want to learn to ride a bicycle (and later on a pink vintage Vespar), move to a new city, write a tear-jerker song, see snow in person, visit Amsterdam, learn to cook something exotic and the list goes on.

20. Don’t beat yourself up when you come across failure. Be proud that you actually took the steps to try and gave it your best.

21. Get rid of the demons. I was an emotional wreck for a 20-something year old. I fell in and out of depression in various levels. A negative mindset is you being your own worst enemy. You are a prisoner of your own thoughts. You can get help from friends or professionals, but ultimately only you have the power to control your thought processes.

22. My ex-boss said to me, “Always look at the positive side”. I know we have heard it all before, but seriously, a positive mind helps me to handle everything better. Things do not affect me as much as it did back then because there is a silver lining in every cloud and I consciously search for it always.

23. I love makeup and looking good, but in my 20s, I went to bed with makeup on, hated exercise, had a diet consisting mainly of junk food, had no concept of sunscreen or moisturizers, and the list goes on. It is time to take baby steps into a better me. Be realistic, you won’t get the last 10 years of your life back. However, I view being in your 30s as a decade to ensure do all you can to be in tip-top condition.

24. Wear less makeup. Sometimes when I look back at old photos, I question myself, “I wonder if anyone thought I was a drag-queen.”

25. Age gracefully: that to me means looking pulled together, wearing styles and colours I am sure of, and looking gorgeous, calm and comfortable in my own skin. I experimented a lot in my 20s. I tried looks that I was too old for, and dresses that made me look menopausal. I have worn shoes that hurt within 5 minutes of leaving my house and shorts with an eternal wedgie on me. I have slapped myself in the face and learnt my lesson.

26. Hair looks best natural. My hair endured being blonde, red, blue black or unevenly dyed. Sometimes it was cruelly snipped with scissors to look like I have been dragged through a meat-grinder.

27. Chill out on the gadgets and apps. It is not crucial to reply every text, Facebook comment, tweet, Instagram comment, Whatsapp text, Viber message (you get the drift) unless it is an emergency. I am guilty of instagram-ing food pictures all the time, but sometimes I do get it that people don’t need to know that I am eating baklava for the fifth time this week.

28. I think turning 30 is an awesome time to take a breather and think about your life and everything that has to do with it. We might have lost ourselves. We might have gotten too complacent in where we are, and forget about making life meaningful. Reevaluate and plan; and this time you should have had ample time to get to know yourself that much better.

29. One thing that people cannot take away from you is you being young at heart. Honestly, I have always been an old soul even when I was a teenager, but sometimes I remind myself to not be so uptight and to enjoy moments that come to me.

30. Stay open to new things, be always curious (we have the internet at our fingertips now, so learn as much as you can) and enjoy experiencing and looking forward to new foods, events even people. Being 30 is not the time for one to act like an old fart.


Happy New Year to the readers, and I wish the best of luck especially to 29-year-olds everywhere. *wink*


Karen is a born-and-bred Kuching singer/songwriter who made her debut with her single ‘Cold’ in 2011. She is a trained occupational therapist, experienced makeup artist and has been a writer her whole life. She writes on a variety of topics and the tried-and-tested lifestyle as she sees it; direct, witty and down-to-earth.

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