You don’t know nothing yet. But you hit three decades old, and BAM. You’re a genius.
I recently celebrated my 30th birthday, and I don’t really feel a sense of enchantment, but I’m not depressed either. Nothing like what happened to Kim Kardashian on her birthday when she turned 30 and people were trying to honor her at this wildly sensational party (where even her mom was doing keg stands, yet she was crying in the luxurious hotel bathroom) came upon me.
But I must say, that I do feel blessed to have made it this far in life and have accomplished as much as I have. There are much loftier goals in my horizon, and I am sometimes overwhelmed wondering how I will reach them, but I don’t lose my momentum or my faith in God. For I know, as with everything else in my life, that His timing and His promises, are the best things to place my hope upon. He has given me example of example of this time after time. I cannot doubt Him, and if I did, I would be a fool. But I am a human and I sometimes forget, so the reminders help. There is only so much in my control, and only so many hours in a day. Susana, you must pace yourself and live a joyful life, because that is how God designed it for you.
Along with that gem statement, here are some other things that my cumulative thirty years on earth have taught me. Just like anything else, you’re free to take it with a grain of salt, but I hope it can help you learn things you wish someone had told you earlier!
1. To be debt-free, you have to start paying attention to your finances as soon as you turn 18 (or even earlier).
People often shelter their kids from the reality of finances, thinking it’s not something children should worry about, and I agree! However, money in general is something kids are aware of. They see it (well, your credit card) being used at stores, and laid around in dad’s wallet or left behind in the couch in the form of coins. So why is it something we must pretend doesn’t exist around them? In my opinion, the earlier you can explain to kids the concept of money (probably, like age 4 or 5), the more you can start to grow on that foundation and help them be more responsible in managing their own money once they have some.
For me, there were stresses in my family that caused my first exposure of money to be something where I just wanted it and couldn’t have it, and when I was around 18 and could have a credit card, I had to use it to bail my mom out of her debts. Then when I obtained my first serious job, I was aggressive about saving to the point where I couldn’t balance spending, saving, and occasionally splurging in a healthy manner.
Today, I talk to my son about money by explaining to him that mommy and daddy work to earn money for food and expenses and toys. I let him have a piggy bank to save, and when he is older I’ll let him earn money for chores, then bigger savings. In college and beyond, I hope he’s much smarter than I was and doesn’t have an ugly feeling about money like I did but is logical and doesn’t get into a mountain of debt spending beyond his means instead of doing basic math (like most Americans seem to not be able to do). Don’t spend more than you have and you can stay out of debt. If you take out a loan, stay on top of payments and plan ahead, how long you’ll be with that loan to decide if it’s really a good choice.
2. Nobody reads anything…and they expect you not to either.
Contracts are IMPORTANT. We sign things everyday. Every app you download. Every website you join (Facebook, Instagram, WordPress) asks you to agree to their Terms of Service, but how many of you have clicked that sign without reading even the first page of that contract? And yes, they call it Terms of Agreement, but a contract is an agreement, it means it’s your contract with the host of a website or app, and if you break any of the rules of what you’re agreeing to, they’re within their rights to delete your account. That’s right, your Facebook could be gone tomorrow if you break a rule, and yet you probably don’t even know half of their rules or terms. There may be a section in there saying you’ve agreed to let them sell your information to Geico and you don’t even know it lol
I try to read everything I sign, or agree to, including the papers I get when I’m hired at a company. And yes, I have read the Terms of Agreement for the websites I join. I read all 73 pages of the ones Netflix has (I think they’re partnering with Amazon now to be able to get the data that my son or husband speak to Alexa), and it doesn’t make me feel comfortable, but I like Netflix too much to not agree to the terms. I read the hospital papers ahead of time before I gave birth so I could choose what to decline before being in a state where it was “sign now lady or go to another hospital” and crossed out a bunch of stuff that would give the hospital extra permissions which were not necessary in order to deliver my baby (i.e. turn over some of mine and my baby’s information for research).
Most people don’t care and don’t read, and that’s how websites would prefer it because if you complain, they’re like well, you agreed to it. But you’d have much more power if you started reading things. Even if it’s just the things you actually cared about…like the contracts you’re signing with your doctor, employer, realtor or your landlord! Because like I said, they assume you don’t and will throw in clauses that people never question until a problem or lawsuit comes up, then you’re screwed.
3. Diets are a scam.
Diet programs like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and the like can’t guarantee results, and they also aren’t designed to be customized for you. They toot their own horn on being “successful” because a certain percentage of people have tried their set of rules and have lost weight, but the truth of the matter is that people’s guts process foods differently, and a food which may be considered “bad” for you may actually not affect me as much. For instance, I feel crummy after eating bananas sometimes, even though they’re considered a fruit and “healthy” but after I eat chocolate, I feel fine. Your microbiome is a more accurate indicator of what will happen once certain foods are ingested. You can test how your body will respond to a select diet with companies such as Viome.
4. Life is better when you stop obsessing over getting everyone’s approval.
Honestly, most people don’t matter. Write down a list of your goals and the people who are helping you get to where you want to be and who support and love you no matter what. Those are the people whose approval you may want, because perhaps they are watching you change in a way that doesn’t align with your values. Then, write a list of people who have walked out of your life randomly or hid in the shadows when the going got rough for you then popped back in when you were doing well again. Those are people you want to stay away from and who you shouldn’t care one way or another what they think, because they don’t know how to be friends/family/supporters/decent humans.
5. Friendship is a two-way street.
This one was a VERY rough lesson to learn, but it was a must for me in order to get to where I am today. Some people in your life really are dead weight. You can learn and grow from them if you’re willing to open your eyes to who they are and understand their intentions but when you realize that they’re not investing as much as you into the friendship–or worse, anything at all–then you have to let them go. Even if they yell at you, criticize you or try to make you feel guilty for it. My roommate from college that I met in 2008 stayed friends with me for about 9 years. But she didn’t come to my baby shower, or wedding, and whenever I was in her city, she didn’t make an effort to meet up with me. One time we were in the same mall, and she apologized for having to leave 5 minutes before I got there! She later said she felt bad because her dad told her that she was being a bad friend and should have waited, and sometimes when I think back on why we are not friends anymore (that wasn’t the reason), I think that story actually sums it up. She wasn’t willing to put in anything more into our friendship than the occasional text, and I needed more than that. Maybe we were never as close as I thought; I’m not sure, but I definitely considered her to be like a sister and eventually stopped having such high expectations of people. If they weren’t going to act like best friends, I knew me treating them as such was my own mistake.
6. If you really want something to change, you don’t complain, you take action.
I don’t think anyone appreciates the person who goes around complaining about the weather, the news, the president, their health, their finances, etc. but then doesn’t take advice when their friends and family try to help them. If you don’t want to be in a particular situation, then get yourself out of it. People are offering you advice, because they assume you don’t know how to get out of your predicament. If you know how to but you are just enjoying being in it and drowning in self-pity, then stay at home doing that. Don’t get me wrong, maybe some people are waiting for the right timing to take action but baby steps help, too. You’re the only one with the power to change your circumstances, even if it means praying about it or reaching out to others for support.
7. People who are truly successful are lifelong learners.
The ones who vehemently believe they are never done learning are successful in multiple areas of life. My coworkers are still pursuing master’s degrees in different areas even if they have degrees in another field. My managers still go to training every year to improve their management skills. Companies attend conferences to stay on top of their game in their field and ensure they are still competitive. Learning is a must and it comes in many forms, not just textbooks. Talking to people and reading books or asking the right questions everyday (about your neighbor’s dog, your friend’s hobbies, etc.) can increase your knowledge base significantly! And don’t wait for someone to make your education mandatory. I have courses and certificate programs on my resume that I took voluntarily because I wanted to build on program management and other essentials I believe will take me further in my career and make me a stronger candidate next time I interview for a position.
8. Kids are the smartest people on earth.
They don’t trust easily, but they live in the present and love fully. They are curious and sweet, enjoy the outdoors, negotiate well, and are creative in their communication methods. Science fascinates them but so does music and art. They are honest, have a good memory, and don’t care what others think about them. We should be more like them because they unleash the power of their imagination daily and remind us of the good in this world.
9. Love and forgiveness will get you farther in life than anything else.
This is challenging, but if it were easy everyone would do it. That’s all I’ll say.
10. Screen time is actually a good thing.
In Emotional Intelligence 2.0, the author describes social awareness as one of the crucial skills people should develop if they want to rise above their peers in the workplace. To practice this skill, he recommends people watching to observe how humans express their emotions and use body language to convey what is going on in their head. He also contended that watching movies and television serves the same advantage in improving self-awareness and social awareness because people can learn to identify and identify with certain emotions and behaviors. Since 2/3 of people struggle to accurately label their feelings, being able to label similar emotions and behaviors in screen characters, before they are ensnared in a tricky situation, goes a long way! So next time you are feeling guilty for binge watching your favorite television show, think about how much you’re elevating your EQ 😉
11. Direct conversations are the best approach, even if you or the other party think otherwise.
People are so hesitant to talk about their feelings, but the more that’s out there in the open the less threatened each person in a relationship or friendship feels. As adults, we should be more mature and express what we are feeling; be direct with another person in an attempt to resolve problems or issues that exist. That’s what we encourage kids to do because it’s healthy, yet some of us are still to scared to take this route because it may feel uncomfortable or even downright scary. But being direct has a lot of benefits if it’s done in the right way–i.e. being direct doesn’t mean you have to be rude and just blurt out what you’re thinking. Just choose the words that best describe your feelings and start forming sentences which show that you’re willing to hear the other side and not place blame on anyone. It takes the guessing out of things, and if fewer assumptions are being made, there is less gossip, tension, and drama!
12. There’s nothing wrong with trying to move up in your career and trying to ask for what you’re worth.
So your friends tell you to be grateful for what you have, but you want more. What do you do? I think listening to what my mom said has rarely led me astray. “You can do anything.” Over the years, I’ve tailored it to be, “I can do anything with God’s strength,” in order to understand that sometimes the things I want may not be in alignment with God’s plan or timing, but if it’s something my heart is set on and I believe it doesn’t go against God’s values, I go for it. I’m not one to sit back and let things be handed to me, so I work hard and am relentless. Ambition is not a bad thing. Just be careful, as with anything else, not to let it be the ruler of your life and overshadow your family time, your self-care priorities and of course, the voice of God.
13. Negotiation is a skill that must be mastered (for many reasons).
Sometimes the word negotiation doesn’t even enter a person’s mind until they’re sitting in front of their computer wonder how to respond to an offer letter from a potential employer. However, there are many opportunities in life to negotiate. Kids learn at a young age that they if they are told to go to bed at 7pm, they may be able to get away with going to bed at 8pm, if they can convince their parents to read a few extra bedtime stories or make them a bedtime snack even after they were told no snacks before bed. Even in marriage, you have to learn to compromise because you can’t always get exactly what you want. Knowing how to handle situations where you’re faced with options, or conversely–without any options that you were expecting (i.e. with your parents, boss, or even perhaps a medical situation), is something you can train yourself to do and use for your benefit and the benefit of your kids! I’ve negotiated salary for others, convinced daycare directors to be flexible with their policies, extended deadlines, and more by being able to master negotiation.
14. Sometimes you have to take care of yourself and love yourself.
This one is rather self-explanatory. If you don’t take care of your needs, no one else will. Your mom is no longer around to remind you to eat and bathe yourself. And if you’re not going to take those hours every week, or month, to relax in a tub, or go for a jog, then you’re risking your mental and spiritual health. We must feed our souls. Find out how to take care of yourself in the ways you need most then make it a regular thing!
15. Writing a letter always works.
For years, I’ve kept a diary. I always found it was easier for me to put my thoughts and feelings on paper than to speak it to people, so when someone’s birthday came around, I told them how much I cared and what I valued about our friendship in a birthday card. They really valued it. When my mom would work long hours, I would leave her notes on the table with difficult things I was feeling, hoping she could help me find a way to address it during the day when she got a chance. Over the years, entering a digital age has made it less common to do things like this, but I try hard to make it part of who I am. When a spoken conversation can’t capture what I mean or a text is getting misconstrued, I leave post-its for coworkers, or even my husband!
But even when I’m upset or concerned about something and a customer service representative is not able to help, instead of yelling at them (like most people do), I simply write a letter with the sufficient details explaining my circumstances and address it to the department they direct me to (ask if you’re not sure), with ATTN: to the appropriate individual and get a much better response than scaring the poor woman who’s just trying to do her job and has very limited means to help with an issue that’s out of her hands. I’ve written letters to friends I miss, to church elders, school institutions, publishing houses, and more, because not only is it so seldom done that people respond, but it shows you took the time and actually care.
16. It’s okay to make mistakes.
Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be allowed to do anything anymore. I’ve created such a huge disaster that I’m not sure God knew what He was doing when He gave the green light to let me be a wife or mom. I feel like an idiot and insufficient, and it’s tough to recover from the shame or anger of something I’ve done, but I do. Because if I don’t, it’s just time lost. I have big plans for my life, and the life of my kids, and if I sit around too long dwelling on mistakes, it will hinder me from moving forward, working on great things, and making a difference, and that’s a mistake I won’t forgive myself for making when I’m on my death bed wondering why I didn’t make my dreams come true.