I remember on my 10th birthday, it felt like such a huge deal! From single digits to double digits, watch out world! Turning 13 meant becoming an official teenager and feeling a little more grown-up. 16 meant getting the opportunity to drive. 21…well, hello there alcohol! When taking trips, I could finally rent my own car at 25. Okay, not as exciting, but a milestone nonetheless! This year, it’s my 30th birthday and it happens to fall on Thanksgiving!
It’s fitting that my 30th falls on this holiday and I feel so lucky to share my birthday with a day that celebrates time with family and all that we are thankful for.
Entering this new decade can bring a mix of emotions. It has me feeling thankful and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that every birthday (and new smile line) is a gift.
Like many of us, my 20s were filled with so much learning, discipline, growth, travel, and love. I married the man who wished me a happy 20th birthday on facebook and then proposed with that original note on my 27th birthday. I have officially spent my entire 20s with you, David! I quit my day job out of college and started my own photography company full time. It’s easy to think about “where we should be” or focus on what we’ve yet to accomplish, but don’t forget to reflect on where you were five years ago. I have goals and new chapters to open in my 30s but I had one last thing I wanted to be sure I accomplished before I left my 20s this year and that was… become a dog mom! God sent us, Bailey (quite literally to our front doorstep) earlier this year and I was overcome with gratitude to know that our story was just meant to be and now I have my fur baby for this holiday season when I thought I wouldn’t.
There were and always be mistakes, accomplishments and new discoveries in your 20s (heck, in life!) so here are the 30 things I have learned by my 30th birthday!
1. Spend money on the experiences
If there’s one thing you are going to value in life more than anything or any object, it’s going to be the memories you make with the people you love. Spending money on experiences could be something you do on your own or with family and friends and either way, it’s a gift to be able to make memories with the one(s) you love!
2. Don’t worry what everyone is thinking about you. They aren’t. They are thinking about themselves
Oh, this is a very recent lesson and one I’m still trying to practice, but it’s a good one. I once heard that being nervous for a speech is selfish because. It’s. not. about. you. Hello, truth bomb!
3. Call your parents
They just want to know that you are okay. As your life grows and changes, theirs does too as they navigate life without you in the home. Don’t take their presence for granted.
4. You don’t have to go to college to be successful
There are many successful entrepreneurs who did not go to college. Turns out, I never needed to although I’m glad I did. But, I never considered the option of not going because I always thought that was the natural progression.
5. Comparison is the thief of all joy
Don’t do it! I know, easier said than done but be aware of what you are consuming online and how it affects your thoughts.
6. Don’t go into debt
That was one of the first pieces of advice I received from a photographer when I first started and I always remembered that they said it. The stress in her tone of voice when she said it is what I remembered most.
7. Invest the rest
If only I had saved earlier and better because you can’t get that time back! Time is a very valuable resource when saving money.
Some of the best lessons, memories, and experiences have come from far away places. Traveling teaches you so much about the world outside of your backyard and gives you a new perspective of your own culture.
9. Wherever you are, be all there
Put down your phone. When I build my Instagram stories from a trip, everything comes from my camera roll. It’s never in real-time which is why struggled using snapchat, when everything was captured and shared at the moment. Be mindful of scrolling too. Time will slip away.
10. Be intentional
Time with friends will not be as easy as it was in college. It’s important to be intentional and set time aside together because time will get away from you.
11. Step outside your comfort zone
So much growth happens in this zone and it’s a scary one to step into! When I feel scared about a new venture, I have to remind myself of the lessons I gained from the time I felt most uncomfortable (at first) and that was living overseas.
12. Spend time in alignment
There is so much to accomplish in one day as you get older. When you’re traveling from A to B, listen to a self-help podcast. When you’re doing the dishes, listen to a book on audio that you’ve been meaning to read. Spending time in alignment means that you are productively multitasking!
13. Eat well and exercise
I went through a lot of changes around 21, as I started to develop IBS and changed my diet in order to feel better. which means, I have to be extra careful about what I eat. It takes a lot of work, but I stick to a diet that fuels my body with energy and care. You have to take care of yourself in order to show up well in life. Exercise 30 minutes a day (that’s just great for your heart and health anyways no matter what your goals are) and eat food that will nourish your body. Also, the meaning of “tired” gets more intense as the years go by!
14. Spend time finding yourself
Take personality tests such as the Meyer Briggs or Enneagram test. I really enjoyed taking these to discover more about myself and others around me.
15. Chase dreams, then work hard on the goal
I’ve learned that dreaming big is only part of it. A goal with a dream is a plan. Break it down into steps. You have to know where you’re going to get to where you want to be.
16. Get a dog! Then go to a training class
I wanted a dog this year so badly but I was still nervous. It’s a big commitment! But, now I wonder how we ever lived without our Bailey Rae?! She brings us so much love and joy. We take her to training class each week and she receives so many compliments on her behavior in public. Training is very worth it!
17. Make your space a place you want to be
Maybe it’s not a priority to everyone, but I believe that the space you are in matters and affects how you feel. Especially your working space. Clutter-free, good light, inspiring items, colors, and scents that make you happy.
18. Don’t take anyone or any day for granted
Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Be sure to give hugs and say I love you. Live our your day as if it may be your last.
19. Take Pictures
I know family pictures are a lot of effort. Coordinating schedules, outfits, arriving on time, making sure everyone is in a good mood and so much more! For reasons like number 18 and so many more, those pictures will mean so much to you. Pictures become more valuable as time goes on. Take lots of pictures when you travel too!
20. Write thank-you notes
I’m 30 now and still write thank you notes to my friends for coming to my birthday party! Receiving mail the old fashioned way is so much fun too!
21. Gratitude journal
Develop a good morning routine. Start your day with gratitude. It’s harder to feel stressed when you’re overcome with gratitude. This gratitudes are small things, such as the accidental upgrade of your coffee size. Your mind will search for things throughout the day to be grateful for.
22. Say No
I remember the DAY this lesson started for me. It was second grade. I had these really cool chunky markers that my mom got me and everyone wanted to use them. And I always said yes, even when I didn’t want to (because the ink was running out). A few classmates sitting next to me chanted and encouraged for me to say no. I still struggle with this lesson but I have learned that every yes I give someone else is a no to something or someone that I love. That gave it a whole new perspective.
23. Stand up for yourself
This stems from number 22, but I will tell you that the times I have stuck up to someone who didn’t expect it, they respected me more.
24. Let people help you
Oh, that’s a hard one for some of us. No need to do it all yourself.
25. Leave a legacy
Have you ever considered this? We can’t take anything with us when our days are over, so what will you leave behind?
26. Reduce your carbon footprint
Ever think about what you’re physically leaving? This is a recent lesson for me. It’s easy to think that once it’s in the trash, it’s gone. But, it’s not. What can we reduce, reuse or recycle that we aren’t already?
Sunscreen is the best anti-aging cream/prevention. Sunscreen, all day every day. Wear your sunscreen.
28. Be a beginner
You have to be willing to be bad at something in order to become an expert. Realize and know that you will fail at first, but consistency is everything!
29. Weddings bring everyone together
My wedding, the weddings I’ve attended as a guest and as a professional wedding photographer, it always crosses my mind how beautiful it is that weddings bring everyone together near and far for a happy celebration. It really is incredible to have everyone you love in one room.
30. Time is not a renewable source
Spend time doing work you love and quality time with the people you love. (Did you get a dog yet? Do it! P.S. How cute is the bandana my husband got her?!)
Abby Byrd is a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Atlanta specializing in joyful film photography