I’m consistently impressed with how much my friends in their 30s seem to have their shit together. It seems like whenever I’m spending a Friday night frantically trying to make plans and worrying about how long I’ll be single, they’re embracing their free time, chatting up strangers in bars, or unapologetically holding Netflix marathons on their couches. And every time I have a problem, they seem to know exactly what’s wrong and how to fix it, and they’re literally always right.
Women in their 30s are onto something, y’all.
So, I asked some of these (slightly) older ladies, from all different professions, for the advice they’d offer to spare for me and other women the unnecessary stress we 20-somethings put ourselves through. And as expected, it was pretty top-notch.
Here are a few of the best pieces of guidance they’ve gifted us with.
1. Be picky about who you spend your time with.
A lot of women regret spending their 20s settling and guilting themselves into spending time with people they didn’t really want to spend time with.
“It's your life to live,” said N. Hess, 33. “Do not accept being taken for granted. Someone that disrespects your time is disrespecting you.”
Ruth, 33, had similar advice: “Do not waste your time on people who are not deserving of it, whether that's a partner, friend, colleague or family member. Value your time and energy and only spend it on people who give you something joyful or useful in return.”
Maria Moser, a 35-year-old and owner of change-diapers.com, said it yet again: “Don't waste your time on people, activities, or projects that make you miserable!”
This applies to dating as well, according to Lori Salkin, a 34-year-old dating coach. “As a matchmaker and dating coach for singles in their 20s and 30s, my #1 piece of advice is to be picky when looking for the one,” she said. “You need to be attracted to, respect, admire, and love the person you marry.”
2. Take more risks.
Your 20s are not the time to make your safest, most practical decisions. They’re the time to make the most potentially disastrous and potentially thrilling choices.
“It's okay to be a little reckless,” said Ash, 30.
“These are your years to try new things, explore new passions, and to take lots of adventures,” said 30-year-old Meghana Moya, co-founder of Spice Madam. Above all, don't be afraid of failure and of trying an idea, whether that be a new business, an extended time of travel in another country, or even applying for an interesting job outside of your college major.”
One of the most fulfilling risks you can take, according to Rachel Jo Silver, 32-year-old founder of Love Stories TV, is travel. “The younger you are, the less picky you are about who you're traveling with and what your accommodations are,” she explained. “If you can take the year off between college and getting a job and go traveling, do it!”
3. Save money.
Whelp, this is the least fun one. But a lot of 30-somethings wish they’d been more thoughtful about their financial planning. “Create a financial budget as early as you can,” said a 31-year-old who goes by Soon2bcatlady.
“Educate yourself on budgeting, managing debt, and calculating payoffs for financial decisions so you can be informed and are making the next decisions for you and your future self (and family),” 31-year-old Lauren Sengele agrees.
Yes, you should still be a bit impulsive, but at least take care of your bare necessities so your impulsiveness doesn’t come back to bite you.
4. Don’t dismiss those wild dreams.
By the time you hit your 20s, some of your dreams may have been beaten out of you, perhaps through warnings that they’re impractical or outrageous. But even if you need to juggle them with a stable job or family commitments, don’t lose sight of them entirely.
“Don't forget those dreams you had in high school and college!” said Sengele. “Make some of them come true, or you'll regret giving them all up for poor substitutions like a job you are ambivalent about, a good but still slightly unfulfilling relationship, or life in a city that's OK for now.”
Leah Sheline, 31, also advocates throwing yourself into your most ambitious goals: “Don't waste time wondering if you're ready for the next phase of your career. Just pursue Plan A like there is no Plan B!”
5. Slow down.
Not one single woman in her 30s I spoke to wished she’d gotten married or had kids sooner. In fact, many were glad they’d taken their time.
“Enjoy your 20s! Those were the years when I bartended my way through grad school, had a major career pivot, had wild times with my friends, went to concerts, traveled, dated A LOT, lived alone, and overall really found myself,” said Trish McCall, a 34-year-old PR rep. “Now that I'm a mom, I can't go to every mimosa brunch, stay up late to go to trivia night at the bar, relax and read a book (other than Goodnight Moon), or even close the door while I pee. But, I don't suffer from FOMO.”
“Work on letting go of your timeline,” echoed 36-year-old Kristin Bornstein, LMHC. “Life is much more full than a timeline for grad school, getting engaged, getting married, having children. If you focus on everything you want in the future, you will be missing opportunities in the present.”
“Focus on yourself, your education, your career,” said Kelly, 38. “Don't let marriage derail you and your goals.”
Amanda Sowadski, 36-year-old founder of the Institute For Feminine Leadership, had a super-eloquent way of putting this: “You don't have to mark everything off the to-do list by DOING everything in your power to make it happen. Start focusing on who you are BEING and trust that life will unfold in the most surprising way. Life is constantly being curated by you, for you.”
6. Be positive.
You’re probably sick of hearing this, but in retrospect, many 30-somethings can attest to the fact that what seems like a problem now could very well turn out to be a blessing later. 34-year-old Tasha Mayberry, owner of Social Media 22, said, for example, that her ex-fiance breaking up with her gave her the chance to meet someone even better.
Another reason to be positive? 31-year-old Irnande Altema, an Attorney and Legislative Director to a MD State Senator, believes that the way you think of yourself and your life will shape it. "Be careful of how you speak of your life, your career, your family, your partner, and most importantly yourself, because people are listening and the universe is taking meticulous notes on whether you are grateful and joyful," she said.
7. There’s nothing to worry about.
If they could go back, a lot of women in their 30s would reassure their 20-something selves that they really don’t need to worry. “No one has it all figured out yet. You're going to be fine” is the number-one piece of advice Melissa A. Fabello would give.
According to Ash, the only rules you’ve really got to live by are “Wash your face at night and don't be too much of a dick.” If you can manage that, you’ll make it to your 30s just fine.