At 30, I Finally Know Who I Am

by Panda Elder
Originally Published: 
Daryn Bartlett / Unsplash

A few months ago, I stayed the night at a friend’s house. It wasn’t anything like sleeping out 10 years ago. It was 9 p.m. when I crawled into bed, and my children were beside me. I wanted to close my eyes, but the mascara on my lashes made me completely restless. The bed was big and comfortable, but I missed my pillow from home. I was never the kind of person who knew what type of pillow I liked, but there I was, making silent promises to never leave home without my very own pillow again.

I laughed at myself, thinking, This must be 30. Not because I was being dull and boring but because I finally know what the hell I want, even if it’s a super-thin pillow and a face-washing before bed.

Here are 10 ways being in my 30s is kinda cool:

1. I’m comfortable in my body.

I used to be insecure about my itty-bitty chest, but now I feel like a freaking ballerina. I no longer wonder if I lack something. Nope, I’m certain I don’t.

2. I kind of know how to cook and clean.

I haven’t eaten a junior bacon cheeseburger in well over a decade, and although I used to question the effectiveness of sweeping, I now do it with conviction at least three times a day. I even take pleasure in washing the dishes at night (weird, I know).

3. I feel perfectly acceptable just as I am.

I don’t need to shave every inch and crevice like a porn star to feel feminine. I try not to let the mole hairs on my face grow, but I don’t shave my arms like I did back in high school. A little stubble doesn’t embarrass me, and if the stubble gets long enough to braid, I still feel like a goddess. (Just kidding! I haven’t given up on social norms completely.)

4. I’m my own friend.

I used to be more self-conscious and would wonder what people thought of me. Now I’m not so affected by the opinions of others. I don’t need to be liked or understood by everyone, and it’s such a relief. I give myself the approval I need, and although insecurity and self-doubt arise from time to time, I recognize them as just that rather than internalizing them. My internal dialogue is friendlier and more reassuring than ever.

5. I know how I feel about things.

Back in the day, I used to try to like certain things if everyone else did. For instance, a lot of my friends liked the bands Bush and Stone Temple Pilots. I assumed they must be good and that I should like them too. Now I recognize with ease how I feel about things. My opinions come from genuine feelings inside — not from the mind or lips of someone else. I know and trust what I feel, even if it’s a mild annoyance toward Bush’s music.

6. I speak the truth.

I don’t pretend to not care where we eat when I really want pho. I don’t pretend my baby is sick when the real reason we didn’t go to your party is that my husband works a lot, and we just wanted to sit home together. When I make mistakes, I don’t cover them with excuses. Instead, I just say, “Sorry.”

Speaking the complete truth in big and small ways has been good not only for my soul but also for my relationships. It’s the best way to be understood and feel connected. I no longer care about telling people what they want to hear, fitting in, or lessening a supposed blow. I want to give people the truth and be accepted for who I really am. Otherwise, there’s no genuine relationship.

7. I know who my friends are.

There may not be many, but they are highly valued because they have stood the tests of time and distance, and they evoke my effort even though I have constant companions in my own home.

8. I dance.

This past May I went to my friend’s wedding, and it was the best one I’ve ever been to. I don’t know if it was their party-planning ability, the way the stars aligned, or my sweet dance moves, but I kicked my shoes off and didn’t stop moving for a single minute. I was never the kind of person who danced. In fact, I used to get anxious before going to proms and concerts. But now I don’t even consider whether or not I might look like a fool. I just do what feels good, and dancing feels good.

9. I know my gifts, and I trust myself to use them.

When I went to college, I studied education, partly because I love children and school and partly because I wanted to know what job I’d have when I graduated. Today my direction isn’t based solely on what job makes sense but also on my passions, which I’ve finally discovered. I wouldn’t have called myself a writer even a couple years ago, but I’m now confident enough to trust my perspective and creative flow — and bold enough to share them.

10. I worry less.

I don’t wish for dark times, but I know they offer great opportunities for growth and wisdom. I know the truth in the old adage “This too shall pass,” because I’ve seen it happen time and time again. When my husband and I get in a rut, I know we’ll get out. When I feel confused, I know clarity will follow.

At 30, I don’t just use anti-wrinkle cream. I also question its effectiveness. I know everything on the outside will eventually change, and I now identify more with my inner self. Doing so has made me feel so much more confident, at peace, and empowered.

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