On September 15, 1990, at 12:40 in the afternoon, I came screaming and crying into the world, a long skinny thing with weirdly long fingers.

On September 15, 2020 (that’s right—tomorrow!!), at 12:40 in the afternoon, I turn 30.

Whew. That feels like a super odd thing to say. It feels like just yesterday I celebrated my 16th birthday at the Hard Rock Café in Philadelphia, and here I am celebrating my birthday with my first full week of grad school (more on that to come, don’t worry). Also, what a weird time to have a milestone birthday.

To commemorate the last few days of my 20s, I have decided to compile a list of 30 things I have learned before the age of 30:

  1. There is value in just sitting and breathing. Not every moment has to be productive.
  2. Turns out I like to run. I ran track in 5th grade and hated it, but in retrospect, that may have been because I also got shingles that year (yes, I know…). Now I run for fun. 10-year-old me wouldn’t believe that statement, but here we are.
  3. Never underestimate the value of truly comfortable shoes.
  4. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s even okay to let others know that you’re not always okay. You’re not a robot, and people appreciate emotional vulnerability.
  5. If you don’t pick your pimples, they go away a lot faster. Go figure.
  6. In a similar vein, society lied to you. Acne is not a teenage problem. Adult acne is very very real and very very unfair.
  7. Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates are not the enemy. In fact, they fuel your brain and body better than any other macronutrient. Eat them.
  8. You don’t need to have your life figured out when you graduate college. You’re still a child, and it’s perfectly okay to switch careers or make a life change at any point beyond that.
  9. Teddy Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Let me tell ya, that guy knew what he was talking about. Comparing yourself to others, especially in the age of social media, is a recipe for disaster.
  10.  It’s okay to not be good at everything. Embrace the fact that you suck at things. If you want to, work to get better. If you don’t want to, that’s also fine.
  11.  Standing up for yourself is not the same thing as being confrontational.
  12.  Self-care is not one-size-fits-all. It’s less important to fit a certain formula and more important to find something that works for you.
  13.  New York pizza really does deserve its reputation. It’s truly delicious.
  14.  It seems that being an adult is basically just doing laundry and dishes every day until you die.
  15. Your struggle does not invalidate others’ struggles and vice versa. “Who has it worse” is a shitty game to play. Don’t give into it.
  16. You are so much more interesting than the way that you look and the shape of your body. Don’t forget that.
  17. Butter makes literally everything taste better. I don’t know how I spent so long being afraid of butter.
  18. A little spontaneity never hurt anybody. Not every moment needs to be planned and measured.
  19. Friends come and go from your life, and it sucks, but it’s just part of the process. Don’t waste your time trying to win people back.
  20. That being said, there is nothing more powerful and more humbling than a sincere apology.
  21. Podcasts are incredible, and I don’t know why it took until I was 29 to discover this.
  22. Don’t listen to your imposter syndrome. It is, indeed, lying to you.
  23. Listen to your body, otherwise, it will force you to listen to it and that is far more unpleasant and schedule-disrupting.
  24. Mistakes happen. It doesn’t do anyone any good to dwell. Accept it and move on.
  25. People aren’t paying nearly as much attention to you as you think they are—usually, they’re way too wrapped up in worrying about their own faults to worry about yours.
  26. If you have a favorite pen, don’t lend it to anyone. You will never see it again and you’ll be very disappointed the next time you have to write something down. There is nothing quite like a good pen.
  27. Ask for help. To the people who truly love you, you will never be a burden in your hour(s) of need.
  28. Self-deprecation isn’t cute. You’re good at things—own that.
  29. Talk less, listen more. That’s where the learning happens.
  30. There’s still so much you don’t know. Embrace that and face the future with excitement and anticipation, because there is so much more education coming your way.

Kristy Cloetingh is a Philadelphia native who is currently trying to figure out her place in the world. Her passions include reading, singing, dancing, nature, yoga, chicken fingers, and puppies. An anorexia survivor and mental health warrior, Kristy has made it her life’s mission to remind every single person that their bodies and minds are worthy of unconditional love and respect, regardless of size, shape, or whatever “normal” is.

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