Holley Hyler is an IT consultant and published freelance writer living in New York.
I recently turned 30. I did my best not to think of the day before my birthday as “my last day in my twenties,” but that did creep in occasionally. It is not that I fear getting older or think of it as something to be dreaded. Thinking of the day as such carried an air of finality, and to quote Tyrion Lannister, “Life is full of possibilities.” Here I am, about to go back to school for a Master’s and just starting married life, and I can hardly be sad at the passing of my twenties.
It wasn’t a bad decade. I learned a lot. I also met my husband shortly after my 29th birthday. I found a job where I fit in. I had my writing published in literary anthologies… a few times. But to pretend it was all wonderful would be doing a disservice to my readers, who likely want me to get on already with what I want to leave behind. Without further ado, here is the list.
Insecurity About My Appearance
This part about my twenties really sucked, and it still haunts me a bit. To be fair, I have always felt insecure about my appearance, but something about turning 30 makes me feel like it is time to accept who I am and stop looking back. I remember my mother saying she enjoyed her 30s the most because she had figured out what makeup, clothing, hairstyle, etc. looked best on her. There were other reasons, but like me, I think she was plagued by insecurity about her appearance.
I can see how she felt that way. A young woman (or man) can learn a lot about their style in the 20s. You learn through experience what feels comfortable vs. what looks great and is less practical (like going out for drinks in high heels). You realize maybe the bar isn’t the best place to wear the Prada sunglasses and your favorite purse… moving on.
I still have days where I don’t want my husband to see me in the morning, but I am much better at moving through these feelings now than I was at first. I never want to reach the point of not caring at all about my appearance, but caring a healthy amount, where it is not debilitating if I need a shower-less morning in sweatpants so I have more time to write, would be great.
No… that stuff is for the birds, and I’m trucking right past it. You can keep that, 20s.
Not Knowing What I Want From Life
I floundered through most of my teens and early 20s with absolutely no idea what I wanted from life.
Not knowing what you want often results in a mixed bag, and no one ever likes those… or maybe they do, what do I know. Some people enjoy boxes of chocolates with no description of what is inside the chocolates, because it is thrilling to know they might either bite into a good one or a really nasty one. The mystery is fun. But I digress.
When you don’t know what you want, nothing feels satisfying. You went on a date, and the guy (or girl) seemed interesting, but you just weren’t into them and can’t place why. You work, but you hate your job and cannot escape it because you have nothing to escape to. You live in an apartment, and it kind of sucks, but owning a home seems like too much work.
You’re always in this cycle of dissatisfaction where you can never place exactly what it is that you want or you feel afraid to move on, so you stay right where you are emotionally.
Early on, I was motivated by fear, not by what I really wanted. I didn’t know what I wanted. It was scary as hell to think I wouldn’t be able to find a job and that I would struggle through life, so I ended up working in a field that is financially rewarding but a little soul-sucking at times. Now I am going back to school so I can make the career switch I have wanted for a while, so this is yet another habit the 20s can keep. Been there, done that…
Relying Heavily on Relationships
I love my friends and family. I love and adore my husband. They have brought me much joy, and every glimmer of time I can have with them is precious and highly rewarding. I consider myself blessed to have strong relationships with them all.
I used to call these people on those lonely nights (minus my husband, as I hadn’t met him yet) counting on them to listen to my every woe, each of my hurt feelings. If any of them are reading this, I sincerely apologize. I’m sure it was annoying. You should have told me to take it to my therapist or my diary, but you were patient with me.
It’s not that you can’t count on people. Everyone is going through their own stuff, and there are times that adding yours to the mix creates a burden for them. They won’t tell you so (maybe some of them do), but it’s still not nice. You may not know any better, but there is a time and a place for everything. There are times when we need to be responsible with our energy.
This probably is not a universal thing among people in their 20s. I was a youngest sibling and used to someone always being there if I had any trouble. Becoming an adult and moving out on my own was quite an adjustment for me.
I won’t say the years have “hardened” me, but they have made me a lot better at dealing with things on my own. There are times that everyone needs a friend. Leaning heavily on the support of others when you have an emotional issue isn’t always kind. Consider the timing and how the other person might be feeling.
Saying Yes To Everything
In my early 20s, I had no idea what it meant to “protect my energy.” There were often times that I did not feel like going anywhere or being around anyone, but I did because I felt pressured. Some of those times did turn out to be fun. Most of the time, I regretted saying yes to the invite.
This probably goes hand-in-hand with the insecurity mentioned earlier. It can be hard to say no, especially when you worry about what people think.
People can be well-read on the topic of introversion but still not entirely “get” it. It’s not easy to say “to hell with everyone’s feelings,” but sometimes you have to for your own peace and well-being.
Work events can feel especially intimidating. You might feel like your job is on the line if you come off as not being a team player or not enjoying your coworkers. Even so, sometimes you have to say “to hell with it,” especially if these team-building events take place regularly.
You don’t have to say yes to everything, and sometimes people even respect you more when you can say no with grace and ease. It shows them that your time is valuable, and they learn to treat it as such.
Not Prioritizing Myself
Most of my wants are small – books, coffee, pumpkin custard in a waffle cone, a couple of hours in the morning to write on a weekend. Maybe that last one isn’t small. I honestly don’t know – all I know is that it can be hard to actualize.
No matter how small or trivial your desire seems in the face of everything else, you deserve it. I get it that if you have small children, dogs, or a partner, you may not always be able to honor it. But don’t make it your default setting to forego what you want for all the other things and people pulling at you.
People may call you selfish (or you may imagine that they do), and that can hurt or get on your nerves. This is where the “prioritizing” comes in. It’s a promise you make to yourself, and you choose for that promise to be more important than the real or imagined criticisms.
Choosing is not always a process that feels great emotionally, especially when it comes to choosing yourself.
I have found that, when I communicate with people about things that are important to me and what I want to do ahead of time, it goes more smoothly. People can be more understanding than you might think if you find a way to tell them what you need.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but if I had to go back and do it over, these are what I would focus on correcting.
Growing older is a privilege and I appreciate the lessons.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Holley Hyler
Holley Hyler (author) from Upstate New York on September 16, 2020:
@ All, I am happily overwhelmed by the kind and supportive comments on this piece. I wish I could respond to you individually, but that may not be a thing for a while since I just started back to school. I'm glad it seems like my takeaways are relatable across the board. Thank you all for the feedback!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 15, 2020:
Happy Thirties! I love the conclusions you reached that getting older is a privilege and that the years "have made me a lot better at dealing with things on my own." Gratitude going forward is an asset.
greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 13, 2020:
Holly - this was a great read, and I especially think putting yourself first sometimes is hugely important. Many years ago I told my wife I am going to ride my bike everyday, I’ll find a way, and I’m doing it because I love it and because I want to be around longer for her. It was a win-win, really, and she is very supportive. Your me time to write—or just do whatever—is a priority worth pursuing. Great article!
BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on September 12, 2020:
Glad to hear you made it to your thirtieth year.
Sounds like you have a great start for a wonderful tour of this era. Husband..job...good brain on your shoulders.
I know a few who at 30 still have no idea about life.
I think you are on the right track.
Thank for sharing.
Kyler J Falk from Corona, CA on September 11, 2020:
How exciting, congratulations, and happy birthday! I still have-as I count on my fingers to figure out how old I am-four more years until my thirties. However, your list is almost the same as mine would be!
It is amazing how time flies, and even more awesome how much we learn as it goes by. Your articles always help me to know I'm not alone in my struggles, and for that I thank you!
Vikram Brahma from Assam, India on September 11, 2020:
Holley, nice article. I like the way, you have selected major points especially - Not Prioritizing Myself and saying yes to everything. There are many habits which we should let go or go after it as per our age. But it is also true we learn things as we progress in life. Thanks for sharing your article.