A couple years ago, I read and bookmarked this article on HuffPo about turning 30. The article was a reboot of a list published in 1997 in Glamour magazine, written by Pamela Redmond Satran, whose book The Man I Should Have Married was one of my first chick-lit favorites. (I always loved that the book was dedicated to her husband – “the man she should have married, and did”.)
The list, “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know By the Time She’s 30,” was the inspiration for a book of essays put together by Glamour.
The list is divided into halves: 15 things you should have and 15 things you should know. As a woman in my late 20s, I read the list with interest. How would my own life measure up with this classic, if somewhat arbitrary, list?
Well … first, let’s look at the list.
By 30, you should have …
1. One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come.
2. A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family.
3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.
4. A purse, a suitcase, and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying.
5. A youth you’re content to move beyond.
6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.
7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age – and some money set aside to help fund it.
8. An email address, a voice mailbox, and a bank account – all of which nobody has access to but you.
9. A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded.
10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.
11. A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra.
12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it.
13. The belief that you deserve it.
14. A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine, and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30.
15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship, and all those other facets of life that do get better.
About a week away from turning 30, I’m doing pretty well on the “you should have” side of the list. Relationships I’ve learned from and furniture I bought for myself, access to all the tools I need for home improvement tasks, a good purse/suitcase/umbrella (even if I can’t find the umbrella right now). I have a youth I’m happy to move beyond and I’ve had adventures I’ll enjoy retelling one day when I’m old. I have the email address, voicemail and bank account, the resume and the lingerie, the skincare and exercise routines. I have a wonderful circle of friends with whom I can laugh and cry. I have a wonderful start on a satisfying relationship that I hope will only get better with time. While I’m by no means wealthy, I have some money for emergencies and some money for vacation and I’m working my ass off to build my career into something really great.
As for what I don’t have? Well, I don’t have the perfect thing to wear if the employer of my dreams wants to see me in an hour, and I think items like this speak to more than just “having the outfit” but being prepared for life’s opportunities, and that is something I could definitely improve in my 30s – because yes, I believe I deserve to be prepared for and embrace all the best things about life.
Now for the second half of the list.
By 30, you should know …
1. How to fall in love without losing yourself.
2. How you feel about having kids.
3. How to quit a job, break up with a man, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.
4. When to try harder and when to walk away.
5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.
6. The names of the secretary of state, your great-grandmothers, and the best tailor in town.
7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.
8. Where to go – be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat – when your soul needs soothing.
9. That you can’t change the length of your legs, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents.
10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.
11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.
12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or not flossing for very long.
13. Who you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take it personally.
14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.
15. Why they say life begins at 30.
Yes, I’ve learned these lessons, in the ways they’ve come to me. Living alone was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I hope everyone has the chance to do it. I know that being a mother is, most likely, not for me. And I learned the hard way not to assume that never having a cavity doesn’t mean you’ll never get a cavity. Sigh. Then there were the lessons that nobody can ever put on a list for someone else, the things that we alone can discover and learn.
Mostly I’m excited about looking forward, not back, and finding out more about why “they” say life begins at 30. Because the 20s have been a great learning experience, but I’m looking forward to really kicking ass more than ever in the next decade.