This past July was a leetle crazy. I turned 30, had only a few weeks to find a new apartment, found one at the last minute, packed up my life, and moved from Brooklyn to Queens. Oh, and it was also the busiest time of the year at my job. Phew!
I've been meaning to share some of the lessons I've learned in my 20s here on Galbraith, but at first I second-guessed myself—who am I to give you advice? Then I realized, that's the cool thing about turning 30: You're a little more, er, seasoned. By the time you turn 30, you've lived through some stuff. You've probably overcome some hard times, learned some tough lessons. After all, our 20s are all about experiencing everything: falling in love, falling out of love, working for a few amazing companies, working for some not-so-great companies, making lots of mistakes and (hopefully) learning from them, realizing you can be good at things you didn't think you could be good at, and making some lifelong friends in the process. Often it's the time when you come face-to-face with mortality when someone you know or love passes away. You begin to realize how invaluable and precious your loved ones are in your life. You see how human your parents are and that actually, they need you as much as you need them.
So here are the top six lessons I've learned in the last decade, plus, my fabulous new roommates, Kristin and Kaitlin, share their smart and super-funny bits of advice on what their 20s have taught them so far. Think of all these tips as little reminders to stir up knowledge that's already there inside of you. Basically, you got this!
1. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. Whether it's at work, in a friendship, or in a relationship. Ask for the full-time position even if everyone usually starts at part-time. (This happened when I started working at Apple in 2011: It was unusual to get hired full-time for the entry-level position, but I was granted full-time because I asked for it—many times!). Ask for your friend to listen more when you meet for drinks (it can't be all one person talking!). Ask your partner to discuss your future together. Whatever it is you need, say it. You'll be so surprised by how often things go your way. Let me be real: To me, asking is scary. Sometimes I have to get up the nerve, psych myself up to ask for something, big or small. But I look back on my experiences, especially the one at Apple, as proof that you never know until you ask.
2. Try to accept your loved ones and make peace with them, even if they have very different political views than you. On an episode of the podcast The Dinner Party Download, Gloria Steinem has some awesome advice on dealing with this. She quotes scholar and writer Dorothy Dinnerstein, who says that one of the functions of family is to learn how to get along with and even love people you disagree with. "[That's] really important for the future of the human race," Steinem says in the episode. "Otherwise, in the rest of our lives we pick people we share interests and values with. I thought that that was brilliant... the prison is when you think you're supposed to agree with your blood relatives, [so instead] see it as a useful exercise to learn how to get along with, and negotiate with, and tell the truth with, and love and appreciate people you don't agree with." That was so moving for me to hear. That it's not just normal to disagree, but necessary to teach us to be more tolerant, loving human beings. My dad and I have very different political views, so this helped me to have some peace with where we disagree. He's still my dad, and I love him. (Isn't that what we all want, to be loved for exactly who we are?)
3. Don't make work your life. Because work isn't what life is all about. Sure, more than ever we're choosing careers and creating jobs that make us happier and more fulfilled. But know when to call it quits for the day, to take time off, to step out and call your mom or your best friend. Use every bit of that vacation time, because baby, you've earned it. Know when you need to step back and just be. As Amy Poehler says in her book Yes Please, "treat your job like a bad boyfriend," because it won't take care of you or always be there for you. So work hard, do your thing, but don't stay late toiling away at your desk if it's not absolutely necessary. You'll get ahead by what you do at work, not how late you stay. (It has taken working very late hours to realize that I'm not the working-late-hours type at all by choice!)
4. Find ways to check in with yourself, to still the constant thinking in your head. I find balance by doing yoga or meditating, or spending time with dogs and cats... find your thing! That time for yourself is precious, and you should never feel guilty about taking it.
5. Own your quirky passions and obsessions. And be gentle with other people's passions when they differ from yours, as they often will. Maybe your obsession is Taylor Swift (ahem). Maybe it's The Bachelor. Maybe it's sewing or anime or UFC or collecting spoons. The point is, let your freak flag fly and be kind and encouraging when others do the same.
6. Ask people about themselves. Frequently. Try to remember details and names. (Making notes to remember the details and names helps!) I'm always trying to be better at this. Asking people about themselves is the best way to win friends and influence people (I've actually read the book: It's filled with so much simple, but brilliant advice on navigating life, and I highly recommend it) and it's the simplest way to make a good impact on those around you.
And now, a bit of priceless advice from my kickass roomies
First up, the hysterical Kaitlin, 28:
- "Don't wear red in Target, it'll be the biggest mistake of your life." (She was approached two different times in one trip by people asking where the baby formula, etc. was.)
- "When you're getting your hair done, ask for prices." (She learned this the hard way, and I have, too!)
- "Don't put your phone in your back pocket when you're going to the bathroom." (Enough said.)
- "Question everything you buy—Do I really need this?—don't underestimate the use of coupons, and don't worry if it's embarrassing and it holds up the entire line."
- "Don't be afraid to speak your mind, the only thing you should be filtering is your Instagram photos." (She thought that one up on the spot. Props.)
- "Don't be obsessed with your body image, you're going to find someone who will actually like your cellulite." (Truth.)
- "You'll learn who your friends are, who are lifetime friends and who are more seasonal. And branch out in the music you listen to." (She loves Spotify's Discover Weekly, which pretty much reads your mind by creating a playlist from the type of music you already listen to. There's always new, cool tunes each week.)
Next is my girl Kristin, also 28:
- "Growing up is harder than you ever thought it would be." (Ah! There's no real way to prepare for it.)
- "In relationships, everything needs to be put on the table. Don't just leave things that you don't want to talk about, don't dwell on them, say them."
- "Be the nice girl at the party." (I am so big on this, too. Thank you for mentioning this, Kristin. Reach out, be friendly, say hi to the person who isn't talking to anyone. I have totally been that person: not sure who to talk to, feeling kinda awkward. So nice when someone breaks the ice, so be that person.)
- "Speak up, stick to your guns. Make time for yourself, take care of yourself. And listen to your body: Don't go out if you don't feel well."
Thank you to Kristin and Kaitlin for keeping it real and contributing their on-point tips. Now I'd love to hear your tips: What are the lessons you learned in your 20s or so far in life? Feel free to comment below, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Top two photographs by Tom Schelling.