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Getting Over Our Fear of Turning 30

“You know how to live life!” “You look like you’re having so much fun!” “Gosh, you have a lot of friends.”

These are all exact words I have heard from friends on Instagram, and as a new thirtysomething, it's just further affirmation that 30 is not as big and bad as it's cracked up to be. It's not that turning 30 wasn't scary—it was—but looking back now I realize it is only as scary as you let it be. The importance of age 30 is real, it is a turning point and a time to take stock of where you are and where you want to be—but that is not something we should fear.

Thanks to this standing stigma, turning 30 often requires a little prep and pep, not because it's the beginning of the end, but because we are inundated with self-help tips that belie some kind of tragedy in turning 30. Somehow 30 years old is supposed to be the culmination of your lives pursuit and the peak of perfection. But I'm 30 and therefore older and wiser and can tell you that this is a load of B.S. (excuse the French). So far, age 30 has been one of the best years of my life and—with a little prep and pep—it can be yours too.

01. Throw a kick-ass party.

This is very important. Perhaps the most important. You will need to have that night tucked securely in your memory for weeks, months, years to come, so make it count. For me (an extreme extrovert who maintains 50 best friends), having a party in my favorite local bar with the people I love was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Maybe a big bash isn’t your thing—find whatever is your thing and do it. Go on a trip. Have a nice dinner in. Get a manicure. Choose whatever will be a milestone you can look back on and know you celebrated with abandon because, hey, you are owning this new era.

02. Be honest.

As a spritely 21-year-old, I assumed a few things would be in order by the time I turned 30: a life partner, a few kids, and the ability to wake up when my alarm sounds. I am 0-for-3 on these, and that isn’t fun to admit. Do the kind thing for yourself and be honest about that. Denying what you want or ignoring your expectations won’t help you address that sense of disappointment at hand.

I desperately wanted to deny my many years of indoctrination of how I should live my life and just be happy, carefree, and content. In reality, I am all of those things, but I would also be lying to myself to deny that I'm disappointed to still be living with a girl. (Love you, roomie!) Give yourself space to feel the feels and embrace it—it was one of the best gifts I gave myself.

03. Remember what’s true.

I set out to achieve a few goals before my birthday. Learn some stuff. Write more. Etc., etc. I have accomplished literally none of them. While goals are wonderful and grounding and productive, they’re also really lame sometimes. When I was at my 30th birthday party and looking around the room, I realized the reason I didn’t accomplish those “goals”: I was too busy living life. I was too busy being with people I love and who love me. The relationships I have matter infinitely more than my inability to play the guitar. (Seriously, that was on the list.)

No matter who you are, you have seen things and been places and done things that others would only dream about. Recognize them! Celebrate them! Don’t write it off just because you aren’t impressed. You’ve given yourself space to be honest with the bad. Now do the same with the good.

04. Stop should-ing.

I should have a bigger savings account. I should be challenging myself more. I should be more organized. I should be healthier. I should work out more. I should know how to cook. I should be more punctual. I should have asked more questions in my 20s because oh-crap-I-don’t-know-anything.

These are just a few shoulds that go through my head on a semi-regular basis, and I know I am not alone. Where do we get these crazy ideas and lofty expectations? Stop expecting perfection from the people around you, and definitely stop expecting it from yourself. My journey and yours will differ, so comparing them is a silly waste of time. For instance, maybe on your journey there aren’t many red velvet cupcakes, and that’s just not a world I want to live in.

05. Being 30 is awesome.

You’re a grown-up! So many wonderful people assured me of this before last year. It was hard for me to believe that, but now it’s arrived and I have to say it’s the best. My preoccupation for what others think has been declining steadily and that is so freeing. I am free to be who I want and do what I am supposed to do. Parties I attend end promptly at midnight. My friends like to stay in the neighborhood for dinner and get a good night’s sleep on Fridays. Weekends are so much more predictable and they are predictably wonderful. Embrace all of these things and enjoy them.