Real Life: 30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years

The biggest takeaway: Be present and enjoy the now.

photo by jo lewis

We’re closing in on the big 3-0, you guys. Earlier this week, I was thinking about the last time I had a new-decade birthday — you know, back when I turned 20. What a crazy ride the last 10 years has been. Growing up, you always hear about how much growth occurs between 20 and 30 and it’s sort of in one ear and out the other. But it IS pretty incredible to reflect back on the last decade of my life and marvel at how much has happened and changed. I was thinking about all the things I’d tell my 20 year old self — or a little sister, if I had one — and as I jotted down a few nuggets of wisdom, the idea for this post came into play. And then, as I determined what graphics I should add, a highly amusing personal yearbook emerged too. Yes, that’s right, after the jump are 10 photos of me over the last 10 years. From a gal who can barely get an outfit post up but every few months, no less (ahead: a blogger in her natural environment). The biggest takeaway from 30 years on this weird and wonderful planet? Be present and enjoy the now. That’s an important one. And here are 30 other things I’ve learned: 

But first, my personal yearbook!

a personal yearbook

Okay, now for realsies.


1. Margaritas are never a bad idea.

2. Make an effort to cultivate lasting friendships with the people who make you feel most like you.

3. Worrying about what other people are doing is a total waste of time and energy. Train yourself to not do it.

4. Save a few trendy items that you loved wearing when you were in your very early 20s. They make GREAT costumes later in life.

5. Despite all your self convincing that it won’t happen to you, yes, your skin really does eventually age and your metabolism really will slow down.

6. It’s okay if there are some things in life that you’re not ready to get over, and may not ever get over. Those are the things that become part of you, and probably make you who you are.

7. And as a follow up: Ain’t no shame in seeing a therapist. Regularly.

8. Discomfort in life is a sign that you’re going through something that will challenge, change and evolve you. So while it sucks in the moment, take solace in the knowledge that you’re going to come out the other side a stronger person.

9. Study abroad in college. You will regret it if you don’t.

10. Collect experiences, no things. This one’s really hard and no one can subscribe to it completely, but it’s a good approach to remember.

11. Ridiculous dance moves will never be frowned upon during an impromptu dance party; in fact, they will be celebrated. Always bust a move if you’re feeling the beat — you’ll probably be the life of the party.

12. Special guest contribution from Joe, who turns 30.5 this week: “Being happy and healthy are really the only things that matter.”

13. Never, ever go to bed without washing your face and moisturizing. It’s beyond me how people can sleep with any makeup on. Ew.

14. People are not mind readers. If you know what you want, you have to ask for it.

15. In our culture, we’re made to feel like there’s no such thing as getting wealthier, you only reach new levels of relative poverty. Instead, work on being grateful for everything you have and have earned, and where you are in the present.

16. Find a book you absolutely love, then read it once per year. I’ve done this with one particular book for years, and it’s been fun to see how it changes for me as I get older — what makes me laugh, what parts I like the best, etc. (The first time I read it, I was 17 years old!)

17. Throw someone you love a huge surprise party at least once in your life. It’s really, really fun!

18. If you fall in love with an item while traveling — whether it’s a knick knack or a piece of furniture — always buy it. Those are the home decor items that make for the best stories and memories.

19. Selecting and regularly wearing a signature scent can do wonders as a daily pick-me-up. It can make you feel more like you.

20. Indulging in guilty pleasures will be some of the best times you have alone with yourself. Watch that reality TV, treat yourself to a massage, or eat half a box of Cheez-Its while watching reality TV. And enjoy every second of it.

21. It’s okay to not want the same things that everyone else seems to want. And that includes trendy footwear OR major life decisions!

22. Between the ages of 21 and 25, all visits to Vegas should have a strict 2 night maximum. After 25, any additional nights should only be added if you’re splurging on the the 3S’s: spas, shows, and shopping. Otherwise, the max night rule  holds.

23. No really, things could always be worse.

24. Take care of yourself. The human body is a pretty incredible machine, but it functions a lot better when you care for it accordingly. I admittedly could be better at this a lot of the time!

25. If you enjoy the language you learn in high school, keep it up for as long as you can. There’s nothing cooler than meeting multi-lingual adults.

26. In the same vein: It’s entirely possible that the subjects you thought you sucked at in school will end up being necessary — and much easier for you — later in life. Don’t sell yourself short, and keep learning about the things you don’t understand.

27. Whether you like it or not, the music you loved as teenager will eventually be considered “oldies”, regardless of how current it still sounds to you.

28. It really is a small world. Weird connections and acquaintances will come back into your life again and again. I’m always in awe of it — especially in this day and age, with our ability to connect online! Two of my favorite examples: a guy I met as a teenager on a cruise ship and totally had a teenage summer fling with is married to a popular blogger I came across 12 years later. And once, Joe was on a video conference call at work with another office in London, and realized he was talking to his childhood best friend who had moved away at age 8. They hadn’t seen each other in nearly 20 years.

29. A good hair removal place is gold. As is a good hair salon and stylist who understands what will make you look and feel great. Follow these people to the ends of the earth, no matter how many salon changes they make. Unless you move to another city, in which case, prepare yourself for a couple years of bad haircuts and salon hopping.

30. At every stage in life, whether it’s your best friends or the most insignificant acquaintances, everyone’s journey will be different from your own. Don’t spend your time comparing.

Your turn, late 20-somethings and newly minted 30 somethings. What’s something you’ve learned in your 30 years? Share your wisdom below. I hope you enjoyed this very random Real Life post! 

Image credit: Jo Lewis, via Style Me Pretty

Image credit: Jo Lewis, via Style Me Pretty

Leave a Comment


  1. 7.30.14

    These are rules to live by indeed! Although I am today closer to the big 40 than to turning 30, your rules aren’t obsolete… they only become truer. Especially the trendy 20-something items of clothing which are now totally hilarious… that’s if they still fit of course. :)

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Thank you, Vanessa! It’s good to know I’m on the right track :) Also, re: the clothing items fitting — sometimes I think the misfit makes it even better…depending on the item of course!

  2. 7.30.14
    Rachelle said:

    I turn 30 next year and I agree with all of those. I will also add let go of FOMO (that’s something I no longer worry about). I also looooove #30.

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Yup, agree — I think the FOMO thing falls squarely in that “stop worrying about what other people are doing” category. Just do you!

  3. 7.30.14

    These are amazing! I’m so glad you shared. It almost feels like once you’re in your twenties, you learn so much more much more quickly than you do in your teens. It’s kind of alarming! LOLing at Vegas rule and the small world story…. you are 100% right about all of these!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Thank you, Monica! I totally agree — that 20s learning curve is a lot steeper than the teens one, for sure.

  4. 7.30.14

    Loved the post! I turned 30 this month and could not help but to also reflect on my twenties. I agree with all your 30 lessons, but my favorite one is the Vegas 2 night true!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      I mean, anyone who has ever been there for that 3rd night…or even at noon on the 2nd day…knows it’s TRUE.

  5. 7.30.14
    Meghan said:

    I adore this post, Victoria! It’s so important to reflect and I love your “key learnings” from 30 years- thanks for sharing!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Thanks, Meghan! We need to get together one of these days, like, for real.

  6. 7.30.14

    Your list is so good that it’s actually difficult to narrow it down to my top three, but I’d have to say 2, 8, and 14. Very wise, indeed!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Thank you, Sarah!!!!!

  7. 7.30.14

    These are all so spot on! #9 – I have that regret. #14 – I’m learning this, slowly, but surely. #28 gave me goosebumps. I just ran into my childhood best friend that I hadn’t seen in 18 years at my first ever yoga class (which happened to be on a rooftop in downtown KC). Such a strange and exciting feeling!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      My #9 regret is made even more ridiculous because I worked at my university’s study abroad office…for THREE YEARS. #whatwasithinking

  8. 7.30.14

    Perhaps my favourite post to date. I still have 1 year and 4 months (not that I’m counting or anything…) but found myself nodding along to EVERY point. Happy early birthday friend! Thanks for constantly sharing your wisdom.

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Thanks doll, that means a lot coming from you! And oh heyyy the countdown to 29…which is pretty big too!

  9. 7.30.14

    I turn 30 in a few weeks and I’ve found myself nodding and agreeing with just about everything on this list! Especially #2, #3, #7, #9 and #29! Happy early birthday and hope you have an awesome birthday weekend!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Glad to know I’m not alone! Hope you celebrate with margaritas in a few weeks :)

  10. 7.30.14
    Marisa said:

    I got chills from #28! You’re so right about #9! Aaannnddd I pretty much live by #11!!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Nuts, isn’t it? I got chills when I realized/heard about those weird connections too!

  11. 7.30.14

    Happy birthday, girlie! I was just in SF on Sunday and thought of you. Miss you dearly + great list! I love 5, 9, 14, 23, 24…. seriously, I could name at least 5 more. xo

    In my 27 years of life, I’ve learned that change is inevitable… good, bad and indifferent. How you deal + adapt with it is what matters most.

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Man, we miss it. We still need to get together and catch up.

      PS, I’d say you are much wiser than your 27 years!

  12. 7.30.14

    love this so much… and happy almost birthday! xx

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:


  13. 7.30.14
    Amanda said:

    I wish I was approaching 30 in Sept and not 32!!!! But in the additional two years since turning 30, I’ve learned a few more things. #1 Leave the negativity behind. Focus on the things that are positive, it will add years to your life. #2 Laugh a LOT. It brings a smile to your face as well as those around you. Those memories of times when you laughed till you peed your pants will still be the times you remember the most years down the road. #3 Learn to say no. Say no to things that don’t make you happy, to things that you don’t actually enjoy, to people that bring you down instead of lifting you up. It’s one of the hardest ones I’ve had to learn, but life really is short sometimes and you need to do things for you not for someone else. #4 Live like today is your last day. I know this one has been said time and time again, but it is so true. Save what you need to, and the rest use to do what you’ve always wanted to do. Because if you keep waiting to do that trip you’ve always wanted to go on till next year then you’ll end up saying that every year till you realize there’s no time left. You just have no idea when this one life you get on this one planet could sadly come to an end, and you don’t want to leave this world with more regrets than cherished memories. #5 Tell the people you love how much you love them OFTEN. To quote Ross Gellar when Rachel tells him she loves him even though he’s married to Emily – “It’s always great when someone tells you they love you.”

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      These are great ones to add — your #3 is a huge one and now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t include it. A 31 in 31 list?

  14. 7.30.14
    Amanda said:

    P.S. HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY V!!!!!!!!! I hope it’s a day to remember and one for the books! :) Your 30’s are going to be great!

  15. 7.30.14
    Misha said:

    I LOVE this! As someone who’s still in her early 20s, I’ve been learning a lot of these same and there were a few new things to think about too. : ) Your decade of photos is glorious, beautiful & happy. I wish you the happiest of birthdays and a year of feeling whole!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Aw, Misha, thanks for such a nice comment. I’m glad I could impart a little bit of wisdom. It was a glorious decade — not always happy and certainly not always beautiful, but mine… Glorious is a great word to describe it!

  16. 7.30.14
    Lindsey said:

    Happy birthday! Love this list. Particularly agree with #8 and #14 and completely relate to all of them.

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Thanks, Lindsey!!

  17. 7.30.14

    I turn 30 in 4 months! Loved every single one of these.

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Happy (very early) birthday! :)

  18. 7.30.14
    Chelsea said:

    I love this list! And how you compared all the photos..I think you look better now than ever!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Aww, thanks, Chelsea! I feel like maybe I came into my own a bit more…which is a good thing at 30!

  19. 7.30.14

    Quelle sagesse Victoria ! Pas sûr qu’à 30 ans j’avais conscience d’avoir appris tout ça. Mais je suis d’accord avec toute la liste. Exception faite peut-être de Vegas car on n’a aucun équivalent ici, mais je comprends très bien ! Pour moi la trentaine est la meilleure dizaine (j’ai l’air d’une grand-mère en disant ça !). A tes 30 ans !

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      C’est vrai que il y a n’existe pas équivalent à Vegas en France (mais, peut-être c’est un bon truc!!). Merci pour tes félicitations! Nous pensons de toi et Paris souvent.

  20. 7.30.14

    #20 is priceless. Take tie to just veg out sometimes. I did a similar list for my 50th b-day this week. I would add “Be on Time”!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      That’s a good one too!!

  21. 7.30.14
    Kira said:

    Love, love, love this post! Happy almost birthday and keep doing what you’re doing! I’m about to turn 30 and decided to sell all of my stuff and move back to NY in the fall after 7 years back “home” in Vancouver. It will be a change, that’s for sure. As you said, collecting experiences is so worth it!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Kira, that’s amazing! The change will be different and good and bad, but it’s great to keep pushing yourself. Enjoy every second!

  22. 7.30.14
    Michele said:

    Cheers to 3-0!!! I love that my shoulder is in the 2006 pic! It was lovely catching up last week. You are and always have been such an inspiration to me. I hope it’s your best year EVER! Love you, MM

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Love you to the moon and back. The 2006 pic is among the tamer photos from that night…remember? xoxo

  23. 7.31.14
    Lolly said:

    This is a lovely post! Almost had me in tears by the end of it. I am turning 28 at the end of August and life lessons have been on my mind here and there.

    For me, a top lesson learned is to take chances and live somewhere besides your hometown. I left when I was 20 and, though the journey since then has been anything but easy, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It has come to the point where I am itching to move somewhere else, so we’ll see where I end up by age 30 – :)

    Happy Birthday, lady! :)

  24. 7.31.14
    Lauren said:

    I love this list and am glad you included #7. A lot of people feel shame for seeing a therapist, but over time we accumulate a lot of experiences that can really weigh us down over the years – it is so nice to have a non-biased sounding board to discuss with! Also, #22 made me laugh – Vegas, man. It’s not for the faint of heart. Happy birthday!

  25. 7.31.14

    As someone who has been a 30-something for a few years now, I can vouch for pretty much all of that! You summed it up beautifully! Happy birthday to one of the most inspirational and creative bloggers I know!

  26. 7.31.14
    Rose said:

    I really love this post, Victoria! Especially the fact that you put together a numbers list that doesn’t feel cliché—I thought about doing something similar for my 25th in May, but ended up going with something more reflective because I was worried it would be played out, since I usually find most lists to be just that. You proved me wrong!

  27. 7.31.14
    Iris said:

    Happy birthday!

    I totally agree with #3 on your list. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time and will only make you envious. My career is going wonderfully but I sometimes have felt weird about being single and have never having been in a serious relationship. I try to concentrate on the good things in my life and know people reach different milestones in their own time.

  28. 7.31.14

    awesome post! Happy belated birthday :)

    I’m only 25, but mine would be – remember that while other peoples’ lives might look perfect from the outside, everyone has their own problems and different things make different people happy so don’t waste your time on envying someone else’s life. Only your life can be the best for you.

  29. 7.31.14
    Kelly said:

    Beautiful post. And I love the reminder that things could always be worse. So appreciate every moment! xoxo, KMK

  30. 8.1.14
    caitlin said:

    This is really beautiful – Thank you for sharing. I turned 30 this year too, so I can relate/agree with all of these.

  31. 8.1.14
    Virginia said:

    Just graduated college and I love collecting words of wisdom from women I admire. Please do a post on your what you learned at your first job– I’m desperately trying to find mine!

  32. 8.2.14

    Such a great list. Having turned 30 a few months ago, I can relate to most of these, especially #9 and #18.

    Happy birthday and hope you have a fabulous, low-key weekend with your friends!

  33. 8.4.14
    Archna said:

    #28 Such a small world! :). Happy Birthday!,

  34. 8.6.14
    Allison said:

    Love! I just posted my list on turning 30 this week!

  35. 8.7.14

    What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing all of this… I loved reading each one and know that we all can relate to these :)

    xx, Alexa

  36. 8.10.14

    I found your blog via Stripes & Sequins (Grace is always saying such lovely things about you and your blog), and I’m so glad I did as I’ve just spent a lovely hour getting lost in it.

    I especially love this post. I spent a lot of time reflecting last year; I turned 30 and to be honest struggled with it a little; not because I was older – I didn’t care about that – but because life was different at 30 to how I had imagined/planned for it to be when I was in my 20s. And it took a really long time to accept that this was ok, and probably even better!

    In hindsight, I’m so grateful for all those things my 20s taught me (I even wrote a post on the best things I did before 30 here:, but also that I grow more and more comfortable with myself each year.

    Briony xx