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15 Life Lessons I Learned By My 30th


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If age were a cocktail, I’d order my 30th birthday straight up. I’m not one for experiencing major milestones on the rocks or shaken with great vigor. In addition to making alcohol analogies, I know that people LOVE lists. Breaking down life into bite-sized nuggets is something we can all get behind. (Here’s one of my faves: 41 Reasons Why Pugs Are the Most Majestic Creatures on Earth – yes, this is real and yes, you must read it!).

In order to stay true to my mantra of turning 30 with no fluff, I’m condensing three decades of experience into 15 key lessons I’ve learned in various areas of my life served straight up. Are you ready to quench your thirst with these tasty tidbits? :

1. Invest In Yourself

You are your most valuable asset (doesn’t that sound like a cliché motivational poster?!). As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true. You need to invest in yourself financially, physically, mentally and emotionally. This isn’t just about a 401K. Get a hobby (remember when Bethenny told Jill that on the RHONY…the DRAMA!). Figure out what you LOVE, whether it’s spinning, food photography, or stand-up comedy and just do it.

Learning is a lifelong process. I’m passionate about culinary culture, so instead of waking up early on a Saturday morning to get on line and wait for pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company, I opted to go to a food conference hosted by an organization geared towards college students. Did I feel “old”? Hell no! The reason we were all there was to better ourselves – there’s no age limit on that! While binge watching Netflix and ordering Seamless is incredible, do something to break up your routine. It will satisfy your overall appetite more than that Pad Thai in front of you…this is me mostly speaking to myself.

2. Earning Something Feels Better Than Getting Something

I LOVE these people!

I LOVE these people!

My parents helped me understand the value of hard work. Even as a little girl, I had a list of chores. If I successfully completed them, I got a small allowance. I saved up this money – MY money – and kept track of every single penny!

Unlike things that were given to me by my loving parents, I treated things I bought with my own money with the utmost care. The Barbie dolls I bought were treated like gold, while the ones gifted to me looked as if they underwent science experiments!

I’m forever thankful that I learned the value of working towards a goal. Several years ago, I wanted to make a major career change and I knew it would take a significant amount of focus. I set out a plan and worked tirelessly to get into the right MBA program that would get me an internship and ultimately a full-time offer at my targeted company. I’m working at that company now. Sometimes I need to pinch myself, but then I remember all the focus, energy and time I put into it. I earned it and it feels damn good.

3. Avoid Eating Sticks Of Butter

You may think this is a metaphor. You’re (sort of) right. My mom told me that when I was a child, I would take a stick of butter from the table and start eating it…out of my hand…like a small cavewoman. Yes, I was a feral kid with a hunger for butter. You’d think I would have used a knife and fork! Unsurprisingly, this wouldn’t end well. What can you take away from this? Try not to overindulge — whether it is spending, drinking or living dangerously — it catches up with you and you may poop your pants.

4. Learn To Pump the Brakes

In my childhood, I often suffered from bizarre injuries when I was simply moving way too fast. One time, I ran into the fireplace and my front teeth went through my lip (I can show you the scar). At one particularly horrifying evening at the carnival, I cut my leg severely on a sharp piece of metal jumping off the Moonwalk Bounce House. Most recently, I sliced my finger open with a knife while cleaning it during a dinner party; three stiches later, people were still waiting for dessert! My point is, we tend to hurt ourselves either physically or emotionally when we don’t take time to slow down.

When I was new to online dating (I still have a love/hate relationship with it), I’d get WAY too excited about a prospect too quickly. I learned I was less disappointed if a second date didn’t happen if I hadn’t already planned out meeting his friends in my head…eek.

Remember to: Reflect. Relax. Get a First Aid Kit…knives are SHARP.

5. Don’t Leave Yourself At Home When You Go To Work



In my first years as a working professional, I found myself constantly self-editing and trying to present myself in a way that I thought others wanted me to be. My sense of humor is a significant part of what makes me “me” – when I started integrating more of this quality into my professional interactions, it was a huge boost.

Oscar Wilde famously said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken,” and it’s absolutely true. Now, keep in mind, if you’re super inappropriate, you’re going to have to bring NC-17 down to PG-13 for work. Try to avoid being 50 Shades of Fired…speaking of, have you seen that trailer? Is it getting hot in here?

6. Say Thank You

My mom was a flight attendant, and because of this, my family often got to travel like the A List while on vacation. I remember sitting in first class (courtesy of an upgrade) and drawing “Thank You” cards for the flight attendants. Given the current climate of air travel, can you even imagine a child doing this?

My parents instilled in me the value of gratitude and recognizing good service. In a larger sense, vocalize how you feel. Feeling thankful and expressing thanks are two different things. Whether you’re engaging with a server or bartender, interacting with a coworker or speaking to a friend, say “Thank You” out loud!

7. Family Doesn’t Mean You’re Related

Rocking the crimped hair with my bro!

Rocking the crimped hair with my bro!

I’m incredibly close with my parents (married 40 years!) and brother. The rest of my extended family, not so much. I’m not the type of person to maintain dysfunctional relationships just because we share the same genes. Think about it: Do you keep jeans that make you uncomfortable?

I’ve called my mom’s best friend my “Aunt” Shirley for my entire life. She’s been there for me and not because of blood. The whole point is, hold your relatives to the same standard you hold other people. If you don’t like the dynamics, remove yourself from the situation. I’ve saved myself a lot of heartache because of it.

8. Not all Relationships Are Meant To Last A Lifetime

Thinking about dating requires a duck face

Thinking about dating requires a duck face

Back in middle school, I remember writing the name of my latest crush on my Trapper Keeper with white-out: I ♥ MIKE. Almost as soon as the writing dried, I was ready to change the name.

Friends, lovers and acquaintances come into your life, and some stick around longer than others. If relationships are not mutually beneficial —or even worse, toxic — the length of the relationship does not validate its existence. Maybe I’ll meet the right guy or maybe I won’t. I’m absolutely certain, though, that I’d rather be alone than be with someone out of fear.

In addition to romantic relations, it can be disappointing to admit that a friendship is no longer working. I’ve found that the sooner I recognize a friendship is one-sided, the sooner I can move on. Not everyone is a BFFL; think of it as a BFFN (Best Friend For Now).

9. Set Your Own Goals

Exploring Egypt with the Family!

Exploring Egypt with the Family!

This sounds simple enough, right? Well, it isn’t. In my formative/awkward teenage years, I learned it was important to follow my own path — not someone else’s.

It’s easy to get pressured to do what others do. Through choosing or not choosing to participate in certain “extracurricular activities” you define yourself in your teenage years. When you make a decision, think about who you’re trying to impress. Pick your educational choices, career and lover because they fit your needs not the Joneses.

10. Introspection Is The Best Protection

Sure it rhymes, but it’s meaningful too! We always talk up “thinking outside the box,” but what about thinking inside of it? More specifically, self-reflection.

I’ve invested a lot of energy in knowing my own strengths and weaknesses. It’s incredibly helpful to know this information without having to be told. Avoid those blind spots; you’ll do yourself a huge disservice if you ignore potential development areas.

Recently, I sat down with my manager to review my strengths and weaknesses. In the past, I wouldn’t embrace these “moments of vulnerability” and likely would have said my biggest weakness was “I work too hard.” Instead, I took this time to share true developmental areas. Those you work with will have a lot of respect for your candidness and self-awareness.

11. Take Credit For The Good AND The Bad

How many times have you found yourself saying “It’s not a big deal!” or “It only took a second!” when in fact YOU WORKED YOUR ASS OFF? Alternatively, if you’ve made a boo-boo, have you ran away from it with the hope that it would go away?

I’ve learned that taking proper credit, for your achievements and embarrassments, is the best way to build credibility. This applies to all areas of your life. Own it…ALL of it.

12. You’re Not Responsible For Everyone’s Happiness

Oh, man…did this one take a long time to understand! Instead of enjoying myself, I used to be far too focused on ensuring others were having a good time, whether it was at a party, on vacation, or in the bedroom.

Look out for your interests because if you’re not…who is? I’m not advocating going full Ayn Rand here. I’m merely saying that YOU count, too. Don’t forget about yourself on the way to pleasing everyone else.

13. Deal With Awkward Situations Instead Of Denying They Exist

I have my brother (pictured with me above) to thank for explaining to me that broaching uncomfortable topics is not the same as confrontation (Thanks Tim!).

We get so used to being passive-aggressive that instead of talking about things that bother us, we pretend they don’t exist. If you care about someone, you need to have tough talks; it’s a gift to both of you. People are humans…NOT mind readers. If you feel there’s an awkward situation, the other person may have NO IDEA! This happened to me recently and reminded me of this important lesson. You only really know what you’re thinking when you say it out loud.

14. Learn To Say No And Set Boundaries

Although you may not think of it this way, when you say “Yes” to something you automatically say “No” to many other things. If someone asks you to do something that’s completely inappropriate and you say “Yes”, you’re setting certain expectations. Say “No” at the beginning and you don’t need to say it again. Say “Yes” and…well…it’s much harder.

15. You’re Not The Center Of The Universe

I remember this as if it were yesterday. It was my birthday (one of earliest ones I can recall) and we were playing musical chairs. During one of the first few rounds, I couldn’t find a seat. I marched over to my mom and told her that since it was MY BIRTHDAY, I was not out. She said “No Liz, you don’t get to break the rules.” EXCUSE ME? HELLO! It is MY PARTY AND I’M CRYING BECAUSE…I’m special, right?!? I may be a Leo and think I deserve the spotlight, but you have to let others shine when they deserve it.

There you have it! 30 years neatly wrapped up into 15 lessons. Like the first cocktail of the evening, 30 will be followed by many more (milestone birthdays). Being single and 30 isn’t the end…it’s the beginning. Stay tuned for what comes next!