What I’ve Learned in my 30s (and Why It’s My Favorite Decade-So Far)

Jess Ann Kirby cheers Craig Mackay in Newport, Rhode Island
One of my best friends texted me early this morning and said “I like the sound of 33.” I’d have to agree with her. My 30s have been some of the best years of my life. I remember being in my mid 20s and dreading my 30s. I vividly remember turning 26, I was living in NYC working at my old job and being so sad that I was “so much closer to 30.” I don’t know why I was so afraid of my 30s then, my 20s weren’t all that great. Of course plenty of great things happened in my 20s, I graduated from college, I met Craig, I lived in NYC and Los Angeles, drove cross country multiple times, got my first 9-5 job and then quit my first 9-5 job. But my 20s were also filled with a lot of anxiety, financial stress, and insecurities. I was on the hamster wheel, chasing things that I thought would make me happy but ultimately realized they didn’t. Today as I turn 33, I thought I’d share some of the things the past few years have taught me, and why this decade of my life has been my favorite (so far).

It’s ok to speak your mind. I’ve always been fairly outspoken but my 30s have taught me that it’s ok to voice my opinion. I’m not afraid to speak up when I don’t agree with something. I am willing to speak out against injustice and inequality. I remember being afraid to say I was a feminist. I remember specific conversations where I didn’t voice my opinion or speak my truth because I was afraid or felt intimidated. There are few things more freeing than not being afraid to speak up and speak out, and I know and understand that it is a privilege for me to be able to do that.

You don’t have to “have it all figured out.” I don’t think anyone actually does have it all figured out. But I used to chase this idea of perfection that isn’t real or realistic. I’m ok with the unknown. It’s hard sometimes and I struggle with it, but I also find ways to embrace it. Now more than ever I realize how much I don’t know, and I’m ok with that.

No one dictates your worth but you. As women we are constantly being told how we should act, look, behave, dress, etc. But WE decide our self-worth. I remember being told I needed to start botox now (this was a few years ago) so that it wasn’t too late. I honestly considered it. I though, do I need botox? I do have some crows feet and forehead wrinkles. I hear all the time “everyone is doing it.” Honestly I don’t care. I don’t want to do it. I’m not going to do it. I am ok with my wrinkles, they honestly don’t bother me. And if they bother someone else, that’s their problem, not mine. I don’t need to change my appearance to feel good about myself, I am happy with the way I am. Just to be clear I really don’t care if you do Botox or want to do it (or anything else for that matter), that is perfectly ok too, it’s just not for me.

No one’s path is the same. Most people want to know why Craig and I aren’t married. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “trust me marriage changes everything.” Does it though? Because we’ve been together for 11 years now and our relationship is stronger than it’s ever been. Neither of us feel that marriage would change anything, we love our relationship and our life. The same goes for having kids. I’m not saying we definitely won’t have them, but it’s not a priority and I don’t know that we ever will. I’m not going to have a kid just because it’s what everyone else thinks I should do. Also just for the record I consider my 3 pets my children, so there’s that.

Money doesn’t buy happiness. My parents always really drove this one home but it wasn’t until the last few years I really understood what this meant. Of course having food, shelter, and enough money to live comfortably does buy happiness, that’s a fact, at least for me. I’m not selling off everything I own and going to pitch a tent in the woods anytime soon. But quitting my job and working for myself made me realize the things that are important to me and that bring me happiness. My family and friends, my home, my relationship, my animals, a day at the beach, a walk through the woods, my job, these are the things that bring my joy. And I think our willingness to at times, sacrifice financial gain in our business, has given us greater fulfillment and pride in the work that we do.

It’s ok to say no. The power of no is a beautiful thing. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you selfish either.

Collaboration over competition.  This is one of those Pinterest-y quotes I see floating around but it’s so true. Particularly as women, we need to support each other, encourage one another, help each other. We all benefit from working together. If you can help someone, do it. We are fortunate enough that our mothers and grandmothers worked hard to create a world where we have more opportunity than they did. We have a long way to go, but progress comes from all of us working alongside one another.

I couldn’t end this post without mentioning my grandmother. We share the same birthday. She passed away suddenly last winter. She was a tough lady. A woman who grew up poor, only to become a doctor before women were doctors (or even went to college for that matter). She was strong-willed and fierce in her opinions, sometimes a little too brutally honest. She wasn’t a warm and fuzzy type of grandmother, but she taught me a lot. She taught me what it means to be independent, to be a feminist, to be proud of your intellect and to work hard. At 86 she still worked as a psychologist working 12-14 hour days seeing patients. She went to the gym and took kickboxing and tai chi. She was never defined by a number and she didn’t complain about being old.
One of the greatest gifts my 30s has given me is truly understanding that we are not defined by our age. I haven’t been able to put down Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers since I bought it a week ago. If you subscribe to my newsletter, sorry for the repetition, but this excerpt is too good not to share again with all of you:

what is the greatest lesson a woman should learn

that since day one
she’s already had everything she needs within herself
it’s the world that convinced her she did not

Thank you so much to all of you for your continued support, encouragement and positive vibes you always bring into my life. I am so grateful for this community. Here’s to another year of kicking ass and taking names.

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