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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  1. Sharon wrote:

    I agree with so much you’ve said here. I’m 34 and loving life, I didn’t dread my 30’s when I was in my 20’s because I heard so much great stuff about being in your 30’s from my older friends. I’m generally looking forward to my 40’s too I hear they are great as well.

    12.5.17 | Reply
  2. Cory wrote:

    I just turned 36 and am the happiest and most comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been.

    12.5.17 | Reply
  3. Michelle Johnson wrote:

    Happy Birthday! Great post!

    12.5.17 | Reply
  4. Lynn wrote:

    Wow ! That was really profundity and hit home Jess. I had nothing figured out in my tbirties except the ruggedly handsome man and father of my children wasn’t in love with me and there was no meal, no clean house or kids clamoring for his affection that could make him ours. When he went away for someone very young , I cried for years about why wasn’t I good enough, pretty enough, talented enough ? But I was all those things and I found out slowly through ny sweet friends and my extended chosen family that I could be whoever I wanted to be again . Now I’m older , much older and the kids are on their own trying g go figure their stuff out. I am married again to someone who will never hurt me and thinks I am fine exactly as is. Well , maybe I have a few more sweaters than I need and some things you posted for the Holidays, but I’m fine. I like your grandma! She was one of a kind. So now as I sit and watch my little rescue dog sleep and sigh , the world is really okay and I’m right where I need to be wrinkles and silver streaks and crinkly eyes??

    12.5.17 | Reply
    • Lynn wrote:

      I can’t correct the errors in spelling I posted, but I’m sure that the meaning and the thoughts about this great post are still there. ??

      12.5.17 | Reply
  5. Krystal // The Krystal Diaries wrote:

    I just turned 30 earlier this year and I’m looking forward to my 30s. I never dreaded it but I was nervous. I thought I should have everything figured out and I’ve finally accepted that it’s ok that I don’t. I relate so much to everything you’ve said here! I actually just ordered Rupi Kaur’s book because I love the excerpt you shared! It so powerful in such few words. I can’t wait to get it and read it now.

    12.5.17 | Reply
  6. Carrie wrote:

    I’m a bit older and am still working on some of these things, especially speaking my mind and using my privilege for good and to help those who have less. Why is it so scary to speak out? Also with how crazy the world is, sometimes I think it’s a terrible indulgence to worry about age. God I hope I get to be an old lady! A happy and healthy one too. Great post!

    12.5.17 | Reply
  7. Emily wrote:

    Happy Birthday!! I sincerely loved this post. It was so honest and helped me. A perfect reminder that we shouldn’t try to please everyone because we will just end up hurting ourselves.

    12.5.17 | Reply
  8. Emily Stafford wrote:

    Love this so much! Super motivational! Thank you for sharing and 100% agree – loving my 30s too!

    12.6.17 | Reply
  9. Elizabeth (@oakandoats) wrote:

    Happy Birthday!!! And yes, aging gracefully is a beautiful thing! As we age, we learn more and know more. We are shaped by our experiences. Aging is a gift!! I loved all the things you have learned and am learning them myself too. I am turning 30 this year and not one bit sad about it.

    Also, loved that extra bit about your grandmother. It is so hard loosing loved ones but holding onto their memories is so important!!

    12.6.17 | Reply
  10. Brittany wrote:

    Happy birthday! Thank you for sharing that beautiful quote!

    12.6.17 | Reply
  11. Jamie wrote:

    Thank you for this post! It was so very inspiring. I too lost my grandmother in January of this year at 86 and she was also a very strong woman. She led an adventurous life that I want to follow in. I’ve been told recently that I’m insane to leave my career in Esthetics to write a blog on interior styling and home decor. It’s been my safety net for 10 years. People say it pays the bills so why are you complaining or wanting to do something else? I say to them and their doubt “life is too short to just pay the bills. I’m here today to live and catch feels.” ?

    12.7.17 | Reply
  12. Alana wrote:

    I loved this post SO. MUCH. You are a wise woman and as an (almost) 25 year old, you truly are inspiration! Thank you for the reminder of how important it is to always be true to yourself, but not judge others who live their lives differently from you.

    12.7.17 | Reply
  13. Amanda wrote:

    This post is exactly why in a world with a zillion blogs yours is a stand out. Your attitude is amazing. It transcends into your style making you such a beautiful person. As a woman in her 40’s I have learned its only a number & that is such a freeing experience. BTW I work with kids and therefore have never had any. I do however have fur babies—much better trust me. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    12.8.17 | Reply
  14. Mackenzie wrote:

    Such a great post! I definitely needed this. I’m in my mid 20s and it’s enlightening to know that you also felt anxious and stressed in your 20s trying to figure everything out (or just feeling like you need to figure everything out). Thank you!

    12.9.17 | Reply
  15. Katie wrote:

    I turned 33 in September (welcome to the club!), and so much of what you said rings true. Wishing you a wonderful year ahead!

    12.10.17 | Reply
  16. Sunny Coastlines wrote:

    Really true what you have written here in your post.

    12.12.17 | Reply
  17. Lucy Clarke wrote:

    Hands down. Your realizations and everything you shared are so powerful and significant. I resonate with you. Happy Birthday!

    12.13.17 | Reply
  18. Gemma wrote:

    Gorgeous and inspiring!


    12.31.17 | Reply

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