Oh em gee, it’s almost here! I’m a few weeks away from my 30th birthday, and I’m starting to feel old. I mean I understand in the grand scheme of life, I’m not old. But there’s something about 30 that takes you from the you-can-get-away-with-anything years and into the time-to-grow-up years. Luckily, I think I’m kind of already there.
29 brought me lots of personal growth. Not only did I check off my third year of marriage and become a mom, I got significantly better at prioritizing the things my life. As time becomes more of a commodity, you quickly learn what you do and don’t have patience for. And that brings about a certain confidence that only comes with age.
As I enter this older and wiser stage (ha!), I do it with zero regrets. I loved my twenties. So much self discovery. So many life-shaping experiences. And so much freaking fun.
So here you go! My 30 must-do things before you turn 30 — a combination of fun things + checking life’s boxes. Get it while you can, kids.
- Take a trip overseas. I studied abroad in Barcelona, which technically was in my twenties. But Dan and I also went to Italy a couple years ago. I’m so glad we did it while we were young, because it will only get harder as we get older.
- Take a road trip. When I was 24, I road tripped from Chicago to St. Louis for mardis gras with a group of 10 girls. It was an absolute, ridiculous blast. We may or may not have climbed a 20 foot DJ stage. #sorrynotsorry
- Attend a killer concert. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to attend more than one, but we’re talking a splurge-worthy show. My two faves are actually more recent — The Weeknd and Lady Gaga. Both ah-maaazing.
- Save money. It’s all about balance. Enjoy your twenties, but do think about things like buying a car, house or retirement, even though they seem so far away. Start that 401k, put money in your savings account with every paycheck and make a budget. Because the funds you’ll need to do all those grown-up things one day will take years to acquire.
- Run a race. You might not be a runner, but everyone’s gotta’ check this off their bucket list, and you’ll never be in better shape to do it. Whether it’s a 5K, 15K or full marathon, now is the time. I did the Hot Chocolate 15K (so fun!)
- Sunday fun day for no reason at all. Ah, day drinking. Once you get into the swing of working life, it can be easy to take your obligations too seriously. But one hungover Monday at the office won’t kill you. Grab some friends and turn brunch into an all-day memory. You won’t regret it.
- Invest in a nice article of clothing. Again, it’s all about balance. If you’ve worked your tail off for your career, you eventually deserve a memorable reward. When I got a big promotion at 27, I decided to treat myself to something I normally wouldn’t: a Tory Burch handbag. $600 later, I was sweating. But it was a very adult purchase that I’d like to think I deserved.
- Learn to rock (and love) bold lipstick. Everyone always says, “Oh, I can’t pull that off.” But yes you can. Because the only thing needed to rock a bold lip is confidence. Do it and don’t think twice!
- Make a home you’re proud of. Gone are the days when hanging tattered posters of your favorite band = acceptable home decor. Learn how to create (and keep) a home you’re proud to entertain in. Invest in furniture and decor you love so that even when you move, you can create that home all over again in a snap. (Home decorating is also a skill that takes time to acquire, and you’ll be glad you have it in your 30’s.)
- Be in a romantic relationship. Easier said that done, right? And who am I to talk? All true. But I can tell you from observing my friends and family who have dated in their 20’s that it only gets harder in your 30’s. Make an effort to meet new people and give romance a chance. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll be that much closer to finding what you’re really looking for down the road.
- Start taking care of your face. This one is so important. Many of my friends and coworkers are already on the Botox train, and while I may hop on eventually, it’s not going to be any time soon. Start good-for-you preventative measures like wearing sunscreen, regularly using anti-wrinkle cream and getting facials, and you’ll be thankful you did after the big 3-0. (Side note: My current fave face rituals: collagen and this serum.)
- Try a new hair color or style. After years of dying my hair dark dark brown over and over again, I tried balayage a couple years back. I initially thought I’d look too young or that lightened pieces wouldn’t complement my skin, but to my surprise, I absolutely loved it! It’s now my go-to color treatment.
- Discover your go-to recipe. Whether or not you like to cook, everybody’s got to have a go-to recipe that’s theirs. As you become more of an adult, it’s inevitable that you’ll get asked to bring a dish to a get-together, party or holiday. Don’t risk it being a flop — have your recipe already picked out (and practiced). Here’s one of mine.
- Find a mentor and become mentor. I love this one because both are important. Nothing will help your professional development more than seeking out the wisdom of someone you respect. And people are usually more willing to help you than you think! All you’ve got to do is ask. And when you’re in a position of being able to offer wisdom to someone more junior than you, be sure to return the favor.
- Find a fitness routine you love. Staying in shape will only become more important as you get older — not just to look good, but to be healthy. I’ve learned to love working out by finding a fitness routine that excites me — whether yoga sculpt, spin or Pure Barre. Try new things (or perhaps Class Pass?) until you find yours. And then when you get sick of it, try again!
- Karoke. Because karoke bars are the freaking best, and being drunk on a microphone later in life is just not sexy. Do it!
- Knock out your city’s best restaurants. Let me tell you from experience — it’s hard to hit the town when you have a little one. Take advantage of your 20’s by experiencing all of the delicious eats your city has to offer. (Again, it’s all about moderation — a little saving here and a little spoiling there.)
- Jump in a body of water with your clothes on. Weird, but so memorable. And ridiculous. I did this with my mother-in-law (who is a blast, btw) while on vacation with Dan’s family. So. Much. Fun.
- Find your drink. Every adult needs a go-to libation, whether a cocktail, wine or beer. Like a real one, not just whatever the well alcohol is. Do yourself a favor and taste test — different wine regions, beer types and alcohol brands — and start loving what you’re drinking. (FYI, mine are a glass of Chenin Blanc or a Basil Hayden’s Old Fashioned.)
- Eat a meal at a restaurant alone. This sounds silly, but it can be pretty intimidating. There’s something super empowering about this. If you want an easy one, go to an early morning restaurant and read a book! You’ll feel weirdly proud of yourself after.
- Be a tourist in your own city. When Dan and I took our Italy trip, we left feeling a) totally in love with the cities we visited and b) a little bit like we knew more about Italy than our own backyard. We came home and spent a couple days as tourists in Chicago — riding the double decker bus tour and swalking all of the historic sights. It made us even more proud to live where we do.
- Choose your must-have girlfriends. It takes a friend to be a friend. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I have less time for acquaintances. It’s okay to let go of the friends that you no longer have that spark with — life is not a high school popularity contest. Instead, focus on the people that add value to your life, and seek to add value to their lives in return.
- Get a massage. I can’t imagine not ever getting a massage at this point in my life. But I’m always surprised to hear one of my friends still hasn’t. Do it! And don’t be ashamed to do it often. You deserve it.
- Learn to paint your nails (well). This one seems silly, but I’ve realized it’s more important than one may think. When you have haphazard, visibly chipped nails, it’s hard to be taken seriously. You look like you don’t have your life together. Keep ’em painted, or don’t paint ’em at all.
- Know how to change a diaper. This one is a weird one, but I’m adding it. Before I became a mom, I knew nothing about babies. Any time I was asked to hold a baby (or, God forbid, babysit one) I got super anxious and uncomfortable. This is a bummer because babies are such a joy, and as your friends and siblings start having them, you’ll be happy if you know even just a little bit of how to care for them. So next time you’re around a baby, ask his/her mama to show you how to change a diaper. I bet she’ll be happy to .
- Keep a must-read book list (and check it off). Reading only makes you more cultured and well-rounded. In a world of instant gratification, it’s good to have to work towards the end of something. Start checking off books you’d like to read — the time to read them will only get more scarce as you grow older.
- Live in a fun apartment. I’d like to think I’ve lived in a few, but the one that sticks out the most was my River North high-rise with a rooftop pool. I spent waaaay too much on rent, but it was such a good memory. Balance between saving for your future and enjoying the now is key.
- Learn how to navigate a city by yourself. Having traveled quite a bit for work, I’m no longer intimidated by flying into a new city solo and figuring it out. This is a skill that I’m thankful I have as I leave my 20’s.
- Eat breakfast every day. Yes, every day. It jumpstarts your metabolism, and it’s good for you. And when you skip it, you risk pigging out on lunch.
- Keep a journal. Journaling is something I’ve done since I was a little girl, and it’s very cathartic for me. Now, I love going back and rereading old journals. They take me back to memories I would’ve otherwise forgotten. Your twenties are such important years, and writing them down is something you won’t regret.