No, I don’t need to own a designer handbag or throw a dinner party that would make Martha Stewart proud for my 20s to be worthwhile.
I turned 29 last weekend. In 361 days, I’ll be 30, which most of us agree marks the official end of youth. By the time you hit 30, you’re supposed to have had your adventures and be ready to settle down. The internet runneth over with lists of things everyone, or at least every woman, should accomplish by the time she reaches that milestone birthday.
I am a Virgo and I love making to-do lists more than just about anything, so of course I’m working on setting some goals for the next year. I’ve read tons of things-to-do-by-30 lists to inspire my own, and they’re fascinating, but one thing they all tend to have in common is assuming their readers have unlimited access to funds. Travel the world! Buy stocks! Attend a music festival! Eat at a gourmet restaurant! The idea seems to be that a satisfying, well-rounded life is something you can only hope to achieve if you’re loaded. There’s a weird disconnect between the aspirations we’re all supposed to have and the financial reality for most people of my generation. Skydiving is expensive!
Beyond the consumerism, there’s often a gendered component to birthday bucket lists that assumes all women everywhere want their lives to be “Sex and the City.” No, I don’t need to own a designer handbag or throw a dinner party that would make Martha Stewart proud for my 20s to be worthwhile.
My goals for the next year—and all the years after that—aren’t about spending big money on extravagant adventures, but about small moments of self-care, joy, and satisfaction. I want to contribute more to my world, to learn, to nurture my creativity, to try new things, make mistakes, and enjoy myself. I think I’ve arrived at a to-do list of 30 ways to love yourself and your world that almost everyone will be able to accomplish, if they want to. If we all did each of these things once a year I’m pretty sure everyone would be a lot happier and the world would be a less painful place.
30 Things To Do Before You’re 30 (Or Whenever)
- Get a library card, and use it. Libraries are awesome. I still feel like I’m getting away with something every time I cart an armload of books home FOR FREE.
- Make a dramatic change to your appearance, just for the hell of it. A totally different haircut or style, a piercing or tattoo, a style of dress you’ve never tried—it’s fun and freeing and shakes things up. In particular, I think all women and femmes should try a super short haircut at least once, to see how it feels.
- See a local band. Music festivals and arena shows are expensive, but you can see local bands at a bar or street fair for cheap or free, and probably have just as much fun.
- Go to an art gallery. Lots of them have free days—there may even be a neighborhood near you where a bunch of art galleries have free admission one day a month, and you can binge on culture until you’re exhausted.
- Go a day without looking at your phone.
- Write a letter and send it in the mail.
- Make a homemade gift for someone. Cookies, a scarf, or a flower from your garden—it will be more meaningful, and probably more memorable, than whatever you grabbed off their Amazon wish list.
- Plant something, whether it’s a flower in a pot, a tomato plant in your yard, or a tree in the park.
- Spend time in nature alone, whether it’s hiking the Appalachian Trail solo or sitting on the porch with a book.
- Learn to make a dish you love, and save money on going out to eat. I solemnly swear that by the time I turn 30 I will be able to poach an egg. Take that, expensive brunch restaurants.
- Spend time doing something that has absolutely no purpose beyond relaxation. Color, read, go for a long walk—whatever you choose, no multitasking allowed.
- Do something to make your living space more pleasant. Paint, hang pictures, commit to making your bed every day, or (if you’re me) unpack your goddamn books, which you’ve been putting off since you moved four months ago. This isn’t about making your home look like a picture from a catalogue, but helping yourself enjoy the time you spend there.
- Hit “unfriend” instead of “unfollow.” You don’t need people in your life whose opinions you can’t stand to hear about.
- Stop hate-watching, hate-reading, and otherwise engaging with things that only piss you off.
- Start a project you’re not sure you’ll be able to finish. It’s good to have long-term goals.
- Try a new food.
- Call your representative.
- Sure, splurging on a massage is awesome if you have the time and the money, but good Lord, a few minutes of stretching at the beginning or the end of the day can feel like heaven on earth.
- Learn something new. Take up a craft, a sport, or just read a book on a topic you know nothing about.
- Send a fan letter. Write to your favorite author, musician, or actor and tell them how much their work means to you—expressing appreciation is good for your soul, and who knows, you might end up with a celebrity pen pal.
- Take lots of pictures.
- Do someone a favor without expecting anything in return. Offer to watch a friend’s baby, weed your brother’s garden, or pick up groceries for your mother.
- Introduce yourself to a neighbor.
- Take a killer selfie—whether that means after spending hours on your makeup and hair, in an awesome location, with someone you adore, or just in a really good mood. Get a picture of yourself that makes you happy every time you look at it.
- Go to a free day at the museum, botanic gardens, or zoo.
- Read out loud to someone. Reading to children is great, but it’s also a fun way to share a book you love with a partner, family member, or friend.
- Admit that you’re never going to finish that important book/movie/whatever that everyone raves about, and clear out that psychic space for something you’ll actually enjoy, no matter how lowbrow.
- Listen more than you speak during a disagreement. Have a conversation in order to learn about the other person’s point of view, not just to prove that you’re smart.
- Fail at something. Set a goal high enough that you can’t reach it, at least not yet. Embrace the risk, the embarrassment, or the rejection, and keep trying. If you’re not screwing up occasionally, you’re spending too much time in your comfort zone.
It’s going to be a good year!
Lindsay King-Miller is a queer femme who does not have an indoor voice. Her writing has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, Buzzfeed, The Hairpin, and numerous other publications. She lives in Denver with her partner, a really cute baby, and two very spoiled cats. She is the author of Ask A Queer Chick (Plume, 2016).