30+ Things Every Woman Should Know Before She's 30

Saturn returns. The astrological idea that everyone experiences a massive, say, change between 28 and 31 (when Saturn returns to the place it was at birth) may be a new-age, touchy-feely concept, but there is real truth to the idea. It actually makes an incredible amount of sense, because your 20s are simultaneously an incredibly formative time while also being the decade where every woman can make myriad mistakes.
Since the number 29 is a part of our DNA, we decided to talk to eight incredibly diverse women about what they want, who they currently are, or what they wished they knew in their third decade. Each of these ladies chose to reveal certain parts of their lives and give crucial advice about their expectations (and the expectations placed upon them). And, each one has a perspective — be they in their early-20s, late-20s, or are already past them, about what everyone needs to know (and forget) before their own Saturn return.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kirby, Designed by Ly Ngo.
Kirby, 28: Married, pregnant with her first child
Before she leaves her 20s, she'd like to: Learn how to balance personal and family life with school and starting a new career.

1. One thing I knew in my early 20s (but chose to ignore) was that I should have started saving money. Instead of buying that extra pair of shoes or spending $50 at a bar, I wish I would have been more disciplined about saving. Having a safety net gives you more freedom to pursue new things, instead of being tied to a job you hate.

2. What you do in your 20s actually has an impact, but not a life-altering one. During college, I was always just smart enough to get by with good grades without having to work very hard. I took that mentality with me into my first job and while I still managed to get by, I wasn't really proud of the work I was doing, and it didn't serve me well. It's important to get in the habit of doing the best job you can at everything you do as well as constantly evaluate whether or not you love what you're doing.

3. If you don't love it, sit down, figure out what you want to do, and put together a plan to make it happen. The longer you wait the harder it will be.

4. The most important goal of your 20s should be to work hard and play hard. Especially your early 20s. While it's important to build your professional reputation and really discover what you want to do for the rest of your life, it's also important to get the crazy out of your system. I know if I hadn't stayed out all night on a regular basis and planned spontaneous trips and dated the wrong guys, I would feel like I had missed out. That doesn't mean that I want to stop having fun, but I feel like now that I've been there, done that, I have much more focus and am very happy with the promise of my new little family and career.
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Photo: Courtesy of Thimali, Designed by Ly Ngo.
Thimali, 33: Married and divorced, emigrated from London to New York when she was 23
What she wishes she could go back and tell herself: Don't do the things you think you should be doing — like be a doctor, get the postgraduate degree, or acquire the high-salary-paying job. Worry about it all less. If you have more fun, you could possibly even accomplish more.

5. Your 20s are for defining; your 30s are for refining. Your 20s come with the freedom to explore, the opportunity to push the boundaries of yourself, and the room to discover where all your extremes lie. Your 30s are for refining what you learned and uncovered in your 20s and bringing your dreams to fruition.

6. You can't avoid the bad shit. It will always find its way to you somehow.

7. Look fear in the eye, and outsmart it. I wish I'd made this my number-one priority in my 20s. You can and should get advice from friends and strangers on how they do it, but your fears are your own, so the antidote will probably be your own, too. Dig deep and be brave. I know now that it's impossible to be good at anything if you avoid challenges and never fail. A failure that gets its ass back up off the floor and tries again will not only be better prepared, but will always have the crowd on its feet in raucous applause.

8. You haven't got life figured out yet. Although it may feel like it, because life is hitting you like a thousand epiphanies slapping you in the face. And, you may never. But, if you do somehow find enlightenment, I imagine it will only be in the context of you. So, humble yourself and keep listening and learning. The wisest know they know nothing at all.

9. If you don't know what you want to do with your life yet, do everything you love and do it hard. One of those things will surface as more important than the others. If after you've put in time, love, and energy, it still doesn't feel right, you can always always change your mind.

10. I can guarantee there will be haters, but it's only logic that there'll be lovers, too.

11. Don't be afraid to ask for help. People want to help you. But, don't arrive empty-handed — prove your interest by doing your research first.

12. Not everyone you're friends with are friends worth holding on to. Honor the friends that persist when you're at your lowest. They are the absolute real deal. The rest aren't bad people, but they aren't helping you grow either. Don't be afraid to let them go, and wish them a wonderful life as they exit yours.

13. Other people's views on life are not more relevant than your own. I don't care if they're older than you, better educated than you, wealthier than you, or shouting louder than you. Your perspective on planet Earth is exceptionally unique, and therefore your voice is equally as valid as anyone else's.

14. A skinny waist will never, ever get you the man of your dreams. The man of your dreams knows you pick your nose on the toilet and loves dancing with you around the living room to Frank Ocean in underwear.

15. Have fun learning about yourself, because "winning" is not growth. Not a sexy-looking résumé, not good hair and flawless skin, nor keeping to the same path as your parents. To be accomplished or successful is to be as honest with yourself as you can humanly manage. Getting to know all your flaws and all your attributes alike and accepting it all. From that point on, anything is possible.
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Photo: Courtesy of Jinna Yang, Designed by Ly Ngo
Nicole, 20: College student who is graduating in May
Before she leaves her 20s, she'd like to: Start her first full-time fashion job. Work in fashion branding. Help other people and enable young women, and learn that everything is going to be okay.

16. Find balance. I see others around me in the same age bracket and even find myself pushing for success at a ridiculous rate and becoming upset when when things are a hairline off.

17. Realize your self-worth (and how amazing you are). I don't think women should feel pressure to be a certain way or set standards that "all women should do this by this time." Everyone is so different.
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Photo: Courtesy of Thimali, Designed by Ly Ngo.
Nia, 26: Unmarried, but in a relationship, and a musician
Before she leaves her 20s, she'd like to: Solidify herself. Learn what makes her happy and turn it into a career, to be proud of what she accomplishes, and make enough money to spend her free time doing things she loves.

18. Rid yourself of the aspects of your life that don’t make you happy: bad people, bad habits, bad outfits. People often talk about this sort of fresh start happening at the beginning of college, but for me, I really felt a big change after graduation.

19. Starting to save and invest. Even putting aside the tiniest chunk of your baby-sized paycheck will make a difference over time, especially if interest is involved. I used to have a hard time grasping that concept, but I am happy to report that I am sort of beginning to get it now.

20. You don’t have to figure out everything at once, and you’re allowed to change your mind, but you should feel confident in who you are and proud of what you’ve accomplished. You’re not a baby anymore. You’ve survived some stuff, and that makes you a more interesting person.
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Photo: Courtesy of Jessyca, Designed by Ly Ngo.
Jessyca, 29: Unmarried, and on an adventure!
Before she leaves her 20s, she'd like to: Remember to take a risk, a big risk that may turn out all wrong, but will probably lead her to amazing things.

21. Know what makes you truly happy. If it’s reading the paper every morning or moving to a new town, whatever you need to be happy, you should take time to figure that out and make it a part of your life.

22. You aren't everyone else, and you shouldn't want to be.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hannah, Designed by Ly Ngo.
Hannah, 34: Married, runs a business with her husband, has a step-daughter
What she wishes she could go back and tell herself: Spend less time worrying about how things will work out and more time living in the moment. Life happens as it happens, and you really need to roll with it, because even as it's "working out," nothing is going to be exactly as it is expected. There is so much that will change, and so many feelings on what it means to be a "woman" will change, too.

23. Have adventures and explore as much as possible. Not necessary to travel (although that's great to do), but to try all different types of jobs (temp jobs, cleaning toilets, "career track" office jobs, jobs you love, jobs you hate). Get a job you didn't think you could handle, and maybe even get fired from a job!

24. Don't fear your age, be it 20 or 30. Before I was 20, being in your 20s sounded really old. But, there was something about entering my 30s that felt so great and calming.

25. Be selfish...and giving. The 20s can be a very self-centered time. In some ways, that is good because you can find out what you need/want/like or what you are good at doing. But, in some ways, it is bad, because you don't see the bigger picture outside of yourself.

26. Only be sure about one thing: You aren't sure about anything. A lot of people in their 20s simultaneously feel like they know it all — or at least they've got it figured out — and also have no idea what is going to happen. Remember: Things change so much, especially throughout your 20s, and you can come out the other end a completely different person.

27. Admit that you're learning. You don't know it all, and that's okay. It can feel weird being so unsure of what you're doing in life, but trust that if you keep doing what is meaningful to you, it will work out.

28. You won't be "normal." When I was young, there was this idea that everything gets worked out when you're in your 20s. I would find a career, get married, and have kids. Yet, nothing was defined by the time I was 29. I wasn't in something that felt like a defined career path; I wasn't married; I didn't have kids. And, that felt normal.

29. Wait. Personally, I'm so glad I didn't get married in my 20s. My dad always told me not to get married until I was 30, because you don't really know who you are until you're 30. He was right, and I waited until I was almost 31.

30. Explore the world as you can and work on developing real friendships. The thing I'm the most proud of accomplishing in my 20s is finding, maintaining, and nurturing the best friendships I ever could have imagined.
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Photo: Courtesy of Caroline, Designed by Ly Ngo.
Caroline, 31: Married, expecting her first child, and a university faculty member with a Ph.D.

What she wishes she could go back and tell herself: The "growing pains" of being in your 20s are pretty universal, and just as important to the person that you will become as the highlights of your 20s are. Don't get bogged down or distracted by things that are not working out, because you are better off focusing on how to live according to what you, not others, value most in your life. She is still learning to balance work goals with life outside of work (including quality time with her husband), which is a goal that continues in her 30s.

31. Figure out what makes you tick and how you can surround yourself with the sort of people and contexts that bring out your best. Your 20s are a chance to figure out what (and who) actually matters to you, and to start building a life around these things. It's rarely a smooth ride, but it's a pretty incredible opportunity for personal growth.

32. Finding the right partner for you is a powerful thing. As corny as it sounds, meeting my husband and working to build a lasting relationship with him influenced my general happiness as much as accomplishing any of the measurable goals that I had set going into my 20s.
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Photo: Courtesy of Edie, Designed by Ly Ngo.
Edie, 32: After spending her early life being romantically involved with women, Edie met a man, fell in love, and got married.
What she wishes she could go back and tell herself: Remember how much life and learning that lies ahead. No need to stress about it, especially when you're still discovering your true self. Humans are such self-conscious creatures in early adulthood. We all need to remind ourselves to snap out of it and chill out!

33. Cut yourself a break every now and then. I remember turning 20 and just sobbing because I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. That was it. My fun was done; it was time to get serious. I was stressed about where my life was heading and not being certain of what I wanted to do with it.

34. You aren't too old for a career change. I spent most of my 20s upset because I had never pursued my musical passions, and I felt as though I was too old for the industry. Sure, I couldn't be Britney Spears, but did I want to be? Finally, at the age of 29, I had a big talk with myself and put my butt out there!

35. Don't be afraid if the reality doesn't match with what you imagined. I thought that I was going to be with women for the rest of my life, but fate dropped my husband into my lap and that was that. I fought that poor man tooth and nail because of the image of what my life-mate was supposed to look like. Without sounding too cheesy, he is definitely the best thing that came from the trails and tribulations that were my 20s.

36. Find peace. This confusing decade helped me align with my spirituality as well. I had to dig deep to get to this place of peace. I got right with my God. Not that I'm a born-again Catholic, but I've connected with the universe and its magic. It's beautiful and intoxicating!

37. Live in the present. Dwelling on the past or future is extremely counterproductive. It's all about the now, being true to yourself and having faith.
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