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30 to 30

One month from today I will turn 30. I have mixed emotions about this. It’s not being 30 that freaks me out…it’s more all of the evaluation that comes with entering a new decade of your life that freaks me out. The true struggle is letting go of the picture of what I thought my life would be like at 30. And dropping all of the comparison that comes with my path being a lot different than many friends who are also entering their 30s. How many times have I talked about giving up the illusion of perfect? Yes, the illusion. No one has a perfect life but I still work every day to allow myself to be real and flawed and not act like a perfect robot. Because that’s just exhausting to maintain.

Last night I was having a conversation with a friend about her career and overall life balance challenges. She’s wondering whether to give up on some dreams or keep pushing. I told her to push. She is an incredibly strong and talented woman who has worked so hard to get to where she is today. Worst case it that doesn’t work out in the end (which I don’t think will be the case) but at least she can say she tried. If we all did what was easy and avoided being challenged, we would have absolutely no story to tell. Let me be clear that I am not advocating creating drama in order to create stories but I am advocating stepping outside of comfortable, seeking growth and staying true to what lights you up.

I thought maybe I should do something challenging for the 30 days leading up to my birthday…I considered 30 days of yoga with a focus on my neglected ashtanga practice, I thought about doing Whole 30 for the 30 days and I even had the idea of creating a list of 30 things I would do before 30.

Then I realized that was stupid and the opposite of what I need right now. The last thing I need is more stress to complete more tasks. My plate is pretty damn full. What I do need is evaluation. I need to take a step back instead of stepping closer to the fire and adding fuel to it. I need to stop ignoring my current situation and take control of the direction of my life. This involves dealing with things I have been ignoring…

Friendships and relationships.

Taking control of my finances.

Re-evaluating my personal and career goals for the next year, 5 years, 10 years.

It’s easy to focus on surface things like yoga challenges and diet plans. It’s not easy to pay attention to the things that stir up anxiety, doubt and fear.

I am full of questions right now. Which I think is a good thing. I just need to actually face the questions instead of pushing them to the back of my mind and figure out what rings true for me. And then do something about it.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that this month and this birthday didn’t scare the crap out of me but it’s coming whether I ignore it or not. Here we go.

{ 37 comments… add one }
  • jennyv May 16, 2013, 10:52 pm

    6 months from now I will be joining the 30s, as well. I am and am not where I thought I’d be, if that makes any sense. I keep reminding myself that I’d much rather be 30 than 20 😉

  • Heather May 16, 2013, 11:32 pm

    I turn 30 on Saturday.

    My life is not where I thought it would be, but it’s the life that I have and I love it. I do need to actually figure out what I want to do with my life and make it happen. My 20’s were good, but I want my 30’s to be amazing.

  • Michelle May 16, 2013, 11:38 pm

    Jen, embrace your 30s because it will be the best decade of your life. I always hear that life begins at 40, but my 30s were the best for me, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You have so much to look forward to – it will be where you are the strongest in all aspects of your life. Enjoy!!

    • kat May 17, 2013, 8:27 am

      As I stare down my 39th birthday, I like to hear someone else mention the “life begins at 40” saying! 😉

  • Jamie May 17, 2013, 1:32 am

    Reading this post made me reflect on my own experience with 30. I ended a 7-year relationship less than three months before my 30th birthday. I was excited about moving on, and I had all sorts of plans/dreams for my next decade. Then five days before my 30th (which was in March 2007) I learned my father had stage 4 colon cancer. Three major surgeries and 20 months later, he was gone. Everything in my world was profoundly different… in ways I could never have anticipated. And with the economic crisis, everything about my career and career plan was turned upside down. I absolutely don’t mean for this to come across in a somber tone! Really, apologies… I just read this and think I need to rewrite but then it will never get sent/shared. So. I wanted to share what immediately comes to mind in my personal experience with turning this decade. What I learned… is that life is so precious (I really need to BOLD/italicize this, oh well). And though it’s vitally important to have specific goals and to take control of our lives, it is every bit as important to learn to master the skill of… not beating ourselves up about things beyond our control, that will derail our most noble plans from time to time. Sometimes when I need to “get a grip,” I listen to Mary Schmich’s/Baz Luhrman’s “Wear Sunscreen” Chicago Times column-turned-song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQlJ3vOp6nI). Specifically the part – “Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind… the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.” And another – “Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.” Now I certainly could argue these points and say that we have the power! to (at least somewhat) control some of these things… but within the context of the essay/song and from where I am now at 36, it just makes a lot of sense. Perhaps a truly SOLID life plan could be… maintaining a positive attitude (that sounds so cliché, but it’s so critical), letting go of past hurt, clinging to lessons learned and personal values, and then… just… trusting ourselves to figure out the rest as we go. Day by day. Perhaps this doesn’t qualify as “ambitious.” I’d like to think however, that if applied rigorously, this approach could ultimately be more rewarding/fulfilling. We change so much every day, in positive and negative ways, depending on our mindset / on what we’re clinging to. So, probably best not to get too hung up on “what I thought my life would be like.” That’s all I’m trying to say. 😉 I don’t know how I let this turn into an essay! Sleep, time for sleep. 🙂

  • Annie May 17, 2013, 2:00 am

    I turn 30 in about 2 weeks and I feel the same way you do about the “perfect” place to be. I am in school and won’t graduate for another year. Most of my friends have good jobs, can travel around the world and are having children. I feel that I am behind all of them. I have no money and no free time. But then I realize that more people are having children later (having children wasn’t even something I thought about till my friends started having babies) and oh well if I don’t start my career until I am already in my 30s. I have the rest of my life to work. But I understanding not wanting to answer the tough questions, that is why I have swept them under the rug until later.

  • I love this post. While I’ve got a few years yet before 30, my life is definitely nowhere near where I thought it would be right now. I often compare my life to my “master plan” or to others around me or anything like that, and it does get so stressful. I think what really helps me is knowing that every single thing happens for a reason. Every wrong turn brings me to a right one and all of the tough times just show me how strong I am and how blessed I am to have the incredible people in my life that I do.

    I’m certain that 30 will bring a whole new amazing adventure for you 🙂

  • Liz May 17, 2013, 7:33 am

    Great post !
    I am 32! BUT turning 30 was anxiety ridden.
    I thought I could change everything , all the way down from career to religion to a complete make over on top of having a 1 month old .
    In the process I broke down and just did exactly what you are doing .
    I evaluated what I alrwady had I front of me a s conquered!
    Actually , those are still areas if need today .

  • Shanna May 17, 2013, 7:34 am

    Embrace the journey, not the destination. It is not about where you are going but where you are at right now.

  • Mary May 17, 2013, 7:40 am

    I am 4 days away from turning 30, and I can totally relate with your fear and introspection. A few month ago a friend in her 40s told me that her 30s were a wonderful time where she finally felt like she could put all the silly decisions of her 20s behind her and just be herself.

    I’m not anywhere close to where I thought I’d be at 30. But I’ve done a lot and accomplished some things that I never even had on my list. You’ve done amazing things – and look – you have all of us visiting your site daily and modeling our lives/career goals/fitness/nutrition after you. You have a lot to be proud of!

    I think 30 will be great!

  • Kim May 17, 2013, 7:52 am

    Just wait until 40…

    • Jen May 17, 2013, 7:59 am

      😯 what does that mean!? 😉

      • zoey May 17, 2013, 9:23 am

        I think she’s referring to the anxiety part of turning 40. Quite frankly, 40s suck. Physically that is. In all other respects 40s are great. But physically. oh no. Things break down in your 40’s. Unless, you’re new to running, cycling, yoga, etc. if you’ve been active for more than 20 years by 40’s, you’ll notice a marked difference in your body’s performance. It’s a bit depressing. But what are your alternatives? It’s actually a learning lesson in acceptance. Truth be told, it’s important to tell your younger active friends to REALLY enjoy their “physical” capacities in the 20s and 30s, as it fades dramatically in 40s. That said, LOVE your 30s, appreciate your body, run, bike, swim, yoge your heart out! yeah for 30s!

        • Michelle June 3, 2013, 10:32 pm

          Agreed! That’s pretty much what I said in my post above. I’m almost 46 and wish for my 30s again…definitely more than my 20s.

  • Mary Ann May 17, 2013, 8:09 am

    Turning 30 is full of anxiety. You are not alone. But your honesty in looking inward to put a positive direction in your life is the foundation in making your next decade the one that will give you more than you anticipated. I wish I had been as introspected at 29. But I will advise you to please do not compare your life to others. Several years ago, someone told me that she thought I had the perfect life. I was flabbergasted at someone else’s perception of my life. It was a wake-up call for me to quit comparing my life to others. Society leads us to believe that we need to have a career, spouse and children (by ___ years old) to be a success. I gave up my career and have found peace and gratitude in other ways. I still have a long way to go in being content with all aspects of my life but your post have given me a new way to think of the next phase. Thanks again for your blog.

  • She Rocks Fitness May 17, 2013, 8:17 am

    I have LOVED my 30’s! They have been rewarding, beautiful, eye opening, but also stressful, challenging, lonely, and sometimes hard. I have grown a lot in this fabulous decade, but feel that I have learned so much about myself and that I am taking so much better care of myself. It’s definitely been a learning few years in my 30’s, but I am embracing it and enjoying it. Enjoy yours! You will LOVE it! XOXO

  • kat May 17, 2013, 8:34 am

    I had planned to reply but then read Jamie’s response and she said it all for me. So, “what she said”. 😉 Your 30s will be awesome! Life just gets better as we age! It’s true! I wouldn’t trade anything in the world to return to my 20s.

  • Christina May 17, 2013, 9:45 am

    Turning 30 was a really tough milestone for me too. I always thought that by 30, I’d have my life together – I’d be married, have a house and maybe a kid or two, and generally be in a really good place personally and professionally. Instead, I was single (and hadn’t been in a relationship for quite some time), living in an apartment, and in a job that I felt “eh” about it. But I was also able to travel…spend time with my family and friends…do what I wanted, when I wanted, with no one to answer to….it was pretty darn good. I met my now-husband when I was almost 32 (a good 7 years past my “imagined” timeline of when that would happen!). We got married when I was almost 34, and we had our daughter just a few weeks after I turned 36. I’m now 37, and I realize that this is exactly how my life was meant to me, and exactly how it was supposed to work out. I wouldn’t change it for the world! Just wait Jen – it keeps getting better 🙂

    • Alison May 17, 2013, 10:44 am

      I’m with Christina. Turning 30 is scary, but your 20s are all about trying new things, new relationships, new career directions and by 30, you have a somewhat solid idea of who you are and what you want out of life. I feel like my life became what I wanted it to be in my 30s. I got married, had a ton of fun traveling with my husband, buying our first house, fixing it up, and running my first 1/2 marathons. Then came kids and now, I’m 37 and in a great spot. Sure, I still have unfulfilled goals and I guess that’s what freaks me out as I stare down 40 (eep) in a few years, but your 30s are going to be awesome. You clearly know who you are and you HAVE goals. 30s are about being YOU and relishing that.

      • miki May 17, 2013, 5:42 pm

        I also just turned 37 and agree with Christina and Allison that it keeps getting better. We learn so much in our 20’s and now you have all that experience to draw from. By 30, you have a much better idea of who you are and what you want / don’t want. I think the things you listed to work on are good to think about at any age. Everything works out exactly the way its meant to. It might not be exactly what you planned, but you have a lot of great things going on in your life so enjoy the 30’s!

  • Lindsay May 17, 2013, 10:26 am

    I hit the 30 mark just a couple weeks ago! It was scary to me, I’ll admit. Mainly because it’s flown by and I know the next 30 will go even faster! I don’t feel 30 though…. and that’s important! It’s more about how you feel. I’m definitely not where I thought I would be at this age, but I don’t look at that as a bad thing. I’ve been trying to focus on what I have accomplished and what I’m proud of! Jen, you are obviously a huge inspiration to tons of people – and that is an accomplishment!! Plus, you don’t look anywhere close to your age 😉

    These simple words from Tim McGraw always make me smile when I think about turning 30:

    “I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age
    The ending of an era and the turning of a page
    Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here
    Lord, have mercy on my next thirty years
    Hey, my next thirty years, I’m gonna have some fun
    Try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done
    Maybe now I’ve conquered all my adolescent fears
    And I’ll do it better in my next thirty years
    My next thirty years, I’m gonna settle all the scores
    Cry a little less, laugh a little more
    Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
    Figure out just what I’m doing here in my next thirty years


  • Blair May 17, 2013, 10:56 am

    I love reading your blog, and I completely understand…I will be turning 30 on June 17 and it’s funny because just this morning I was thinking “I’ve got one month left of my 20’s”. Not sure the impact that should have on me, but turning 30 is scary as hell. I think you have a great perspective on things and are putting your focus in the right places! Just know you aren’t alone 🙂 God bless!

  • Sarah May 17, 2013, 11:23 am

    Ironic you posted this today…. It’s my birthday today and I woke up with anxiety and stress about all of the things you struggle with as well. In particular, realizing that my life plan is not on the same schedule as all of my friends and siblings who are married and having children etc. However, I am following my dream career-wise which meant putting a hold on some of these personal things so I need to be at peace with that decision. Although I think reevaluating goals is a great idea and much needed for me right now.

    Thanks for sharing your fears and anxieties and letting me know that I am not alone!


  • Laura May 17, 2013, 1:15 pm

    I’m 32 and my life is nowhere near what I envisioned when I was in my early to mid 20s, but I wouldn’t change a thing. It took me until I was 30 to finally figure out what I wanted to do with my life AND have the courage to make it happen. The most important thing for me is to stop myself from trying to compare my life with that of someone else of the same age. Sure, I may not be following the same “traditional” life trajectory of some, but who cares? I’m doing what I enjoy and is meaningful and important for me.

  • Amy May 17, 2013, 1:50 pm

    Awesome, awesome, awesome. This, to me, is living your yoga. Facing things and not running away, knowing you can face what comes. 🙂 Good luck!

    And FWIW, 30s >>> 20s. So much. Enjoy!

  • Rachael May 17, 2013, 2:59 pm

    Hi Jen,
    I don’t have much to say about approaching 30 since I just celebrated my 26th birthday this past Wednesday! I will say I know a bit about what you’re talking about with comparing yourself to friends – I’m heading back to school to pursue a degree in nutrition for the next 3 years while my friends are having kids and into their careers. It’s difficult but like you said in your post, it’s always better to try and see what happens then wonder later in life. I’m pushing out of my comfort zone and messages like this post are what helps to push me through any doubts! Your blog is truly an inspiration and probably my favorite out of all I read. Good luck with facing those issues head on!! I look forward to reading whatever you are willing to share about it. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  • Angie May 17, 2013, 3:01 pm

    “It’s easy to focus on surface things like yoga challenges and diet plans. It’s not easy to pay attention to the things that stir up anxiety, doubt and fear.” I absolutely agree! I find myself doing this often. Things are going crazy for me so I’ll train for marathon, try a juice cleanse, workout extra hard, etc. Not that these things are really bad, but I’m not sitting with myself and focusing on the “real” issue. It takes strength and courage to deal with depth! Thank you for being so honest and writing from your heart. love you!

  • A Different Jamie May 17, 2013, 3:11 pm

    Just echoing what the other Jamie and others have said – the 30s are great. Maybe you won’t figure out everything right away, but chances are you will find peace and an acceptance of who you are. I’m 34. The day after my 30th birthday, I started my life over, leaving a comfy career as a NYC attorney and moved to South America, where I’ve been ever since. Now, I’m contemplating my next move – to Europe? to Asia? Back to the US? The possibilities are endless; embracing MYself and MY desires and refusing to compare myself to my peers and where they are in their journeys has given me such freedom and drastically reduced my anxiety. Of course, I second guess myself and do get anxious sometimes, but now my inner “big sister” chimes in and calms me down. Don’t push it, it will come naturally – just keep on breathing and relaxing and you’ll find the space you need.

  • Caroline May 17, 2013, 5:02 pm

    I turned 30 a few months ago. It is totally okay to not have stuff figured out, and it is totally okay to NOT rush into “taking control” of your life. I wish I had told myself this about a year ago.

    I attempted a 30 day yoga practice challenge; my birthday is on the 30th of the month so I started off and running on my 30 days of yoga before 30 on the 30th…and then failed miserably…because I burned out. I ended up not making it through; it was just too much stress to add “one more thing,” like you say. By trying to “center” myself or “focus” more on yoga or “destress,” it actually made me feel more rigid and too stressed by trying to make it to the studio daily with my already packed schedule. Or, with missed days, we could make it up by practicing twice in one day, which just added more onto the pile of things to do.

    I still am figuring out things career-wise and financially, and right now, I think that’s okay. I think our 30s should be about letting things happen and making conscious, thoughtful, decisions the best way I can, rather than rigidly controlling ourselves to be what we “should be” or do what we “should do. I spent most of my late teens and all of my 20s living this way and I am ready to just breathe. I am now in a career that I thought I “should be” doing instead of what I would really like to be doing. I am trying to let go of all the “should bes” and “should dos” in my life…

    I came across this today and loved every word: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-hassler/life-advice_b_2762074.html

    We act like our 30s are the “death” of something, but I think that is so wrong to look at it that way. It should be seen as the opening of another door to our life. I did feel similar anxiety before turning 30, and looking back I definitely dragged my husband into it (pushing our wedding up 6 months because I couldn’t stand to be 30 and unmarried). Ridiculous. It would have been fine if we got married when I was 30 or 32 or or 35 or 40 or 28 or whatever. I was just in this focused, nose-to-grindstone mode of trying to get all these life goals accomplished that I lost sight of the bigger picture.

    I am ready to live purposefully, but at the same time, “let go,” or as a friend put it to me the other day, “unclench.” I am letting go of my “should bes” and my “should dos.” 🙂

  • Rachel May 17, 2013, 6:30 pm

    I know this comment will probably take some heat, but sometimes the best advice comes from a stranger. It is obvious that your life is devoted to your work and all that it entails. Maybe if you put that much energy into something else, you would find resolution to some of your concerns. Being successful at your job is one thing, but when you are old and alone, will all of that even be worth it anymore? I say this not to be upsetting, but to suggest a possible solution to something that is obviously on your mind. I think you dance around the topics of divorce, marriage, and motherhood, but anyone who reads the blog must be able to read between the lines. This might all sound harsh, but I thinking you are asking for advice in one way or another. Sometimes you don’t always hear what you want, but what you need.

    • Jamie May 17, 2013, 7:43 pm

      ***Let me first say, I’m not a regular commenter on any blog and any time I post anything, it is with hesitation. But I’m trying something new… to see what I learn.***
      Chill, I think I got you. And I think this forum of strong, supportive young (that’s right, I said YOUNG!) women can handle this piece of advice offered to Jen. Life is hard. For everyone. And I think it’s supposed to be… to prepare us for… whatever comes next. But one topic at a time. I think Jen’s choice to leave her “office” job to focus on a career helping others achieve health and fitness goals – essentially, inspiring others – is quite courageous. And I am in awe of how she manages it (Really, I mean… for fun I’ve tried recording myself giving presentations… Not. Easy. But she makes things appear easy when they are anything but…). I imagine we all read her blog because we’re fascinated by how she sticks with her mission to achieve optimum health… thereby helping us do the same. She is doing what she loves and doing it gracefully, powerfully, authentically, and publicly – for us all to see and learn. That’s BOLD, in my opinion. And it’s the type of life choice I dream about from my cubicle. I don’t think a health/fitness career can be a job, completely separate from one’s personal life. People who work in fields they are very passionate about often face the struggle of separating their “life’s work” from their “life.” Or, I think (?) that’s the case. I certainly have no trouble separating from my “life’s work,” because I hate it (and really need to do something about it. PRONTO. Another reason I read Jen’s blog). We are living in CRAZY times. Interacting via online communities and social media… I don’t know you, Rachel, … or Jen or any of these interesting women commenting and sharing… It’s quite bizarre, what are the rules? But I do know this – we all have something in common, it seems. We want to be our best selves, we deeply value mental/emotional/physical health, and we need support. Not comparisons, not judgment. Just an open, honest forum to respectfully interact, make each other think and grow. 🙂

  • meredith May 17, 2013, 6:56 pm

    I started my divorce process literally on my 30th birthday lol. I was served with the papers 2 days before and spent my morning of my birthday dropping them off at my attorney’s office. Not quite where I thought I would be but you know what, looking back, its all good. Life is all about expecting the unexpected and trusting yourself to rise above and become stronger with age…I always said I was very lucky to have my health and my son, great friends and family. Always see the glass half full and enjoy what you can in life for the moments all pass so quickly. My birthday is in 2 weeks, I will be 35…The last 5 years have been quite an experience – bad ones that turned to good, as well as several life lessons learned along the way!

  • Molly May 17, 2013, 10:08 pm

    I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate my 30th birthday because I was so sad that I was hitting a big milestone without the baby I had so been wanting in my life. I celebrated my 31st with a 2 month old, sleep deprived and happier than I could have ever imagined. What a difference a year makes! I wish you love, friendship and happiness over the next year. And I hope you look back next year thinking about the ways your life has gotten even better in a year.

  • Katie May 19, 2013, 3:22 pm

    I can relate. I’m still about 4 years away from 30 but am in the strange place between recently graduating college and really figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life, or even the next few years for that matter.

    I do think it is important to have long term goals, but overall I’ve been focusing on taking things day by day. I ask myself what I can do to better today than I did yesterday to improve my life and the lives of those around me. When I really sit quietly and allow my aniexty to subside, I realize I am truly excited for the future and what it will bring. As cliche as it may sound, I really think it’s about progress, not perfection.

    Lots of love to you Jen!

  • Samantha May 19, 2013, 7:11 pm

    Jen, I have read your blog for a long time, and your Bakin’ and Eggs blog since The Nest days. I just turned 30 last month and felt the same way. My husband and I just bought (like, last week!) A business on St. John in the US virgin islands. We sold our home and everything that we own and moved with our 2 dogs and our cat to the island. I am currently freaking out about making such a huge life change, and I wanted to tell you how much I love and appreciate the fabulous motivational quotes that you post. I have found so much peace because of you in the past few months. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough to say! I know that 30 holds nothing but fabulous things for you, so please don’t waste a second worrying about it. Thank you again for your posts, and the next time you visit the islands please let me know – I’d love to thank you in person…with a cocktail of course!

  • Liz_Lovett May 20, 2013, 4:32 am

    Jen, you are a lovely, lovely girl. I wish I’d been as self-aware and sorted as you in my late twenties…and yes, no matter what you might think, I do think of you as sorted. Having been a bit of a mess of anxiety in my twenties I just want to say that, in spite of feeling really, really rotten when I turned 30, I LOVE being in my thirties (I’m now 37). I no longer worry about who I am, what I do, what I look like, how my life compares to other peoples’…your thirties is the decade in which you start not giving a shit and it’s brilliant!!! Enjoy xxx

  • Kay May 24, 2013, 8:20 pm

    Props on your honesty. It is not easy to be as honest and vulnerable as you are in this post into the very public blog-o-sphere. Double props for realizing that for many people writing out a workout plan, or an eating (“diet”) plan is “easy” and a way to “avoid” scary things– career plans, financial plans, relationship goals–and feel “in control”. Good for you for getting out of your comfort zone– that’s where growth occurs!

    And, on the flip side, think about all the “workaholics”–climbing the corporate ladder, or the financial whiz-es, or anyone who is comfortable in an area outside of the gym/fitness environment. How do we make working out less scary for those who need to “take control” of their health, but don’t know where to start?

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