Shut­ter­stock

I’m in my 30s now and I think it is true what every­one says, the lev­el of fucks giv­en starts to decline. Maybe it’s the real­iza­tion that — although you cer­tain­ly don’t *feel* that old — an entire decade of adult­hood is behind you. The idea that time pass­es — and pass­es pret­ty quick­ly — becomes very real. And you real­ize that if you’re not care­ful, you can waste time on non­sense.

Add to that the hum­bling expe­ri­ences of preg­nan­cy and moth­er­hood, both very hard to do if you are super self con­scious about what oth­ers think, and it just starts to set in that some things are not worth ago­niz­ing over.

Here are some of those things;

1. I’m not ugly.

I’m done with the ‘Oh my god I’m so ugly what am I going to do!’ ago­niz­ing of my 20s. I don’t have time for it… I’m not ugly. I’m actu­al­ly pret­ty. Maybe I’m not the pret­ti­est girl in the room, but I don’t have to be. I like my face, I like my body, I’m blessed to be healthy. That’s more than enough.

2. I’m a city girl.

I’ve lived in 3 major cities in two dif­fer­ent coun­tries (grew up in Kingston, spent a decade in Chica­go and now live in New York.) I think my pat­tern is pret­ty much set. And when I tell this to peo­ple they ram­ble on and on about how you get more bang for your buck in the suburbs/the South, how cities are gen­tri­fy­ing and ‘not what they used to be’ for black folks, how they’re dirty and crowd­ed, how the schools are ter­ri­ble. All of this may be true. I still pre­fer them over sub­urbs. *Kanye shrug*

3. Not every­one will like me, and not every­one has to.

This is just how life works. And it’s not a rea­son to be pan­icked or depressed. 

4. Not all friend­ships are for­ev­er.

Some friend­ships will last a life­time, oth­ers will last just a sea­son. It can be hard to tell the dif­fer­ence, but once you do, it’s impor­tant to make smart emo­tion­al deci­sions.

5. I am a high­ly opin­ion­at­ed woman. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.

It’s not my job to make peo­ple com­fort­able by cen­sor­ing myself. I don’t need to avoid being the ‘opinionated/angry black woman’ to make oth­ers com­fort­able. I have a duty to myself to use my voice. And many of the won­der­ful things I’ve done in adult life are because I trust­ed and fol­lowed my voice.

6. I’ve done very well pro­fes­sion­al­ly and it’s noth­ing to be con­flict­ed about. 

Being bash­ful about suc­cess is not a good look. I’ve been self employed for 8 years. For 5 of those I’ve been pri­ma­ry bread­win­ner for my fam­i­ly (yes, even when my hus­band was work­ing a great job.) I’ve done good and there’s noth­ing wrong with being proud of this suc­cess. Humil­i­ty is under­stand­ing that, despite what I’ve done, I don’t know every­thing and there’s always more to learn. Humil­i­ty is not mum­bling about my achieve­ments to make oth­ers com­fort­able.

7. My gut feelings/intuition/sixth sense are almost always right.

There is noth­ing wrong with seek­ing out­side coun­sel, but ulti­mate­ly my gut is almost always right. I tend to ignore it because it’s usu­al­ly telling me things I don’t want to hear like ‘Stop being com­pla­cent’ or ‘Move on from this person/situation that isn’t serv­ing you’ or ‘Take this risk you’re afraid of.’ I need to lis­ten to my gut more often.

8. I’m prob­a­bly nev­er going to fit in neat­ly any­where.

It hasn’t hap­pened in the past 31 years, so it’s prob­a­bly nev­er going to hap­pen. Yes, I believe I will always have mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships and be loved, but I’ll nev­er have a pre-pack­aged com­mu­ni­ty — like a church, soror­i­ty, or work­place — to be part of. I’m a non-reli­gious, tri-cul­tur­al (Hait­ian, Jamaican, African Amer­i­can) black woman who is self-employed. There might nev­er be a neat place for me. And that’s okay.

9. I did a lot of dumb shit in my 20s, but I can’t wal­low in it. I have to learn from it and move on.

I got mar­ried too young (right guy, wrong time… we’re still togeth­er, but not with­out putting in lots of work), wast­ed time on tox­ic friend­ships, didn’t go to ther­a­py when I need­ed it, stayed in Chica­go too long after I knew it wasn’t for me, obsessed over my pro­fes­sion­al “com­pe­ti­tion” instead of focus­ing on my own projects, wasn’t knowl­edge­able enough about birth con­trol, talked myself out of pur­su­ing a pro­fes­sion­al pas­sion, made a hor­ri­ble real estate “invest­ment”, didn’t grasp the impor­tance of deep con­di­tion­ing… The list of shit I did in my 20s that result­ed in wast­ed time, mon­ey and lots of tears is pret­ty long. And I used to just sit and feel regret for days, weeks, some­times months. Now I know that when you make a poor deci­sion you have to mourn it, feel that sad­ness, do your best to change course, and move the fuck on. Life moves fast, you can’t stay stuck.

Ladies, what are some life lessons you’ve learned?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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10 Comments on "9 Things I’ve Come to Terms with About Myself at Age 31"

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Jennifer
What a great post, thank you very much for that! I turned 29 last week and num­ber 8 on your list is the one that freed me from the angst and end­less ques­tions that tor­ment­ed me for the biggest past of my child­hood, i’m bi-cul­tur­al speak 3 lan­guages, have lived in 5 coun­tries now and am a hard-core intro­vert (work­ing on being self employed atm!) so my social life looks noth­ing like of other’s and of “peo­ple my age”. AND I’m a black woman with funky hair liv­ing in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly Asian city! Com­ing to terms with the fact that I… Read more »
Nadia

7 out of 9 is all me! Great post! It’s absolute­ly accu­rate!

Afri

Love the hon­esty of this piece, and your writ­ing reminds me of when BGLH was a blog help­ing us nat­ur­al new­bies to get a grasp on things.
As for 30s, I’ve learnt to let go and let God when it comes to some sit­u­a­tions.

Chawn

Man how true is this list. There’s def­i­nite­ly a sense of self accep­tance and appre­ci­a­tion that comes with age. Thanks for this good read!

TWA4now

Excel­lent real­iza­tion! Mines is…speak up…and stop being afraid. Ask for what I want…and be hap­py the moment vice a des­ig­nat­ed time!

Essa
I like #9. Im still in my twenties…soon to be 27. I have an entire list of things Ive done already that were ridicu­lous­ly stu­pid. My twen­ties aren’t over yet, but the pain and mourn­ing Ive endured from those deci­sions thus far have me being real­ly con­scious of my deci­sions now. I have lit­er­al­ly told myself to make bet­ter deci­sions that suit my life, and bring me to a good place. You are so right about the mourn­ing too. You learn from it, but you also end up mourn­ing these deci­sions. Some­times they cause a lot of pain,and regret..be it… Read more »
Alison

I’m gonna be 29 this year and if I had to sum up every­thing I’ve learned so far (but still strug­gling with lol) in one sen­tence that would be: “There are no rules”. I mean 2 things by that:
1/ We can be who­ev­er we want and it’s ALWAYS OK, because “there are no rules”.
2/ We have to learn to let go of expec­ta­tions, because “there are no rules”.

TWA4now

…things change and we have to be flex­i­ble with our­selves and in life…ups and downs and move on.….

kerisha

also that you can have it all just not all at the same time. turn 40 this year , just start pur­su­ing a career, had my babies in my 20s except one, that was 3 years ago. its o.k. to march to the beat of your own drum. some may say I did it ass back­wards and I used to beat up on myself for those choic­es, nah not any­more it is what it is.

Rachel

I com­plete­ly agree with every­thing in this arti­cle! Espe­cial­ly the fit­ting in neat­ly some­where — I haven’t either in the past 31 yrs and that’s quite fine! :-)

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