30 life lessons I learned in 30 years
Exactly one month ago I turned 30 years old. What has 30 years on this Earth taught me so far? In this blog post, you will find the most important 30 life lessons I learned in the past 30 years (in no particular order).
I hope these life lessons can help you to make the most out of your life regardless of your current age!
Which 30 life lessons have I learned?
1. Don’t rush through life
I mean look at where I’m at: I’m 30 now. I’M OLD (can’t help thinking of Freaky Friday after I typed that – sorry). All jokes aside. I don’t mind turning 30 but it shows me how quickly life goes by. I remember graduating from high school like it was yesterday but it has been nearly 15 years ago!
Growing up I used to have zero patience. I couldn’t wait to finish school (ugh – homework, tests, boy crushes that never worked out) and get a job. I hurried from appointment to appointment while my phone was practically glued to my hand. I wanted to be “busy” and suffered from serious FOMO so my evenings and weekends were fully booked.
Nowadays, my weekends are pretty empty. I have shifted my focus and only spend time with people that matter to me. Also, I try to live in the moment. I know it sounds corny but those are the types of memories you will remember. All the time you spent scrolling aimlessly through your phone will be forgotten, trust me!
2. Follow your heart
Always, but I mean always, follow your heart. If something doesn’t “feel” right, then don’t do it. That’s something I learned the hard way. I ended up in jobs because I felt the pressure to climb the career ladder and I held on to friendships that drained me. In life you have to let go of jobs, people – it happens.
The last couple of years I’ve tried to follow my heart and do more of what I love. When I moved to Antwerp with Michel I quit my unsatisfying job and I went back to school. It was the first time I took a risk but it made me feel alive.
You only have one shot at life, so go after the things that genuinely bring you joy.
3. Accept the fact you are not perfect
Hi, meet little miss-perfect! Who? Me! Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of lifestyle magazines where women (I bet men suffer too?) open up about their struggles with their perfectionism. I find comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one but I know striving for perfection is absolutely ridiculous. It’s exhausting and not healthy.
When I was a teen I felt ugly because I wore glasses, braces, and my face was covered in pimples. I didn’t find myself attractive and I didn’t like my more introverted personality. Let’s say the list of things I disliked about myself goes on. I learned that it’s just a bunch of BS.
I’m telling you accepting who you are is the greatest gift to yourself. Rock your personality and appearance. Stop listening to the voice in your head that tears you down. Don’t put yourself in labels and boxes. You don’t need to fit in. You are good as you are with all your “flaws”. That’s what makes you unique.
4. Realize time on earth is short
Damn, three decades have gone by. Does that mean I “completed” 1/3 of my life already? Those kind of thoughts scare the shit out of me. But, at the same time, stimulate me to live the best life I can.
You can’t control time. It goes on, right now as you’re reading this, and you can never have it back. Think of what time means to you. Are you spending enough time with your loved ones? Are you making the most out of today?
You will never know when time catches up on you. Make the most out of now.
5. Spend time with the people you love
Did I already mention life is short? Sorry, I’m getting old and I’m starting to forget things (note to self: these jokes are so corny). Anyway, spending quality time with people you love is so important.
And, don’t try to fool me by saying you do after that Pretty Little Liar marathon you’ve had with your bestie. I mean quality time as in talking, listening, and connecting with the other person.
When my mom got ill four years ago my view on life changed forever. My mother, who I thought is going to be a 100 at least, was in danger of losing her life. Luckily, after two years of battling her illness, she is still with us and, for now, declared “healthy”. From that point on I stopped taking them (and others) for granted.
No one lives forever.
6. Don’t be afraid to speak up for what you believe in
The older I get the more I’m finding my voice and feel comfortable speaking my mind and standing up for what I believe in. Nevertheless, I can be taken back by people who have a very strong opinion. I tend to let them overrule the conversation instead of adding my arguments based on my experiences.
In the future, I would like to learn even more on how to speak up effectively to people who gossip about others, make fun of people or who always have something negative to say. I may be 30 but I’m nowhere done with learning yet.
7. It’s okay to not have a 100% clean and organized house
Of course, the miss-perfect in me would love to have a super clean and organized house 7/7 days a week. However, this is simply not possible. Especially not when you are living with someone else (unless it’s a clean-up robot – I will be the first to get one for sure).
I’ve lost track of the times I’ve lost Michel‘s socks in the laundry, found a layer of dust on the kitchen cabinets or grew the weeds so high they looked like regular plants. Not having your home a 100% clean or organized is perfectly fine.
8. Take care of your body
This life lesson now seems common sense but as a teen I was sort of addicted to sugar. From snacking chocolate chip cookies to bags of M&M’s: gimme more. I found myself in several sugar rushes throughout the day and in-between I felt tired. Besides that, I didn’t sleep enough, I never took the time to eat breakfast, and I barely exercised.
In my twenties, I slowly turned my lifestyle around and I found a healthy balance. I feel more energized than ever before and comfortable in my own skin. Taking care of yourself is essential for your well-being.
9. Always keep on learning
Is it me or does learning become way more fun once you’re older?
When I moved to Belgium to study “Creative Technologies & Entrepreneurship” I went to school because I wanted to. I was able to add a new set of skills and refreshed my knowledge in the marketing field. In addition to that, starting this travel blog has been an ongoing learning curve too. There’s always something to do, to learn or to fix (ugh).
How do you keep on learning? Be curious! Try out different hobbies, sports, jobs, travel, meet new people, etc. Switch up your daily routine and try out things you haven’t done before. In the past year, I’ve become addicted to reading books on entrepreneurship, watching YouTube videos on SEO, and listening to girl boss podcasts.
10. You can’t make people love you
Nope, that’s a fact. No matter how hard you try – sometimes the chemistry is just not there (anymore). Yes, it sucks. I have been there too. Let it go and give yourself all the time you need to recover.
11. Show your emotions
So, I’m kind of an emotional wreck when it comes to movies, especially the drama genre. I used to feel embarrassed when I was tearing up at the cinema crying over The Notebook. I would bite my lip to keep my tears in. These days I bring tissues. That’s much easier.
It’s okay to show your emotions and express to people how you feel. Whether you are happy, sad, insecure, scared – we are all human.
12. Take time off from social media
In the early days of my Brenda Explores Instagram account, I spent at least two hours on the gram every day. I was so eager to post fresh content, I got lots of creative inspiration from photographers, and I filled up my travel bucket list with exotic places I had never been (and still have never seen).
It’s been over 1,5 years since I started my Insta account, and although I still enjoy connecting (but mostly meeting up in real life) with other bloggers, I have stopped spending two hours a day on it. I don’t scroll through my feed and I only open the app on certain times throughout the day. The same goes for my Facebook and Pinterest accounts.
Because I automate most of my posts I’m able to take time off regularly. It’s refreshing and, after a break, I get the best ideas in regards to developing my blog. So try it out! And, if you feel tempted to open the apps, then simply delete them from your phone temporary.
13. Don’t wait for things to happen
Nothing happens when you don’t take action. Are you dreaming of becoming a professional photographer? Start taking classes. Do you have a crush on someone? Let them know. Have you been wanting to cook a new recipe? Get the ingredients. Starting is usually the hardest part, so get to work (or listen to Britney)! Chase those dreams.
14. Dress however you want
Lately, I’ve become less sensitive to fashion trends and I don’t run to H&M anymore to pick up a specific trendy item. I’ve stopped shopping for new clothes regularly and, instead, I go thrifting to find unique pieces. I think my wardrobe has become pretty timeless.
Vintage shopping has opened my eyes to all sorts of fashion trends whether there are ‘in’ or not. It helped me to develop my style because I’m not getting influenced by a brand’s marketing strategy. Half of the clothes I thrifted are from brands I have never heard or don’t have a brand tag at all.
So, if you feel unhappy with your wardrobe – change it! Look for outfit inspiration on Pinterest or read a fashion blog. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Wear whatever makes you feel good because it will automatically put a smile on your face at the start of your day.
15. You are worth it
Please read the words from life lesson 15 again. Okay? Yes, you are worth it. You are worth it to be here. You are worth it to be happy. You are worth to fall in love with. You are worth it to fight for. You are worthy.
16. Sometimes you hurt someone else
For whatever the reason you will hurt people in your life. Maybe not even on purpose. Take your loss and apologize if necessary. Saying “I’m sorry” has helped me through difficult situations where I had to suck up my pride (or wanted to stick my head under the ground because I felt so stupid). Learn from your mistakes and see them as a lesson.
17. Relationships are hard work
I think any type of relationship is hard work. Whether it’s developing a band with your new coworkers, keeping things exciting with your partner or simply show interest in the new love-interest of your friend – relationships require time and effort on both sides. Strong relationships will give you the strength and support to keep going no matter what.
Personally, relationships have come and gone within phases of my life. I used to be sad when a certain person didn’t fit my life anymore but in reality, it’s part of life. People change, you change, and life goes on.
18. Go to bed early if you need to
Sometimes Michel laughs at me when I tell him I’m going to bed at 9:30 PM. It’s safe to say I’m not a night owl. Getting up early is no problem for me as long as I have at least 7 hours of sleep.
As a result, I learned the hard way going to bed on time for an important event the next day, is always a good idea. Without enough sleep I feel (and look) like a wreck without energy and focus.
Know your rhythm and listen carefully to your body.
19. Traveling broadens your life
If you are given the opportunity to travel or spend time abroad for whatever reason: GO. Pack your bag and have the time of your life by taking in all those new experiences!
Traveling allows you to break from your daily routine and it opens your mind, heart, and soul. Going to other places has taught me a lot about myself plus I gained many useful insights and skill sets. So whenever you can go out there.
20. Stop comparing yourself to others
Stop comparing yourself to Instagram models, to actresses on TV or to friends who seem to have it all. You are not going to feel any better about yourself.
Remember social media is mostly used for showing happy moments in our lives and the people you admire and that look “perfect” aren’t. Nobody is perfect. You don’t have to be either. *sighs* I’m just going to read life lesson 20 again.
21. It’s okay to treat yourself
Big spender? Well, not me! I’m all about saving up that cash. Ever since I got my first side job at 16 I save at least 1/3 of what I make. Unfortunately, the whole saving game became a challenge when I left my parents’ house. In my twenties, I said goodbye to half of my income disappearing on fixed costs each month.
For two years I had to live on a tighter budget, but with my handy in- and outcome Excel file, I was able to manage it. That period had its effect on me and I find it hard to treat myself. However, Michel taught me it’s okay to reward myself without feeling guilty.
At the beginning of this year, for example, I bought a new laptop and iPhone in the same month. Although it was painful to look at my bank account afterwards I knew this equipment would be beneficial for my blog. It’s totally okay to pamper yourself every now and then. You deserve it!
22. Ask for help when you need it
Oops, I’m kind of stubborn when it comes to asking for help. I tend to jump into new adventures in full force and, along the way, I seem completely blind to other people’s advice.
Take this blog, for example, I wanted to publish it as soon as possible because I compared myself (I should read life lesson 20 again) to fully established travel bloggers. I felt a huge pressure to “succeed” because I have a background in marketing. Oh boy, I was wrong thinking I could do everything by myself.
Don’t feel ashamed or too proud and ask for help when you need it. As far as my blog, I have reached out to other bloggers many times, by e-mail, in Facebook groups, asking questions below their YouTube videos and I met up with multiple bloggers in person. Help, feedback, advice – it gives you useful insight and you will learn even more.
23. You don’t need everyone to like you
In high school, we had to share our gymnastics area with other years. Thus, I often ran into girls from other classes. There was this one girl who always gave me a certain angry look. I never bothered to ask her why because I was too busy making my way to the next class.
About a year after I finished high school I ran into “angry-looking girl”. Again, we didn’t spoke. Funny enough I met up with someone from the party a few weeks later who turned out to be friends with her. That person told me she didn’t like me but there was no specific reason for it.
It happens. Don’t worry about it. Just be you.
24. Animals make you happy
When I turned seven I got a rabbit for my Birthday (called Sniffle) and that day I must have been the happiest girl on the planet. The next eight years Sniffle and I conquered adventures in my parents’ backyard while he gained new skills such as riding his own skate board. I swear he was as flexible as a young Indiana Jones (without the hat).
Spending time with animals cheers me up every time. Especially, baby animals melt my heart. I secretly dream of having my own rabbit but Michel isn’t convinced yet. Maybe he needs a little more time?
25. Get a warm winter coat
You would think I own at least one warm coat because it’s pretty cold up here in the Netherlands but you’re wrong. I have to admit I haven’t had a proper winter coat for years.
Where did it go wrong? It must have been during high school where I developed envy against wearing big fluffy jackets. All the cool girls wore stylish (but oh so thin!) coats and so did I because I wanted to fit in. And even worse, most girls wore them unzipped because it’s more of a look.
I don’t know why I keep picking fashionable jackets over the ones who actually keep you warm. So this is a reminder to myself: get a decent warm coat girl (á la Eskimo style)!
26. Stop feeling sorry for yourself
Are you familiar with those days where the whole world seems to be against you? Well, feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t help and tends to make you feel even worse.
I have felt sorry for myself more than I can count. Do I have to cycle through the rain again? Argh! Yikes, is that a piece of gum under my new Vans? That only happens to me. Whuuut? Is the supermarket out of my favorite piece of pure 85% chocolate? Well, f*ck my life.
I get over the feeling-sorry-rant by putting situations in perspective. I ask myself if my feelings are genuine or maybe a little overreacted (it’s always number two for me). Then, I try to shift my mind into positive thoughts and ignore the blur around me.
27. Surround yourself with people who lift you up
People who tear you down, make you feel worthless or who don’t have anything positive to say don’t add value to your life. They will continue to soak up all your energy like hungry mosquitoes. It’s not easy to let people go but, in the end, you will feel better. On top of that, you will have more time to meet people that do make you happy.
Surrounding yourself with positive people is crucial for your well-being. They are the ones who will support you and keep you motivated no matter which obstacles you face. I’m grateful for having a support system to fall back on. You know I need it whenever I find another piece of sticky gum under my Vans.
28. Celebrate your failures
This life lesson is still recent to me and I’m learning to not feel like a total loser when I fail at something. I try to see “failures” as lessons I can learn from. Oh, look at me sounding so Goddamn wise now that I’m 30. But seriously, I still have a long way to go. However, I’m trying to be nicer to myself along the way. That seems to work a lot better.
29. Take that goddamn compliment
I used to feel so awkward when someone complimented me. After it, I simply thanked the person but also told them ‘it was nothing special’ while my face turned as red as a tomato. Deep inside I didn’t believe the other person because I was insecure.
Nowadays, I can handle compliments better because I feel more confident in general. So I’m telling you it’s okay to feel proud of yourself and have a strong sense of self-worth. See life lesson 15 if you don’t believe me.
30. Tell people you love them
Okay, so I will keep this life lesson short. After you’ve read this lesson I want you to tell someone you love them. Go do it right now. I’m serious about this. What are you waiting for? Stop reading this blog post and spread the love!