Thoughts on Turning 30

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three lifelong friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. We are all turning 30 this year. Since Maggie’s birthday was last week, we decided to share some of our thoughts on this milestone birthday.


  1. There will be no anniversaries of my 29th birthday
    I have no intention of pretending to be 29 for the rest of my life. For so much of my 20s I felt like I needed to be older before I could be credible. That was wrong. I had value then. I have value now. I don’t want to spend the next 10 years wishing I were re-living the last 10 years.
  2. My 20 year old self doesn’t need any more advice
    Sometimes I hear people ask, “What advice would you give your 20 year old self.” My 20-year-old self was doing her best and working hard. She needed less, not more advice.
  3. It’s okay to rock the boat sometimes
    I spent a lot of time in my 20s trying to never upset anyone for fear that they would hate me forever if there were any disharmony in our relationship. Now, I realize that you can disagree with someone and it is not the end of the world.
  4. I’m just going to feel uncomfortable
    I used to believe that in the future, I would feel comfortable talking to new people; I’d feel ready for new challenges; I’d want to go out and do things. This is not my nature. I will always have to make myself try new things, and that’s okay.
  5. We all get older, we don’t all get wiser
    I used to believe that all people who were older than me knew better and more than me. Lots of people have different experiences and different perspectives than me, but that’s no reason to doubt my own compass and my own voice.
  6. It doesn’t take any longer to do things the right way
    I believe that in the future, I’ll have more time to file, run errands, tidy up, and rinse off dishes. But really, it doesn’t take anymore time to put the file away, sort the laundry, or turn the dish washer on now. So, I should just do it.
  7. I’m not always going to be right
    This has been a disappointing realization. I mean, I never thought I was perfect or anything (definitely above average, but not perfect) – I trust my own judgement. But sometimes, I get it wrong.
  8. It’s okay to be wrong
    It really stinks to discover you’ve made a poor choice – I know, I’ve done it more than once. So far, I’ve been able to figure it out and make it work. Life is merciful because things that go wrong offer the most valuable lessons and insights, and I’ve found that I’m increasingly grateful for those experiences.
  9. Apologies matter
    When you’re wrong, it’s important to admit it. It can be tempting to protect yourself with a wall of defensiveness, but ultimately, it’s better for everyone when you admit your mistake, apologize, do what you can to fix it, and do better next time.
  10. When your stuck in a rut, brush your teeth or go for a walk – it will freshen your perspective
    This solves a surprising number of problems.

Mary Margaret

Since Maggie and I became friends in middle school, it has been a source of delight to me that her birthday was my half-birthday, and vice versa. So this January 19 when she turned 30, I found myself at a halfway marker. Six more months.

Six months, and I’ll no longer be a 20-something. Six months, and I’ll reach three decades of living. Six months and…and…

…actually I’m not sure.

Quite naturally our weekly topic honors Maggie’s birthday, but upon reflection I found myself baffled- my mind in an open rebellion against bringing coherent ideas together; I’m not ready! I’m not there yet! I’ve got six months to figure out what this means to me!

That on top of a personal distraction of the week—my anticipation of, participation in, and subsequent processing of the Women’s March on Washington.

With my emotional and mental energies spinning there, though, perhaps it’s not entirely unrelated to the issue at hand? What exactly is the significance to me of hitting 30? Rather, what does it mean to be to unquestionably, undeniably, can’t-get-around-it-or-talk-your-way-out-of-it, an ADULT?

I was initially intimidated—scared, truthfully— by the idea of the D.C. march; I didn’t know the city or what to expect (I like to know what to expect!), and I wanted to examine critically why I would march. But after reading the clear, coherent statement put together by the organizers, poring over the website, securing transportation (plus friends to march with!), then the only thing holding me back was fear of the unknown. Attending the sister march in New York with my church group seemed much more comfortable, and while I believe participating in the NY march was equally important, something finally struck me: I needed to choose to do the scary, uncomfortable thing. I needed to do this very small uncomfortable thing (something I could do from enormous privilege, actually) to prepare myself to make harder choices in the future.

Maybe this is what I’d like to bring into my next decade. Fear is not a compelling reason to not act. Not having control of a situation is not a compelling reason to not move forward. I felt fear before living in the Palestinian territories for a year, but I did not let that stop me when I was 21. I refuse to be paralyzed now by complacency or a clinging to what has become comfortable as I enter my 30s.

We often hear that being an adult means making hard choices. I did something little and largely symbolic this week.

I’m in training, though– to make some bigger, harder, more important choices this decade.

I first learned I’m getting old when I went out to lunch with a bunch of girlfriends and they all started talking about their eye creams.Eye creams? I’m still fighting acne and I’m supposed to worry about crows feet? But sure enough, within a year, half my friends were selling Rodan + Fields on Facebook and flooding my timeline with PSAs like this one:
Get it? You’re hideous, and you’re gonna stay that way until you shell out for some magic wrinkle-erasing serum.
That’s right, ladies. Your days of youthful ease are over, and the only thing more ghastly than an old woman is the prospect of being one. DON’T LET IT HAPPEN TO YOU!

My thirtieth birthday is three short months away, and I’m aware that I’m supposed to have all sorts of feelings about it, not the least of which should be grief over my fading beauty and the end of the era in which I’m young and pretty enough to be the ingenue in my own life story.

Jillian, age 29
Jillian, age 30

But I don’t feel that way. Mainly because Trump is president and I’m too worried about waking up to a nuclear wasteland. But also partly because I’m too intrigued by the thought of how different our lives would be if we valued our own aging process.

Lord knows I’m not the poster girl for self love. I don’t celebrate every new dimple of cellulite and stray whisker I now have to pluck. But gosh am I tired of seeing so many women so miserable and so worried about their faces and bodies. What if, instead, we were grateful for every new phase of life, and accepted the timestamps they left on our bodies?

It’s cliché to say, “growing old is a privilege denied to many.” But more than that, could we have enough faith to believe that growing old is important? That watching our bodies change, feeling new aches and pains, drawing new lists of physical limitations – that all these things have meaning?

If what we’re here for is to learn, then yes, all these things have meaning. If what we’re here for is to cultivate virtues like love, humility and gratitude, then yes, all these things have meaning. If what we’re here for is to prepare for whatever comes after this life, then yes. All these things have meaning.

And yeah, I’m only turning thirty, I’m not on my way to the nursing home. Except, I am. We all are. The skin care commercials won’t let us forget it. And while I’m turning thirty, my mom and my friends’ moms and my aunts and my mentors are turning sixty.

I just want us all to be happy and unafraid and grateful for each new phase. And as I turn thirty, I’ll be doing my best to make that happen for myself.