Advice for Turning 30

So, as you may remember from an earlier post, Laura and I both love the Ask Polly advice column on NYmag.com. Reading her posts is like talking to a deep, funny, older sister who’s an incredible listener and has soul-stirring, almost life-changing advice. Once you start reading her columns, you can see how easy it is to get obsessed.

The real “Polly” behind the awesome advice is the writer Heather Havrilesky. She’s also a columnist for Bookforum, writes for the New York Times Magazine, and was Salon’s TV critic for 7 years. In 2011, she wrote a memoir titled “Disaster Preparedness,” which I just ordered on Amazon.

She recently did an AMA on Reddit. For those of you that don’t know what that is, AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything,” and basically, Reddit invites well-known folks and experts on topics to have a dialogue with users on the site. Users can ask a question and the guest can choose which questions to answer. What I love about AMA’s on Reddit is that they tend to be more off-the-cuff, relaxed than interviews.

When I read through the AMA recently, I saw that she had some AMAZING advice for a woman turning thirty. The woman was basically saying she’s having an existential crisis about turning 30 and not being where she thought she’d be in her life. As usual, ‘Polly’ had some lovely words of wisdom to share.

Well, I’m definitely better at the long-winded response that I can think about for hours than I am at firing off quick advice. But I will say that turning 30 can be insanely tough, particularly for women. I think this is mostly true because when you’re young, you think “30” means “settled” or even “successful.” It’s pretty absurd to believe that, but many of us in our late 20s believe that if we’re still lost, that means we’re doomed to be huge losers for the rest of our lives.

But life doesn’t work that way. It’s not like musical chairs, where the music turns off and you’re screwed if you can’t find a chair. Paying too much attention to big turning points and numbers and landmarks is always a bad idea. All you can do is be very clear about what you want in your life, and take tiny steps every day to get there. Sometimes a tiny step is just reading a great book or vowing not to think negative thoughts first thing in the morning. I think I’ve taken a million different tiny steps along the way, and I’m still constantly readjusting my life so that I’m living in a way that’s true to what I believe and true to what I want for myself. It’s healthy to keep looking closely at what you want and to keep recalibrating, past 30 to 40 and 50 and 60 and beyond.

I love that she says life is not like musical chairs! Isn’t that a perfect way to describe what it feels like to be a little lost in your thirties? That somehow you haven’t found the answer when everyone else seemingly has.

I also love that she says paying too much attention to “big turning points and numbers and landmarks is always a bad idea.” So true. For me, I want my decisions to marry, have children, buy real estate, etc. to all feel organic.

Hope you enjoyed this food for the sometimes-angsty thirty-something mind.

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One response

  1. You are probably tired of hearing this from your parents but I will repeat what you have already heard. Nature may not agree with your plans when it comes to having children. Many of my friends who have children in their mid-30s are having problems.

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