Today, I turn 30 and reality is, I’ve received one of the best gifts in recent times. Something that cannot be bought: contentment. When I was a kid, I remember thinking how old 30 is and I was very adamant about how my life would look by the time I had spent 30 years in this world. I never dreamed of walking down the aisle or meeting ‘the one’ but I do remember thinking I’d have things together and live in some lush location and take holidays twice a year. Err, clearly, things didn’t quite go to plan.

 

In my mind, turning 30 isn’t about drinking or eating myself to death, being the ‘star of the show’ or pampered by people. It’s about reflecting on the past, acknowledging the really messy bits and pieces and coming to an understanding of how they’ve gotten me to where I am today. It’s about being present and having the ability to understand that while things aren’t (and probably never will be) perfect, I have so much to be grateful for. As today has drawn closer, I’ve found myself reflecting on some of the key lessons I’ve learnt over the years and here are what I feel are my top lessons.

Sometimes, you have to feel the burn in order to learn

 

In recent times, I’ve found myself labelling my twenties as a necessary disaster. Where do I begin? For me, this is when I landed my first proper job and began the rather uncomfortable process of growing up. So much of my memory of that period is sprinkled with cringe-worthy memories of trying way too hard to fit in, attempting to feel comfortable in heels (for the record, my heel got stuck in grass the first time I ever wore them), trying to laugh off and forget horrendous Christmas work parties where I became the big joke, trusting the wrong people, behaving like a spoilt brat… the list just goes on and on. There’s a whole chunk of time where I look back now and honestly think that I didn’t really like who I was. Thankfully, the terrible twenties have redeemed themselves over the last couple of years.  

Some things are destined to fail

 

How boring would our lives be if everything just went to plan? I’m not sure about you but there have been times when I’ve made pretty massive decisions (like leaving one job for another) when I knew failure was inevitable. I’ve experienced so many instances where I’ve deliberately ignored my gut instinct and the consequences have been rather disastrous. And on the flipside, rather fruitful too. I never would have started my own business if that ‘dream job’ wasn’t the completely wrong fit for me (I’ll skip past the bit where my brain is telling me to point out a whole lot of things that a certain someone did that was so out of line because that’s not the point)… I guess I’d still be working 24/7 for someone else, attending boring meetings and trying to fit in with the rest of the crew. Fun times!

You don’t owe anyone anything

 

We all come across many different types of people in our lives and in certain situations, we can falsely believe that we owe others. At the end of the day, the only person who you owe an explanation to or copious amounts of gratitude to is yourself. You’re the one who’s worked hard to achieve what you have. You’re the one who shows up each day to do your bit for that relationship and so on. It may suit others to think that if it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t have gotten that promotion or whatever else they’re spinning but it’s just not true. People shouldn’t do anything simply to gain praise or to get something in return.

Words mean nothing. When people show you what you mean to them, believe them

 

We’ve all had that horrible realisation that someone who you thought really cared about you or was in your corner, really just doesn’t care. Or maybe they don’t care as much as you do or they’re good at pouring water on a situation because they’re blessed with the gift of the gab. Perhaps you’re the one who always calls or messages a friend… or you find yourself on the receiving end of nasty or disrespectful behaviour. Denial isn’t healthy. Sometimes, you need to step away from a situation and look at it like you’re a stranger. Your honest observations will never lead you astray.

It’s not other people’s responsibility to make you happy

 

At the end of the day, everyone is too busy with their own struggles to worry about what’s going on in your world. We spend so much time looking to fill what we perceive as the flaws in our life that we don’t stop and realise the fantastic things we have. If you’re waiting for everyone around you to make you happy, stop. Happiness and contentment starts from within and it takes a lot of discomfort and asking yourself some really uncomfortable questions to even get close to understanding yourself and realising what makes you happy.

Never settle

 

I’ll repeat this one: never settle. Not in terms of your work or your relationships or anything else. Life has a funny way of working out even when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. Life is too short to spend your days in a soul-crushing job because it pays the bills or stuck in a relationship that’s toxic because you’re afraid of being alone. Be brave and go after the things that will enhance your quality of life.

There is more to life than work

 

When I think about younger Sarah, straight out of university and thinking she had to prove herself to the world, I feel really sad. I feel sad about all of the days I spent working ridiculous hours chasing something that even when I achieved it, didn’t really make me happy. I feel sad about how alone I felt back then even though I was surrounded by people. Worst of all, I feel sad about the level of frustration that bubbled away inside me that I can still feel now as I type this and think about those days. Work is important but there is definitely more to life than work and if any of us disagree, we must consider whether we’re trying to fill another void in our lives by being workaholics.

 

So there we have it. Today, I’ll probably crank up YouTube, sing along to Katy Perry’s Roar, have a drink, eat way too many things that will inevitably make me feel sick and so on. I’m not a perfect person, some people out there definitely aren’t fans of me but I’ve done the best that I can. I’m very thankful for where my journey has taken me and for the remarkable handful of people who have stuck by my side through my darkest moments and my happiest triumphs. These are the people I’ll be enjoying lunches with and saluting this thirtieth birthday to for a long time to come!

Sarah Cannata

Founding editor at This Woman Can
Sarah Cannata is the founding editor of This Woman Can, a trained journalist, PR consultant and has over 6 years' worth of experience in Communications. She's also an aspiring picture book author.

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