When I recently turned 30, it felt a lot like other birthdays. I didn’t wake up and start crying (like a friend told me she did on her 30th). I didn’t immediately book a Botox appointment. I didn’t wallow over my “wasted” 20s.

In fact, I’m happier these days than I’ve been in years.

Still, something felt different about turning 30. This age puts us solidly in the “adult” realm — and while it’s still “young,” we’re no longer excused for youthful follies.

And if you’re into astrology, you’ll know that a big event, called “Saturn Returns,” happens around this time as well. About every 29.5 years, Saturn completes its orbit around the Sun, coinciding with the time of our birth.

When this happens, our lives go one of two ways: “We either take off soaring like an eagle, successful, happy and financially free, or everything crumbles around us and we fall apart. For many of us, it’s the latter.”

….Yikes. While I don’t believe there are only two diametrically opposed paths for our lives (real life is way messier and more nuanced than that), I do think this tends to be a tumultuous time, at least based on my own late 20s. 

In my 29th year, for instance, I left my job, became a self-employed freelance writer, traveled a lot, and moved across the country, from Atlanta, GA to Park City, UT, alone.

Greeting this new decade with a foot of snow… in early October. Welcome to Utah. 

So, yes, I do think the 30-year mark encourages some introspection — but not all-out panic. Below is my list of what I’m looking forward to in my 30s — and what I’m more than happy to leave behind in my 20s.

1. Knowing it’s okay to say no.

Why do I keep saying yes to things I don’t really want to do? Finally, I’ve gotten a good grasp on the obvious, yet difficult (why so difficult?!) concept that I don’t have to do things I don’t want to do. And better yet, I don’t always owe people an explanation.

2. Valuing myself more than ever.

I recently came across this quote on Instagram: “Know your worth. Then add tax.” I loved it, and that’s exactly what I didn’t do throughout a lot my 20s. I think maybe I should add some interest too.

3. Being smarter about money.

It’s scary to think how much I spent on cheap clothes (I’m officially aged out of Forever21, right?), expensive drinks, and other wasteful purchases in my 20s. My bank account still isn’t in the best shape (which is okay too!) but now I’m planning to learn more about personal finance and start budgeting more wisely.

4. Taking better care of my skin.

I mean, it’s the only face you’re going to have! They already performed one face transplant, and it was kinda a BFD. Taking my skincare routine to the next level is actually fun — and doesn’t have to be crazy expensive. (Drugstore products are more than decent these days!)

5. Seeing my friends go through exciting new stages of life.

Our early 20s were a level playing field — we were all starting out in our careers, dating, going out. Now, a handful of my friends are married, and most are getting engaged. People are getting big promotions, and starting their own companies. Babies are entering the picture. This is a bittersweet change, because friendships will change at this age, but it’s pretty cool to see my friends so happy, successful, and settled.

6. Being happy on my own.

Like I said above, a lot of my friends are married and engaged. I’m not. And I’m totally okay with it, which is more than what I’d say in my 20s.

7. Not having to take shots at the bar.

Tequila shot? No, gracias. I think I’ve finally realized that nothing good really comes after taking a shot. So I’m swearing them off, for good (unless it’s in a shotski…).

8. Eating healthy and not having to apologize for it.

I feel so much better when I eat more nutritious foods and less (ideally zero) junk food, and now I’m not embarrassed about it, like I used to be. Yes, I’ll have the salad with grilled salmon, dressing on the side. Deal with it.

I spent my 30th birthday weekend in Moab, UT — which I’d always dreamed of doing. That’s another cool part about getting older — as cheesy as it sounds, you realize that you actually have the power to make your dreams come true. 

9. Pursuing my passions.

Writing, photography, health and wellness, helping others — I have a lot of interests, and throughout a lot of my 20s, they took a backseat to my day job, dating, and TBH, too much partying. Now’s the time to start putting more time into the things I love, without having drama interrupt.

10. A better relationship with my parents.

Another truth about turning 30? I can no longer get away with being a petulant teen (or 20-something). In the last few months, I’ve start to feel closer, more respectful of — but also more independent from — my parents. It’s time we realize our parents are real people too — but still probably know a lot more than we do.

11. Going easier on myself.

I’m notoriously hard on myself. Lately, I’ve definitely learned the importance of giving myself a break — and not beating myself up for little mistakes or “flaws” that no one else would ever notice. (They really aren’t noticing, I swear.) 

12. Not sending 2am texts I regret the next morning.

I recently woke up after a night out and checked my phone without any trepidation. That’s when it hit me: I couldn’t even remember the last time I sent (or received!) an embarrassing or awkward late-night text. YESS!

13. Getting over grudges.

Another thing I’ve realized recently: I’m no longer holding grudges against people in my past who’ve “hurt” me. In other words, I can see past issues with friends more clearly and fairly, and I can see past breakups for what they really were (inevitable and necessary!).

14. Giving back to others.

Everyone says your 20s are a “selfish” time — and while I don’t totally agree, I think it’s kinda necessary. I took a lot of time in my 20s to find myself, and now I feel like it’s time to give back to others. I’m still figuring out what exactly that’s going to look like, but I’m ready to find out.

15. Creating a home.

Okay, I’m a long way from actually owning a home — I’m currently living out of two suitcases in a short-term rental apartment in Park City. But I know at some point in my 30s I’ll feel ready to be more settled down, especially after this fairly untethered period of my life (although I’m loving it for now).

16. Having more honest conversations.

This is a part of getting older that no one really talks about. I’m really enjoying this stage of life where everyone — friends, coworkers, family members — seems to be more open and vulnerable. I think it’s also a side effect of our society right now — hard truths coming out of the woodwork; celebrities opening up about their struggles; and everyone generally talking about things that matter. And I’m all here for it.

17. Unapologetically taking “me time.”

And this is the best part of getting older that everyone talks about. I’ve stayed in at least one night a weekend recently, and it’s been absolutely glorious — something I wouldn’t have said in my 20s. All in all, I’ve started to own my “extroverted introversion” — and explain to people close to me how important my alone time is to me. I’ve also started to schedule my own down time, along with work and social obligations, and I can’t even explain how much I look forward to it.

All of this is to say: Thirties, I’m ready for ya. I’m ready for whatever you bring — with optimism, gratitude, a clearer head on my shoulders, and a stronger belief in myself.

Follow along on my 30-something adventures on Instagram @lockeitdown, and learn more about me on my website, lockehughes.com


  • Locke Hughes

    freelance writer. health coach lockehughes.com.

    Hi! I'm a freelance journalist for sites such as The Huffington Post, Women's Health, SELF, Shape, and Greatist, among others. My goal is to empower people with the knowledge and tools to lead happier, healthier lives. I also work one-on-one with individuals as a certified health coach and trainer. Learn more about me at lockehughes.com.