As I turned thirty last year, almost everyone who wished me a happy birthday said something along these lines: 

“Your 30s will be the best decade yet!”

“I’ve never been happier than I was in my 30s.” 

“Trust me, your life will start to fall into place now.” 

Like most birthday platitudes, I took these sentiments at face value. It’s a nice idea, but not necessarily true, I thought to myself. But over the past 12 months, it turns out that life has been, well, nothing short of amazing. I truly feel happier at this moment, turning 31, than I ever have before in my adult life.

While I don’t believe we should put too much stock into age (it’s just a number, after all), I now think there’s something magical about age 30. It’s the age when you start to fully understand, and own, who you are. It’s the age when you realize you knew next to nothing when you graduated from college. It’s the age start to realize what you like and what you want more of in your life — as well as what you don’t want.

Most of all, it’s the age when I realized that no one, no place, no one thing has the power to make me happy (or unhappy).

Here’s a quick recap of the last year (in case you don’t follow my oversharing on Instagram): I created a life in Park City, UT. I’ve traveled a ton. I’ve been my own boss. I’ve written a book. I’ve produced and hosted a video series. I’ve forged new friendships. I’ve crossed the country and the Atlantic ocean for a guy. I’ve gained strength, both physical and mental. I’ve been knocked down, both physically and mentally. I’ve gotten back up again.

So to commemorate another trip around the sun, I’m sharing a few life lessons I’ve learned over the past year. Some I realized suddenly; some took years to finally understand.

But they’ve all added up to help me become who I am today — a fairly fearless, sometimes confident, sometimes shy, imperfect, and mostly, extremely happy human. 

1. Manifestation works. 

A job, an apartment, a partner — if you can imagine it, describe it, and truly feel that it’s real, it’ll come to you. My book deal and my new job in NYC both occurred after I defined exactly what it was that I wanted next in my career. 

2. #UtahIsRad. 

It’s a popular hashtag that adorns gorgeous shots of slot canyons, red rock arches, hikes through Aspen groves, and long ski runs on freshly groomed powder. And it’s unquestionably accurate. Utah is by far my favorite state I’ve ever lived, and I’ve lived in some gorgeous places. #BeaUTAHful also works.  

3. Where you live actually does make a difference.

Speaking of the above, I felt lost about a year and a half ago, right before I moved to Utah. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I’d left New York City after getting fed up with my high rent and unfulfilling work. I’d moved to a city where I knew lots of people, but it just wasn’t clicking, either personally or professionally. 

Then I decided on a whim to pack up and head out West. I’ll be honest: It was pretty scary to move somewhere I didn’t know anyone. But after just a few days of putting myself out there, things started to click in a way I’d never experienced before. I felt myself, and my body, relax. Mind you, I’d done a lot of self-development and introspection leading up to the move, so I can’t chalk it all up to the place. But living in a gorgeous place made all of the work I’d done on myself come together in a wonderful way. 

4. I’m actually an extrovert!

My introverted side was shocked. (Here’s a link if you’re curious.)

5. It’s actually not that hard to make friends in your 30s. 

I’ve met some amazing people this year, disproving the notion that it’s tough to meet new friends in your 30s. Not to discount any long-term friendships, but I think that high school and college often throws you together with people you like and get along with, yet who are perhaps not totally your people. In your late 20s and 30s, you get it pick and choose who you want to become close with — and ensure they enjoy doing the same things as you and have the same values and ambitions. 

6. And Instagram is a great place to do so. 

Yep, I met two of my good friends here in Park City after they slid into my DMs. It’s sorta like dating, but a lot less sketchy. 

7. A little Botox by the time you’re 30 is a good preventative measure.

It’s basically a skin-saver for someone like me who grew up in the Florida sun. Just go to a plastic surgeon’s office, not some sketchy strip mall, okay? 

8. Being single is actually kinda fun. 

One thing I’ve realized over this year is that being single at this age is not the worst thing in the world. In fact, it’s freeing, fun, and drama-free. Plus, at the risk of sounding like my mom, friends’ weddings are fantastic places to meet people — which has turned out to be true at the two nuptials I’ve been to this year (thanks for the set-up!). 

9. It’s worth the wait for the right person. 

Seriously, no need to rush it. A divorce is a lot more painful.

10. I still have a hard time stopping at one or two drinks. 

Even though I’m a wellness writer and health coach, I’m far from perfect. One of my biggest health struggles is the fact that wine plays a frequent appearance in my social and work events, and I have a tough time saying no to that third (or fourth, or fifth) drink. There have been far too many Saturdays and Sundays when I felt too hungover to go out and enjoy the day, and I hate that. 

11. Staying in touch with old friends is worth the effort.

And watching them get married, and then bring new humans into this world is super special.

12. Intermittent fasting works. 

One of the best things I’ve done for my health is to integrate intermittent fasting into my routine. I know there’s some controversy about this, but it’d worked so well for me! I’ve never been a big breakfast person anyway, and skipping it gives me more energy and time in the morning. I typically eat around 7 or 8pm, and then have “breakfast” at 11am or so, giving me 16 hours or so of “fasting.” I will have a cup or two of mushroom coffee first thing in the morning though! I love it. And some days, I wake up starving, so I eat!

13. Smart strength training can change your body.

Right after I moved to Park City, I wandered into a gym and decided to try the 9am functional training/HIIT class. It was intimidating as hell and it kicked my butt. (Hello, elevation.) But I stuck with it, became “a regular,” and over the last year it’s completely transformed my body and my approach fitness. The trainer was smart, helpful, the creative, functional moves helped me build muscles and tap into strength I never knew I had. 

14. Injuries suck.

Tearing my ACL and MCL while skiing was obviously not a highlight of this last year. It cost a lot of money, time, and caused me a lot of pain. While I’d never want to do that again, I can at least look back at it as an opportunity that gave me a chance to more about my body and get some personalized training in at physical therapy. Still, wouldn’t wish that surgery upon anyone.

15. Hot yoga is my therapy. 

It’s my favorite workout for my mind and body, and I know I can never live without it. Even during my ACL recovery, I’d go to classes just to sweat and stretch, which was super helpful, mentally. 

But I also go to actually therapy sometimes. 🙂

16. Sometimes, you have to let people down to make the decision that’s best for you. 

I tend to struggle with guilt, and this has been a tough lesson to learn. But I’ve worked on reminding myself that I have to do what’s right for me, and my health/sanity, and in the long run that’s always the right decision. Plus, people will understand more than you think.  

17. Stay true to yourself. 

It’s the only way to be truly happy.

18. Dating someone from another country is fun. 

Explore the Swiss Alps with someone who lives there? Yes please.

19. But dating long-distance is really freaking hard.

20. Anti-anxiety meds can change your life. 

I’ve struggled with generalized anxiety my entire life. But it was really only recently that I accepted the fact that I have anxiety. A good therapist helped me figure that out, and encouraged me to get on an SSRI medication about a year and a half ago. I only wish I had done it earlier. After just a few weeks on the medication, I realized that the on-edge mindset I had dealt with my entire life wasn’t normal, and I didn’t have to have those constant worries in my head all the time. While I don’t want to fully credit my meds for making me happier than ever this past year, I do think they’ve played an important role. 

21. Freelancer = entrepreneur. 

I’ve called myself a freelance writer these past 2.5 years, but I’ve come to realize that I really should’ve been calling myself an entrepreneur. I’ve hustled for work, and I’ve learned to turn down projects that are a waste of time. I’ve sustained my lifestyle fully off income I’ve created myself. I have steady clients and new inquiries all the time. I’ve built a business, even if it doesn’t have a name. 

22. Skiing is fun, but also hard to learn as an adult!

I do not recommend taking your first ski lesson at age 30.

23. Mountain biking is even more fun.

And somehow, it’s less scary for me. Plus, having access to the trails right out of your back door is hard to beat. 

24. Take a much-needed break from Instagram every so often. 

Just delete the app for a few days. You’re not going to miss out on anything

25. Accumulating stuff won’t make you happy on its own.

When I moved to the city-that-shall-not-be-named after NYC, I was able to afford a pretty awesome apartment. It had skyline views, a bluetooth-enabled sound system, state-of-the-art appliances, and a rooftop gym and pool. And guess what? Despite all the fancy stuff I now had and could afford, I was miserable. Then, I packed all my nice new things up, put them in storage, and moved into a fully furnished apartment with only a couple suitcases. And I couldn’t have been happier.  

26. Reading is underrated. 

But why can’t I ever find time to do it?! 

27. Moving isn’t easy.

But it really isn’t that hard. Over the last two years I’ve lived in… let me think… 4 different apartments. As someone who likes things a certain way, this was pretty unlike me. But it made me a lot more easy-going, and like I said above, your surroundings do not matter as much as you may think. And, you will adjust.

28. Only you have the power to make the right decisions for your life. 

But if it’s the wrong decision, only you are to blame. Own it, change it, and learn from it. 

29. You deserve to be treated with respect.

At all times and in all situations — life, love, and work. 

30. You are worthy of the good things that come your way. 

Stop feeling guilty. You’ve earned it. 


  • Locke Hughes

    freelance writer. health coach

    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