On Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. on Day 3 of being 30, I walked down the streets of North Scottsdale in a wet white tee, accidentally exposing a black bralette beneath, as if I was heading to Havasu rather than my friend’s house for a pizza waffle blog post. Earlier, in a hurried state to de-wrinkle my last article of clothing, I mistook the washer for the dryer. Surely the 110 degree day would right the wrong.
Despite the heat and harsh sunshine, the quiet streets felt comforting. As I passed by the perfectly manicured landscapes and pristine man-made lakes, I wondered if I was, perhaps, doing life wrong. I imagined that a suburban house, husband, 1.5 kids and a pug named Pierre would strip my anxious feeling, put an end to any loneliness and provide a sense of security as dependable as boob sweat on an Arizona summer morning.
Besides, my best friends in Arizona had spent the weekend spoiling me with the sweetest 30th birthday surprise – complete with a mimosa bar, unicorn cake smash, Hello Kitty balloons and thoughtful cards. The same comforting feeling was experienced the weekend before when my best friends in Illinois surprised me with a heartfelt, personalized 100+ line poem. I didn’t want to leave them.
I checked the moisture left in my shirt and pulled up my jeans that were drooping due to a 2-week wine-only diet when food didn’t seem appealing for a variety of reasons:
- Work had been borderline unmanageable, making me feel inadequate
- At the top of my bucket list sat “Be self-employed by 30” while my blog still generated -$15 per month
- I had developed a phobia around driving, resulting in months of bike riding, Uber rides and an overdue smog test and DMV visit
- A psychiatrist appointment was made as a result of it where a middle-aged man in a makeshift office sat in front of a rolling desk, listening to these problems before asking, “What do you want from me?”
Oh god, did he write his own favorable Yelp reviews?
How was this still my life at 30? And would it always be this way – just with more wrinkles and worries?
Life Coaching Over Waffles
“I thought about you yesterday. Have you heard the song ‘Annie’ by Arizona?” my friend, Jason, asked as I entered the kitchen. “I’ll send it to you.”
“I haven’t, and by the way, my shirt is wet,” I said as I down at the kitchen counter before catching up on parts of our conversation I might not have remembered during Saturday’s birthday celebrations.
“You don’t need a psychiatrist,” Jason said as he mixed ingredients in the Magic Bullet. “You need a life coach.”
“Yes!” I took a big gulp of the coconut butter French press.
“Have you still been listening to Optimize by Brian Johnson?” Jason asked, pointing to his iPad.
I scrolled through the podcast series, recalling the episodes that carried me through everything from picking up dog poop for cash to launching my SOML products. I suddenly wanted to be that girl again who routinely sat on her bathroom counter each morning with wet hair, taking breaks from tweezing her brows to pause the podcast and take notes. Why did I stop?
“You’re just going through a little third-life crisis, but sometimes you need that to reset,” Jason explained as he poured the mix into the waffle maker. “I think for you, it’s mostly about maintaining momentum.”
My mind jumped to #1 on the list I had been working on for “30 Things I’ve Learned by 30” which was this exact piece of advice Jason had given me two years ago when we met.
30 Things I’ve Learned by 30
The past two weeks leading up to 30 were filled with meaningful conversations with friends from across the country who reminded me of what I’ve learned in the past 30 years.
1. Maintain momentum.
Don’t dwell on the article you just posted – start writing the next one. Don’t bask too long in the latest deal you closed – pick up the phone again. Don’t dote forever on the pound you lost – start on the next healthy recipe. Do one thing a day that moves you forward.
2. Parents know what they’re talking about.
Last weekend my mom and I sat in her car for nearly 30 minutes after returning home. I didn’t think she understood my feelings, but even after 30 years of knowing each other, she shared details of her life that I never expected. What was once viewed as potential shortcomings now is seen as part of being human and being strong.
3. Celebrate things even when they end.
For years I didn’t purchase real flowers because I knew how they would end. Many times when a guy stops texting or a friend’s marriage ends, the natural tendency is to focus on the crushed expectations of future plans and assume that because it didn’t last forever that it wasn’t real. However, the memories are as real as a rose petal, even after they fall.
4. Love at first sight exists.
Some love is like a shot and some is like Michelob Ultra. But they’re both love.
5. Community is essential.
Socialization keeps us sane because it reminds us that we aren’t alone in our daily struggles.
6. Wash your face at night. And your feet.
You will always feel better the next morning without mascara-coated eye boogers and dirty sheets.
7. Always state the problem first, especially when talking to guys.
If you save the problem until the end of an explanation, the listener won’t be focusing on anything else you say before it.
8. In confrontations focus on what you could have done better.
Instead of wishing he wouldn’t be so critical, be more open to feedback. Instead of wishing she would trust you, show you care.
9. Talk to strangers.
Slowly I’ve become my mother who strikes up conversation with anyone who she remotely knows – or doesn’t know at all. Strangers are often your future friends and/or contacts so keep a business card handy.
10. It’s okay to change your mind.
Maybe you do want to be a stay-at-home mom after all. Maybe you don’t want to have kids now. Maybe you decided that avocados are overrated or that soccer actually sucks. It’s okay.
11. Drinking water while out drinking is the key to not teleporting to the next day.
As unsexy as that sounds.
12. Humor is the result of relatability.
In my first standup comedy class, the homework included carrying a journal and writing down everything that “made us feel” – from the annoyance of a screaming kid at Starbucks to the guilt felt when eating a bite of your roommate’s 7-Eleven ice cream.
13. Authenticity is sexy.
A top quality that attracts me to people is when they are unabashedly themselves, and I’ve found that most people feel the same.
14. Palm trees alone won’t make you happy.
My high school friends like to remind me of Sorority Bid Day during my freshman year of college when they received a text from little Annie who was sitting on an ASU bench by herself saying, “Palm trees don’t make you happy.” However, a week into sorority life and the ASU palm trees started looking differently. (It’s all about people.)
15. Hard work can make up for a lot of shortcomings.
Talent is overrated. Working three jobs simultaneously upon graduating overshadowed my 2.9 GPA and staying up at night Googling how to fix HTML has helped my meager budget.
16. There’s no right way to eat a croissant.
I’ve Googled it relentlessly. And consulted with etiquette pros. And there is no pretty way to eat a flaky croissant without leaving behind a trail of tiny carbs.
17. Here and now is the most important place to be.
I almost drunkenly had this tattooed on my forearm on Sunday morning.
18. There is usually a better option – but just pick something.
Many people have asked me for feedback on their logos, websites, etc. over the years, and while I’m a perfectionist, I’ve realized that the most important thing is to pick something that you can confidently stand behind. And just stand by it. Don’t overthink it.
19. When you feel lacking, give thanks.
When you feel like you’re not receiving recognition, thank a friend who is a constant cheerleader. When you feel like your pants don’t fit quite right, thank God for a forgiving metabolism.
20. There is no finish line.
When I left my first Product Manager job, I told my boss, Sandra, “Besides, at the top of my Bucket List is ‘Be self-employed by 30’ and I need to make that happen.” I hated Sandra’s response because I innately knew it was true: “Annie, I completely understand. But if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s to ditch the timelines. That’s not how life works.” I am now a Product Manager again, and I am loving it because it’s a fit for me right now – and for as long as it’s still a fit.
21. Generate your own excitement.
When I find myself depending too much on others or future calendar items for excitement, I have a go-to list of activities that make me happy to get out of bed, including emailing someone I admire asking them for an interview, sending a card or creating a new product for my shop.
22. Cut ties with the stories you create that don’t serve you.
“One of the best things about you, Annie, is that you know how to connect related ideas to create awesome stories,” my friend, Lauren, told me last week. “But one of the downfalls of that is connecting negative thoughts and creating stories that don’t serve you. Cut ties with those.” If there is a story you’ve subconsciously created that is doing more harm than good, let it go.
23. If you’re Pizza Hut, position yourself by Dominos.
Surround yourself with positive people who are doing awesome things too because like attracts like. You will generate more of what you want together.
24. 80% of the time you should copy what someone else has successfully done.
“I think it’s important to copy.” I will always remember the owner of a media agency telling me this as I sat across at her desk, and I wholeheartedly agreed. When designers present me with potential new designs, I always ask what inspired them and who else is doing it well. Copy what is successful and add your own flair.
25. Listen to a podcast, read a book and/or meditate daily.
They will give you more perspective on life than The Bachelorette, and your brain will thank you.
26. Learn to do everything lightly.
“Oh my God, Annie. What is this?” my friend Elise asked, laughing while holding up an index card on my desk that read “Lightly child, lightly.” The embarrassing little reminder is from an Aldous Huxley quote my friend, Guy, texted me once because I always cry and stomp around life and still have not mastered the art of gently tip-toeing:
“It’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig.
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…“
27. Take time to figure out what turns you on.
It could be butts, it could be brains, it could be red heads, it could be when guys wear joggers with Nikes and a flat-billed cap with some Tom Ford cologne. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to own it.
28. Fail, fail, fail. And now.
“Yeah, I’m a little nervous that I’m turning 20 this year,” our Marketing intern said when I mentioned I was turning 30. He asked if he could pick my brain about blogging and careers over coffee. My response: “Holy shit! Fail… starting now! You have so many good years to fail, and the faster you start failing, the faster one experiment will turn into success.”
29. Your good friends will be there to catch your falls – so be their safety net too.
I’ve tested my friendships to the limits the past couple years, and on my 30th birthday all I wanted was to see them and thank them – from Illinois to Arizona to LA. It was the perfect present, and they went above and beyond to make me feel loved. I am extremely blessed and want to do the same for them.
30. Figure out what you want and create an environment that cultivates it.
These were instructions by Jason as he plated the pizza waffles for pictures, and I agree.
What I Want for 30
As I bit into the pizza waffles following a life talk, podcast recommendations and samples of guided meditation, it felt like the 2-week wine diet had finally come to an end. In more ways than just food.
An hour later as I sat down at the coffee shop, I deleted the entire first draft of this blog post, and wrote down what I want for 30.
- I want to help people – in the same way people have listened, consoled and offered guidance to me
- I want to love people – old friends and new friends and family and some fun/unfazed guy out there
- I want to continue to grow each day – podcasts and paintings and traveling and SOML products and meditation and events and reading and lots of writing
I headed back to LA as a 30 year old armed with hugs, reading and listening material and a fresh perspective. And that song Jason sent. Upon returning I…
- Headed straight to the DMV
- Started on new SOML products and marketing
- Did not pick up the prescription for anti-anxiety meds that was waiting for me at CVS
- Cooked some food (solid, non-wine food)
- Returned to work refreshed
- Blasted my new anthem… “Oh-oh Annie, promise everything is gonna be fiiiiine.”