30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years

Holy cow I’m officially 30… honestly this isn’t QUITE how I thought I would be spending it but in very normal Jessa fashion my celebration is rather lowkey and I’m not mad at it. Before COVID I probably would have made a bigger deal out of it because it’s 30 after all. I might have tried to get a group of friends together for dinner and a concert or maybe some bar hopping. But instead, I’ve been thinking about all the things I’ve learned in the last three decades. Am I officially an adult yet?

1| See a therapist

I’ve been seeing a therapist for about a year now and when I say it has changed my life I truly mean it. You don’t have to have something “wrong” with you to find therapy beneficial. Having an extra unbiased set of ears to listen to your day or even help find ways to better your communication at work or with loved ones can help your relationships with yourself and others tremendously. I have learned so much about myself and can see huge differences in my relationships with others as well as myself that I don’t think I ever could have achieved without therapy.

2| Slow Down

Naturally, I’m a pretty busy person, I’m very extroverted (a Sagitarrius) and I have a hard time staying on track and focusing on just one thing at a time That’s why to-do lists are my best friend. But I think this year has taught me to slow down and take time to regain focus. The stresses of lockdown and the uncertainty of life has helped me realize what’s important and to slow down to appreciate the little things. I took for granted my commute to an office downtown, I never truly appreciated how much time with your coworkers face to face can make a difference. Somedays I overlooked just how beautiful and vibrant Chicago can be when it’s bustling with entertainment and bars. After this is all said and done and you’re back to your everyday life don’t forget to slow down and appreciate everything around you.

3| I am not responsible for the feelings of others

Something therapy has taught me, and something I still struggle with daily is being a people pleaser. My entire life I’ve HATED, to the point of actual physical ailments, to upset people. The cause of many arguments with loved ones has been because I needed to “fix” or make someone feel better for something I thought they were upset about (yeah if that confused you, it still confuses me too).

But sometimes you can’t change how someone feels and that’s ok. Accept the things you cannot change, let go of situations where you feel out of control. You aren’t responsible for that person’s happiness and you definitely shouldn’t put your emotional health aside to make someone else happy.

4| I learned how to fight my anxiety and depression with healthy habits

If you haven’t seen the trend yet (see: lesson 1 again) therapy has truly changed my mental health tremendously. Through weekly sessions with my therapist, we have tackled depression, codependency, relationship problems and so much more. I have learned how much I love using guided meditations to quiet my mind at the end of a long day and how therapeutic journaling can be. All the above lessons are all things I’ve learned through a year of therapy. I am so much more self-aware and can identify my anxious tendencies and how to combat depression. I’ve learned more about myself and how my brain works and that’s has such a positive impact on so many aspects of my life.

5| Start a journal

Speaking of journaling- it’s great. I love using my journal to collect my thoughts, talk myself through any unresolved problems from the day, or even write out a letter to someone I might have a conflict with. During lockdown, I used it as a way to break up my monotonous days and to try to document what I was doing, and make sense of how I was feeling. If you don’t feel like you know how to start there are so many great journals with prompts to get you started but my trick at first was writing myself a daily letter.

6| The most important relationship is with yourself

Relationships are hard work, they take time, and commitment. But so does your relationship with yourself. I always go back to the saying “how can you expect someone else to love you when you can’t love yourself”

Before I moved to Chicago I felt stuck, I loved my friends and some of the activities I did, but I wasn’t truly happy, and that also showed in my romantic relationship. Because I wasn’t happy in the life I was living I took a lot of that out on him and that directly impacted the relationship we had. When I finally got the courage to leave my old life and pursue something I had dreamed of since high school I made myself and my happiness the priority. I explored the city by myself, I made new friends who showed me some of the coolest parts of the city, and I focused on creating a life I loved. With that self-love, you exude more confidence and attract the best kinds of people.

7| You’re allowed to say no to a date

As well as “you’re allowed to turn down a kiss even if he pays.” As I get older my time becomes more valuable. I used to be the type of person that would convince themselves that maybe if I give them two…three…even four chances that maybe I’ll catch stronger feelings. I’ve realized that I’m a lot more intuitive than I give myself credit for. If I’m not feeling it, I have learned to speak up and say I’m not feeling it. If I hurt that person’s feelings by declining a date or hanging out that’s their problem, not mine. If you turn down a kiss on a first date or don’t want to pursue something romantic with someone speak up, you and that other person with benefit in the long run.

8| Work to live – don’t live to work

2020 has been a weird year for working from home. Over the last 4 years, I’ve worked a flexible schedule with work from home on Fridays to working from home 3 days a week to not getting to work from home at all, and then to sheltering in place and ultimately taking a fully remote job. But the lesson I’ve learned is work and life is a balance and work should not take more of your time. Prioritize your health, fitness, and passion. Your job is essentially funding the life you want to live.

9| Be the person who breaks the ice

As a young girl, my mom used to push me to introduce myself to children my age. I have heard many stories of her encouraging me to walk up to children in line at the grocery store or at the playground and tell them my name. As a military child time is limited so you learn to make friends quickly and not be afraid to reach out to strangers. You never know how much an act of kindness can mean to someone.

The blogging community can be one of the friendliest and the most cliquey groups of people. I love going to events but often times feeling like an outcast. I would never wish that feeling on anyone. Last year I went to a couple of events around this time and simply started talking to some girls standing alone and invited them to join the conversation and they have become some of my biggest inspirations. You never know what a simple introduction can lead to.

10| Try something scary, & do it alone

A way to strengthen your relationship with yourself is to do things on your own. Be selfish and do something for yourself. My decision to move to Chicago was one of the scariest and exciting decisions I’ve ever made and I don’t regret it at all. I learned more about myself, my strengths, and became more confident on my own. When I moved into my first apartment on my own I remember how terrified I was to be living on my own. I remember having a full panic when I couldn’t open a jar of jam on my own… I was terrified to be living on my own and felt like I couldn’t do things for myself, I also think this fear caused me to jump into a relationship prematurely. Now, I love my alone time, I love decorating my apartment the way I want, putting up my Christmas tree when I want and I’ve even learned some pretty handy tricks for opening tight jars. Doing things like eating out, getting a drink, or going to a concert on your own can be so rewarding if you just push yourself past the fear.

11| No one is thinking about you nearly as much as you think

As you can probably guess I do a lot of photoshoots. The other day I revisited the evolution of my poses and it was really rewarding to see how far I’ve come. When I first started shooting I would take my then-boyfriend to the most remote locations I could find so there was no chance someone could watch us. Even my first few posts in Chicago I would clam up when someone walked by and even then we would look for quiet side streets to shoot in so I would be comfortable. But as I’ve grown I’ve realized most people really don’t pay attention to people around them. I’ve done shoots in large crowds of people and no one looked twice. I’ve become so focused on the creative process and the shot I want to achieve gawkers don’t even cross my mind. So if you’re not a blogger or model I think the lesson here is to wear what you want, do what makes you happy because chances are the scenarios in your head of what people are going to think are wrong.

12| Success comes from good habits

To be successful you need to have the right mindset and good healthy habits. You need to fuel your body, mind, and set every day up for success. Consistency and dedication is the key to success, especially in the blogger world. You need to show up for your audience and provide value. But feeding your own soul with creative inspiration and good habits is the only way to get there.

13| Sometimes it’s good to rest and reset

In my early days of blogging, I used to get so bent out of shape and have a full-on breakdown if I didn’t have content for the week. As I’ve grown I’ve learned the power of a good old fashioned digital detox. Sometimes taking a step away from the digital distractions and taking some time to focus on your mental needs can help your creativity the most. During the pandemic, I’ve felt this most and found myself throwing out my usual blogging schedule for some time to focus on myself.

14| Relationships take time and dedication

Now that I was on the road to having a good relationship with myself learning how to create meaningful relationships with others could happen. I’ve learned that communication is the most important thing, being open and honest with your feelings and not letting your emotions get the best of you is key to a healthy relationship.

15| Sometimes the path you take to your goals looks a little different than you originally thought

The journey to your goals will never look the way you originally thought. There are always curveballs and setbacks, your timeline is never perfect but if it’s important to stay dedicated to your healthy habits, and the final destination, staying present in the process you will get there I promise.

16| Drink more water

It’s good for your skin and you should do everything you can to get enough water. Whether it’s adding lemon or drinking out of one of those giant jugs with a straw.

17| Politics are cool, we should be more aware and involved in our government

I was never very interested in politics before I’d say 2017. I never wanted to be involved, and naively I believed the world around me was just fine. But the last 4 years have taught me to be curious, to always ask questions, and to look for unbiased information, and to stay informed. I’m so fortunate to have the privilege I do and need to use that privilege to help others. We can never again sit idly by and let others make decisions on our behalf.

18| Invest in good footwear

If you’re going to spend a little extra on anything it should be on your footwear. I used to be of the belief that it was pointless to buy more expensive shoes why would you spend so much money on something that gets dirty so easily? But living in a city has taught me I walk a lot and wearing comfortable footwear is the top priority and that usually comes with a bigger price tag.

19| Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish yours

In the blogger world comparison can be toxic and runs rampant. It is so easy to scroll your feed and see other bloggers hitting 10k or landing that dream collaboration and oftentimes you can lose sight of your own accomplishes. Comparing your own path to others isn’t helpful or real. You only get a tiny sliver of the big picture when you compare yourself to others. So keep even your smallest accomplishments insight and be grateful for your own journey.

20| One of the best gifts you can give someone is your undivided attention

I spend a lot of time on my phone. Blogging has me checking my emails, my analytics, and Instagram quite frequently. I also spend most of my day on my computer for work. To take a step away from technology and spend some quality time with your loved ones can be the best gift you give anyone. Find activities to do together that doesn’t involve your phones.

21| Speak assertively about what you need, people can’t read your mind

If I have to pick one lesson here that’s changed the game it’s this. This little lesson from my year of therapy has helped me in just about every other lesson above. I always knew communication affected relationships but I never truly knew how to until I started practicing assertive communication. Using I statements and focusing on how you feel rather than actions the other person did. Taking the time to plan out what you’re going to say to the person so you can speak calmly and saying no when you need to. These little habits I never knew could make such a big difference not only in the conversations but how I feel about the outcome.

22| The theater method is key when thinking about the most important people in your life

Ok so stay with me on this one. The idea is to think about your life as the inside of a broadway theater. You have the orchestra section, front row, mezzanine, and then the balcony. When dealing with and prioritizing people in your life and who you confide in thinking about your life as your own personal theater can help you visualize it. I’m someone who tries to fit every single person I meet into my front row and that just isn’t possible. Sometimes you have to identify the toxic people and send them to the balcony or worse out of your theater completely. It may sound silly but if you’re someone like me that is a people pleaser this really helps set boundaries for yourself.

24| Life is about balance

I’m all about balance. If you’ve ever been out to dinner with me I’m the girl who orders a salad with a side of french fries. I think in order to be healthy or get things out of life that you want you never have to sacrifice happiness. Do things that make you happy and don’t give up all the good stuff to achieve your health goals.

23| Cooking is fun

I’m sure I’m not the only one who since the pandemic started has been cooking A LOT. I’ve learned to create meals I never knew I could do, I also have learned a lot about seasoning and combining flavors. Cooking has become a fun hobby and it’s also incredibly rewarding to know what you’re putting into your body is healthy. I have been more aware of my body’s needs and how to get there since really focusing on cooking at home.

25| Invest in skincare (SPF SPF SPF!)

I’ve been pretty blessed my entire life to have a pretty youthful appearance. Rarely would people guess that this year I was 30. I have always been a beauty junkie and have loved trying new products but I’d say in the last 10 years I’ve learned how simple it can be to take care of your skin and keep it youthful, the downside is it comes at a bit of a cost. Now I’m not saying your entire routine needs to be hundreds of dollars but there are parts of the routine that might cost a little bit more but they’re worth it. My skin has forever changed since adding lactic acid to my routine as well as a vitamin c serum. What doesn’t have to cost you is sunscreen and you should be wearing it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. let me repeat that, every day you should be wearing sunscreen. Sitting on the couch all day? Sunscreen. Going out on a cloudy day? You still need sunscreen. Protect your skin from wrinkles with some SPF.

26 | Friendships change, and that’s completely ok

People change. That’s part of growing up. Our priorities in life change and sometimes you will outgrow friendships. Sometimes you learn that a friendship is one-sided and that relationship isn’t serving you anymore. That’s completely ok, it’s natural and you should never feel bad about that. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have those people come back around into your life. This year I have reconnected with so many people from my childhood and it’s felt incredible.

27| It’s ok to change your style

I love trying new trends and styles. What made me love fashion most is that it’s a way to express my creativity. As a young girl, I was very girly, I actually didn’t own a pair of jeans until second grade and only wore them on PE days. I’ve experimented with more masculine silhouettes and edgier trends. For a few years in college, I was very into vintage style and wore a lot of vintage clothes. I wore real vintage cat eyeglasses and did vintage hairstyle and would go to class. Even if people stare or don’t like the style themselves you should never let that dictate what you wear. Fashion is for you, express yourself the way you want.

28| Renting clothes is cool and good for the environment

I started renting clothes back in 2016. I had just learned about Rent the Runway and was renting formal dresses for weddings and company holiday parties. I love wearing designer clothes but I hate the price tag that goes along with them and trying to keep your closet up to date as a blogger can be expensive and exhausting.

Companies like Rent the Runway allow you to try out even more trends and expand your closet for a fraction of the price. Not only is renting good for your wallet it’s also great for the environment. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of water. By renting clothes you help cut down the number of fast fashion items that go into landfills after a season. Rent the Runway also sells used garments at a discount or donates them to vetted nonprofit organizations to increase the sustainability of fashion.

29| Invest in staple pieces, not trends

While using Rent the Runway that’s also allowed me to really curate my closet with versatile pieces that will go with the trendy pieces I rent. Things like shoes, quality, and timeless handbags as well as tailoring things like slacks and skirts is so important to make sure your fit is right and you want to wear the items more frequently. Spending more time at home I’ve realized I don’t wear half the clothes I’ve collected. Eliminating the amount of stuff and focusing on key pieces that will last me a lifetime helps the environment and allows me to choose better quality designer items. At 30 I have officially gotten rid of all the Forever21 items I’ve had in my closet and focus on brands with high quality and sustainability initiatives.

30| Never take advice from anyone you don’t want to be like

Whenever you’re looking for advice on relationships, finances, or another aspect of your life take a step back and ask yourself is that person a good role model? If you wouldn’t want their relationship, financial situation, or life then take their advice with a grain of salt. Focus on looking to people you admire and want to emulate when looking for advice on how to advance your life.

I’m still in shock that this is 30. But all these years have taught me to enjoy the journey and that mistakes are normal. Appreciate what you have and be kind to the environment and yourself. I hope this helps you on your journey.

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