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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

30 Things You Don't Have to Have By 30

I think I was 23 when I read it for the first time: Glamour’s now-infamous “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.”

Well, this is excellent, I thought. With seven years to go, I already had things like “one friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry” and knowledge of “the names of the secretary of state, your great-grandmothers, and the best tailor in town.” And I had plenty of time to work toward the rest.

And with my head start, I could focus my energy on my own list of “30 before 30” goals—which included publishing a best-seller and traveling to a good 75% of the world’s countries. Obviously.

A few weeks ago, with my 30th birthday quickly approaching, I read that list again. And I panicked. How do I feel about having kids? I don’t even know how I feel about having houseplants! I’m supposed to have a cordless drill? The only tools I have to my name are a hammer and that metal thing used to put together IKEA furniture!

But of course, having a list of things you must do by 30 is more than a little bit ridiculous. Is life about checking some items off a list? No. It’s about living—in whichever way and on whatever timeline works for you.

So you know what? Today (my own 30th birthday), I’m giving you another list. For anyone who’s ever panicked about turning 30—here are the things you don’t have to have by 30. Really.

  1. A spouse—or even someone you want to go on a second date with.
  2. A child. Or a pet. Or even an herb garden.
  3. A decision on how you feel about having children. Yes, I know—Mother Nature has a say in this one, but if we’re going to put a timeline on it, can it at least be 34 ½?
  4. Your dream job. Or even an idea of what that might be. Should you figure it out? Yeah. But, because you deserve it—not because you have to have it by 30.
  5. A house (or enough money in your bank account to even think about having a down payment).
  6. A room in your place that doesn’t serve an essential purpose—like someone eating or sleeping there.
  7. A “bedroom set” (or any piece of furniture that you plan to keep forever).
  8. Your own laundry machines.
  9. A “signature style.” Heck, it will probably change in your 30s anyway, right?
  10. Knowledge of how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. There’s still time for that—and in the meantime, there’s Whole Foods.
  11. Ample storage.
  12. A car that was manufactured in the current decade. Or a car, period. Or, if you live in New York, a driver’s license.
  13. A working knowledge of how to set up cable equipment.
  14. A pair of truly comfortable high heels (seriously, these might not exist).
  15. Enough stamps in your passport. Because, unless you are Hillary Clinton, will you ever have that?
  16. An answer to, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Be honest: At 25, did you see yourself here?
  17. The ability to handle a crisis (or moving) without a crying phone call to your mother.
  18. A readily available matching pair of socks.
  19. Guilt for eating the (very large) remainder of cookie dough in the bowl.
  20. Any idea on how to make (or even really enjoy) a gin martini.
  21. The ability to do your own taxes. A good thing to know? Sure. But otherwise, that’s what the lovely people at H&R Block are there for.
  22. The ability to turn down 2-for-1 margaritas at Happy Hour.
  23. Eye cream. Because that’s just throwing in the towel.
  24. Giving up on the belief that maybe—just maybe—you could win the lottery someday.
  25. A city you call home.
  26. More than 500 Facebook friends.
  27. The desire to wake up the morning after your 30th birthday not feeling hungover.
  28. The words “I’m too old for that” in your vocabulary.
  29. Any list—“30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know” or otherwise—fully complete.
  30. Any idea of what the future will hold. As Gloria Steinem puts it:
  31. “I want to say to you that there is life and dreams and surprises after 30—and 40, and 50, and 60, and 77! Believe me, life is one long surprise.”


Photo courtesy of Temari 09.