30 Things I Learned By 30

Thoughts on sense of self, OCD, white accompliceship, hazelnut coffee

I think it’s probably a strange time to write this as I have sunk into a mini quarantine depression, but perhaps this is also the best time to write it. For me, 2020 began with overconfidence, hit the middle with a summer full of rebellion, and ended in existential questioning and self doubt.

To write my this I poured over my private journal from the year, and noted 30 of the most choice insights from a year unlike any other I have experienced.


  1. It is a skill to sit with uncomfortable feelings. Step back to see more. Let emotions through you, and choose how to react.
  2. Forgetting “who you are” is the best time to recreate yourself with all the best parts of the world you’ve gathered thus far in your life, and opening yourself up to new possibilities.
  3. If something scares you or upsets you, put it on a mental list to confront that fear in a little way every day until it is no longer your focus.
  4. Keeping a private journal does wonders for mental health.
  5. Laying down in an intersection in downtown Kansas City in a Black Lives Matter march was one of the most profound and fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

6. I can be a know it all on certain topics, such as politics and social justice. I am working on how to use my passion in a more productive and long term focus, not a fuse that burns brights and short.

7. I am no one, but so are we all. We are also everything. Enjoy.

8. Hazelnut coffee, sunshine and a topic to write about cures many a blue day.

9. I’m currently stumped on how to be the most effective accomplice/activist for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). I think that this humility is good, but I must not let it completely paralyze me.

10. Racial justice awakenings in US this summer helped me learn that hippie rebellious white kids such as myself calling for “horizontal power structures” is not necessarily taking into account racial trauma of those around us, and how hard many have had to fight to achieve their hierarchical positions in society. Is rebellious, anarchist striving for horizontal hierarchy a productive thing to even attempt before fully coming to terms with racism and sexism, etc. in our society (?)

11. Being aware of other people’s traumas and triggers does not mean that you have to sacrifice your own feelings and ideas. It means you need to listen more, and proceed with more caution and less righteous confidence.

12. I chase excitement, and idealize calm. In reality I thrive with a bit of both in balance, but I focus on one or the other at a time.

13. I’m happy to be here. Many people I know never made it to this age.

14. Ego death. Surrender. Enjoy what you find in life, and find the flow.

15. The pandemic has been helpful for my contamination OCD. Now the world sees social situations and germs the way I have my whole life. I finally feel nonchalant compared to others in this situation.

16. My focus of taking other people’s problems on as my own could be seen as a compulsion of my OCD, as well as my conditioning as a woman in society, and I am working on letting that go. I am not responsible for others’ happiness.

17. I self medicate my OCD, and quarantine boredness with alcohol and it’s something I will work on changing in the future.

18. Shame doesn’t necessarily motivate you to be better, many times it motivates you to cave to your old ways you are trying to escape.

19. I have leaned on “travel” as an identity for the past 10 years. This year travel was taken away and I am finding myself questioning who I am.

20. Try to curb the use of phrases such as “you should” and “sorry” in daily use.

21. Self care for me doesn’t mean binging tv shows and eating trash all the time. It means do that sometimes, but self care for me means being the person in the moment I can be proud of later.

22. Don’t play into existential spirals that lead only to depression. Just do what you do, and enjoy. Fake it til you make it back to peace of mind if you have to.

23. Injustice is everywhere. Weigh your options, choose your battles. Battle, or cultivate peace of mind. Don’t dwell.

24. Take a few minutes to do belly breathing when feel self tensing up, or when you are upset. Take the whole night off and listen to a podcast and focus on belly breathing when you need it.

25. Activism, positive relationships and all good things come from self interest- not selfishness, not selflessness, but self interest. Find your own self interest.

26. Being a shy kid was a formative identity for me that I simultaneously resent, but also know that it has formed who I am/ who I am still becoming.

27. Embrace the unimaginable bigness of the world, and how many people reside in it with you.

28. You don’t need to be famous. But you need to have a purpose.

29. 2020 was a year that I couldn’t run away from. I was forced to sit with it all, and keep pushing through without quitting (which I have never really been forced to do before).

30. I am a writer. I need to get out of my head more often, and onto the page. Interact with other writers, and enjoy your day job which lets you read and write for work. Stop the mental hierarchy. Even if nothing you write ever gets read by more than just a few people, it was worth it. It’s life, it’s art.

Happy Dirty 30 to me. Good luck in 2021, all!

*Props to others for the idea for this piece

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midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe — http://eepurl.com/cZoiG9

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