13 Things I Recommend Doing Before Turning 30

In light of turning 30 yesterday, I thought I'd post some things that I either did or wish I did before reaching my 3rd decade. Please keep in mind that this blog is nothing more than my personal opinion. If you disagree, well, then... by all means! On that note...

1. Learn to disagree with others
I find that many people, including myself, struggle to be at peace with those they disagree with. Whether the disagreement is about politics, religion, food, parenting, or whatever, it shouldn't spur on division, fear, or worse, hate. A husband and wife who've mentored Tony and me over the last 2-3 years have opposing political beliefs. They're able to deeply love each other even though they vote for different presidential candidates. I think that's pretty flipping cool.

2. Travel (or live) abroad
I truly believe that cultural experiences have the power to cultivate understanding and maturity in a person. Yes, being able to travel is a blessing. So if the blessing is available to you, I recommend taking advantage of it. You'll realize that the world really isn't as crazy as the media portrays it to be and that there's much to learn from cultures that are different from your own.

3. Slow down
Holy cow, people move fast these days. Disease is becoming more and more prevalent in modern day society, and I think that stress is hugely to blame for the spike in physical, mental, and spiritual illness. If you know someone who's really good at "taking it slow," be open to learning from him or her. I know our culture tends to label that kind of person as irresponsible or lazy, but consider that he or she knows something you don't.

4. Love your body
Why do we constantly speak death over our physical bodies? My hair looks awful when it air drys. My legs are too fat. My biceps aren't big enough. I'm too short. I'm too tall. I hate my teeth. My hands are too big. My lips are too thin. What?! I mean, we often feed ourselves endless lies regarding the way we look! When I finally stopped trying to change my appearance and simply embraced my naturalness, something changed within me. Not that I'm perfect at loving my body, but I'm definitely more comfortable in my own skin.

5. Listen to your intuition
My mom used to always tell my sisters and me, "Listen to your gut." Not until more recently did I realize that my gut is often times the Holy Spirit. At the age of 24 (one year after I gave my life to Jesus), I started saying "yes" to the things God was telling me to do. I went from making $70k per year to $35k to nada. I sold all of my possessions and traveled to 11 third world countries. I married a South African and moved to Cape Town. IN NO WAY AM I SAYING YOUR LIFE HAS TO LOOK LIKE THAT. But I am saying that when the Holy Spirit talks... listen. Give Him your yes, and in turn, He'll give you life.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
— John 10:10

6. Practice something
A regular practice—be it physical, creative, or something else altogether—teaches us a lot about a lot—discipline, inspiration, growth, depth, the importance exploration. I practice yoga. I also journal, write, and create pretty regularly. Tony is a surfer. I know other people who do art, run, cycle, or hike. Whatever you do, practice something. And when you don't feel like showing up, show up anyway. You'll be happy you did.

7. Learn a new language
I've definitely not done this... although I once lived in a Spanish-only home for a month in Peru and tried. I'm not linguistically gifted, so I've resisted trying my hand at most foreign languages out of fear of looking stupid. However, after living abroad and realizing that most people out there are bilingual at the very least, I realized that I should've taken my high school Spanish classes a lot more seriously.

8. Train for some sort of race
I ran a half marathon once, and I vowed I would never do it again. But I did it, and it pushed me. I learned a lot about perseverance and about how my body can often do more than I think it can. Oh and I became really close with my three running partners—pushing through something physically difficult with other people is incredible grounds for bonding.

9. Know your dreams
Can you answer the question, "If money wasn't a factor, what would you do with your life?" If not, I highly recommend doing some investigating. There's something stabilizing about knowing who you are, what your dreams are, what makes you tick, what your calling is (even if it changes in the next couple of years), and the unique ways that God has gifted you.

10. Seek to be vulnerable and self-aware
Vulnerability and self-awareness are hard. Taking a good, long look at yourself means you might not like what you see... and what are we supposed to do with that? I believe vulnerability and self-awareness are vital parts of being an emotionally healthy adult. However, it's not something that should be channeled into guilt or shame, performance, or idolatry. Believe me, it's possible. I've fallen victim to all three.

11. Start reading books
Reading gets you out of your own head and teaches you about the thought processes and perspectives of others. It also exercises your mind and makes you think. Authors I love because they challenge me, spiritually and mentally include: Tim Keller, Ann Voskamp, C.S. Lewis, Peter Scazzero, Donald Miller, and Jane Austen.

12. Forgive your parents
Most people I know have had or still need to do this. It doesn't mean your parents are bad or ill-intentioned people. It just means they're imperfect humans and that in the 18+ years they spent raising you, they more than likely pissed you off at some point. If you don't forgive them, you'll spend the rest of your life perceiving them through the lens of offense—knowingly or unknowingly.

13. Love your job
This may require a change in your job or a change in your perspective. "Love your job" doesn't mean you'll never have a bad day, but that you should feel purposeful and connected to what you're doing. The thought of living for the weekend makes me want to cringe. Life really is too short to be miserable for 40-50 hours every week.

Thank you to all of you who have celebrated my birthday with me! I have one more week of work in the States before Tony and I head back to Cape Town on May 2nd!