Expat Life

Thoughts on Turning 30

Anytime before the age of 25, if someone mentioned turning 30, I felt truly sorry for them.

30’s. That’s like real adulthood. Gross.

Then something started happening, maybe around 28. I started looking forward to 30. And I wasn’t the only one. My friends were throwing huge 30th birthday bashes and going on expensive vacations to celebrate. Some were jumping out of airplanes for the first time. These people weren’t quietly turning 30 in hopes that they could still claim 29 for a couple more years without too many people calling their bluff. They were celebrating 30, confidently.

And so it is with confidence and thankfulness that on Sunday I, too, will join the ranks of 30-somethings. Thankfulness, because 30 is a privilege. Really, it is. (I’ll be the first to admit it’s a miracle I’m still here after all the things I thought were a good idea in my 20’s.)

I have no qualms about leaving my 20’s behind. I enjoyed them – I did some things right, I screwed up plenty of others, and I had a lot of fun in the process, but I won’t miss them. My 20’s, much like everyone else’s, were about growth and self-discovery. Some discoveries made me proud, others, not so much. But it is with this knowledge that I hope to be in my 30’s everything I wasn’t yet prepared to be in my 20’s. (I’ll let you know how that turns out at 40.) But for now, from someone who is just on the brink of this incredible new decade, here are my thoughts on turning 30.

Thoughts On Turning 30

30 is not the new 20. If 30 were the new 20 we’d be back to pretending we know things just because we’re in college, and it wouldn’t be a successful Friday night without making an appearance at a minimum of five different places. Instead, now we actually do know things, and the discovery that a Friday night is approaching with absolutely no plans in place evokes a level of euphoria even drugs can’t compete with. An evening with the DVR? Don’t mind if I do!

30 is an opportunity to say thank you to your body for putting up with the health risk that was your 20’s. It is a freaking miracle mine has survived what I’ve done to it. In college the best sleep I got was in the tanning bed, a pop-tart and a Xanax would hold me over until dinner, and walking from my classroom to the parking lot counted as a day’s worth of exercise. Penance for these sins shall be paid over the next decade in the form of sleep, exercise, real food, and good gracious – a  minimum of SPF 30!

Speaking of bodies, there are a lot of changes that happen around this time that can cause your confidence to waver. My breasts only sit high on my chest if I’m wearing a good enough bra. The lines around my eyes stay crinkled long after the laughter has subsided. And under no circumstances do I weigh myself anywhere other than the doctor’s office, because it’s been years since the scale and my idea of what it should read have been one and the same. At this age I can safely rule out a cover feature in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition,  but my body is still small and strong and perfectly capable of both running for 13 miles and turning my husband on in the bedroom. Bow chicka wow wow. Be proud of what you’ve got at 30, and if you’re not, by all means, do something about it. The cool part about 30 is, by this time you’re (hopefully) bringing in a steady paycheck, so if your wrinkles put a kink in more than just your face, Botox those babies. Or do what I did and marry someone who doesn’t give a &#%!@, and then you can both laugh about all the changes happening to your bodies. It happens to all of us. (Except Gwyneth Paltrow. She appears to be the exception.)

Even as your body starts to age, other things may be just beginning to blossom. The self-confidence that comes with growing older has been one of my happiest discoveries. It is okay to be yourself, even if other people don’t like it. Accept that life has been and likely will continue to be one big popularity contest. Just remember, you don’t have to enter it. It’s okay if people don’t like you. You just have to like yourself. And you’re only going to do that if you’re actually being yourself. Quit trying to meet everyone else’s expectations and just concentrate on your own. There is no better time to do this than in your 30’s. And for goodness sake, stop taking yourself and everyone else so seriously. We all screw up. Laugh at yourself and move on.

At 30, your social circle is probably growing smaller, particularly if you’ve already joined the ranks of married folks and parents. This is a good thing. Use this opportunity of having a smaller circle to make it a tighter one. And choose wisely. The friends you cultivate relationships with now are going to be the ones you call when your marriage is troubled or you just can’t handle your kids a single minute more. You’ll want the advice of someone who knows you inside and out and has your best interests at heart, not the friend who was super fun in college but was conveniently unavailable when you needed her most.

Don’t worry, we’re coming to the end here. And I mean the end of this post, not “the end”. Thirty does not equal certain death. Although, even if this whole aging process hadn’t already made me acutely aware of my own mortality, Lexie would have done that for me yesterday when she tearfully admitted she didn’t want to me to turn 30 because I might die. From the time she can remember, I’ve always been in my 20’s. To her, 30 is old. And to an extent, she’s right – 30 does feel a lot different than 20. Gone is the perceived invincibility reserved especially for the young, where ideas immediately lead to action, without a single thought about consequences. But does that mean you stop taking risks the minute you turn 30? Of course not. The moment you start living like that you might as well die. Instead, you live more deliberately. Living deliberately just adds an extra, very essential step into the same equation: idea – thought – action. You’re 30, not 15 … or 85. Live like it.

The only hint of sadness I feel as I turn 30 comes from the realization that I’m not going to be able to do everything. I was a big daydreamer in my teens, and many of my dreams centered around what I was going to be or where I was going to live. At that age, I was pretty confident that I’d be able to travel the world as a host for a hit show on the Travel Channel, be a marine biologist working with dolphins in Australia, a news reporter for a network in a big city, an actress in Hollywood, and run an animal rescue on a big farm in Tennessee, all in one lifetime. (You gotta shoot for the moon, right?) The process of accepting that life is too short to do it all has not been an easy one. I know I won’t be able to live everywhere I want to live, meet everyone I want to meet, see everything I want to see, or do everything I want to do. But the important thing is, I’m never going to stop trying to.

Bring it on, 30!

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  • Reply
    November 20, 2015 at 2:15 AM


    Glad I stumbled upon this piece, albeit 2 years late. It’s inspiring to hear someone excited to be 30’s. I’m not exactly excited to be 30 in a few weeks. This post helped me see the more positive sides of turning 30.

  • Reply
    October 29, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    Thank you for writing this post!! I am EQUALLY excited to turn 30 in a week. It isn’t usual for a woman to be excited about getting older, but I guess, if you know that you live your life to the fullest, there really is nothing to be scared of. I’m glad to have found this blog, now I know that I’m not weird. LOL. I would like to share with you my post about turning 30 (and leaving my 20s behind!)

  • Reply
    Ashley | Domestic Fashionista
    March 21, 2014 at 5:18 AM

    This is a wonderful post. It came up on your linkwithin and I am so glad I got a chance to stop and read it. As 30 approaches in a few months, I felt my head nodding with all you said. But also hearing it from someone else, they were reminders that I know but don’t always believe. Looks like 30 hasn’t treated you too bad so far…I am looking forward to it. And if being 30 means I am grown up enough for my husband to take me to Paris…well…life just keeps on getting better! ;)

  • Reply
    October 25, 2013 at 4:55 AM

    Awesome awesome post!! You are so right about 30. As much fun and for all of the changes that happened in my 20’s, I am enjoying the stability and sometimes even simplicity of my 30’s. I am much more at peace with myself and really just pretty dang happy and content with life.

  • Reply
    Chelsea @ Lost in Travels
    October 23, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    you make 30 look good ; )

  • Reply
    October 22, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    This is such an awesome post! (I’m doing catch up reading) and SO true. I loved turning 30 (although I gave up the steady pay check and decided it was the perfect opportunity to pretend I was working for the travel channel) I also love the fact that you do get a bit more comfortable in yourself and are proud of yourself as you are and you’re ok with not everyone liking you or getting you. Go 30(s)!

  • Reply
    October 21, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    I loved this post! I turned 30 last year and had a fun party to celebrate. I think the harder birthday is going to be when I turn 31. I can’t believe I’m in my 30s now. It does seem so old. I agree with you on a lot of what you said, too. It’s empowering to now know what you want more, while still taking risks. My body seems to be slowly shutting down, though:) I’m a big runner and haven’t been able to run for the past 6 months due to knee pain. I should be too young for that, right? Hope you’re having a great day!

  • Reply
    Autumn @ The Spirited Violet
    October 21, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    I loved reading this- made me smile and some parts made me laugh. Happy belated birthday! :)

  • Reply
    October 18, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    I love this post! I’m pushing 50 now & wouldn’t go back to my 20’s if you paid me! I think it only gets better from your 30’s on – and you’ve got a great attitude! Like you, I get a little sad that I probably won’t realize all my life’s dreams – you know like living with the Chimps in the jungle, a la Jane Goodall – but you never know! Enjoy every day and pack all the adventure in you can.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    I knew it was your birthday, and I didn’t wish you a happy birthday as I spent the day so occupied with my own life, and i still feel bad about it, driving yesterday I thought, “I should throw together a box of american candy and send it to Sarah.. ” but then I thought, “oh shoot, what if she hates american candy? I can’t text her.” the list went on and on.

    I turn thirty in 11 months. I’ll follow your lead, because you seem like you go your shit together, girl:) I have nothing but love and warm wishes for you, and a box full of candy as well. Give me a minute. And I’ll rock this.

  • Reply
    Connie Weiss
    October 16, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Happy Belated Birthday! I started a brand new chapter of my life when I was 30 and it was the best thing ever for me. I love that you’re on a journey in your 30th year too.

  • Reply
    October 16, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    This was a GREAT post! I completely agree that 30 is not the new 20…I am SO glad to be closer to 30 than 20, when I think back to those days and yes, some of the not-so-great things I put my body though. As far as wrinkles? I like to look them as a story…I’ve earned each and every one of those, from one experience or another. Lines around your eyes? That means you’ve laughed a lot in your life, which is a great thing :) Hope you had a great birthday friend!

  • Reply
    Stacie Stamper
    October 15, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    Welcome to the dirty 30’s…now if only I could stay here with you a little longer. Do you have any tips on turning 40 for me, it’s just around the corner. Happy birthday, girl!

  • Reply
    Annabel Krantz
    October 15, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    Happy Birthday! I turn 25 next year and am slightly terrified- I don’t feel like I’m where I “should” be… but I’m trying to read your post and believe that it will all be ok!!

  • Reply
    Ashlee - I'll Love You Forever
    October 15, 2013 at 3:12 AM

    Happy Birthday to you my friend!! Great post! Now you have me looking forward to turning 30.. in 5 years ;) Hope your day was wonderful!

  • Reply
    Irene @ Away from Tenerife
    October 14, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    A little too late but HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Sarah!
    I truly enjoyed reading this post! It had me nodding at every statement and I can relate to most of thoughts on your 30s, even though I’m still one year away from turning 30.
    I also spent my teens daydreaming of all the things I would do in my so-cool-life and I had already planned to become a scriptwriter and to livie in London. Realizing that none of these will happen is a real disappointment but at the same time, it teaches you to make the most of what you have!
    Cheers to all the dreams that will come true in our 30s :D

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      October 14, 2013 at 5:30 PM

      While I’m always a fan of making the most of what you’re given in life, I think the possibility of you becoming a scriptwriter and living in London is not at all unattainable. We can’t do EVERYTHING we want in life, but it would be a pity to not try to do the things that are most important to us. Don’t give up just yet! :)

      • Reply
        Irene @ Away from Tenerife
        March 13, 2014 at 5:26 AM

        Hey Sarah, I never replied to your comment reply but it really stuck with me. Five months and scriptwriting aside, I got a job offer in Dublin. It is not London but it’s not that far from it (and I don’t mean only geographically). So, it somehow counts as that forgotten dream coming true and I might be relocating to Dublin in a couple of months just when I thought I had moved to Switzerland ‘for good’. Life can be that funny :)

        • Reply
          Sarah Shumate
          March 13, 2014 at 10:29 PM

          Well, isn’t that something! Congrats!! Just goes to show that you never really know how things are going to turn out at all! When we moved to Tennessee, I thought that was going to be our “forever home”, too, but you see how well that worked out. :) I’m excited for you with this new job possibility! I haven’t been to Dublin, but I have never heard anyone with anything negative to say about it. Sounds like a lovely place!

          • Irene @ Away from Tenerife
            March 16, 2014 at 12:49 AM

            Aww, thank you, Sarah!ill let you know how it goes and I’ll blog about it for sure, though it might take a while as I don’t think I’ll be moving before summer. Until then, I’ll just try and make the most of the few months left in Switzerland with my boyfriend :)

            Have a great weekend! xo

  • Reply
    October 14, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Happy Birthday! I dreaded turning 30 but I can tell you you are right, being 30 (+ in my case) actually rocks! Hope you are having loads of cake!

  • Reply
    Phill R
    October 14, 2013 at 2:55 AM

    Happy birthday Sarah. I too will be joining the ranks of 30-hood at the end of the year, and I share the sadness of not being able to achieve everything I wanted/felt like I should have. I have a little to do list of the smaller things I want to do before December, so fingers crossed I can achieve most of them!

  • Reply
    Sara Louise
    October 13, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    Today is Sunday which means today is your birthday… joyeux anniversaire mon amie! I wish you nothing but happiness on this amazing day! My 30th birthday started what was to be, the greatest year of my life so far, cheers to 30 being your best as well :) xxoo

  • Reply
    Chelsea Jacobs
    October 13, 2013 at 9:01 PM

    I absolutely love this!

  • Reply
    Tammy Chrzan
    October 13, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    Happy Birthday my gorgeous friend!
    Ahhhhhhh I loved reading this, you crack me up! Seriously, turning on hubby without botox ?? Whoop… :)
    I’m 44 and damn proud of it … so rock 30… then 31… 32…33…
    I have to agree seriously about one thing you said… age does bring confidence.
    Also I find, the older I get, I live for me… Not others. Just me.
    Much love to you!

    • Reply
      Donna Daniella
      August 8, 2017 at 3:54 AM

      yessss!!!! i love what you said!

  • Reply
    Erin P
    October 13, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    Happy Birthday Sarah Kate! Hope you have a fabulous 30th birthday!

    I’ve never been afraid of age…I loved turning 30 and 31 wasn’t too bad a few months ago either! ha :) You have lived a pretty amazing life and have so much more to look forward to! Enjoy this next chapter in your life, friend!

  • Reply
    kayleigh maryon
    October 13, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    Enjoy turning 30. I feel that every year only seems to get better. I always though turning 30 would bother me but now that I only have three years to go it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

  • Reply
    Abigail Gochnour
    October 12, 2013 at 10:51 PM

    you are darling! happy birthday!

  • Reply
    October 12, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    Wonderful post! YOU are wonderful! And I hope you will have a fantastic birthday tomorrow! With lots of cake!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      October 13, 2013 at 5:39 PM

      Thank you, Katrin!!! It’s going to be a great birthday!! And there will, of course, be cake…

      • Reply
        October 13, 2013 at 10:13 PM

        Happy happy birthday, sweetie! I hope you are having a fantastic day and you are enjoying your cake! I am thinking of you and I am sending you lots of hugs! <3

  • Reply
    Joyce Fetter
    October 12, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    Happy birthday! What a great perspective on turning 30 and it really is so true. I have a few years to go before 40, but I’m feeling the same way. My 30’s were wonderful but I’m thinking that 40’s can be even better!

  • Reply
    October 12, 2013 at 4:50 AM

    i love this! WAY better than the majority of people who complain and negatively view 30. yay for your big 30, which you SHOULD look forward to! prime of your life! xo

  • Reply
    Quyen Nguyen
    October 12, 2013 at 3:14 AM

    Beautiful post! I’m 28 and as I near 30, I must say I am loving it. It is a great age because you are closer to who you want to be and what you want to do. Happy birthday!

  • Reply
    October 12, 2013 at 1:56 AM

    Sarah, this was so beautifully written. I could relate to almost every word! I had to laugh about NOT having Friday night plans evoking a sense of euphoria. SO true. Also, the paragraph on friendships is spot on. This post should be an article in a women’s magazine :-)

  • Reply
    Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    October 11, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    Happy Birthday Sarah!! I love your outlook! It’s funny how you mentioned NEEDING to have something to do on Friday nights! Now I LOVE just staying home with the family for movie night! I’ve turned in to such a home body! Ha! I love to travel, but I love to be at home too! Wherever that is! :) Have a good one!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      October 13, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      I think that’s one of the biggest things that has changed for me. I used to love being out around a bunch of people all the time. Now I’m happiest when I’m at home with Chinese take out and a good movie!

  • Reply
    Tanya @Other Side of the Road
    October 11, 2013 at 10:49 PM

    Happy Birthday! The 30’s are wonderful, and 40s are even better. :)

  • Reply
    October 11, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    Happy birthday, Sarah! I’m 31 so I’ve been in my thirties for almost two years now but this post really resonated with me. Yes, gone are the days when we have to conform to a group in order to belong. Gone are the days when you feel like you need to meet other people’s expectations. And sadly, gone are the days when your skin looks great every day… But I can say for sure that I feel so much better about myself than I did ten years ago.

    I think maybe it takes about 30 years for women to truly understand and love who we are.

    I also want to share a conversation I had with my 88-year-old grandmother the other day. She was looking at her hands and said, “Wow, when did my hands get so wrinkly?” I wanted to tell her that they’ve been wrinkly for as long as I can remember, but then I realized, her comment shows that she’s young at heart. When I asked her “What age are you inside?” she answered, “I haven’t changed since I was thirty or forty.” Sort of makes you think, right?

    Have a great birthday weekend!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      October 13, 2013 at 5:35 PM

      I love that you shared this with me! Thank you! What a lovely woman your grandmother must be. To be able to enjoy life so much that outward appearances aren’t even an afterthought – THAT is my goal!

    • Reply
      Donna Daniella
      August 8, 2017 at 3:57 AM

      i love what you said!

  • Reply
    Selena Jones
    October 11, 2013 at 9:11 PM

    Happy Birthday! This is a terrific post. As someone staring 50 in the face I also say bring it on! Life only gets better and better as I add new wrinkles.

  • Reply
    Bonnie Rose
    October 11, 2013 at 9:07 PM

    Happy Birthday and welcome to the 30s! I turned 31 in a couple of months and I can say that for me I already like my 30’s better than my 20’s. Being in your thirties brings a lot confidence and makes me still excited about all the things that can happen in this decade of life! To many exciting things to come your way in your next decade too!

  • Reply
    Nicole @ Treasure Tromp
    October 11, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    happy birthday, lady! While you might not be able to do EVERYTHING you wanted to do, but I like the plan of still trying :)

  • Reply
    Abby Rockwood
    October 11, 2013 at 4:53 PM

    I also turned 30 this year and can relate to a lot of the things you mentioned. I think the best part is coming into your own:) Happy Birthday!

  • Reply
    October 11, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    Happy birthday! Love this post … I too will be joining the 30 club in a few short months. Its scary, but exciting at the same time!

  • Reply
    Mrs. Match
    October 11, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    This is so well said, and exactly how I feel. We are entering this decade together friend! I’m so glad to be looking at my 20s In the rear view mirror. Especially those college years!! Happy birthday lovely, and enjoy the “wonder years” as my grandma calls the. 30s.i know I am so far!

  • Reply
    October 11, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    Happy Birthday!! :) Such a great outlook on turning 30! I will have to have my fiance read this because he turns 30 next week and is not happy about it.

  • Reply
    October 11, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I love love loved this post, so much! Seriously I am bookmarking it and noting it for when I need that little reminder. Perfection. Seriously.

  • Reply
    Jen Mc
    October 11, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    As someone who is looking at 40 next year, you’ve said it all so well! Enjoy your 30s, I sure have.
    Happy birthday a couple days ealy. Love ya!

  • Reply
    T. Lennie
    October 11, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    This is a great post! Happy early Birthday! This year, you share it with Canadian Thanksgiving :)

  • Reply
    Keith Wynn
    October 11, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    Who says you can’t still do everything?? 30 is the new 22 don’t you know? :)

    Happy Birthday and have lots of cake!!!

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