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Alli Worthington is a digital strategist, business coach, author and speaker. She's a wife, a mom to five sons, and a stepmom to an awesome daughter. Some of her interests: social good, startups, photography, transmedia, tech, photography, gardening, and ice cream. You can learn more about her on her website, Alli Worthington. She is the founder of Blissfully Domestic online magazine, and the co-founder of Blissdom Conference.

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35 for 35: Things I Have Learned in my 35 Years

By Alli Worthington |

Have I mentioned how much I love my thirties? I’m beginning to finally feel like a grown-up, embracing my silly side and learning that elusive concept called self-acceptance. I love lists, and what better reason to write out a list of things you’ve learned in life than a birthday, right?

I hope you enjoy them. Please join in with things you have learned through the years.

Attitudes-

1) Happiness really is a choice. It is less about what happens to you and around you and more about who you are.

“After a year, lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy with their lives.”   -Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness.

2) People will argue for their own limitations in life. Don’t limit yourself because you believe you can’t achieve your dreams.

3)”Choose discomfort over resentment.” I awkwardly told Brene Brown that she MUST be the keynote at BlissDom last year. That her keynote was destined to be. (What? It really was.)

She came and spoke and changed my way of thinking about saying no. I try to now choose a moment of discomfort and say no to things that I do not want to do/have the energy to do/do not believe in. Yes, it is uncomfortable to say no, but it is so much better than resenting that I said yes.

4) Sometimes it is best to keep your  mouth closed. It is always tempting to go all Julia Sugarbaker on people who are spouting nonsense. It could be the Mom at PTA who is bragging about how her son has developed a cure for cancer out of old lollipop sticks in his room, or a blog post I disagree with, or someone’s opinion on Twitter. I’ve learned that I should just stay out of it (see You can’t change people) and not involve myself. The risks are too high that I would look like a jerk (because it would be jerky, right?) or that I would look like a bully. It is best to avoid silly drama and waste emotional energy.

People-

5) Judge others by their actions and never by words, or worse, “good intentions’ alone. As Maya Angelou famously said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” This is especially true of politicians.

6) You can’t change anyone’s behavior, their brand of crazy, their perspective, or their opinions. People are complex, and have years of ingrained beliefs and a lifetime of experience that makes them who they are. I’m not going to change any of it. People only change when they decide to change. I don’t have a magic wand.

7) Haters are always gonna be hatin’. Don’t be surprised if people do not like you. Maybe you really are a horrible person and they have good reason. No, I’m kidding. Horrible people don’t read my blog, sheesh! No matter how nice you are, if you breathe and think, you will make people mad. Maybe you say your ‘S’ sound like someone’s high school teacher who made them feel bad so now they hate you. They don’t know why, they just don’t like you.

If you are online at all, and express your opinions, even if you do not attack opposing positions or beliefs, people will jump in to tell you how wrong you are, tell you you are ugly and your mom dresses you funny. Nerves get touched accidentally and haters start hating. It’s OK. Better that you know who you are and what you believe, and have the ability to share freely, no matter the flack that comes in, than to be too scared to ever express them. Haters gonna hate and that’s fine. Keep on rollin’.

8) Homogeny kills creativity and growth. Without the Internet, especially Twitter, I would have never had the good luck to meet so many  people with different backgrounds, beliefs and stories.  Most of my friends have very different views and beliefs about issues I hold dear. Hours have been spent discussing the different beliefs without ever attacking others. How could I be so sure of what I believe if I was never exposed to anything else and had opportunities to question my beliefs? Mutual respect and understanding is born of sharing diverse opinions and perspectives.

9) Never look at people who have struggles in their lives with the lens that it is all due to some kind of moral failure. Take the time to get to know someone, understand their struggles and what led up to them, instead of making broad assumptions. We are all fallible and doing the best we can with what we have at the time.

10) Give people the opportunity to succeed and do wonderful things, and sometimes  you will be reminded of the greatness of the human spirit.

Life-

11) Learn to have fun again. Hey, you don’t have to tell me that being a grownup sucks all the fun out of life if you let it. I learned to start having fun again in my thirties after I said goodbye to the self-consciousness of my twenties. Letting ourselves be silly and have fun is a perfect way to balance all the stress and responsibilities of modern life. Look for friends who love finding the fun in every day life, and start looking at your life. Look for opportunities to have fun. You probably know I have fully embraced it. I am a fan of jumping on beds and senseless acts of silliness.

12) The world doesn’t owe you a single thing. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Never be that person with an inflated sense of entitlement. I’ve learned time and time again that pride really does go before a fall. Now pull up your big boy pants and stop expecting reality to be different than it is. Feel better? Good.

13) Life is better when you are open to new experiences. Adopt a dog, take those lessons you always wanted to take, or just give a stranger a highfive on an escalator. Be open to new things and keep life interesting.

Relationships-

14) The most important decisions you will make determining your happiness and success are: your spouse, your close friends, and your mentors. Choose them well. Friends who celebrate your successes, support you when you make dumb mistakes, and love you enough to tell you the truth even when it is uncomfortable are a treasure. Never take them for granted. Tell them often how much they mean to you. Everyone loves hearing that!

15) Most husbands are really, really happy in marriage, are respectful, loving, and will treat their wives like queens if  they feel respected and have sex regularly. It really is that simple. There will be times your marriage is rocky, don’t be surprised when the honeymoon phase is over and the stress of daily life takes a toll. It doesn’t mean your marriage is bad, it means you are both humans.

16) Modern husbands don’t really do 50% of the housework. Before people start freaking out in the comment section- I know some of you may have husbands who do 50% or even 100% of household work. That’s awesome, but your amazing spouses are the exception to the rule. I blame women’s magazines in my teen years for giving me the impression that my future husband would happily share household duties. I slowly revealed my shock that he would not help around the house to my friends and they all admitted it was the same scenario at their own homes. We were all silently disappointed. After years of arguing with my husband I decided to take matters in my own hands. I realized that a housekeeper was cheaper than a divorce.  I hired a housekeeper and I taught my sons how to do the dishes and the laundry. Their wives will thank me one day.

17) You should treat your spouse the way you want your kids’ future spouses to treat them. The marital relationship you model will stay with your children for a lifetime. Remember that next time you need to vent and your spouse is a handy target.

18) Birds of a feather really do tend to flock together. Sure the Internet has helped unlikely friendships form daily. That’s not true of  average (non-computer-obsessed) people. People flock to those who they feel comfortable with and can relate to. (Choose your friends well.)

Parenting-

19) Everyone thinks their children are above average. Actually, most people think their children are exceptional geniuses full of charm and blessed with good looks. It is just the nature of parenting. As my grandaddy said when I was bragging on how handsome my first baby was, “Every crow thinks theirs is the blackest.” I laughed and knew his country humor was spot on.

20) Parenting is hard. Parenting is harder than you can ever imagine. All the exhaustion, the constant going, the neediness, and the noise wears on you. The worry that you aren’t doing a good enough job gnaws at you. Remember to take care of yourself while you parent. You can’t give from an empty cup. Seek things that fill you up and help relieve stress.

21) Parenting, despite how soul-suckingly hard it is at times, is the most rewarding experience of our lives. Parenting helps us grow as individuals, think more critically about our lives and generally be better people.

22) Helicopter parents raise children who don’t have enough self determination or will to stand up for themselves. If Jimmy’s mom is constantly complaining that her son is ignored on the playground, gets cheated out of a cupcake at lunch and didn’t get to be quarterback at football, how will he ever learn to assert himself through the years? Starting in elementary school, children should be gently encouraged to take a stand and choose discomfort over letting Mommy fight their battles.

23) Your kids will respect that you will be the bad guy and keep them in check. No child, or adult for that matter, is happiest when given free reign. Too many choices and freedoms lead to mistakes. Give kids what freedom and space they have earned according to their level of maturity and by their behavior. When they mess up, reign them back in a little. You can do it and your kids will appreciate not being able to bulldoze you.

Politics-

24) Republicans and Democrats are more similar than not. Both parties are full of people who want the best thing for the country. Sadly, because of systemic demonization from both sides for political gain, the party members think of outsiders as ‘bad’, ‘evil’ or ‘unpatriotic’. When the country is facing impending economic collapse the social wedge issues that divide us aren’t as important.

25) Politicians stay in power by spending huge sums of tax dollars for pet projects to keep voters happy. Short term perks over long term investment are unsustainable. Ignore most of what Politicians say and watch what they do. Be sure to go back and compare election promises and flowery language with what that politician actually does. The difference is striking. Don’t be afraid to think critically and question what elected officials do while representing you in Washington.

Religion-

26) The best way to share your faith is by living it out. No one ever decided to change religions because some Judgy-McJudgerson told them they were going to hell.

27) There is nothing holy about senseless violence, misogyny or racism.

Money-

28) If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Delayed interest payments, easy lines of credit, ever increasing real estate prices, Social Security lockboxes… You see where I’m going. Also, student loans are a millstone around your neck. Avoid them.

29) Keeping up with the Joneses will have you following the Joneses all the way to bankruptcy court. You are not your bank account, your car or your house.

30) Give 10% of your earnings to your Church (or your house of worship of choice) and help fund charities. That is the best money advice in the world. The more you try to hold on to money, the faster it disappears. Use it and never worship it.

For the Ladies-

31) No matter how cute the shoes are – if they hurt, they are not worth it. You probably won’t break them in, instead you will walk awkwardly and finally take them off.  When in doubt, keep looking for shoes until you find the ones that are both cute and comfortable.

32) Fashionable clothes will make all the pictures from that phase painful to see. Yes, I know aqua leopard print jeans with feathers is what everyone in the know is wearing, but do you really want to see pictures of yourself in those jeans on Facebook for years? Go for classic looks with one trendy piece to help limit future embarrassment. (Bonus tip – Take a picture or video on your iphone of how you look when you are relaxed when trying on new outfits. I learned the hard way that my muffin top hides when I suck in and look in long mirrors, but comes out to play when I’m walking around during the day.)

33) You are going to get a stray long chin hair, a super fast growing alien hair in one eyebrow and you’ll probably need to get your mustache waxed as you age. Don’t fight it, just make that appointment at the salon before your teenager calls it to your attention.

Random Goodies-

34) Always ask to talk to a manager if a flunky tells you no. I was a flunky once, I know the game. :) Also, be firm, but very nice to everyone regardless of job title. It just helps you be a nicer human and it also helps get great service. No one wants to help a jerk.

35) People do not value what they get for free. Hey, I’m not the one who made this true, I’m just the messenger. People value what they have worked for and not what is given to them.

As soon as I think I know it all life has a way of showing me I have a long way to go.

Which of the 35 was your favorite?

What would you add to the list?

Play along!

Photo credits from the top: Maile Wilson, Pinterest, Casey Mullins, Jana Warnke, My 12 yo, Molly Teichman, Moi & Moi

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About Alli Worthington

alliworthington

Alli Worthington

Alli Worthington is a digital strategist, business coach, speaker and author. Alli Worthington is also a wife, mother to five boys and one stepdaughter, as well as the founder of the online women's magazine Blissfully Domestic and the founder of the BlissDom conference. Read bio and latest posts → Read Alli's latest posts →

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40 thoughts on “35 for 35: Things I Have Learned in my 35 Years

  1. Jen Welton says:

    You, my friend, must be in a great place in your life. ;) I’ll be turning 40 in a few months and your list is a wonderful reminder of my blessings. Thanks, Happy Birthday and the Macs in the mail. ;)

  2. Bridget says:

    You covered a lot of ground in 35 points! But the last one socked me in the gut after a conversation my husband and I just had about my photography business. “TJMaxx is great,” he said. “But do you really want to be the TJMaxx of photography?”

  3. jenn p. says:

    this is absolutely the best thing i have read in a while! #1 & #12 sum it all up! Brene Brown made a huge impression on me at Blissdom. The fact that she and Scott were flip-flopped on the schedule was no coincidence. Thanks for the great reminders about life, friend. I hope tomorrow rocks your socks! xo

  4. Christine says:

    Awesome, awesome list. Hard to say what my fave is…every single one of the parenting (especially #22). Both of the Random, the Politics…and Relationships. Seriously, all brilliant. I’d never seen the high-five escalator video (how is that possible?) and I’ve reshared.

    This is well worn, but worth repeating, “The days are long, the years are short.”

  5. Avitable says:

    I don’t know about #6. You changed my opinion and perspective! I think most of these are pretty spot on, though. Here’s one I’d add, as a man to other men:

    It is not emasculating or effeminate to show emotion, talk about how you feel, or express yourself, especially to the person with whom you’re the closest.

  6. Jane Williams says:

    There’s a lot of wisdom packed in these 35 gems. I’m going to pass this along to friends who will enjoy reading it as much as I have. Thanks for putting this together! Very good advice!!

  7. Anne Parris says:

    Happy birthday!
    Does a picture of you exist that is not adorable?
    Some truths I’ve learned in 41 years: never let kids (or husbands) get too hungry or too tired. Also, 62% of being a mom is touching gross stuff.

  8. Cassie Boorn says:

    It makes me so happy to see you writing about parenting and life. You have taught me so much about both. <3

  9. Lisa says:

    Happy Birthday!

    I love your list, especially #3. I think it’s really important for people to learn to firmly and gracefully say “no.”

    Love your pictures, and your cute facial expressions.

    Brene Brown’s video is very moving. Lots of food for thought.

  10. Jessica says:

    Loved this. Especially the parenting ones :) and I will hope that all this craziness that is my twenties DOES lead to better things in my 30s. Just two more months to go!!

  11. Jessica says:

    Loved this. Especially the parenting ones :) and #3 i find it impossible to say no and I will hope that all this craziness that is my twenties DOES lead to better things in my 30s. Just two more months to go!!

  12. Melissa says:

    Love your list, especially #3 {my grandmother always taught me that no is a complete sentence}, #8, #17 and #24. I can’t wait to see what you learn in the next 35 years…keep living well, Alli and inspiring all of us in the process!

  13. Crystal says:

    Well said!! I will be turning 35 in a few months, and these were great reminders!!

  14. Allana Harkin says:

    Definitely #33. I would go mental if I lost my tweezers.

    Great list. Happy Birthday!

  15. sprittibee says:

    I love you.

  16. 8, 22, and 26 are my favorites.
    Helicopter parents drive me crazy. I’m starting a new trend, called un-attachment parenting.
    Door to door religion salesman drive me crazy too. If I want to know about a church or faith, I’ll go looking. Don’t come to my door and tell me I’m going to hell when I’m trying to cook dinner, get the baby in bed and write a blog post. It’s just going to make me never go there ever.
    And I’m much more likely to ask someone
    about their faith if they simply model it by being
    a good person. If you are a judgy asshat, why would I want to be one too?

  17. Tiffany says:

    LOVE my thirties, too! Great list, thanks for sharing.

  18. Candice says:

    I’m all about number 30! It helps maintain a balanced life and perspective!

  19. Bonnie says:

    Well done – very wise for being so young! Spoken from someone who just turned 50 much to her surprise and is still learning!

  20. the muskrat says:

    I didn’t know most of this stuff when I turned 35. I suddenly feel ignorant.

  21. Dominique@Dominique's Desk says:

    Great list of 35 items. I can really relate to those on parenting..

  22. Sarah James says:

    This list is fantastic. Loved every single one.

  23. LZA says:

    I love your list, but must say I strongly disagree with #32! Looking at old photos of myself (and others) wearing bygone trends is great fun, and anything but painful. I don’t take myself or my clothes seriously, so I can laugh at old outfits I wore as an 80′s kid, a 90′s grunge teen, and even more recent but already dated ensembles. I love old photos of my mom in 60′s flower power dresses and 70′s bellbottoms and fringe. They’re clothes – not tattoos – they’re meant to be changed often. Trends are fun and a part of culture we share. I embrace that.

  24. Carry says:

    I loved this the whole thing!! My favorite is “The best way to share your faith is by living it out. No one ever decided to change religions because some Judgy-McJudgerson told them they were going to hell.” Everything you said is so true. Thanks for a great article!! :)

  25. Rani says:

    14)The most important decisions you will make determining your happiness and success.
    I like this totally agree that we got to choose on right people around us to keep our spirts high.

    Lovely Blog.

  26. Karen says:

    Anyone from 2-200 has a wisdom about them

  27. Debbie says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. It exactly describes my own philosophy on life. But I learned so many of these lessons the hard way after making mistakes. I still need to work on #3, which is among the most valuable!

  28. Lori Myers says:

    I too turned 35 this year. I am calling it my 35th Episode, the beginning of my Season Six. I loved your entire list! And thank you for posting a pic of jumping on the bed. I refuse to grow up!

    http://lolorashel.blogspot.com/2011/08/epic-season-opener.html

  29. evbu says:

    i am 24 but this list has made a lot make sense. i like the one for giving 10% of earnings, just got my first job and i fear using up my money at times :-)

  30. Kendall says:

    One additional item – you are as young as you feel. Sure, there are times when reality hits you and you realize you can’t do everything you did in your teens and twenties, but you can do much more than the sad sack stereotype. Going to a bar now, it’s more for new friends than it is getting hammered like in my twenties. You can look at some experiences and think, “Do I really need to do that again? I know how it feels to be drunk and then the next day I’m hungover and worthless.” Stay positive and ENJOY LIFE.

  31. Adriane says:

    Take pictures with cameras and get them developed. You can’t look at photographs saved to a flash drive or memory card.

  32. Reba says:

    I !!!LOVE!!! #1 and #2; they are facts.
    I have recently turned 40 and am now happier than I have ever been in my life simply because I choose to be.
    And I firmly believe that the only limits one has are the limits they create. You cannot be successful unless you believe it is possible.
    Also, I would like to add:
    Attitudes are contagious, both the good and the bad ones.
    And…
    Showing gratitude, not just feeling it, is important, even for the little things we tend to take for granted. The more appreciation you show others, the more you get in return.

  33. Dori says:

    Hello Alli, I.m Dorjana from Albania. I’m now 36 and Yes I have right. your conclusions are the essentials of life. I’m a shy and a little pessimistic person although I’have done well in life. I know well that’s is all about experience, but I’m wondering why my parents didn’t say some of this this when I was 15 years because I’m going to say this to my children.
    All the best
    Dori

  34. Michelle D Keyes says:

    This is so absolutely right! I’m 31 and looking back on my twenties, I couldn’t be where I am without all the lessons I learned and I’m so much happier in my 30s. I’ve known friends who were sad at turning 30 but I just feel so empowered, confident, and strong after the last ten years of living experience.

    I was going to give a list of all the numbered items I particularly liked but stopped when I had half the list written down. These are so very spot on!

  35. [...] know that I’m all about navel gazing this year. Something happened as I turned 35 back in August, I realized the rest of my life needed to be focused on doing things that matter. I would lay in bed [...]

  36. D.Roark says:

    Your list is wonderful and quite insightful for someone so very young! My favorite number was 17. As a marriage counselor, I truly wish more people realized this truth. Long ago, I decided that my husband was here to teach me acceptance, patience, and other viewpoints that I had not considered. It has been hard work but we have managed 42 years together. May you be blessed in all your efforts. Truly the world is a richer place for your being here. Oh, and Happyest of Birthdays!

  37. Heidy C says:

    I love the list! I’m 33 and also feel the happiest in my 30s! This post was great and my favorite that will remain with me always is #17: treat your spouse the way you want your child’s future spouse to treat them. I will remember this next time my husband makes me upset! ;)

  38. Kasey Ahern says:

    Cool ! Can’t agree more. Great Article!

  39. I shared on fb Thank you for the give away

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