Sarah, 30 / from the site Sarah Ann Noel
What would your 30 something self tell your 20 something self if you could?
I spent the first half of my twenties really looking forward to my thirties. I spent the second half of my twenties reminiscing the first half. The biggest lesson of my life continues to be be present. I wish that 21-year-old would have been solely focused on all the fun she was having, all of the world she was seeing; and that the later-twenties gal would have begun her “aging” process gracefully. Be present! That’s what I would have said to her at any stage!
What do you wish you took more seriously in your 20’s?
I wish that I had taken my creativity more seriously when I was in my twenties. I was a very calculated, forward-thinking person. Of course, some twenty-somethings can sort of laze through the decade, and I’m glad I didn’t do that. But, as it turns out, I’m pursuing creative endeavors professionally now, and I wish that I would have allowed those tendencies to flourish when I was in the decision-making stages instead of just brushing them off as “hobbies.” On that same note, I wish I would have taken “pace” more seriously. Life moves as life moves, but I was definitely of the notion that I could will things into being by sheer force. It was very tiresome, but then I had more energy I guess. 😉
What do you wish you took less seriously in your 20’s?
So many things! I was laughably serious at the beginning of my twenties, when now, I realize how your twenties are such a delicious in-between. But then, it really felt like THE BEGINNING OF THE REST OF LIFE and every decision I had to make was wrought with drama. I think, at the root of that, was still this desire to please people around me—authority figures, family, friends. So more than anything, I wish I had taken those opinions and perceptions less seriously and really honed in on who I was. I think if I had managed that, I might have had a more relaxed attitude toward a lot of other things.
Favorite memory from your 20’s?
I always joke to Trevor, my husband, that I sometimes feel “frozen” at 21. Despite my high-strung personality, that year in particular was a really monumental one for me. I studied abroad in London, which is definitely a most cherished memory. It was such an experience to see the world, and I met a very dear friend who is still a friend to this day. When I returned to the States, I met my husband, right before college ended! It all felt like a sweep of experience, that whole year—traveling, falling in love so young, graduating from school. It was sort of like this sweet, sweet grace period between childhood and adulthood, and I’m quite nostalgic for that time.
In your early 20’s where did you think you would be (work, live etc) by 30?
I think I still expected to be “career woman” at that point. I’d just shifted to creative journalism studies, and so my attitudes toward a professional life were changing a bit; but I still imagined myself in an office, preferably that of a magazine! I seriously considered moving back to London and making a go of being an ex-pat. I also considered New York, and Chicago too, since it was nearby and special to me and Trevor both. I think I envisioned being in a big city and holding down a job that I was happy to dedicate the hours to. I was pretty certain I would marry Trevor, so I assumed we would be wed before I was 30; and I probably anticipated only beginning to entertain the idea of children as I entered my thirties.
And where were you by 30? What did your life look like?
Surprise! I was a mom, not once, but twice! Trevor and I did marry young (I was about 24), and by 26 I was pregnant with our first daughter, Iris. I really wrestled with what to do professionally because I wasn’t particularly happy with my current job, but I wasn’t sure that I was ready to give up working. I had always wanted to give freelance writing more than a part-time shot, so I left my office job and stayed home with my new baby, working when I could. Mostly, I learned to love being a mom, and then the other pieces of me really started to flourish. At 30, I am actually living in New York, and I’m pursuing writing “full-time.” But first and foremost, I’m a mom of the two most beautiful, bubbly, blonde-headed girls and loving what they’re teaching me every day. It’s a privilege I couldn’t have imagined for myself in my twenties, but one that I’m glad happened when it did. It really paved the way for me to 30.
Were you ever worried that it wouldn’t all fall into place?
All the time! I still worry about it! Sometimes being 30 feels young and fresh and vibrant, like I can do anything. Other days, I feel so stinkin’ old, like I’ve missed my chances at everything! Of course, that’s all ridiculous. My twenties brought on so much change, so much that was different from what I had pictured; but it also ushered in this amazing peace and happiness. I started learning to love the things that “happened” to me way more than the things that I’d “made happen.” So while I still wonder if my goals or dreams will fall into place, I also know that the surprises of life can be even better anyway.
What is the greatest gift about being a woman in your 30’s?
I think the best gift is simply a bit of perspective. At 30, we are still so young, with so much to look forward to, so much to learn. But I also feel a bit removed from the hyperactive worry that I feel saturated my twenties. I’ve learned that life has sloping patterns, places that feel up, places that feel down; and I’ve learned that time never feels consistent either—sometimes life moves so slowly, sometimes you just blink and parts are over. While I haven’t mastered being present, my thirties are reminding me of the importance of it. The twenties I lived in the future, mostly, sometimes in the past; and I want my thirties to be about living in my thirties, realizing that everything that has happened is a collective part of who I am now, so that’s what really matters.
When you look out onto the horizon. What do you hope your life looks like at 40?
I hope to age with grace. I’ve surprised myself by not being good at that so far—I had always aspired to, and therefore assumed, that I would. I want to be less consumed with what’s changing on my body or how life feels different from what I pictured, and really just be where I am. So I hope that by 40, I’m just a more peaceful, content version of myself, like that these realizations and desires will mature throughout my thirties to yield someone who truly appreciates life for what it is. By my forties, I want to really be a role model of that for my girls, since they’ll be entering the years of decision-making and figuring out who they are.
What’s a quote/ saying you try to live your life by?
I am a lover of words, and so it’s hard for me to pick just one quote. I grew up in the church. As I’ve grown, my faith has grown and changed, but it has remained an important part of who I am. There is a verse in Colossians (1:17) that says, “He is before all things; and in him all things hold together.” I like the idea of things “meant to be.” I think a lot of us rely on that, whether we believe in a god or not. And so while I always want to be working toward a goal, and while I’ll never stop dreaming, I also like believing there is a plan and my life is following that, even if sometimes I get it wrong. Certainly my life is the picture of the unexpected and surprises; but as I’ve learned to appreciate that rather than fight against it, it sort of makes this verse (and the mentality!) make perfect sense. Whenever I feel out of control, I like to remind myself of these words.
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