10 Ways My 30's Are Way Better (And Badass) Than My 20's

I was pretty annoyed about turning 30. I felt like it was an end of an era–an end to my carefree, youthful years, mostly because I wasn't sure where I was going.

Actual cake from the big 30

Here's where I was: I was a new mom emerging from a self-identity crisis having just quit the job I'd had for years. I didn't know who I was anymore. I sort of knew what I wanted, but I wasn't entirely sure about my skills and talent, so I had no idea how to get there. Lost and unsure, I could feel myself on the precipice of an awakening.

I remember looking down at the glittery candles on my raspberry chocolate cake (with cream cheese frosting–seriously, hands down best cake I've ever had) and actually making a wish. I just really, really wanted to be confident. I wanted to fulfill my dreams. I wanted to join the I've-got-everything-together 30-club that most of my friends in were in.

But turning 30 brought with it a lot of preconceived notions. In actuality, the milestone birthday has been an empowering journey filled with a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me.

Here's why being 30 has meant being way more badass:

1. I've learned to question the status quo. I examine every mainstream school of thinking. I pick apart every old, worn-out platitude I've ever heard. I speak up and express my contrary opinions. I no longer drink the cultural kool-aid.

2. I no longer desperately seek approval. I don't look for anyone else's validation. I look to myself. Am I being the human being I want to be? Am I putting something out into the world that no one else can? Do I like my green hair? Yes? BOOM.

3. I'm a feminist. And I claim it. Sure, I took the college courses. I sat in "Women's Studies." But would I call myself a "feminist" in my 20s? Unfortunately, no, for fear of automatically being labeled a "man-hater." I learned early on that having feminist viewpoints doesn't bode well for employment under misogynistic upper management. Whatever. I work with mostly women now.

4. I value and support women. See above. By valuing women I build them up in any way I can. I praise them. I promote them. I recognize and articulate the great work they do. After all, they've done the same for me.

5. I'm way more self-aware. I always knew I was kind of bookish—that I preferred at least 30 minutes of silence when I came home from work. (I took note of my social awkwardness at parties.) But when I was younger, I actively tried to stop being like that–as if something was wrong with me. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I learned what an introvert is and slowly started identifying as one. Knowing that I'm an introvert helps me harness my strengths and be the most productive (and happy) person I can be.

6. I actually go to bed at night. I value good sleep because I know doing so makes me the best mom, wife, and worker. I just need it.

7. I make travel a priority. I've taken every opportunity to go new places on several different types of budgets and on several time tables. I've even taken my young daughters along for the ride. Spending a night under the stars in the Sahara Desert was life-affirming for us all.

8. I've stopped apologizing. I've stopped saying "sorry" for things I shouldn't actually be sorry for: being right, making people uncomfortable, asserting my opinion. I'm loud. I'm intense. I have a point of view. I leave parties early. I curse a lot. I'm done with being sorry.

9. I'm mindful. I take time out to observe and dissect the environment around me more deeply. I don't sit around meditating (although, I probably should). But I do take more time to be present. By doing this, I am way more confident and I have way more clarity.

10. I want to make a difference. I am moved to make an impact. I want to shake up old ways of doing things. I want to transform the way I work. I want to grow with my family and focus on defying cultural expectations and gender norms for my daughters and for myself. I want to leave something meaningful behind.

This article originally appeared on Marie Claire.

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