30 Things I Want To Do Before I’m 30, And 30 Happy Things I Have Already Done

Today I feel smooth like seaglass. I feel the ease of a breeze under my gull wings, and all my sadnesses are distant crashes of a tide that’s finally gone back out to sea.

Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

I have about four more months until I turn 28, and I’ve been thinking a lot about 30 lately. Mostly I’ve been thinking that it’s not nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be. I see plenty of people in their 30’s and 40’s here in Los Angeles who still feel vibrant and young, and it reminds me that age is just a pesky number

It’s different back in Indiana—there are a lot more expectations of what 30 looks like, and now I’m excited to unlearn all of those “rules”.

As I’ve been writing this list, I’m happy about what I’ve done in my life and what I still hope to have time to do. I encourage you to try this too, it’s a really great check-in and gives you all the warm fuzzies when you look back at all the happiest moments of your life.

Without further ado, here are 30 happy things I’ve done in my first (almost) 28 years of my life:

  1. Been published in an arts magazine

  2. Completed in a 30 day hot yoga challenge

  3. Got rid of nearly everything I’ve ever owned and moved across the country

  4. Gotten married

  5. Made a content marketing presentation to people at IBM about cloud computing

  6. Met Josh Groban

  7. Competed in a ballroom dance competition (and got to see Arnold Schwarzenegger)

  8. Gone to a Los Angeles fashion show as Press

  9. Sewn a dress for myself

  10. Dyed my hair a handful of colors (once with Kool Aid), and cut it all off to a pixie cut two separate times

  11. Interned at a literary magazine

  12. Learned how to play two instruments, with a vague understanding of three more

  13. Changed my education/career path eight times. (fashion design, then interior design, then creative writing, then graphic design, then social media marketing, then content marketing/PR, then data management, then consulted for a tech startup, and now editorial)

  14. Shattered a double-pane sliding glass door (hey, the door locked behind us somehow and it was late on a very cold night)

  15. Danced on a table

  16. Seen Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj front row at a concert

  17. Developed a writing habit (heyo, this one’s fresh & meta)

  18. Lived alone

  19. Been interviewed for a podcast

  20. Won a cross country race

  21. Climbed mountains in Canada

  22. Been class president

  23. Composed an original song and performed it at an open mic night (I believe it was called “Saltwater Coffee”)

  24. Learned how to do a crow pose in yoga

  25. Been a skating carhop at a drive-in diner

  26. Been to concerts at The Greek and The Dolby Theater

  27. Made paper, and worked at a handmade paper company. Almost bought said paper company

  28. Created a blog with a couple thousand followers and over 40,000 visitors in a year

  29. Taken initiative to ask for antidepressants, then decided they weren’t for me

  30. Been a caregiver of and friend to three magnificent rabbits

And here are 30 things I would like to do by the time I’m 30!

  1. Do an unassisted handstand

  2. Dye my hair pink or strawberry blonde

  3. Create a chapbook of poetry

  4. Get a piece published in a literary magazine

  5. Get out of credit card debt

  6. Travel abroad

  7. Have a regular doctor

  8. Have a guest bedroom (or even just a pull out couch for the love of all things holy)

  9. Go to Vegas

  10. Go on vacation with friends

  11. See a Broadway show and explore New York City

  12. Have a solid grasp on my physical health (especially women's health, if ya know what I mean)

  13. Make a YouTube channel

  14. Take an improv class

  15. Go to a fancy LA party or club

  16. Have a beach vacation (maybe try suring!)

  17. Paint my apartment

  18. Get a newer, safer car

  19. Send actual gifts (not gift cards) to my nephews, siblings, and parents for birthdays and Christmas

  20. Have a financial plan, and invest and donate regularly

  21. Play a musical instrument regularly

  22. Spend a weekend in San Diego

  23. Go on a yoga retreat

  24. Have a regular organization/cleaning habit

  25. Have a few pieces of unique art in my home that I love

  26. Meet every baby my friends have/are having

  27. Write a novel

  28. Have a Los Angeles-based girlfriend who I can be weird with and go on adventures with

  29. Be out of my personal student loan debt

  30. Run a half marathon


What do you want to accomplish in the next couple of years?

Why We Need Everything To Go Horribly Wrong Once In A While

Today I feel like an old bell tower, harsh against the cement sky, ringing out a discordant hallelujah. I feel the energy between the clashing notes and the peace of a quiet campus on an early winter dawn. I feel like a voice is cooing, soft and resolute, into each chamber of my heart, "we have made it".

Photo by  Nikola Radojcic  on  Unsplash

I got to speak with one of the most beautiful humans I know today, and we had an energetic talk about how much control we have over our own realities. Sometimes we talk about periods, sometimes we talk about mental health, often we talk about our pets, and on occasion will dive into some existential discussions. Typical.

We discussed the victim mindset, where a person truly believes he or she is out of control of their own life, and maybe even that negative things are targeting them. I’ve felt it, and I’ve felt it often. But the truth is that, while we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we react. It’s a painful saying to hear when you’re in the throes of difficulty, but it’s true.

Then we discussed what we’ve both been learning over the past year:

Sometimes you need everything to go wrong.

We’ve both been walking a path full of deep ruts, interspersed with interruptions and last-minute turns. Job changes, health issues, moves—all these things can change your life instantly. Things like car troubles, foul weather, even a road closed on your route to work can interrupt your flow to great frustration.

These things may look like giant stains on the canvas of your life, but when you step back and look at the big picture, they make up some of the most interesting and vibrant moments of your wild life.

We get so stuck thinking that things are, and will be, a certain way indefinitely. Which isn’t wrong—humans are creatures of habit and we do love a good routine. But there’s something else about us that we don't realize until we're put to the test:

We are master improvisers

Every day, no matter how calculated you are, you’re required to improvise in some way. A conversation with a coworker, a detour, an email. If you’re like me, you have to come up with things like breakfast and what to wear, right there on the spot with minutes to spare.

And this improvisational muscle thrives the more it’s exercised. Think about balancing on one leg. You may waver, but it’s the wavering today that will make it easier for you to balance tomorrow.

The more you stretch yourself to do new and challenging improvisational things, the better you’ll be when the next disruption comes along. I know it’s not easy to welcome things like unexpected job changes, moves, or health issues, but they’re often for the better. Or at least leave a lasting lesson that makes you the multifaceted and enchanting individual that you are.

Practicing non-attachment

Something that has helped me deal with disruptions and painful moments in my life has been the oh-so-yoga idea of practicing non-attachment. Which means not holding any moment too closely—negative or positive. Knowing that everything is impermanent has helped me take a more objective look at trials and to feel more gratitude towards happy moments.

Moments where everything goes wrong are moments that our non-attachment is tested the greatest. We want to curl up, to feel like we’re being attacked, to blame the world and its injustices. But letting the fury and spite take a tour of our minds and bodies but not carve out a home for themselves is one of the greatest acts of self love we do for ourselves.

When everything is going wrong, don’t let anger or resentment seep into your gentle marrow. No one benefits from their storage. Allow the emotion, feel the feelings, but then let them go with an exhale.

When everything is going wrong, breathe. You will always have control over your unconquerable soul.

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Cultivating Worth In A World Of Value

Today I feel like an overblown balloon wearing a blonde Willem DaFoe wig. My brain is cozied up against the backs of my eyes and the pressure is not welcome. I’m dreaming of lavender clouds over a softly snoring sea.

Photo by  Billy Huynh  on  Unsplash

Photo by Billy Huynh on Unsplash

I’m trying to muster up the energy to write about value, but I keep coming up short. In today’s world of Instagram likes and Twitter followers, it’s a complicated subject for each one of us connected people. It's complicated, and also I have a headache.

My ego has such a wildly unchecked view of what it means to have value—I must get more likes, more shares, more views in order to be recognized as a valuable human in this world.

But the reality is that there is not one person among us that has a greater or lesser value than you or I. Everyone’s only true possession is their own life, and they can’t buy another. They can prolong it, they can decorate it, but they cannot own more than one.

Your life is priceless.

So, knowing that, it’s time to look at things like Instagram likes as sprinkles on top of a kickass cake (you’re the cake, you’ve always been the cake). They are the response to your time and energy, but not an indication of your true worth.

In business, you can use social metrics and traffic analytics all day every day to determine the value of your marketing and ROI on different initiatives, but people are not products. There are no numbers that can really measure us.

If you’re looking for proof of your value, ask your friends. If you’re in a room full of strangers, acknowledge someone else’s value by being kind, and they will likely acknowledge yours.

Other lives are priceless, too.

The other side to this coin is that if our life is priceless, then that means every person around us carries the immense value of a human life with them as well. What are you doing to protect, to love, to support, to share with these other priceless beings? Are you celebrating them?

Or are you caught up in your own numbers to realize that there’s someone in your life that could use a phone call reminder?

There is a difference between worth and value.

Value is determined by someone, about something. Worth is intrinsic and cannot be negotiated.

So, instead of counting my likes I’ll focus on whether or not I enjoyed taking and sharing the photo. Instead of watching my follower count, I’ll focus more on my interactions with people who are interested in what I’m doing, with people who I know and love.

In my current state of exhaustion & ache, I'm afraid not a lot of this post makes structural sense.

But I’ll leave you with this: at birth you were given a voucher for one life, and there’s a limit of one per customer. Don’t waste it, and don’t take your immense worth for granted.

Finding Freedom in Unminimalism

One of the reasons I decided to call it quits on calling myself a minimalist was the harsh judgment towards the "minimalist community" online.

On the one hand, I came to see some minimalists as preachy and unforgiving, but I also saw the granular criticism towards any decision a minimalist decided to make. Buying a book? How unminimalist of you. Moving into a larger space? That doesn't seem like a minimalist move.

For the record, I saw it the other way, too: you don't have a hair dryer? Well, okay we can't all be minimalists like you. Don't see the need to upgrade our 16-year old car? Oh, I forgot you don't even like stuff like I do.

In the end, I stopped calling myself a minimalist because it stopped feeling free to me. I was sick of others feeling like they had to justify their life choices to me, and I was sick of justifying myself to them.

The unminimalist

So now, I'm doing the things that I've seen other people call "unminimalist" (and four years ago, I would probably have said the same).

I'm purchasing makeup, saving up for a "someday" wardrobe overhaul, searching through Pinterest for how to spruce up our bedroom (and yes, that means adding stuff).

I'm not the ascetic minimalist that everyone thought I was, and I'm not going to try to be that way anymore. Minimalism doesn't fit with my values in this season of my life, so I'm not going to force it. Which, if I may dare to say it, is a fairly minimalist approach.

Minimalism isn't the only path to freedom

Minimalism is certainly a path to freedom: financial freedom, travelling freedom, creative freedom. But you don't have to reject everything at all times in order to find freedom. 

What you do need to do is evaluate what freedom means to you and work backwards from there. What if freedom means wearing whatever clothes or makeup you wish, and that being something that makes you genuinely happy? What if a fast car is your definition of freedom?

The Twitterfolk would most certainly call those things "unminimalist".

Nowadays, I'm allowing myself more unminimalist leeway so that I can discover where I feel truly free. I'm giving myself the space (and yes, the stuff) to dig into my values and what intentions I want to have to guiding my life.

Unminimalism as an un-label

The idea behind my claim to "unminimalism" is that I'm rejecting the label of being a minimalist. I'm no longer welcoming that critique or drama into my life (a small, but irksome amount).

And guess what? If you identify as a minimalist, I say go you! Don't let others tell you what to say or do, and definitely don't let anyone tell you that you can't change your mind.

For me, I will no longer let what others define as minimalism guide my life (or even remotely interfere with it). In saying that I am an unminimalist, I say goodbye to the poorly-fitting label that was holding me back from truly finding freedom here and now in my life.

What labels are holding you back? How can you unlabel yourself?

The Josh Groban Concert that Got Me to Dream Again

Two weeks ago, I decided at the last minute to purchase tickets to see Josh Groban. Even the tickets that were at the very back on the stadium-like bleachers at The Greek Theatre set us back over $150, so it was a financial stretch for us.

But we got to go to the concert, and I didn't feel bad about it!

As soon as I purchased the tickets, I felt something resolve inside me. I followed the path of least self-resistance and did what I felt was the best for me in that (quite fortunate and privileged) situation.

The rewards of following my flow

As dusk settled over the mountains surrounding us, we shivered and watched Foy Vance and Sarah McLachlan's divine opening performances.

The view from our original seats. The Greek is breathtaking.

The view from our original seats. The Greek is breathtaking.

When Josh Groban arrived on stage, he noted that this was actually his first night back at The Greek Theatre since recording his live concert DVD twelve years ago. The performance that 14-year-old Emily watched while she dreamt of doing big things with her life.

During the second song, an usher sidled up to us on the cold metal bench.

"Want to upgrade your tickets?"

Of course! I thought that maybe we could at least get a little closer while sitting in more comfortable seats. Instead, they sent us all the way up to the front to where we could see everything happening on stage without looking at the giant screens.

It's a terrible photo, but this is how close we ended up sitting. Who do I thank for this?

It's a terrible photo, but this is how close we ended up sitting. Who do I thank for this?

I lost it. I watched Josh perform the drum solo that I drooled over as a teenage girl, play songs that I missed seeing live, sing foreign-language songs that I know by heart and perform a song from his upcoming Broadway debut.

What does this have to do with dreams, anyway?

When I was a teenager, I had high aspirations. I wanted to be a musician. I wanted to write songs for Josh Groban. I wanted to be a fashion designer. I wanted to be a poet. I wanted to get caught up in a whirlwind of creative city life.

I wanted to live a surprising life that made an impact on others.

Now over ten years later, I realized that I lost that drive. I've been feeling too old to make any big changes, which is a pity because I'm not even four in dog years.

And after this concert, I felt that cynicism break down. The only person stopping me from trying to do any of these things is me.

So here's to a new season of life

I have so much to say about discovering and rediscovering dreams that I don't want to bury them in this post about a concert I went to one time. I know that not everyone will resonate with my Josh Groban story, so expect more substantial and less Groban-y posts in the future.

The plan now is to aggressively pursue activities that make me happy. I'm backing off a little on my "day job" so that I can make more space for writing, reading and yoga.

It feels perfect as the seasons are literally changing and I'm drinking the first (overrated) pumpkin latte of the year. Is there a change that you've been wanting to make?

What will trigger the next season of life for you?

3 Regrets I Have About Moving Across the Country

Two years ago, my new husband and I were making plans to move across the country. We intended to move from Indiana to Los Angeles in January 2015, and I had never even lived out-of-state.

So naturally, there are a lot of mistakes we made and regrets I have about the move that have shown up periodically in the nearly two years that we've been here. The greatest thing about these regrets, though, is that there's still plenty of time to rectify them. But if you're planning a big move, it's probably nice to get it right the first time.

The one thing I don't regret about the move? Taking the leap. I do not, and will not, regret following our hearts to the West Coast. I love that we've made a home for ourselves in LA, and I sometimes wish we would have moved sooner. Get used to us, California.

Moving quickly

Five days after the blizzardy January morning we left Indiana, we had a signed lease, an apartment full of assembled IKEA furniture, and Victor was off to his new job.

It was a whirlwind, and in the chaos of just wanting to get settled, I failed to take the time to really make intentional choices. Luckily, our apartment was (and still is) quite perfect, but I do find myself frustrated about our rash decision about the furniture.

I hadn't spent even a full hour in our apartment before we drove up to IKEA to pick out furnishings. Now, I realize that my desk is much too small, the coffee table is too angular and the curtains are just so....yellow. I have grievances about my desk chair, our bookshelf, and our vacuum cleaner too.

I was too rushed to take a moment to make any planned decisions. If I had to do it all over, I'd go to IKEA for the absolute essentials and work on furnishing our apartment over time instead of overnight.

Not enjoying myself

Speaking of the whirlwind of the move, I ended up being so tense that I hardly remember the days before, during and after. I do remember a crappy hotel and a terrible movie with John Krasinski in it, and having to check up on our rabbit every half hour during the car ride.

We took few photos, most of which have now been lost to disabled phones and unhelpful cloud services. This is the only picture of our trip that I posted to Facebook, and it was of Missouri, which is essentially Indiana all over again.

I wish we would have documented the trip a little better, and that we had maybe taken a couple of extra days to make the drive. The only thing really stopping us was Rory, and I'm sure he would have been okay with another night or two in a hotel (he was strangely at home in hotels).

I also wish I would have let go of others' expectations of me a lot sooner as well. I was so worried about hurting people's feelings that I didn't feel comfortable sharing our excitement about the move. I also let people get away with making harsh comments about our "life choices" and didn't stand up to criticism, when deep down I knew I was doing the right thing.

If I had to do it all over again, I'd share our excitement with more people and feel way less bad about leaving our hometown. I would document the trip, and I would have taken in some fun sights along the way.

Not getting out

This one is still relevant to this day, and might very well be my biggest regret. When I arrived in California, I relied heavily on my base of friends and family from Indiana to be my community. But it's not easy being a whole country's distance away from your community, so it's a good idea to create another one wherever you land.

Our first Valentine's day in Los Angeles was also our first Valentine's day as married folks!

Our first Valentine's day in Los Angeles was also our first Valentine's day as married folks!

Soon, months had gone by and I had made one or two friends through Victor, but I was still keeping to myself, working alone at home day in and day out.

I would pass the yoga studio by my apartment and say "someday," I'd browse available jobs or volunteer opportunities and continue to scroll past them.  I made no effort to immerse myself in a new community.

While I do feel at home here, I haven't created the tribe of people that I want to call this home with. I've started by joining that yoga studio and this week is my first week of volunteering there (in exchange for free yoga, what?!)

If I had to do it all over again, I would join the yoga studio sooner. I'd explore Meetup groups and chat with other likeminded people. I would join the run club or find hiking buddies or take an improv class just to start laying down some roots.

There's still time to do that. There's time to take another road trip and enjoy every minute of it, and there's still time to redecorate my apartment. All of those regrets seem so little when I match them up against the regret I would have had if we hadn't chosen to move:

I wish we just would have followed our hearts to California when we had the chance.

What choices have you made that you don't regret? Which ones do you regret?

I Care What You Think (and That's Not Good)

I'm a people-pleaser. If there's one thing I know about myself, it's that the fear of disappointing someone is the most common excuse I have for not doing something.

What will they say? How will they feel? I even sometimes have the gall to think that my doing or not doing something will have a negative impact on their entire life.

It's easy to laugh now and say "get over it, Torres," but it's been a real issue in the past several years.

I blame school.

Okay, so for as much as I totally love school (and wish I was joining the hoardes of back-to-schoolers this month), I do think there was one major drawback.

I liked learning, but I loved getting good grades. I loved being well-behaved and getting those little gold stars on my tests. I could memorize, recite and regurgitate information like the best of them, and I was rewarded with praise and attention because of it.

Seth Godin has an amazing example of this in his book Linchpin, using the game Candyland as the scapegoat:

Author Steven Johnson hates the board game Candyland and all board games like it. I hate them even more than he does.

‘I realize that games of pure chance have a long history, but that doesn’t make them any less moronic,’ he writes. Here’s how Candyland is played: You pick a card and do what it says. Repeat.

This is early training in agenda following. Indoctrination in obedience. We teach kids that the best way to win is to mindlessly pick cards, follow instructions, and wait for it all to turn out okay.

Sheesh. What a disaster.
— Seth Godin, Linchpin

Obviously, I'm glad that I was surrounded by positive people, but being encouraged to follow the rules and do what people asked of me is now deeply ingrained in my behavior. There are blog posts I won't write, stories I won't share, and opportunities I won't take because I'm too afraid of letting someone down.

You know, like coming home with a C on a report card. THE HORROR.

It's time to care what I think

I read a novel where the main character says that after 25 years old, you can no longer blame your parents (or in my case, childhood) for aspects of life that aren't going well. I love that idea.

So at 26, I think it's fair enough to force myself into putting my own feelings over those of others when it comes to making life decisions. This blog is, in a sense, an effort to do just that. I was writing about minimalism for so long that I worried I would upset long-time readers by veering away from that label.

Guess what? I still struggle with that worry every day. But I haven't let it stop me from posting regularly, and I feel pretty effing good about that.

...and what about when people are just confused?

I studied Creative Writing in college, and when I told certain family and friends, I got this answer: "oh great, so you'll be an English teacher!"

When I inevitably told them I wasn't looking to teach, it was a confusing concept. Certainly I didn't want to do something "abnormal" like...being a writer.

If I had let their confusion box me into a more straightforward profession, I wouldn't be writing to you today from my dining table in Los Angeles. And I'm still just as confused as they were when they found out I didn't want to be a teacher.

I often think, what the heck am I even doing?

So I've been reflecting on something today. The people that are genuinely there for you in your life will show up and support you, and someday they may even understand your choices. But that's not the point. The point is that at the end of your life it is you, and only you, that needs to feel good about the path you've followed.

And it's confusing, and it's terrifying. But shouldn't it be?

Stay the course on your own path despite what others think, not because they will understand in time, but because you will understand in time.