If there ever was a time in my life that I felt most confident about myself and my decisions, it would have to be when I was 20 years old.
Even though I knew I didn’t know everything, I was very confident about key aspects of my life. I knew where I wanted to work, I knew how to get good grades, I knew how to travel, I knew how to stay out of trouble (mostly), and most importantly, I knew who I wanted to marry.
A year later I got married. I was a 21-year-old baby in everyone’s eyes, and many people tried to persuade me to wait a little longer, but I proudly didn’t.
I finished college with a ring on my finger and shortly after we moved to Mexico City, where I landed a job as a PR agent for a famous jewelry designer. Every day I learned something new. A new skill, a new route to work, a new word, met a new person… and the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn.
This desire slowly faded over the years. Until one day I started asking myself… when was the last time you felt the need or the desire to learn something new? Do you have space in your mind to allow you to think there is something new to learn? Would you be open to change?
As we get older, we accumulate information, and every chapter of our lives comes as a big box of new things to learn. It is filled with possibilities to enhance that moment in our lives. We can dig deep into the contents of the box or just dangle on the surface. Motherhood, for example, is a huge box.
Anyway, when I turned 30, there wasn’t anything major going on in my life. Many of my boxes were already closed: career, writing, dancing life, etc. A lot of my boxes were already opened: motherhood, marriage, home, new kids’ school, self-improvement…
My life contained all the boxes I wanted, including those I had always envisioned since being a young 20-year-old. And I loved all of them, but it felt as if my life had become predictable and still. I felt like when you are driving from San Antonio to Houston, and all you see is I-10, steady and flat. You are driving straight, and you have a long way to go, but there are no curves, no fun sightseeing, and nothing out of the ordinary. You hit cruise control and let your life accumulate miles until you hit the destination. Has this ever happened to you? Or am I being too dramatic?
I wanted my life to be fun, enriching, and exciting. How can I get new boxes? The only ones I get now are being delivered to my front porch.
Then one day a very dear friend of mine told me, “You should keep tomatoes out of the fridge, it makes them juicier.” For more than 30 years I’ve kept my tomatoes in the fridge, so have my mom and my grandma and many others since the invention of the fridge, I suppose. But I listened to her. And guess what? She was right! So much better!
This simple little tip made me want to realize how many other things are out there that I have yet to discover. My life may be predictable from day to day, and my highway doesn’t have many twists and turns, but I realized that I can add as much sightseeing as I want to.
This list is a compilation of just 30 things I am sure I learned, or started to appreciate, after my 30s.
- Tomatoes are best kept out of the fridge. So are onions, garlic, and potatoes.
- Cooked chicken can be shredded in less than ten seconds if you use your kitchen mixer. It is the fastest way.
- When going out with the family, always dress yourself first. Otherwise, everyone will be waiting in the car for you, after you took care of everybody that is inside the car already. Yes, dear friend, it took me almost nine years to hammer this into my brain.
- Use white toothpaste to erase crayon markings off the wall.
- Onesies can be pulled down instead of up to avoid poop all over your baby’s back. I learned this with my fourth baby!
- Read the ingredients/materials in all your products.
- A wire hanger is a perfect tool to unclog a bathtub. Most plumbing issues are caused by hair and most of the time you can tackle them on your own.
- Once you have a bidet, you’ll wonder how you could’ve lived without one.
- The same thing applies to a menstrual cup, air fryer, Instant Pot, and cordless vacuum.
- Princess dresses count as clothing, and a slice of bread counts as a snack. Priorities and problem-solving skills get fine-tuned as you get older.
- Pelvic floor care must be a priority. Peeing when you sneeze is common after having kids, but it is not normal. There’s a difference.
- Self-help books and podcasts can, in fact, help you. Don’t underestimate them.
- Dressing your home has become equally important as dressing yourself. It brings so much joy to care for the space you live in. Give it the importance it deserves. The downside is that you must now be prepared to divide your budget. Decorative pillows or earrings, cozy throw, or cashmere scarf?
- You can conquer the world with baking soda and vinegar.
- Assembling IKEA furniture should be suggested as couples therapy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let out my anger over a drawer that just doesn’t fit, only to laugh my head off ten seconds later at all the sexual innuendos my husband comes up with.
- Being alone is no longer lonely.
- Owning a physical agenda makes me feel successful—even if half the pages have nothing on them. When I do write in it, I feel like an accomplished adult. I’ve learned that you can change habits. It takes a lot of practice but having an agenda was the first step in that direction for me.
- The oven no longer frightens me.
- The aisles at Lowe’s no longer overwhelm me. I am friends with the drill, the hammer, the electrical sander, and I want to invite more friends to my home improvement party. You can do things you considered out of your reach. Tenacity is something I had as a kid and I love finding ways to test myself on this virtue.
- Choose wisely whom you spend your time with. By this age, you start to realize that not everyone likes you, and that’s ok. Also, it is ok to not like everyone else.
- Wrinkles and gray hairs may start to appear, but being youthful has more to do with your mental approach to life than all the anti-aging products you can apply on yourself. And I sell beauty products, mind you.
- Fashion trends are, in fact, trends. Hone your style and dress for yourself.
- It is never too late to start a hobby, learn a sport, learn a language, play an instrument, go to your first spinning or Zumba class… the list is endless.
- See yourself the way your kid sees you. And then, raise the bar.
- Between a clean house or a happy home, always choose the latter.
- Good friends are a treasure. Don’t stop adding more jewels to your collection just because you already have a lot of treasure. Gems are hard to find but they are always a great thing to have.
- You are responsible for your own happiness. Blaming others has no use. The only thing you have control over is you, and only you. See, I told you those self-help books are worth it. Doesn’t mean I apply their wisdom all the time—in fact, I don’t. But knowing it keeps me accountable for my actions.
- Growing up is fun.
- I am ok with people calling me ma’am. In fact, I am starting to like it. Embrace change.
- Thirties aren’t the new twenties. Thirties are thirties. Whatever the number may be, these are the years of your life that make you the woman you are now. Keep your list going, regardless of your age.
Some of the things in this list are silly, and some have made a profound impact. Ultimately, it is not about how much we add to the list so much as realizing there will always be more to add to the list.
Much like the Mary Poppins’ bag, the contents of the boxes we have now, like marriage and motherhood, are never-ending and full of surprises. But don’t be afraid of adding new boxes or reopening the ones that were long forgotten.
As for the “outside world” box, let’s just say that a global pandemic, a lockdown, and a “snowpocalypse” have proven that life can be pretty interesting and adventurous, and that we can become new and improved people as we grow.
“All I know is I know nothing,” said one of the greatest thinkers. I take comfort in knowing that if Socrates found a way to marvel at all the new things he had yet to learn after dedicating his life to knowledge, then surely there will always be more to discover and more to love about life.
And as a sweet reminder of the things I still don’t know, my tomatoes will live on the counter from now on.