A Letter to My 30+ Year Old Self

Tomorrow, you upgrade to your next triathlon age group: F 30-35!

Your last decade was very interesting, wasn’t it? You finally got the big break in design that you’ve been looking for all of your life. Do you remember those nights as a teenager where you dreamed of calling your own shots, living a life that you designed all for yourself? You’re finally there. I know you wanted to be there ten years ago, or even five years ago. Regardless of those timelines, you’ve finally earned your stripes and you’re finally moving on up. Know that it only gets better from here. There’s going to be a lot of demands on your time and your creativity. Never let that entrepreneurial and creative fire die. Fight like your life depends on it, because it really does.

Spend your time focusing on the things, people, and experiences that matter. Those are the things that will carry you for the rest of your days. Those days are indeed numbered. Life can change in an instant. You must be prepared to live every day like it’s your last, not because you are cynical or skeptical but because that is the reality of life. There’s a reason why you have ‘memento mori’ on the back of your mind. You must truly know that the only constant in life is change. In life, nobody makes it out alive so be prepared to make the rest of your days count.

With the work that you do, the people you spend your time with, and the efforts you invest your heart into, do it to leave a positive mark on someone else’s life. Recognition, praise, and money never motivated you, and it probably won’t start to motivate you anytime soon. Continue following your heart because it never led you astray. Balance it out every once in awhile with your mind to make sure you’ve designed around all the edge cases. You’re a UX designer after all…act like it.

A word on your parents and your family – you only have one life to spend with them. They deserve more of your time and attention than you’ve given them. No matter how much you don’t want to admit it, they depend on you. Make them a priority. You can’t change what happened in the past but you can shape how you deal with it now. Forgiveness has been a major theme of your twenties. Keep moving on. Let go of that tragic childhood you endured. It doesn’t define you.

A thing on goals: you’ve got a lot of them. There’s a lot of unfinished business from your twenties: finishing grad school; finishing an Ironman; finishing that second book; traveling the world; climbing up the career ladder; starting an international design firm; starting a design school; building out a scholarship foundation for your alma mater; writing a design curriculum with your old design professors; building a halfway house; paving the way to become a design professor; learning some new markup and programming languages; getting your photography into a gallery or even published; finding Mr. Right. I dare you to continue chasing those goals. You solve a lot of problems at work. You solve a lot of problems for your friends and family. Take some time to solve these problems that will continue eating at you until the day you die.

This is day one of what can be ostensibly described as the most important decade of your life. It’s a turning point. Take caution and pause when appropriate. Know when to hang on and when to let go. Your heart and mind is way too precious to focus on the things that don’t really matter. Take care of the people that take care of you, but most importantly, take care of you. You didn’t endure all that you have to give up now. Fight until the end and set a blazing example for those who want to follow your path.

And, whatever you do, cross that finish line with a smile on your face.

Best wishes,

Your 20-29 year old self

 

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