Looking at the decade of 30

man and woman walking up hillside together

Yup. Here I am, looking at the decade of 30. Next Sunday is my birthday and the start of two new decades for me. And 2020 is just around the corner.

A lot has happened in the last ten years.

I was born on the cusp of a new decade. I also trailed a series of important beginnings that happened in late 1989. (And yes, if you noticed the similarities, you are correct. T-Swift and I share the same birth month/year AND middle name; though like myself, she is not a major 1989 event, hahaha.) With the 20s coming back around, I even dare to say that little optimism is coming my way as well. So this week’s post is about some of the things I’ve learned.

I better understand hard work.

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BA History

I completed three degrees in the last decade: BA, MA, and Ph.D. And published three books in the process. Let me tell you: I worked my ass off and there’s just no other way to say it. I sacrificed a lot to be where I am today, and I won’t apologize for it. But that is not the core of my lesson.

I strive for excellence and I am not always met with approval. No, you do not always get support for the blood, sweat, and tears you put into things. People have a weird way of placing expectations on others, and you sometimes just don’t fit their boxes. Happily, you don’t have to. Your dreams and goals are yours. They don’t belong to someone else and do not require explanation.

s.a.borders-shoemaker, decade of 30, lessons, love, self-worth, hard work, ma degree, university of exeter, palestine studies
MA Palestine Studies

Want to wait to have kids? Great. Excited to start a family sooner? Lovely! Longing to be a boss babe in your chosen field? Get ’em, sister! The core of hard work is that you do it because it gets the thing done. If you work hard to please others, you will burn and spiral out of control. So work hard for your own integrity and excellence. Not someone else’s whim.

I better understand self-worth.

Like the previous point, there are plenty of people who are all-too-ready to knock others down. Loving myself is a powerful and loud act. Here’s a list of some reasons people have used to criticize me, my: age; beauty; weight; relationship status; beliefs; experience; intelligence; honesty; education; job; emotions; imperfection; privacy; intentions; words; silence; color of lipstick/hair/clothes; amount of makeup; etc.

s.a.borders-shoemaker, decade of 30, lessons, love, self-worth, hard work, woman posing with pearls and champagne shirt, black and white
Courtesy of Kate Styles Photography

All these things fall to the wayside in the light of a greater identity: the one God gave me. Like everyone else, I am imperfect. But harsh words don’t define me. At the end of the day, you must be the one to look in the mirror and sit with decisions made. If you cannot stand who you see, it’s time for some adjustments. But never make changes just because someone spews venom. Do it because you want to be a better, fuller, healthier person. No other person has the right to define you.

I am a stronger, kinder, happier woman for embracing exactly who I am: flaws and all.

I better understand love.

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Courtesy of Katie McGee Photography

This is perhaps the biggest and hardest lesson. My twenties were certainly eventful in the love department. I fell in love and got married; which is a journey all its own. And I am blessed to be married to someone who is willing to walk through fire with me, who is steady and constant even when things get very, very hard. I love you with all I am, Tim.

But I also came to see the need to give some love to myself, too. I spend a lot of time trying to help others in their own lives. And in the process, I starved myself of the confidence I needed to be healthy. I’ve written about the physical manifestations of this neglect in two pieces at Harness magazine: To My Body and Idiopathic.

But I want to also talk about another kind of love: boundaries. We all struggle with setting boundaries. And where we should start with setting appropriate limits is in the hardest place of all: with people we love. I am a giver by nature. My way of showing love is to let it flow abundantly. But the unfortunate reality is that some people who claim and should be careful with your love are anything but that.

Setting boundaries is an act of love, albeit the tough kind. When we respect ourselves, others feel compelled to follow suit. We set the example to be followed. And, we are freer to give love without harm or burnout when we establish how much another person is allowed to affect us. Your wellbeing is worth protecting. You are not selfish to take space to heal.

I’m forever in progress.

Please believe me when I say that I am still learning. I am open to the knowledge that waits for me as time and experience step in. But these things have been the big, flashing signs in front of me throughout the last decade. And as I am looking at the decade of 30 and beyond, I hope I become a kinder, more thoughtful and grateful person. That my words fill you, my readers, with love and life.

I want to leave a legacy.

In Courage & Care,


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