Your Thirties Are All About Rediscovering Teenage You
“I heard someone say that your thirties are all about rediscovering what you loved as a thirteen-year-old, and doing it again–but this time without the shame, without the judgment, and I think it’s true.”
This is a trending sound on TikTok. If you haven’t seen/heard it before, search “your thirties are about” and tons of content will pop up. Mostly of women sharing their hobbies, Harry Potter collections, dancing freely, being silly, singing at the top of their lungs, traveling, etc. It’s a beautiful, inspiring thing to see so many adults shamelessly enjoying innocent activities that we typically reserve for children!
I’ve been in therapy for a couple of years now, and between mothering three daughters and overcoming my people-pleasing ways, I am only just now figuring out who I am. I’m thirty-one (nearly thirty-two) and I am finally learning my likes, dislikes, tastes, preferences, and boundaries.
And I know, as evidenced by the algorithm, my experience is not unique. So I did what any woman in my position would and started to do things that made me, specifically teenage me, happy (within reason, of course).
First on the list was my wardrobe, because this is definitely how I like to express myself the most — especially teenage me.
I tend to keep clothes for a really, really long time. Like, I’m still wearing a kimono I bought from Forever 21 twelve years ago because it’s my favorite (I would have lost a bet if someone told me anything from Forever 21 would last two years, let alone twelve). And nothing is wrong with that, but I also tend to keep clothes I don’t need or want, especially if they were a gift. Or I’ll keep clothes for “just in case” scenarios that happen maybe once a year, or I’ll keep something simply because someone told me one time I should have it, and so it stayed.
I put on my pop-punk/emo playlist from the early ‘aughts and got to organizing — keep, donate, toss. Anything I didn’t like, anything I had to think about, anything that wasn’t an instant “I like this,” I got rid of. I recognize not everyone is in a position to do this, but in this season of life, I happen to be able to. And it was incredibly freeing.
How I dressed as a teenager and young adult is what we now call “bohemian.” Flowy skirts, long kimonos, mismatched patterns, stacks of bracelets–you get the picture. I stuck out a bit back then, but I didn’t mind. I felt most like myself with my nose ring and high-waisted shorts, and I had no reason to change it. But once I went to law school, I felt like my typical clothing choices weren’t viewed as “professional,” and so, my closet slowly started filling up with dress pants, blazers, blouses, drab neutral colors, and closed-toe shoes. I removed my nose ring and hid my line of cartilage piercings with my hair. My one tattoo at the time was hidden on my ribcage, so no one could pass over me for a perceived “lack of professionalism.”
Basically, I gave up my self-expression for my career. And I would do it over again, don’t get me wrong–I loved school and I love my job. I also had plenty of classmates who kept their similar styles throughout their law school career and beyond, so it’s not like I couldn’t have, too. But for whatever reason, back then, I felt like I had to leave that part of myself behind.
Then, motherhood happened. Gym shorts, yoga pants, oversized shirts and pajamas were my constant rotation as a stay-at-home-mom. Pregnancy and breastfeeding severely limited what I could wear, and honestly, I felt so overwhelmed with parenting that my appearance was the last thing I was concerned about for quite some time.
And now, nearly eight years and three kids later, I’m working on bringing that part of me back. After I cleaned out my closet, I shopped some online sales and added lots of my old style back into rotation. Thirteen-year-old me is freaking out (happily) every time I pick out my outfit in the morning — this kimono with this maxi dress? OOOO what about these sandals? Orange and pink together?! YES!
I didn’t stop at my clothes, though. Once I realized how much more comfortable in my own skin I felt just by wearing a long skirt and a tank top while I worked, I jumped right into whatever the heck else teenage-me wanted.
So, I got my nose pierced again. I added a few more ear-piercings (currently sitting at nine). I got a small tattoo on my wrist. As recently as two weeks ago, I got a big upper thigh tattoo–one I had been designing in my head for the last six years.
I set up a GoodReads account and set a goal for how many books I’d like to read this year. Teenage me always had her nose in a book, and while I never dropped that habit completely, I’ve always wished I could read more — so I am. Meeting the goal isn’t really that important, but being able to track my progress and see how much I’ve managed to read so far has made my little bookworm heart happy.
I love, love love live music. Teenage me? Always begging my parents to let me go to the House of Blues at fifteen to see my favorite emo band–and always (understandably) being denied. I went to a few concerts in college, but only the cheap ones a the local restaurants on campus. My husband and I have always shared a love for live music, so my concert-going picked back up when it could between work and babies. But now? We go to concerts whenever we can — especially at the House of Blues.
I wrote poetry day in and day out for a majority of my life, especially as a teenager, but my writing was put on hold when I started my career and had kids. I would randomly write here and there, but not seriously and nothing good, honestly. But lately, I’ve answered the call when I feel inspired, and I’ve even submitted my work to a few publishers when I feel like I’ve written something worthy of sharing. Teenage me won poetry contests left and right back in the day, and college me majored in creative writing — so when I say a big piece of me feels alive again, there’s no exaggeration to be found.
All this to say: go find yourself again, sweet friend.
If you need someone to tell you it’s okay to spend money and time on yourself, let me be the one say it: It’s more than okay. It is necessary.
You are worth finding again. Your happiness is essential.
And you are being the best mother by honoring your worth in front of your kids. They will know how to honor their own one day by watching you. They will know their happiness, their sense of self, is sacred and beautiful and must be cared for, all because of you.
So please, have a moment with your younger self and ask her: What do you like? What do you miss? What do you wish we could do or be?
And jump in, both feet, with a reckless abandon only a teenager could have.