This is 30.

Buenos Diaz, readers! And how are you all doing on this fine day? As for me, life is pretty good right now. I’ve got some more freelance work coming in, I’m making good contacts, I’m sleeping an average of 7 hours a night and I have a tan from spending so much time outdoors! Many of you are familiar with my usual Alabaster Cream skin tone; please join me then in a collective prayer of thanks to the Almighty, for it is only May and I have graduated to Toasted Eggshell.

In addition to allowing me the time to take my workouts outdoors, this period of funemployment has given me time to write, and not just for a living but in my beloved journal. I recently reflected on some lessons I’ve learned in the first six months of my thirties and thought I would share. They speak to my current frame of mind, which I imagine will resonate with many of you. Here we go: 5 Vanessaisms from me to you with love.  

1.       PUT THE F*CKING CAKE FOUNDATION DOWN AND WALK AWAY SLOWLY.  I confess that I used to be one of those girls who would sooner be caught dead than be seen in public without makeup. It didn’t matter where I was going: class, the grocery store, the library, Del Taco, the ATM and yes, even the gym meant throwing on at least a quick layer of base, eyeliner and mascara. My foundation coverage was full, my setting powder strong, my lashes were chola-thin and my entire lash line was rimmed to the max in black kohl eyeliner.

Thirty-Year-Old Vanessa believes that while it's absolutely ok to enjoy putting makeup on, everyday makeup though shouldn't make you look unlike yourself.  I still love me some winged eyeliner and bright lipstick, but I've softened my overall look and have stopped hiding behind a makeup mask. I often skip the makeup entirely or else opt for medium coverage or tinted moisturizer because at age 30, I’m done trying to hide my freckles and have chosen to embrace them instead. I also let myself have real eyebrows again and have given my waterline a break; I guess I decided that I don’t need to look like a drag version of Amy Winehouse or Cleopatra. 

I don't want my makeup to change what I look like. I still want to look like me.

...Let's just focus on the photo on the right. 

2.       LOVE IT, OWN IT, ROCK IT. There’s probably at least one thing you were born with that people would pay good money for. For some it’s the boobs, or the butt or the lips (p.s. - Kylie Jenner needs to knock it off). For me, it’s the hair- but I didn't always feel that way.  

See, I had a crown of sleek, shiny hair with big, pretty curls at the ends as a toddler, but those curls went the way of the dodo bird after my first haircut. My hair stayed stick-straight for years and wouldn't hold a curl at all. Then around age nine, puberty attacked me hard and fast, bringing with it the very tragic poofy-fication of my once easily-managed mane. I kept on brushing it like I always had but it just wouldn't cooperate. I thought cutting it short might help, so I chopped it off. Jesucristo. If I only knew then what I know now.   

 My mom used to love twisting the curls into spirals.... then it went straight. And also- BANGS. 

My mom used to love twisting the curls into spirals.... then it went straight. And also- BANGS. 

It turns out my hair was a hot mess because puberty had brought back the curl unbeknownst to me. I discovered this by accident several years later when I had to wash out a horrible updo minutes before a wedding. I had zero time left to do anything but put some mousse in it, and it dried into curly-ish waves to everyone’s amazement. Here I’d been brushing my shit to death all this time not knowing that it was wavy. If there’s one thing you don’t do to curly or wavy hair, its brush it into submission. Yikes.  

I didn't want the wavy hair though. At first, I used gel and hairspray to keep the volume in check, which is why I refer to high school as “the crunchy years.” In college, I wanted straight hair like all of the pretty girls on campus, so I flattened it to death with a blow dryer and gold-plated straightener. Sometime in my late twenties though, I finally got it. I accepted that I was blessed with a pretty cool feature and not one that I need to subdue, so I decided to own it and rock it for all that its worth. Don’t get me wrong: some days I still take the time to blow it out all smooth and bouncy. Mostly though, I keep the routine to a minimal 10 minutes with some hair oil, styling cream and a diffuser, leaving it wild and wavy like it was meant to be.

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Crunch, crunch, crunch with a *pinch* of Sun-In. And nooooo eyebrows

Smooth and bouncy, and "boho chic" 

3.       BODY POSITIVITY STARTS WITH YOU. I write a lot about body image and body positivity, issues that are especially relevant today and particularly important to me personally. When I’m writing, I feel all-powerful and super confident, especially when I’m armed with all the positivity coming from social media. Take Tess Munster’s recent modeling contract news and the Eff Your Beauty Standards movement or Lane Bryant’s “We’re no angels!” campaign. I get so pumped reading about acceptance of all female figures out there in the world and not just those that are “traditionally” attractive. However, I admit that it’s sometimes hard to stay positive in my real, personal life. I have the easiest time in the world telling other women that they are beautiful but have a hard time seeing it in myself. It’s just so easy to be critical when I don’t fit a certain size or see a certain number on the scale.

Having all this time to myself has helped me home in on this fact: it’s not enough to have all these outside forces telling you that you’re gorgeous just the way you are- you have to see it and believe it for yourself, period. Personally, I’m working harder than ever on not looking at so many numbers and figures as a measure of my attractiveness, and more importantly on being really and truly confident- not just on paper. It’s an uphill battle that I've waged before, but this time I have the wisdom that comes with age and experience to hopefully keep me on track.  

4.      SINGLE OR NOT, YOU SHOULD KNOW HOW TO BE ALONE. My aunt once told me that her son, my teenage cousin, told her that he hates seeing people eating alone at restaurants. When she asked him why, he said it made him so sad- why are  they all alone?!! I laughed. I've heard this same story many times before.

I love spending time with loved ones. Who doesn't? But you know what I also love? Being by myself. No really, I like- no, I relish- my alone time. When I say this, people often ask if I’m just saying that because I’m single (insert glare here), then follow up with, “Well what do you do then?” Well… live! I go shopping. I eat. I go to the library. I read in the park. I stop at a brewery. I cruise to the Farmers Market. I hike at sunset then stop somewhere scenic to write. I go to the bay and just float in the water because I loooove that sensation of weightlessness. I go where I want and do what I want, just me, myself and I.

Being alone does not mean I’m lonely; in fact, knowing how to be alone, comfortably and unapologetically so, is a skill that I think everyone should possess. It is empowering to know how to be by yourself, and not just in a relationship sense, and like it. It makes you more confident and aware of how complete you are on your own, which (I think) is an indispensable quality.

5.       YOU DON'T NEED TO PLEASE OR EXPLAIN YOURSELF TO EVERYONE.  Not everyone understands or supports my career decision, for example. Recently, I found myself hurt when I was questioned (not for the first time) about my success in finding a "regular job." I re-asserted my desire to take a risk in the name of creativity and my ultimate fulfillment, but had to hear that I’m seen as a disappointment to someone I love very much in choosing this path for myself. That of course led to all those other questions I love- when am I going to buy a home? Can I even afford a mortgage? Have I thought about getting married? Aren't I getting a little old not to have kids? What was all that schooling for? I cried like hell and vented to my best friend, feeling like such an outsider and like I was seen as a failure. He talked me off the ledge and reminded me that the concern comes from a place of love, and hat I have to do this for myself and no one else. He was right. It does me no good to put the world’s opinions first if I’m left miserable at the end of the day. I just have to give it hell, try my best and remember that sometimes support hides in a costume of criticism. 

I’m learning that it really is impossible to please everyone, and that doing so shouldn't even really rank very high on your list of priorities. It’s perfectly OK to not have all the answers; to want to take risks; to have goals, values, tastes, opinions, plans and even measures of success that differ from the people you love and who love you. If the love is real, and hopefully it is, then it will still be there when all is said and done. I say as long as you aren't causing any harm or inconvenience to yourself or others, do what you need to do for yourself and don’t make tons of concessions just to assuage all the naysayers.

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As I’m sure you've picked up on, the theme of my thirties is pretty much, “Be who you really are.” Do what you want. Chase your dreams. Take that risk. Love who you love. Love what you love. Feel what you need to feel. Say what you need to say- and confidently! Own your look. Embrace your flaws. Play up your strengths. Live with integrity. Act with intention. Speak with purpose. Have faith. Love hard. Be fearless. Always Compete, and Fight On.

Thanks for reading, folks. Your support is everything.

Bookishly yours,

Vanessa

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