I turn 35 this week – a birthday that seems a bit of a landmark.

It’s not 40 – but it somehow seems older and wiser than 34.

In my twenties, I thought I’d have most things figured out by 30. Turns out I was wrong. So for the last five years, you might say I have learned to respect my elders.

Sure – this probably should have happened long ago. But to truly appreciate those who have come before you, it’s necessary to bang your head against a few walls and make some bad calls.

With a little perspective and humility, I’ve found there is no greater resource than those who have already traversed a certain period of life. I have started to make effort to stop assuming and start asking for advice, guidance, and reflection.

So to celebrate my latest trip around the sun, I put this pitch into practice and sought out a handful of older friends and mentors to ask:

“Looking back on it now, what do you wish you knew at 35?”

Interestingly, the varied responses hit on several similar themes. With permission, I have boiled down and compiled this concise list. I am sure there is plenty more to hear and learn from others, but this seems like a good start.

1) Time keeps hurtling forward.

“I wish I had known how fast the time starts going once you have kids, and suddenly they are grown and gone and it went by SO FAST!,” offered Kitty, a former co-worker, and mentor who raised twin girls. 

2) You have to keep challenging yourself.

“It’s good to feel uncomfortable,” my pal Jess – who recently moved across the country on her own – says. “It may be scary but you need that to grow – whether it’s moving somewhere new, trying something new, or thinking about something in a new way. Uncomfortable can be scary but it usually leads to something good.”

3) Idealism is best when it is balanced with realism.

I love my friend Lahna’s advice for its depth and simplicity – let yourself off the hook. You may not accomplish everything you thought you would. Just do your best.

4) Trust and listen to your gut.

“[My gut] was right every time and I did what others wanted on some big decisions rather than listen to myself.  I am still working on this one and always admire people that can do this well,” says Carla, a current co-worker, and friend whom I admire for her constant desire to learn more from those around her.   

5) Take great vacations.

This one also comes from Carla:

“A lot of people say they will travel when they retire. Instead, we made a bucket list of places we wanted to go now and are checking them off. I highly recommend making a vacation journal for your family as your kids will say and do things that you won’t remember 10 or 20 years from now. It is a good reminder of all the places you have been together.”

Honorable mentions (very practical pieces of reflection worth mentioning here):

– “I wish I’d known I was going to live this long.” – Ric

– “I wish I’d known to buy Apple stock.” – Kitty

– “I wish I’d known the power of investing early.” – Carla

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