LIFE

I Tried To Finish A 30-Before-30 Bucket List Before My 30th Birthday

by Sonia Carbajal

In the 11th month of my 29th year on this planet, it suddenly occurred to me: I was about to be 30. That’s, like, a legitimate adult.

I decided tribute must be paid, and I set out to accomplish what my generation has dubbed the 30-Before-30 challenge.

Basically, I dedicated the last 30 days of being a 29-year-old to celebrating all the best things about being a 20-year-old. I was inspired to do this, in part, because my family has always made a big deal about special birthdays, and I wanted to make turning 30 a positive and fun journey. One day I’ll look back and wish I was 20 again, and it will be pretty cool to have a checked-off 30-to-30 bucket list as a keepsake to reflect upon.

For my personal 30-Before-30 challenge, I chose to spend each day for one month re-creating or reliving one of my favorite moments (call them “classic cuts”) from my 20s, as a tribute to that carefree decade. I also tried a variety of trends I had previously missed out on: food, drinks, beauty hacks, and fashion statements. I suffered through many hangovers, celebrated with all the people closest to me, and capped it all off with a vacation to Orlando. I also had a couple major fails and a few organic days that were not originally on my list (but hey, girls in their 20s are spontaneous, right?). All told, this serves as an honest account of my journey to 30 that I hope inspires someone else to try (and maybe you’ll be more successful at it than I was!).

Moreover, what started as merely a fun experiment turned into an exercise in introspection. I realized that experiencing so many different challenges and growing pains from the ages of 20 to 29 actually helped me to discover myself.

This journey helped me solidify my commitment to embracing whatever lies ahead in my 30s. I know myself, and I can just enjoy being true to the woman I’ve become, maybe not completely free of, but certainly with fewer insecurities.

There will always be stereotypes based around ageism, but it’s easy to forget that your youth makes you who you are! This project was the perfect way to say goodbye to my 20s — in fact, I might just do a 40-Before-40 in another decade!

Day 1: Haircut Transformation

Day 1: Haircut Transformation
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

I wanted to kick off my 30-Before-30 in a big way. I chopped off about 10 inches of my hair, and it felt amazing! Throughout my 20s, transforming my hair was always something I did when I needed change. So I thought it was the perfect way to begin this experiment.

Day 2: Netflix and Chill... With Myself

I was a little hungover after celebrating my new haircut (as you do) and decided that a Netflix and Chill sesh was just what I needed. I ended up binge-watching season two of Gilmore Girls. Season two because — Jess. This show gives me all the feels. Even lying on a couch all day, I was still embracing my young womanhood and needed an uplifting girl-power show!

Day 3: Boozy Brunch All Day, Asleep by 6 P.M.

After a restful Netflix marathon, I decided to treat myself to a long, boozy brunch. I found a place with a brunch staple that 20-somethings love: unlimited mimosas. This, of course, led me to even more day drinking — I ended up switching from mimosas to straight champagne. Ultimately, my day ended at 5 p.m. when I headed home to “nap,” aka bedtime.

Day 4: Play With Crazy Lip Colors

Day 4: Play With Crazy Lip Colors
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Girls in their 20s aren’t afraid to play around with edgy lipsticks, and neither was I! I chose purple and green. The purple got the best reactions and was my favorite of the two. I typically don’t wear much makeup, so I was expecting to get weird looks. But I work in Manhattan, so I guess people are used to seeing far bolder beauty choices.

Day 5: Go Vegan for a Day

I was vegetarian/pescatarian for the majority of my 20s, so this challenge wasn’t too hard. For lunch I had a tempeh taco bowl; it was actually delicious and had really flavorful spices. I also tried jackfruit pulled “pork.” It wasn’t the same as the real deal, but it was also not as bad as I thought it would be! I felt energized and super healthy. This was a good break, as I planned to spend many of these next 25 days with a cocktail in hand.

Day 6: Smashed Phone Screen? Whatever.

Day 6: Smashed Phone Screen? Whatever.
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Everyone’s been there. This was not a “preplanned” day, but since I dropped my phone on the sidewalk (I won’t say if cocktails were involved), I decided to test out not getting my phone fixed right away. I didn’t feel like spending the money or time to get my screen fixed — which is how I suspect most 20-year-olds feel. Cracked screens and dying batteries seem to be the norm among the twentysomething set.

(PS: I survived a couple glass splinters in my thumb!)

Day 7: Do My Makeup Like a Beauty Blogger

Day 7: Do My Makeup Like a Beauty Blogger
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

I was really excited about this challenge, but it ended up being a bit of a fail. I watched a tutorial video; bought a basic contour kit, a blender, and some false eyelashes; and went to work. I don’t think the result is very dramatic or what I envisioned. Next time I would spend a little more money on a variety of color options to make sure I had the right shades for my skin tone. I also discovered that cutting lashes to fit and gluing them on yourself is harder than it looks! I might try this again — or I might just go to the MAC counter and ask for help.

Day 8: Get Too Drunk at an Office Happy Hour

This one was pretty easy to accomplish. My company rents office space, and it has kegs of beer available to anyone who works there. The building management also schedules a lot of in-office events, so I waited for the right opportunity. I thought it might be easier to network with other people in the building with beer giving me liquid strength. It turns out it gave me too much strength, but I was in good company. The evening ended with drunk pizza on the train home. I gave myself a gold star for keeping the office fun rated PG.

Day 9: Wear a Crop Top to Work

Day 9: Wear a Crop Top to Work
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

This was one of the worst days for me. I do not enjoy wearing crop tops in general. I feel that for petite women, crop tops call more attention to short torsos, but they’re very trendy (twentysomethings love trends), so I gave it a shot! (Ed. note: I have actually been on job interviews where twentysomethings in the office greet me wearing crop tops.) So while it’s not something I’d typically (OK, never) wear in an office setting, it seems to be generally accepted. There is something about rocking a crop top that forces you to own your look and be confident. It’s great that some women feel comfortable enough to rock this at work, but I’ll appreciate their tenacity from the fashion sidelines.

Day 10: Brunch Again!

Day 10: Brunch Again!
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Day 10 fell on a Saturday, and brunch is a regular affair in your 20s. I went to a daytime birthday party and ended up taking a kinda creepy selfie in the bathroom, pictured here. I found it funny that if you saw this picture, you would never know that I was out at 2 p.m., not 2 a.m.! This time around, I tried to  keep myself on a budget. Day drinks can add up because you have so much more time to drink!

Day 11: Mani Time

Day 11: Mani Time
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

When I was in my 20s, it was popular to have a “ring finger accent nail.” I decided to go the extra mile and get “millennial pink” nails with a metallic accent. This was also my first (and it won’t be my last) experience getting gel nail polish! It was really annoying to take off, but that’s OK because the gel lasted so much longer. I told the salon staff it was my birthday, and they threw in a 10-minute massage — which is why it’s good to stay loyal to your salons!

Day 12: Wear Workout Clothes to Work

Day 12: Wear Workout Clothes to Work
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

This was another fun one that I probably can’t do again! I went all-out and wore a neon yellow tank top and galaxy-patterned leggings. It turned out to be a convenient outfit, since my team was moving offices, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t fly for meetings or interviews. I got more questions about this outfit than the wild lip colors.

Day 13: Pull an All-Nighter

I allllmost made it. It was not the smartest idea to test this on a work night, but that felt like the more authentic time to test out a tried-and-true twentysomething habit. I used to do this all the time when I was in college, then when I was bartender and had a day job, and I still do it occasionally when I fly red-eye. It’s really hard to sleep on a plane! I made a good attempt — guzzled coffee and  binge-watched TV — but ultimately I crashed for about three hours. I don’t have the stamina I used to!

Day 14: Selfies All Day

Day 14: Selfies All Day
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

We all have friends who fill up our Instagram and Snapchat feeds with heavily filtered selfies. I did a full day of ’em! Selfies in bed, selfies with friends, selfies with my dog. It was fun sharing these moments with my family and friends. It was also a nice reminder to stop, take a photo, and create a memory. I plan to do a better job of documenting my life in photos going forward.

Day 15: Juice Cleanse Day

Day 15: Juice Cleanse Day
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

After all that brunching, I figured I could use a juice cleanse. I made it until 5 p.m. — some might say that’s a full day! I ended up caving due to another free happy hour at work. Some wine really hits the spot after a day of juicing. I had a spicy ginger and carrot juice for breakfast and a green juice for lunch. Then my coworker gave me his cookie from lunch, and between that and the wine bottles being passed around, I lost my juicing will power.

Day 16: Photo Booth Bar Crawl

Day 16: Photo Booth Bar Crawl
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

I went out with a couple of my besties for an early birthday celebration. We went bar hopping through a few local places that all have photo booths. I decided to start a collection of these at my desk. Photo booths are always fun, especially when you can’t fit everyone in the frame and have to get creative — or you completely miss the cue and end up with some funny candid memories.

Day 17: Get Microbladed

Day 17: Get Microbladed
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

I have naturally fine eyebrow hairs, so I pencil in my brows every day. I’ve been dying to try this trend but have been a little nervous. It wasn’t that bad! It gave me almost tattooed-on eyebrows so that I could feel less face-naked. It was pretty painless, which is good, because fear of pain was the main reason I’d been avoiding trying it. I think it helps if you moisturize your face regularly. Also, you should definitely avoid being sunburned, getting a facial, or coming into contact with possible irritants before getting this done.

Day 18: Try a Trendy Face Mask

Day 18: Try a Trendy Face Mask

I had to avoid face masks for two weeks prior to the eyebrow treatment, so I was excited to get back to it! I wanted to test out one of the softer types and avoid the kind that rip out your pores. I normally just use the cloth kind that are filled with moisturizers. I tried this Korean bubbling face mask. It covers your face with bubbles while it hydrates your skin! I think it’s a bit more photo-friendly than effective, but I would still recommend giving it a shot.

Day 19: Get Drunk at a Baby Shower

Day 19: Get Drunk at a Baby Shower
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Excuse the blurry photo but hey, at least you know I’m honest! My good friend is having twins, so I decided the occasion required double the celebration! Showers, to me, are events that seem to be more for the family members and friends than for the mom-to-be. Either way, I was determined to have double the fun for both of us. I’m so happy for my friend. She’s a twin herself, and I can’t think of a better mom for these two little ones. I can’t wait until she can pop bottles and celebrate with me.

Day 20: Join Tinder

Day 20: Join Tinder

Ten days left! I am in a committed relationship, but for the sake of journalism and this experiment, I made a profile to see whom I would match with on Tinder. The answer: lots of what I assume are married guys. They hid their faces and sent creepy messages. Some guys on the app went for funny pictures; a lot of others just posted gym selfies. It’s not easy out there! I got into my relationship before Tinder was a thing. My experiment led me to believe that it’s probably easy to find someone on Tinder to spend a night with, but not as easy to find love.

Day 21: Rose-Gold Hair

Day 21: Rose-Gold Hair

I didn’t even plan to wear my rose dress on this day; it just worked out. Instead of permanent dye, I tried a colored hair spray. I used to experiment with colored sprays a lot in my early 20s. The rose gold didn’t show up the best in my dark hair, but it glittered in the light, which I really liked! The glitter got everywhere, but it washed out completely that night.

Day 22: Hit Up Thursday Kitchen

Thursday Kitchen is a trendy drinks and dinner spot in New York’s East Village. It has been open for a couple summers, but it’s still always busy. The bar serves what look like Capri Sun containers filled with various alcoholic beverages. I planned to stop by there with a friend after work, but the wait was two hours! The line was insane, so we put our phone number on the list and went to another bar nearby to wait — and ended up staying there instead. This was a total fail, which I was bummed about, because the drinks at Thursday Kitchen are really photo-friendly; they even light up ! Maybe one day, if the lines ever die down, I’ll be able to check it off my list.

Day 23: Get a Tattoo

Day 23: Get a Tattoo
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

It’s kind of a cop-out, but I opted for a fake tattoo by a company called Tattly. It would have lasted about a week, but I ended up scrubbing it off. I put it on my forearm, and it actually made me want a real one in the same place. It was fun to have people question whether or not it was real, since it lasted a couple days. I chose this design because it read “What to focus on: happy,” and I liked having that daily reminder as I headed toward Day 30.

Day 24: Try a New Food Trend

Day 24: Try a New Food Trend
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

I was determined that, unlike my failed Thursday Kitchen experience, I was going to wait it out to try this treat. A NYC street vendor called Mochidoki sells embellished mochi ice cream, and people are going nuts over it. I’m so glad I stuck it out. It was worth the wait. I tried the “S’mores” mochi. It’s a salted caramel mochi topped with marshmallow creme and a Teddy Graham. They use a torch to toast the marshmallow creme — a touch that really made my day.

Day 25: Try a Trampoline Gym Class

Day 25: Try a Trampoline Gym Class
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

This was really fun and easy on the knees if you don’t work out often (like me). It’s actually kind of similar to a spin class. They turn off the lights, turn on some disco balls, and play music while the instructor motivates you to keep going! The good thing about the class I took was that it was half cardio and half weights. We got to stretch and use resistance bands. You don’t have to jump for an hour straight until you work up to that level.

Day 26: Get Drunk at a Baseball Game

Day 26: Get Drunk at a Baseball Game
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

One of my favorite pastimes is going to baseball games. I won’t stop going as I head into my 30s, but hopefully I’ll be less obnoxious about it? I’m sure the people behind us really enjoyed our drunk selfie photo shoot while the Mets game was going on. I love Citi Field because it’s such a nice venue, the fans are friendly, and it has great food and drinks. The food and drinks make the experience of attending the game even better! In typical NY Mets fashion, we were down 4-2 until the eighth inning, in which we tied to 4-4. Then in the ninth inning we scored a run for the 5-4 win! So it was a great game to be at for an early birthday celebration.

Day 27: Eat Avocado Toast

Day 27: Eat Avocado Toast
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

I had to include it! The avocado trend is completely out of control, at least in Manhattan. There’s a food truck by my office that only sells avocado toasts, and even chain restaurants have started adding it to their menus. So I had to eat it for lunch and then post it to social media, as twentysomethings do. It was good with the added spices and feta cheese. I know people who eat this almost every day, or at least weekly, which I think is a lot. That said, it’s a good alternative to a whole sandwich, and it fills you up.

Day 28: Vacation Day 1 — Pack at the Last Minute

Day 28: Vacation Day 1 — Pack at the Last Minute
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

So in true “not adult yet” fashion, I stayed up all night procrastinating and then packing. I started off my trip tired but excited! I went to Universal Studios and Disney World to really celebrate my 30th for a long weekend. I grew up going to Disneyland in California, so I was really looking forward to exploring these parks and celebrating the last weekend of my 20s! I had to splurge on a cute suitcase for the celebration, designed by blogger Oh Joy. #treatyoself

Day 29: Vacation Day 2 — #Wanderlust

Day 29: Vacation Day 2 — #Wanderlust
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

To fulfill my #Wanderlust, we went to Disney’s Epcot and took the “Around the World” challenge: eating and drinking at each country. It quickly became one of my favorite parks: You can experience other cultures without traveling there in person. I don’t know if I was more excited for my Minnie ears or for exploring Epcot!

Day 30: Vacation Day 3 — Tell Everyone It's My Birthday

Day 30: Vacation Day 3 — Tell Everyone It's My Birthday
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

At Disney, you get a birthday pin to wear, and every employee wishes you a happy birthday! Then, of course, you have to tell every restaurant so you can get your free desserts. Full disclosure: I used to tell restaurants this all the time when it was not my actual birthday. I really recommend Universal and Disney for a fun birthday celebration. It was probably my last chance to go there as an adult without kids, so I squeezed a lot in and loved every second!

It was an exhausting, fun, sometimes scary month, but I’m really glad I did it. I’ll never have a chance to do a real 30-Before-30 again, and I definitely learned a few things in the process. I’m looking at you next, 40!