30 Things to Do Before You’re 30: The AnOther Guide

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PolaroidPhotography by Mark Borthwick, Courtesy of Claire de Rouen

From recommended reading to holidaying alone, some things to check off before entering your thirties

1. Watch legendary fashion educator Louise Wilson’s film recommendations (see below)

An essential part of your ongoing cultural education.

2. Master the art of email etiquette

For better or worse, emailing now forms an integral part of the majority of jobs, which means that it’s important to master fine email practice, from the subject to your signature and sign-off. If you’re in need of some pointers, head to our guide.

3. Go one week without social media

It’s a challenge, but you’ll be better for it.

4. Try a wine from your birth year

One to choose carefully. Certain grapes are known to age well, and the wine region will make a difference to the ageing process too; vintage ports, red or white Burgundies, and Reislings are more likely to drink well after decades, as opposed to a few years. (Here’s hoping your birth year was a good vintage.)

5. Cook from scratch

Being able to make something from scratch is both satisfying and impressive. For baking, try the Violet Bakery cookbookSkye Gyngell’s books offer recipes for simple, seasonal cooking; and the more adventurous should look to St. John’s signature ‘Nose to Tail’ cooking philosophy.

6. Read these books

Six essential reads as selected by AnOthermag.com books columnist Ana Kinsella:

  1. Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonYour twenties, really, are for making mistakes. In Life After Life, Ursula can relive her life over and over, so it doesn’t really matter how many mistakes she makes. In reality, we don’t necessarily have that luxury, but does it actually matter? This sweeping epic helped me get some perspective on the minor tragedies of my own life, showing me that the mortifying email where I accidentally called my editor ‘Mum’ wasn’t the end of the world after all.
  2. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-LodgeIn an ideal world, this book would be taught in schools. (Although in a really ideal world, it wouldn’t have had to be written.) However, since we live in a terrible, unfair world, take it upon yourself to self-educate, starting with this engaging, essential investigation of politics, history and race.
  3. Infinite Jest by David Foster WallaceYes, it’s large and its reputation tends to precede it, but beyond the footnotes and digressions (and the insufferable men who tell you how much they love it), there is in fact a very excellent book – a second-coming-of-age novel that doubles as a clear-eyed attempt to explain how broken and beautiful the world can be.
  4. The Flamethrowers by Rachel KushnerToo many books are written about meek women. The tough, uncompromising women of Kushner’s novels are in a class of their own. They make their own rules, living lives of relentless purpose and apologising for absolutely nothing.
  5. The diaries of Susan Sontag“1950s: Everyone wanted to be 30 – assume responsibility (marriage, kids, career), be serious.” An entry from Sontag’s diary, aged 43. Before you get to 30, make sure to get inside her head first. Her smart, spiky diary entries, from 14 until her late forties, made me want to be more engaged with the whole world.
  6. My 1980s and Other Essays by Wayne KoestenbaumThe 1980s spanned most of Koestenbaum’s own twenties, and this title essay is a perfect reminiscence of that decade. Written without nostalgia in a series of brief episodes that travel through poetry, sex, baseball jackets and death, it mimics the chaotic order of life with beauty.

7. Buy less new clothes, more vintage

The ecological effect of modern clothing production is now well known: now is the time to break the cycle and start purchasing second-hand. This needn’t conjure the usual connotations of musty vintage stores and less-than-fruitful charity shop rummages – rather, treat second-hand clothing as an investment, purchasing pieces that will retain their value for years to come. For one-of-a-kind runway pieces, try William Vintage – now on sale on Matches Fashion – or try Steven Philips’ legendary West London store Rellik, for vintage Azzedine Alaïa, Vivienne Westwood and Thierry Mugler.

8. Volunteer for a charity

Do good, feel good. Win win. Did you know that Kim Jones is passionate about wildlife conservation

9. Learn how to drive

This one is particularly directed to Londoners and is a question of both practicality and freedom. By 30, reduced rail fares are no longer in reach, and being able to drive means not being governed by other people’s timetables.

10. Have an extracurricular activity

Eight hours of sleep and eight hours of work leaves eight hours left in the day. Spare an hour a week for something extracurricular – from sports to ceramics, the difficulty level of your chosen activity is up to you.

11. Go to Dover Street Market Market once

Once every five years, Dover Street Market puts on an archival sale to end all archival sales – something AnOthermag.com contributing editor Hannah Tindle likens to a “sartorial solar eclipse”. This is something you have to experience at least once in your lifetime – partly for the opportunity to buy amazing pieces of fashion for up to 70 per cent off, and partly to see respectable industry figures morph into wild animals, tearing into clothing rails and piles of shoe boxes like a pack of hyenas on the Serengeti.

12. Invest in a photograph

Here is some advice for doing so, from the director of Claire de Rouen bookshop and AnOthermag.com columnist Lucy Kumara Moore:

“It’s wise and more interesting to buy the work of photographers who are younger or less established – this will help support their developing career and can mean that the work accrues value more dramatically. The most important thing is to make sure you really love the work you buy – invest for pleasure, as well as possible financial return. Some tips!

  1. Find galleries or curators who work with photographers you really like, build a relationship, see as much work as you can, and ask for a discount when you decide you want to buy.
  2. Make sure your print is signed and dated, or comes with a certificate of authenticity.
  3. Smaller edition sizes are better.
  4. Investigate printing and paper types – some are more archival than others. 
  5. Make sure you have the work framed with museum-quality glass, and use a window mount if you think you might want to re-sell it in the future. 

My favourite photographs available on Claire de Rouen:

Ian MacDonald, In the corner of the art room overlooking the science labs (2017).
Alasdair McLellan, From Ceremony (2017).
Mark Borthwick, Polaroid.”

13. Go to Frieze

Even if only for the people watching.

14. Learn to enjoy your own company

Taking time for and by yourself can be the ultimate indulgence. Some will find this easier than others – once comfortable, tackle number 28. 

15. See your favourite musician live

Whether at a festival or a city gig, seeing your favourite music played live is a must. Photos and videos won’t do the experience justice the next day, so put your phone on airplane mode for the duration.

16. Buy something tailored

Purchasing a tailored item or having something altered to fit specifically to you feeds into the idea of ‘buy less, and buy better’ (see number seven). You’re more likely to wear and take good care of a piece that’s been made to fit you, and it will last longer in your wardrobe than impulse online buys.

17. Find a signature scent

Knowing which type of fragrance you prefer – woody, spicy, floral or aromatic, et cetera – and what your skin works with makes perfume decisions easier. Have more than one scent on hand for varying seasons and occasions.

18. Find a skincare regime that works for you

According to AnOther Magazine deputy editor, and writer of AnOthermag.com’s beauty series, Sophie Bew: “Your skin changes all the time so my biggest tip is to try to stay in tune with its current needs. Ask yourself what is it you’d like to focus on, prevent or improve and then do lots of research. I’ve found that skincare doesn’t need to be super expensive but it needs to target specific issues using active ingredients. Embrace layering – work from lightest fluids (serums etc) to the heaviest (creams followed by oils), this allows you to be flexible and switch up your routine accordingly, based on what you need that day. As well as allowing you to simplify when you need to. Find a way to work SPF into your daily routine too and you’ll see an improvement in your skin tone with that alone – certainly the best way to segue into your thirties.”

19. Watch Twin Peaks

Who killed Laura Palmer? If you don’t know by now, you should. The David Lynch-created TV series is often hailed as an all-time great (and given the number of seasons – three – watching all episodes is easily doable).

20. Keep a plant alive for a year 

Manage this, if you haven’t already, and you’ll have a tremendous sense of accomplishment. You really will. If you fail, fear not, just buy a fake one.

21. Go to the Edinburgh Fringe

The appeal of going to the Edinburgh Fringe is the variety the annual festival offers. From stand-up comedy and irreverent musicals to modern dance and emotive plays, a trip to the Fringe is like an experiment for your theatrical tastes.

22. ‘Marie Kondo’ your house

Whether you agree with Marie Kondo’s organising philosophy or not, most people would agree that the self-professed decluttering guru has some good principles; like not clinging onto things you no longer like or use. Start with your clothes – and if you need tips, head here for our guide to cleansing your wardrobe.

23. Be a tourist in your own city

It’s easy to take the city you live and work in for granted. Brush up on your city’s culture and history by visiting its sights – there’s a reason tourist attractions are just that.

24. Invest in some non-IKEA furniture that will travel with you

Some advice from London’s coolest design dealer and interior designer Jermaine Gallacher...

  1. Be prepared to spend: Be prepared to invest that little bit more in something that you will live with everyday, and will have for a lifetime.
  2. Don’t follow trends: Buy because you love it! Originality never goes out fashion.
  3. Buy quality: Be sure to give whatever it is you’re buying a thorough once over, good quality lasts a life time.

25. Find your signature drink and learn how to make it

Spending minutes poring over cocktail menus is time wasted. Find a drink you won’t get sick of, and then stock up on the necessary ingredient(s) so you can make at a moment’s notice. Practice will make perfect.

26. Go to Glastonbury

Glastonbury is the largest music and cultural festival in the world and whether you’re an extroverted festival veteran or an introverted festival novice with an aversion to large crowds and public bathrooms like this writer, it’s well worth going at least once, if purely for the experience.

27. Learn how to say no politely

Manners are chic. Being able to turn down an offer kindly and politely is an essential skill in both life and your career.

28. Holiday alone

It’s good to do at least one holiday on your own. You get to call all the shots, do everything at your own pace. Plus, it’s a good exercise in being at home with your own company, as well as forcing you to meet new people. Try it.

29. Support independent journalism

Support a newspaper like The Guardian or The New York Times, which is especially important in this era of fake news and disinformation. Alternatively buy magazines like 032cBrickCandyBuffalo Zinegal-demKaleidoscopeRe-EditionSystem (and AnOther!) and help keep independent publishing alive.

30. Go to the ballet

Ballet is one of the most beautiful art forms, while ballet dancers themselves are an extraordinary cross of artist and athlete. A good ballet is a totally engrossing spectacle. Go and see a classic like Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty or The Nutcracker or alternatively something more contemporary like a Matthew Bourne production. You won’t regret it.